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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra hands-on: 5 things to know

SamSamsung is back with a brand-new edition and it’s brought AI smarts…

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra hands-on: 5 things to know
Marc Chacksfield
17 January 2024

When it comes to gadget releases, there are few companies that can compete with Apple on the excitement scale. Thankfully, for all the non-fruit fans out there, Samsung with its flagship smartphone range sure can.

This year it chose San Jose, California for its Unpacked keynote. It was here that it showcased its new flagship S24 phone range which consists of: the Samsung Galaxy S24, Samsung Galaxy S24+ and the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Given that the S24 Ultra is the cream of the conversational crop, it was the first handset ShortList headed for at a preview event recently.

Having had some hands-on time with the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, here are 5 things to know about Samsung’s premium handset…

1. It’s a slim, stunning smartphone

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review hands-on
Image Credit: Future / Marc Chacksfield

Samsung has done well to reduce the size of the Galaxy S24 Ultra, compared to its predecessor. It’s some 42% slimmer bezel-wise and also has an 11% slimmer camera.

The biggest design change, though, is that it is made of titanium. This should mean that the phone is much more durable.

In short the S24 Ultra is bulletproof with nothing to lose, you shoot it down, it won’t fall… sorry. That’s the lyrics to David Guetta’s Titanium, but you get the idea.

Add to this a flat display (curves are so 2023) and something called Gorilla Armor glass - the strongest glass available for phones - which offers 75% less reflection and glare and is 4x stronger than other glasses so it is more resistant to scratches and nasty knocks.

The chassis is fantastic in the hand, there’s a matte finish to the back which means it doesn’t feel slippery.

The flat display also means that it works much better with the included S-Pen.

2. AI comes alive in the S24 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review hands-on
Image Credit: Future / Marc Chacksfield

Everyone is jumping on the AI bandwagon right now, but Samsung has incorporated the technology into the S24 Ultra with a certain amount of ‘wow’ factor - it’s bundled all of its AI features under a feature set called Galaxy AI.

I had a lot of fun trying out the new AI features on the Galaxy S24 Ultra. The best for me was the 'circle to search' feature. Using the S-Pen, I circled the two main detectives in True Detective S4 in an image and immediately Google served up more information on them.

It works for inanimate objects, too. Circling a pair of trainers in a picture brought up places where I could buy trainers that were the same, or looked similar.

It’s one of the most innovative features I have ever seen on a smartphone and, more importantly, an AI thing that will actually get used. It’s worth noting, though, that this will be coming to the Pixel 8 range from 31 January, too.

There were other neat touches. Transcript Assist and Note Assist offer up real-time transcribing and summarising of meetings, while real-time text voice translation will help ordering that beer in a native tongue, the next time you visit an authentic Spanish restaurant.

I also really liked Tone Tweak which changes the tone of your messages, emails etc. So if you want to sound down with the kids, then it will make your texts sound cooler. It is more fun than essential but it’s nice to see AI used in this way.

And, of course, the biggest place AI is used is with the camera…

3. The camera will make you look like a pro

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review hands-on
Image Credit: Future / Marc Chacksfield

AI is slathered all over the S24’s camera. So much that it won’t be long before it takes the picture for you and sends it off to be showcased in a gallery. While we aren’t quite there yet, there are some fantastic flourishes that certainly made the images I took with the thing better.

First up the specs. You get the following lenses on the S24 Ultra:

  • Main (24mm): 200-megapixel
  • Zoom (5x, 120mm): 50MP
  • Zoom (3x, 70mm): 10MP
  • Wide (13mm): 12MP
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review hands-on
Image Credit: Future / Marc Chacksfield

The main sensor has improved so it lets in more light which is great (60% larger pixels, fact fans). Interestingly the big 10x Zoom of the S23 has disappeared and replaced with a 5x Zoom. I am not too bothered about the change but there will be some scratching their heads at this - mainly private eyes who want to keep tabs on their suspects at a distance.

There’s a really smart camera editing feature where you can select and move a part of the image. Whether this is a person or an object you can make them bigger or smaller, and move them around the picture, using the Galaxy AI feature. In my tests it worked well, with the generative AI taking a few seconds to plug the holes in the picture where the object was.

The HDR preview is a nice touch, too. So you can see just what your image will look like when it's post processed before it’s, er, post processed. This can also be used when editing images through Instagram.

You can remove reflections with one-touch, too, and the ability to add super slow motion to any piece of video, in real time, is a really fun feature.

I reckon Samsung has added a ton of AI smarts to the S24 Ultra that aren’t gimmicks - they’re game changers.

4. Forget phoning - the S24 Ultra is for movie watching and games

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review hands-on
Image Credit: Future / Marc Chacksfield

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra display is bigger than ever and this is one upgrade that has gotten us excited. It’s now a 6.8-inch QHD+ AMOLED panel and it’s one of the brightest I have seen. Seriously, I felt like I needed those glasses Benny Safdie wears in Oppenheimer to view the thing.

That’s because the Galaxy S24 Ultra has a brightness of 2,600 nits. The S23 Ultra had ‘just’ 1,750 nits. Its nearest rival is the Phone 15 Pro Max which has 2,000 nits when displaying HDR content. That’s how vibrant the display is.

With the new Gorilla Glass and the brightness, this is a screen begging to be used outdoors.

It’s also superb for movie watching, given the 5,000,000:1 contrast ratio.

Gaming wise, this brightness works well with whatever games you throw at it. A new thermal control system, which makes use of a 1.9 times larger vapour chamber, means that the phone isn’t going to replace your radiator any time soon as well. Ray tracing is also onboard, as is a panel that has a refresh rate of 1-120Hz.

5. New processor is powerful and overclocked

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review hands-on
Image Credit: Future / Marc Chacksfield

Powering the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor for Galaxy. The ‘for Galaxy’ part is important as it essentially means that Samsung has worked with Qualcomm to overclock the thing.

This is the best processor on the market and the main reason for all the AI smarts the S24 Ultra has. It also means that the battery has been optimised on the S24 Ultra which should make the phone last longer.

The battery on board is the same 5,000mAh but should offer that little bit more.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra early verdict

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review hands-on
Image Credit: Future / Marc Chacksfield

A subtle change to the design - flat screens are the way forward - may lead some to think that this is an incremental update from Samsung. But the AI smarts and punchy processor make the S24 Ultra a real standout in the smartphone crowd.

I was impressed with the new features the S24 Ultra offers: from quick photo editing to speech translation, circle to search to improved gaming capabilities, while the titanium chassis is as premium as they come.

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is a handset that’s prepped for an AI world - a smarter smartphone, if you like.