February 29, 2024

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, I thought, would surely win my heart. 

After all, I’ve been a Samsung stan since I owned the Galaxy S21 Ultra and S22 Ultra. I loved hearing my ugh-you-have-green-bubbles iPhone friends say, “Wow, your phone takes amazing photos” as they frowned at their own overprocessed, iDevice-taken selfies.

People watched in awe as I whipped out my S Pen to jot down my drink order for the bartender when the music was too loud.

Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

In an iPhone-loving world, I felt like my S22 Ultra was an underdog that was better than its Apple rival — people just needed to wake up to its incredible capabilities.

Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

However, the numbers don’t lie. While the Galaxy S24 Ultra shines with (some) Galaxy AI features, my testing shows that the Samsung phone has some serious competition with the iPhone 15 Pro Max on the market.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra price

The Galaxy S24 Ultra base model has an MSRP of $1,299 — $100 more than the starting price of the Galaxy S23 Ultra when it launched in 2022.

Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

However, Samsung is running a pre-order promo that lets you snag a 256GB or 512GB phone for just $549 with an eligible trade-in. (Since these two models have the same promo price, you’d be selling yourself short if you didn’t grab the 512GB variant.) If you want 1TB of storage, you’ll have to shell out $669.99.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

What I love about the Galaxy S24 Ultra

I can’t speak for everyone, but in my circle of tech friends, there’s been a growing sense of AI fatigue. 

With countless companies hawking AI-powered gizmos, plus the ongoing discourse of job displacement anxiety, privacy and ethical concerns, and more, my intuition tells me that consumers were damn-near “over it” when Samsung announced Galaxy AI.

However, contrary to the AI fatigued, I found myself being quite intrigued. Here’s my experience with it so far. 

Galaxy AI’s ‘Chat Translation’ is phenomenal

I have family in Puerto Rico who don’t speak a lick of English. And as for me, despite years of taking Spanish classes, my rough grasp of the language would make the Duolingo bird consider early retirement.

Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

I once relied on third-party apps like Google Translate to communicate with my Spanish-speaking kin, but that was — quite frankly — a pain in the ass.

Now, thanks to Galaxy AI, I can text my Puerto Rico-based cousin — sans Google Translate — directly in WhatsApp via the keyboard. It works in Google Messages, too. (I used it to text my French-speaking mom.) I haven’t had issues with it so far; it translates all texts with expert precision and rapidity. 

However, as you’ll see in this review, not all Galaxy AI features are as polished.

Galaxy AI’s “24 hr time lapse” is badass

Take a look at the GIF below. Galaxy AI did that. Initially, this was just a photo (you can see the original photo below the GIF).

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Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

But Galaxy AI worked its magic and transformed a photo into a 12-second time-lapse video — and you’d never know it was nothing but a static picture in its original form.

S Pen continues to shine

The Galaxy S24 Ultra continues to be a top selling point for the Galaxy S series phones. Sure, you can use it to scribble and draw on the display, but it’s also a pen-shaped remote.

Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

For example, I can press and hold the button on the S Pen, which, by default, fires up the camera app. By pressing the button once, the shutter button is triggered, allowing me to take photos without touching the screen.

Air actions, including flinging the pen to the left and zig-zagging the S Pen, can launch video mode and the Notes app, respectively. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what the S Pen can do.

Again, none of these features are new, but it’s one of the best aspects of the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

My only wish is that it’d be nice if the S Pen could have some sort of locator sensor inside — this stylus is easy to misplace. (On the plus side, the Galaxy S24 Ultra alerts you when the S Pen is not in its silo.)

Search your scribbled notes in the Notes app

One thing that irks me about my Galaxy S22 Ultra is that I have a large library of scribbled documents in the Notes app. But unfortunately, I’m unable to search through my massive portfolio of notes for particular messages or words.

Credit: Screenshot: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

The Galaxy S24 Ultra changes all of that. It can, indeed, “read” my chicken scratch, allowing me to search through documents inside the Notes app — even if it was written with the S Pen.

Design beats the iPhone 15 Pro Max

As I mentioned in my hands-on experience of the Galaxy S24 Ultra, this phone is ergonomic heaven. Unlike the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s stiff edges, which uncomfortably dig into my soft palms, the Galaxy S24 Ultra continues to boast soft, rounded edges that conform to my hand.

Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

The 6.8-inch, 3,120 x 1440-pixel resolution display still has that hole-punch camera that houses a 12MP selfie camera, which delivers visually pleasing, gloriously spacious screen real estate — more than the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which features the Dynamic Island (i.e., a glorified notch).

Unfortunately, Samsung gave Mashable the titanium violet color, which is, in my opinion, quite mid, but that titanium yellow is elite. It looks like it’s wrapped in glitzy gold.

Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

Other colors include titanium black, titanium gray, titanium blue, titanium green, and titanium orange. As the names indicates, the Galaxy S24 Ultra has a titanium frame, similar to the iPhone 15 Pro Max, that supposedly makes the phone more durable than its predecessor.

Durability is damn good

At one point, I got up from my couch, and suddenly, I heard a loud smack. I looked down, and to my horror, the Galaxy S24 Ultra was on my hardwood floor.

Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

I gasped and I quickly grabbed the Samsung phone. In a panic, I looked at the display and searched for scratches and cracks. Fortunately, I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized it looked good as new.

Samsung wasn’t kidding about its durability. How did it pass this unexpected drop test? Thank the display’s Corning Gorilla Glass Armor, which boasts cutting-edge scratch-and-shock resistance.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra zoom is elite

When I first heard that the Galaxy S24 Ultra is ditching its 10MP, 10x telephoto camera for a 50MP, 5x variant, I was skeptical. Yes, the resolution has increased, but the optical zoom suffered a reduction. Could this hurt the Galaxy S24 Ultra?

As it turns out, the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s zoom is one of its best features. In fact, when I blind-tested iPhone owners, most of them picked the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s 10x shot — not the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s 10x capture.

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It’s worth noting that the iPhone 15 Pro Max has a 12MP telephoto camera with 5x optical zoom.

What’s ‘eh’ about the Galaxy S24 Ultra

Unfortunately for the Galaxy S24 Ultra, it’s up against some stiff competition. Numbers aren’t everything, but after running some benchmarks on both the Galaxy S24 Ultra and the iPhone 15 Pro Max, the Samsung phone has a tough rival to beat.

Battery life is long — but not as enduring as iPhone 15 Pro Max

As you’ll see in the battery life section, the Galaxy S24 Ultra can last more than 10 hours, which is impressive.

Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

However, the iPhone 15 Pro Max has a better runtime by nearly two hours.

Object eraser is hit or miss

I’ve gushed about the Galaxy AI camera features, particularly the time-lapse utility. However, perks like Object Eraser can be hit or miss.

Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

For example, the Galaxy S24 Ultra seamlessly removed that pesky passerby in the red coat in front of the U.S.S Maine National Monument. Get outta there!

Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

However, when I tried to remove the red bucket in the photo above, Galaxy AI struggled to reproduce the horse’s hoof, which is admittedly a more complex task.

Performance doesn’t beat iPhone 15 Pro Max, but this isn’t a big deal

I ran the Geekbench 6 benchmark on both the Galaxy S24 Ultra and the iPhone 15 Max. Unfortunately, as you’ll find out in the performance section, the former couldn’t catch up to the latter.

However, this isn’t a big deal. Both scores far exceed the performance threshold needed to run everyday tasks on a smartphone. I’d argue that the iPhone 15 Pro Max has too much power for its own good — so much so that it beats the likes of the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 in performance.

As such, even though the Galaxy S24 Ultra doesn’t beat the iPhone 15 Pro Max, it’s still packed with plenty of power to handle any of your tasks — and then some.

What I don’t like about Galaxy S24 Ultra

While I love that Samsung kept the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s signature round edges and hole-punch display, there are other tweaks that I don’t love.

The flat display isn’t for me

I may be in the minority, but I adore how my Galaxy S22 Ultra’s screen bleeds into the edges. It’s often affectionately called a waterfall display; I always found it to be beautifully futuristic.

However, I understand that it’s not practical. For example, putting a screen protector on a waterfall display is a little more difficult (e.g., getting the air bubbles out is a pain).

Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

Still, I’m going to miss the waterfall display. It was an Android-esque design, and now, alongside the new titanium feature, the Galaxy S24 Ultra getting a little too iPhone-y for my tastes.

Selfie camera has stiff competition in iPhone 15 Pro Max

For a long time, I’ve always praised the Galaxy S series for its stunning selfie photos.

However, it looks like my preference is changing. I took selfies with the Galaxy S24 Ultra and iPhone 15 Pro Max (both have 12MP front-facing cameras) at a Starbucks in Manhattan, and to my surprise, I ended up preferring the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

iPhone 15 Pro Max (left) vs. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (right)
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon

But when it comes to the wide camera, I still dig the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s 200MP lens over the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s 48MP shooter.

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The ultra-wide shots (both feature 12MP shooters) look better with the Galaxy S24 Ultra, too.

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Galaxy AI ‘Call Assist’ needs improvement

What’s Call Assist? It’s an AI interpreter that steps in to translate your calls.

Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

For example, if you’re speaking English, Call Assist can translate your statement into Spanish for the receiver. And when the person on the other end replies, their response is translated back to English.

I tested Call Assist with my French-speaking father and I spotted some issues:

  • You have to quickly tap on two options (“Call Assist” and “Live Translate”) before the other person picks up or the feature will not launch.
  • Call Assist translates conversations well, but sometimes, it doesn’t allow slow-talking users to finish their sentences.
  • On rare occasions, Call Assist stops translating altogether.

Call Assist was the Galaxy AI feature I was most excited about, but now I’m feeling a bit disillusioned. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved. For the next-gen Galaxy AI, Samsung should produce a more patient AI interpreter.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra battery life

As we reported, the Galaxy S24 Ultra has a battery runtime of 13 hours and one minute, nearly two hours short of the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s runtime of 14 hours and 53 minutes.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Geekbench score

On Geekbench 6, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, packed with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor, produced a Geekbench 6 score of 7,078.

For comparison, the iPhone 15 Pro Max, equipped with an A17 Pro chip, delivered a score of 7,359.

Is the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra worth it?

The Galaxy S24 Ultra still has a chokehold over me with its slithery-smooth S Pen, cutting-edge on-device translation for texting, brilliant time-lapse feature, impressive durability, and iPhone-beating photos.

However, as much as it pains me to say it, the Galaxy S24 Ultra appears to be losing ground in energy efficiency. Battery life, one of the most significant aspects of a smartphone, is still pretty good on the Galaxy S24 Ultra, but the iPhone 15 Pro Max is slightly better.

I’m also not the biggest fan of the selfies the Galaxy S24 Ultra produces.

Still, because I have a multicultural family, the Galaxy S24 Ultra appeals to me. Galaxy AI features like Chat Translation and Call Assist are a must for me. The Galaxy S24 Ultra still takes the throne as the best Android phone. However, for the first time ever, I’m questioning my pro-Samsung stance. Great selfies and long battery life are too alluring to pass up.