First Impressions: Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

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Samsung has just unveiled the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, a new AI-powered flagship smartphone for 2024. While the Galaxy S24 Ultra may not appear to be much different from its predecessor at first glance, a smattering of new and updated features, as well as new GenAI-powered tools, could breathe new life into the top-tier Samsung flagship, keeping it fresh and exciting in the face of increased competition in the high-end market.
I’m not quite ready to provide my final assessment, but I did have the opportunity to play with the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra before to today’s announcement. Here are my initial comments, with the full review to come soon.

Design And Display:

Samsung isn’t deviating too far from the aesthetic of the past few generations of Galaxy, especially when it comes to the Ultra model that essentially retains the same look as 2022’s Galaxy S22 Ultra, but there are a few meaningful changes on offer here.

The new flat AMOLED 6.82-inch display is the most instantly noticeable, a change from the curved panel in previous generations. While it may not sound like a monumental shift, it makes a big impact on the look and feel of the phone while also expanding the digital canvas for all your S Pen doodles and note-taking. I personally prefer flat screens for usability, but you may feel differently.

To maximize screen real estate, Samsung has reduced the size of both the bezels and the centrally placed camera cutout. This will be evident when compared to the S23 Ultra, but even without a side-by-side comparison, the screen has a very high-end look.

Returning high-end tech favorites include an LTPO-enabled 1-120Hz refresh rate, which is now standard across the S24 range, as well as a QHD+ resolution. There’s also a dramatically increased 2600nits maximum brightness, which should make the phone easy to use even in strong sunshine, though I couldn’t confirm that in a dark hands-on environment. Another significant change with the Galaxy S24 Ultra is the material used; Samsung, like Apple, has switched to titanium for its flagship smartphone.

The color possibilities are slightly more muted than in prior generations, including blue, grey, black, and yellow varieties, as well as unspecified unique colors available directly from Samsung. Changing gears, Samsung has also increased its environmental efforts with the S24 line, including recycled cobalt in the battery, recycled rare earth elements in the speakers, and more, and the box is made entirely of recycled paper packaging that can be recycled again.

Camera:

Samsung has changed the Ultra line’s camera setup for the first time in several years, but whether this is for the better or worse remains to be seen. That’s because, in addition to the same main 200MP, 12MP ultrawide, and 10MP 3x telephoto sensors as the Galaxy S23 Ultra, the 10x periscope lens has been decreased from 10x to 5x.

However, with a 50MP adaptive pixel sensor, bigger pixels, and a 2x wider OIS, the company expects image quality to exceed that of the previous generation by 10x. According to Samsung, it also enables the S24 Ultra to give optical-quality zoom from 0.6x to 10x, though those bold claims will need to be confirmed through rigorous testing.

Don’t be put off by the usage of nearly identical camera hardware; the S24 series has Samsung’s AI-powered ProVisual Engine, which the company claims will assist to reduce noise, produce more accurate color tones, and provide whole new editing capabilities.

I was pleasantly delighted by the quality of the various lenses throughout my little hands-on experience. Even photographs captured at 10x (which is no longer a dedicated lens) are sharp and detailed.

Performance:

The key driving force behind the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s new AI-powered picture editing features is Galaxy AI, a catch-all phrase for a slew of new GenAI-powered applications available on the S24 lineup.

That begins with the phone’s keyboard, which features a new Galaxy AI icon that, when tapped, allows you to not only rewrite what you’ve written to change your tone (formal, friendly, social-media-focused, etc.), but also translate it into 39 languages, which should help overcome the language barrier we all face.

That also applies to the Phone app, which supports live translation, allowing you to talk in your native language while the phone responds in the recipient’s language. It will also show a real-time text transcript of the chat if you like.

Conclusion:

Elsewhere, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra comes running Android 14 with Samsung’s OneUI skin on top. There aren’t many big changes to the overall OS compared to earlier versions of OneUI – new AI tools aside, of course – which is great for existing Samsung users, but if you’re not a fan of OneUI, this likely won’t be the release to change your mind.

It is nice to see Samsung competing with Google’s upgraded Pixel 8 software promise, offering both seven OS upgrades and seven years of security patches that’ll see it through to the release of Android 21.

Preorder your S24 on Amazon!

As a affiliate I get a small fee from Amazon.

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