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Samsung Galaxy S24 series phones: Which model should you get?

By Liu Hongzuo - 3 Mar 2024

Samsung Galaxy S24 series: Which model should you get?

Note: 1 This feature was first published on 18 January 2024. 

Note 2: For our full review and opinions, check out our story here.

Samsung Galaxy S24 series in Gray colourways.

By now, you should’ve heard about Samsung announcing its 2024 Galaxy S handsets, the Galaxy S24 series. It comprises the same three-model lineup we’ve grown accustomed to from Samsung: a compact Galaxy S24, a larger Galaxy S24+, and the premium Galaxy S24 Ultra with its classic S Pen stylus.

We’ve summarised many of its cool features and upgrades in our original news coverage here, so we’ll go directly into what we think about all three phones, based on our hands-on media preview experience that happened just before Samsung Unpacked in San Jose, California (US). 

Galaxy S24 series hands-on session, with many phones available for testing.

You should refer to our news to see what’s different about these phones as we walk through the non-AI changes. To see what Galaxy AI offers, you can refer to our other feature, where we tested each Galaxy AI in detail.

Vision Booster gets boosted on the Galaxy S24 series

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (left), Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (right).

A noticeable upgrade on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra was its significantly improved Vision Booster, which now goes up to 2,600 nits of peak brightness. Its predecessor (Galaxy S23 Ultra) originally had a Vision Booster peak brightness of just 1,750 nits.

It may not look that different in these photos (our camera compensated for exposure so both phones on display appeared even in our image), but the Galaxy S24 Ultra had a big bright spotlight pointed directly at it during our preview, and the new Vision Booster's capabilities completely eclipsed the viewing experience of the dimmer Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Galaxy S24 Ultra gives you a big blast of 2,600-nits peak brightness when you need it to.

In our trials, Galaxy S23 Ultra was already sufficiently bright under direct sunlight. The 2,600-nits on Galaxy S24 Ultra was so powerful, that it felt more like an assistive feature for people who have trouble seeing normally. We’re not complaining, though. In fact, it’s great that the Galaxy S24 Ultra can be this insanely powerful.

While the other two weren't demo-ed, Samsung said during the keynote that both Galaxy S24 and Galaxy S24+ also receive 2,600-nits Vision Booster, so you're not stiffed from this quality-of-life feature even if you don't want an Ultra variant.

S Pen works with Galaxy AI features

It's always delightful to see S Pen nubs matching the rails of its Galaxy S24 Ultra, on top of all the colours they come in. Left is Titanium Yellow and right is Titanium Violet.

Galaxy S24 Ultra comes with an included S Pen, which isn’t very different from the past S Pen inclusion ever since the Ultra moniker took on that responsibility of satisfying stylus users.

Using Circle to Search with Google via fingers.

However, a cool perk about the S Pen this year is that it works quite seamlessly with nearly all Galaxy AI features showcased. For instance, it can be very precise when you use it for Circle to Search with Google. The Galaxy AI icons themselves can be hard to spot if it’s your first time using them across different apps (Camera, Gallery, Samsung Notes, Phone, Etc.), but your S Pen will naturally go to those icons with enough practice. 

Are Exynos-flavoured Galaxy S24 phones better or worse?

Samsung Galaxy S24 series in Black colourways.

The Samsung Galaxy S24 and Galaxy S24+ come with Exynos 2400, unlike the Galaxy S24 Ultra which is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset.

As far as we can tell from our limited demo period, the Exynos Galaxy S24 and Galaxy S24+ weren’t that much slower or different when processing things related to Samsung’s new Galaxy AI features. For example, it still takes a good 15-30 seconds for cloud-based generative edits in photos regardless of device, but they were all near-instant using on-device AI features such as translating languages or tonality.

Regardless of chipset choice, all three models receive 1.9x larger vapour chambers for better heat management and processor optimisation.

If your priority is in the new AI features made possible by Galaxy AI, the NPU difference between Exynos and Snapdragon isn’t going to be massive enough to matter. But we all know it’s not just about NPU performance when choosing between chipset preferences.

Only the Ultra gets optical quality zoom from 1x to 10x

Shooting on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

An important difference between Ultra and non-Ultra variants on the Galaxy S24 series is the quad telephoto rear combo on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Now, if you typically shoot at 1x zoom, perhaps the Ultra’s ProVisual Engine tricks won’t matter much to you. But Samsung found out that people tend to shoot anywhere between 1x to 10x, with the 3x to 5x range being a popular choice.

Rear cameras of the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra.

In our trials, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is able to read QR codes at 10x and 100x Space Zoom, which is a huge deal for practical shooting. 10x and 100x zoom typically have image quality drop-offs, so we’re glad that the ProVisual Engine and its stabilisation at least makes these cameras useful from a distance, even if their shots aren’t social media ready.



 

Titanium: nice to have, but not a must

All Titanium colourways on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Another difference between the Ultra variant versus it’s non-Ultra variant is the use of titanium layers on the Ultra’s chassis. 

Does the titanium feel better in hand? No. Surprisingly, the frosted glass and colour-matched rails on the Galaxy S24 and Galaxy S24+ are more visually appealing, with better in-hand experience that feels natural to hold. Samsung claimed that its titanium skin for Ultra models offer higher durability against dents, but we weren't about to find out by tossing the Galaxy S24 Ultra across the room and into a security guard’s face.

The non-Titanium, frosted glass back for the Galaxy S24.

Non-Ultra variants still got plenty of attention to detail to its build quality and shape.

That said, we liked the Titanium colourisation used by Samsung for its Galaxy S24 Ultra phones. Titanium Violet is, by far, the standout choice because of its deep purple hues that look subtle under harsh light. Titanium Yellow is a refreshing take on typical black-grey-or-white phones, and it ranges from apple juice gold to custard yellow depending on how you hold it under lighting.

So which Galaxy S24 series model should I get?

Samsung Galaxy S24, four colours.

You’d noticed we didn’t say very much about the other differences between Galaxy S24, Galaxy S24+, and Galaxy S24 Ultra. That’s because Samsung has barely changed what they offered across the board, with all the pertinent differences already talked about above.

The good news is that the regular Galaxy S24 and Galaxy S24+ are identical in flagship functionality and components. You’re still getting the full suite Galaxy AI features, Wi-Fi 7 support, Bluetooth 5.3, Android 14, and IP68 water and dust resistance, no matter which of the three you pick.

There will always be a (significant) subset among us that’ll grab the Ultra variant no matter what Samsung slaps on it. But for those who wonder about the differences and whether they should swap out to a different Galaxy S variant this time around, this section is for you.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra.

If the flexibility of zoom ranges matter, the Galaxy S24 Ultra becomes a no-brainer choice because of its ProVisual Engine working hard to give you optical-like zoom quality across the 1x to 10x zoom range. The same cannot be said for the other models, even though they also get the same ProVisual Engine optimisations. That’s because of the additional 5x optical zoom lens on the Galaxy S24 Ultra, which has an adaptive pixel sensor doing its magic to achieve optical zoom quality between the 5x and 10x zoom range.

Unlike past years, where the chipset was consistent across three models, this year’s Galaxy S24 series only sees the Galaxy S24 Ultra getting Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 for its chipset. As it stands, the Galaxy S24+ cannot become a true “no stylus” alternative for the Galaxy S24 series, since it’s not the same processor (Exynos 2400).

As far as we can tell during our trials, all three models are equally quick at handling Galaxy AI-related tasks. If your only concern is the number of milliseconds it needs to edit your photos or translate your calls, the three phones are all viable choices. 

Unfortunately, a hands-on session also meant that we didn’t get to see benchmarks, so we can’t tell you if the performance differences between Exynos or Snapdragon chipsets are apparent in other areas (like bootup, gaming, etc.). We’d assume there is some performance difference, otherwise, it won’t make sense when there’s no Exynos 2400 on the Galaxy S24 Ultra either.

Picking between Galaxy S24 and Galaxy S24+ depends on your display size preference, and whether you can live with a smaller battery (4,000mAh on Galaxy S24 versus 4,900mAh on Galaxy S24+).

S Pen is important to many Ultra variant users of the Galaxy S series phones. The Galaxy S24 Ultra will be no exception.

Similarly, if you must have S Pen and big displays, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is the only true option among the three. The upgraded Vision Booster and 2,600-nits peak brightness across all three models can be very nice, although we doubt most people would be struggling with its previous peak brightness.

Without throwing the Galaxy S24 Ultra at a wall to determine its dent resistance, the Titanium body is an aesthetic choice, and nothing more at the moment.

Unique, official case accessories for the Galaxy S24 series.

To see the pricing, availability and promotions of the Samsung Galaxy S24 series, don’t forget to check out this article.
 

Read Next

  1. Prices, promotions and availability deets of the Galaxy S24 series
  2. All about the new Galaxy S24, S24+ and S24 Ultra
  3. These are the 9 new features of Galaxy AI (coming soon)
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