The older I get, the pickier I become about my mobile phones. For all the modern bells and whistles, I still only want two things: a hearty camera, and solid performance for games on-the-go. The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra ticks both of those boxes extremely well, and while it comes with a premium price tag, it’s certainly a tantalising mobile companion.
Over the last week with the device – the 256GB model, priced at AUD $2,199 in Australia – I’ve been impressed on multiple fronts. It’s a hearty, slimline phone with plenty of robust features that came in handy during my day-to-day.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: Camera
My experiments started with photography, as in my role as a content creator, having crisp imagery and clear video is absolutely essential. In testing, it proved to house a strong, reliable camera with consistently bright, true-to-life colour and a sharp contrast that made scenes pop. In indoor and outdoor usage, across multiple brightness levels, it maintained its clarity with minimal grain – and it was particularly good at producing pleasant-looking selfies (although there is a light ‘beauty’ touch to its faces).
Its zoom was particularly good, with close up shots maintaining crisp detail, even as I was working with a tetchy garden blue-tongue. As you can see in the above shot, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra managed well with tiny, layered scales, and a range of colour hues.
In another shot, the S24 Ultra managed to capture a flying insect in full detail as I was taking a photograph of a leaf hedge.
In more self-indulgent fashion, I also spent time experimenting with the portrait mode of the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, for the purposes of photographing my Monster High collection. We all have our little quirks, and one of mine is that I’ve stumbled into being an adult collector of dolls. They proved to be worthy subjects as they all rock tiny little details – glittery lips, tiny necklaces, patterned clothing, iridescent clothes – which the S24 Ultra camera picked up extremely well, in colourful and crisp portraits.
In all my tests, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra camera proved its heartiness, with gorgeous lighting and a great colour palette that allowed for interesting, rich shots. So, with the first box firmly ticked, the next port of call for the S24 Ultra was its other major flagship feature: mobile gaming.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: Gaming
Frankly speaking, playing games natively on a mobile device is usually a pain. You’re contending with a tiny body, usually greasing up the camera array, and eventually, you’ll end up cramping. On the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, these problems don’t really disappear – you’ll still grease the lens with your fingers – but it is a more pleasant experience, thanks to a sleek, rounded design for the phone.
There’s no sharp edges or extrusions here, and the phone is comfortable to hold at any angle. It’s a minor touch, but one that makes the entire game playing experience far more enjoyable.
It’s also aided by sharp touchscreen accuracy that makes the standard controls for most mobile games simple and easy to use. In my time with the S24 Ultra, I was largely playing Fortnite‘s suit of experiences – Battle Royale and Festival – as well as exploring Genshin Impact, and going through rounds of Arena Breakout. With a larger screen and well-defined touch controls, jumping into rounds was quick and easy.
Playing Fortnite Battle Royale on the phone, I even managed to nab a Victory Royale – which speaks to the accuracy and ease of use in playing with the phone natively. I suspect using a portable controller like a Backbone would make the experience even more comfortable, but I didn’t have much trouble as is.
As for the games themselves, they performed very well on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, with smooth and crisp gameplay throughout online and offline sessions. I noticed zero latency while running through rounds of Battle Royale, and this aided my aforementioned victory. While Fortnite on mobile is naturally lower resolution than its PC counterpart, it was still good-looking on the S24 Ultra, with maxed out settings providing all that extra little detail – including the ability to spot my opponents hiding in houses and behind trees.
I had similar results in Fortnite Festival, with music tracks playing smoothly and easily, allowing me to input accurate commands into its Rock Band-like musical gameplay. While I didn’t perform well enough to maintain my backing band (they all exited it out after the first of four tracks – sorry!) that was more on player input than the accuracy of the S24 Ultra touch screen.
The chassis did become warm during gameplay, after just several minutes of in-game action, but it never exceeded a comfortable temperature, and the warmth didn’t interrupt gameplay. With testing performed on some of the biggest mobile games on Android, the S24 Ultra performed admirably, keeping up with the pace on highest quality settings and allowing for hours of steady, smooth, and Victory Royale-winning gameplay.
The only hurdle really holding the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra back from being a more essential gaming companion is its array of games – and specifically, competition from rivals at Apple. While there are a smorgasbord of great games currently available for Android devices, the lineup can’t compete against a service like Apple Arcade, which offers a strong library of fantastic mobile games, updated on a monthly basis.
In future, we could see an Android-exclusive service competing in the space, but for now it’s a fair foible to overcome. Those who prefer playing free games, or those with an array of Android favourites, will find its gaming performance and lineup more than adequate to keep the fun going – but for now, it doesn’t feel like gaming is a priority for these new devices.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: AI and Circle to Search
Beyond these coveted features, the Samsung Galaxy S24 comes packed in with a range of other useful tools – including new ‘Circle to Search’ functionality. This allows you to circle any image on your phone, and then perform a Google image search for that particular object. While it occasionally gets confused, particularly if there’s alternate patterns or bright colours in your circled area, it’s a very handy feature – and particularly good for looking up purchasable items, or locations.
There is also generative AI baked into the phone, with these features allowing you to edit your photographs by extending them on all sides, making certain objects bigger, or removing details. While it works well most of the time, this feature is fairly inconsistent and it can’t handle finer details. If you ask it to generate a larger Iron Man Funko Pop Vinyl, it’s fine. If you ask it to generate a new version of Crash Bandicoot’s face, you’ll summon a demon from hell.
These AI features are fairly fun to play around with, and they can be very useful for editing photos, but they’re perhaps not quite up to scratch just yet – still more of a novelty than a must-have inclusion.
Despite the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra generating a positively demonic version of Crash Bandicoot that still haunts my dreams, there was a lot to love about the phone. Its slimline design is very neat, it’s got a strong array of new features, and its overall use is simple, easy, and refined.
Add in the robust camera and its strong gaming performance, and you’ve got a hardy phone with all the bells and whistles you’d ever need – and then some. While its price point still stings (even as AUD $2,000+ phones are normalised) it does plenty to justify this excess, delivering a great mobile experience in nearly every facet.
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is now available in stores, and begins at AUD $2,199.
A Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra was provided on temporary loan for the purposes of this review.