Galaxy S24 Plus Hands-On: Samsung’s Ultra Might Not Be the One to Buy

When Samsung launched the Galaxy S24 Ultra at its Unpacked event earlier this month, you’d be forgiven if you forgot that there were two other phones introduced: the Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus. The hype for the Ultra (and the Galaxy Ring) mostly overshadowed the other two. And that’s a shame because after using the S24 and S24 Plus for the past two days, I’m starting to think that the best Samsung phone to get in 2024 might not be the Ultra.

Most of my time has been spent testing the Galaxy S24 Plus which has been an absolute delight. If the S24 Plus were an illustration, it would basically be the Venn diagram overlap between the regular S24 and the S24 Ultra. But this year, the S24 Plus skews a bit more towards the Ultra, and the Ultra skews a bit more expensive, thanks to a $100 price increase. All of this has become a bit of a conundrum for me as I got to know the S24 Plus better. Is the $1,000 (£999, AU$1,699) Galaxy S24 Plus a poor man’s Ultra?

Read more: Best Android Phone of 2024

While its aluminum design, squared off sides and iPhone-like rounded corners are just a bigger version of the regular S24, the Galaxy S24 Plus has a new screen that has the same resolution as the S24 Ultra. In fact, since the S24 Plus has a smaller 6.7-inch display, compared to the 6.8-inch one on the Ultra, the Plus actually has a higher pixel density. It’s only an 8-pixel difference and I know most people can’t see it. I can’t see it myself, but in my heart I know it’s more and that’s something.

The Plus and Ultra have the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip, screen brightness and resolution, RAM, Galaxy AI features and storage options (except 1TB is reserved only for the Ultra). The Ultra is made of titanium instead of aluminum, has an ever-so-slightly bigger battery, houses an S Pen and, of course, has better cameras (on paper).

But now that the Ultra is $1,300, it costs $300 more than the S24 Plus. While I need to test the S24 Plus more to see if that $300 gap is worth it or not, the Plus has already made an impression on me after just a couple of days.

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During my testing, the S24 Plus lasted two days on a single charge, ending the second day at 11 p.m. with the battery at 11%. The S24 Plus has a larger 4,900-mAh battery than last year’s S23 Plus, which has a 4,700-mAh battery. The first day of use involved a lot of downloading, having the screen on at full brightness for a photoshoot in the morning and then keeping the screen at full brightness for a video shoot in the afternoon. And that was all while trying out new features like Circle to Search throughout the day. The Plus’ battery ended the first day at 38%.

The second day was a bit more normal in terms of my workflow. I tried more new AI features. The phone can expand a photo’s frame to show parts that were cut off, and it can erase an object from an image. I’m obsessed with keeping the horizons on my photos level (sorry, my dad was an architect) so being able to straighten a photo and then use the S24 Plus’ onboard AI, called Generative Edit, to create new edges seemed too good to be true. The results weren’t great, but they weren’t horrible either.

I had a similar experience using the same Generative Edit tool on photos. The untouched photo below is of my CNET colleague Mariel Myers.

My original photo of Mariel.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Take a look below at another version of the photo. Using the edit tool, I moved the striped pillow, enlarged it and repositioned it above Mariel’s head. I also straightened the photo, then let the AI do its thing. The results? For better or worse, it’s obvious that something has been altered, but it’s still fun. The fill around the photo’s edges and the background fill where the couch pillow was look off. Note that the bottom left corner now has a tiny AI watermark to let you know that the photo was altered. The photo’s EXIF data also includes a “Modified with Generative edit” label.

More AI photo-editing fun.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Let’s come back to the Circle To Search feature. It should really be called Circle To Buy — it’s like having Google Lens built right into the screen. If there’s an image being shown on a website, app or social feed you can circle it, or a part of it, to start an instant Google search.

I came across a photo of a dog wearing sunglasses while on Instagram (which I immediately liked of course). I pressed and held the home button for a second, then circled the dog in the image. Search results for bulldogs populated the bottom of the screen. I tried the feature again on the same photo, this time circling the dog’s sunglasses. The search results showed that the glasses were from Prada (this was clearly a fancy dog) and included several different options to buy them. And no, though I was tempted, I did not.

The S24 Plus has the same cameras on the back as the S23 Plus: a trio of wide, ultrawide and telephoto lenses. The main camera has a 50-megapixel sensor. Below are a few photos I took with the main camera and as you can see in good lighting, images look great. No surprise there.

Shot on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Plus main camera.

Patrick Holland/CNET


Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra specs vs. Galaxy S24 Plus, Galaxy S24

Samsung Galaxy S24 UltraSamsung Galaxy S24 PlusSamsung Galaxy S24Display size, tech, resolution, refresh rate 6.8-inch AMOLED; 3,120×1,440 pixels; 1-120Hz adaptive refresh rate6.7-inch AMOLED; 3,120×1,440 pixels; 1-120Hz adaptive refresh rate6.2-inch AMOLED; 2,340×1,080 pixels; 1-120Hz adaptive refresh ratePixel density 501 ppi509 ppi416 ppiDimensions (inches) 6.40 x 3.11 x 0.34 in.6.24 x 3 x 0.3 in.5.79 x 2.78 x 0.3 in.Dimensions (millimeters) 163 x 79 x 8.6 mm158 x 76 x 7.6 mm147 x 71 x 7.6 mmWeight (grams, ounces) 233 g (8.22 oz.) 197 g (6.95 oz.)168 g (5.93 oz.)Mobile software Android 14Android 14Android 14Camera 200-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 10-megapixel (3x telephoto), 50-megapixel (5x telephoto)50-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 10-megapixel (telephoto)50-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 10-megapixel (telephoto)Front-facing camera 12-megapixel12-megapixel 12-megapixel Video capture 8K8K8KProcessor Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3RAM/storage 12GB RAM + 256GB, 512GB, 1TB12GB RAM + 256GB, 512GB8GB RAM + 128GB, 256GBExpandable storage NoneNoneNoneBattery 5,000 mAh4,900 mAh4,000 mAhFingerprint sensor Under displayUnder displayUnder displayConnector USB-CUSB-CUSB-CHeadphone jack NoneNoneNoneSpecial features Titanium frame, 2,600-nit peak brightness; 7 years of OS and security updates; 5G (mmWave); IP68 water and dust resistance; wireless PowerShare to charge other devices; integrated S Pen; UWB for finding other devices; 45W wired charging (charger not included); Galaxy AI; Wi-Fi 7; Gorilla Glass Armor cover glass2,600-nit peak brightness; 7 years of OS and security updates; 5G (mmWave); IP68 water and dust resistance; wireless PowerShare to charge other devices; 45W wired charging (charger not included); Galaxy AI; Wi-Fi 6E2,600-nit peak brightness; 7 years of OS and security updates; 5G (mmWave); IP68 water and dust resistance; wireless PowerShare to charge other devices; 25W wired charging (charger not included); Galaxy AI; Wi-Fi 6EUS price starts at $1,300 (256GB)$1,000 (256GB)$800 (128GB)UK price starts at £1,249 (256GB)£999 (256GB)£799 (128GB)Australia price starts at AU$2,199 (256GB)AU$1,699 (256GB)AU$1,399 (256GB)

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