Sunday, March 3, 2024

Samsung Galaxy S24 review: a smart little upgrade

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Samsung Galaxy S24 in Marble Gray held in hand.

Samsung Galaxy S24
MSRP $800.00

Score Details

DT Recommended Product

“Don’t let its small size fool you — the Samsung Galaxy S24 is one of the most powerful small phones available in 2024.”

Pros

  • Small and compact design
  • The flat edges are great
  • Beautiful and bright display
  • Long lasting battery life
  • Powerful performance
  • Improved color balance in photos
  • Useful Galaxy AI features

Cons

  • Matte glass feels slippery
  • No big camera upgrades
  • Only 25W wired charging

Every year, it becomes harder to find a small and compact phone that still offers a ton of features and power. Most phones fall into that “go big or go home” category, leaving those who prefer a more practical size in the dust. Thankfully, Samsung did not do that with the new Galaxy S24.

Contents

  • Samsung Galaxy S24: design
  • Samsung Galaxy S24: display
  • Samsung Galaxy S24: performance and software
  • Samsung Galaxy S24: cameras
  • Samsung Galaxy S24: battery and charging
  • Samsung Galaxy S24: price and availability
  • Samsung Galaxy S24: verdictShow 2 more items

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The Samsung Galaxy S24 is the smallest of the S24 lineup, which also includes the Galaxy S24 Plus and the Galaxy S24 Ultra. But don’t be fooled by the small size of the S24 — this phone still packs plenty of performance, and it also has all those fancy AI smarts that Samsung made a big deal of.

So, how does the Galaxy S24 fare in daily use? Let’s dive in.

Samsung Galaxy S24: design

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

For the most part, the Galaxy S24 looks similar to last year’s Galaxy S23. They both have flat displays, the same triple-lens column camera module, and the same antenna markings on the frame. But there are some notable differences.

First, the S24 now has a flat-edged frame, similar to the iPhone 15, rather than the rounded edges like before. The frame now also has a matte finish rather than glossy. Sure, it does look like Samsung is a copycat because the S24 basically looks like an iPhone 15, but that’s not a bad thing. It feels more elegant and refined.


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Samsung Galaxy S24 in Marble Gray laying at an angle to show flat frame.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Samsung Galaxy S24 and an S23 held in hand showing frame differences.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The front and back glass use Gorilla Glass Victus 2, and the back still has a matte finish, so it’s pretty resistant to fingerprints. However, I do find that it feels slick and slippery, so I would prefer to use it with a good, grippy case.

For my review unit, I got Marble Gray, which is a very light gray color — not my favorite. The S24 comes in three other standard colors: Onyx Black, Cobalt Violet, and Amber Yellow. There are also three Samsung.com exclusive colors: Jade Green, Sapphire Blue, and Sandstone Orange. Most of the color lineup is too pale and boring for my liking, and I think Sandstone Orange and Cobalt Violet are the only good colors due to their higher saturation levels.

Samsung Galaxy S24: display

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

While the displays are also similar between the Galaxy S24 and its predecessor, there is one big upgrade this year. Samsung is now using an LTPO AMOLED panel, which is more power efficient with the always-on display. By using LTPO, the refresh rate can get as low as 1Hz when idle, whereas the S23 could only get down to 24Hz when not in use.

Aside from that, there are other differences with the display on the Galaxy S24. This year, Samsung has slightly bumped up the display to 6.2 inches from the 6.1-inch screen of its predecessor. This means the chassis is a smidge taller and narrower than last year, and the bezels have slimmed down slightly. At first, I was worried that the difference would be noticeable, but after using the S24 for the past week, it has been negligible.

The Galaxy S24’s display looks great.

The 6.2-inch Dynamic LTPO AMOLED display also reaches up to 120Hz refresh rate and has 2,600 nits of peak brightness. For comparison, the S23 was only able to get 1,750 nits. The resolution is 1080 x 2340 pixels with a 416 pixel per inch (ppi) density. Oddly enough, the ppi is slightly less than the S23, but again, the difference is negligible.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

I found the S24 display to be bright and vivid, even with the Natural display mode selected. Colors really pop, blacks are rich and deep, and any text is crisp and sharp. I also love how it can reach 2,600 nits of peak brightness — that’s even more than my iPhone 15 Pro. When I’m outdoors in the Southern California sun, the S24 display is still easy to see. Scrolling and transitions are buttery smooth thanks to that adaptive 120Hz refresh rate.

Despite the lower density than its predecessor, the S24 display still looks great. And it even has a 120Hz refresh rate, despite being the base model. Apple could learn a thing or two from that.

Samsung Galaxy S24: performance and software

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Samsung equipped the entire S24 lineup with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 for Galaxy chip. This slightly overclocked version of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is optimized specifically for Samsung’s Galaxy devices, so it means better performance and efficiency.

The Samsung Galaxy S24 has Android 14 and One UI 6.1 layered on top. For the base model S24, Samsung gave it 8GB RAM with 128GB or 256GB of storage. Despite having less RAM than its larger siblings (both the S24 Plus and S24 Ultra have 12GB RAM), the base S24 is still plenty fast and capable for the average user.

I’ve used my S24 modestly in the past week for my daily tasks. This includes checking personal and work emails, Microsoft Teams messages, various social media accounts, reading and watching videos, and snapping photos. I experienced no lag or stutter in my use, and switching between apps is seamless.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The Galaxy S24 never got too hot to use when doing normal tasks. However, I did notice it start to get warm when I was outside taking a lot of photos in quick succession. But it never became too hot to hold.

I usually prefer stock Android versions that come on Google Pixel devices, but Samsung’s One UI isn’t too bad. It’s pretty simple and straightforward to use, though it may take a bit of getting used to if you haven’t used it before. Samsung also promises seven years of software upgrades for the S24, so if you buy one now, you can expect to keep it until Android 21, assuming you won’t upgrade during that time.

But one of the big software features of the S24 lineup is Galaxy AI, which is a host of AI-powered tools that are either very useful and fun to use or will make you scratch your head.

My favorite Galaxy AI feature is easily Circle to Search.

My favorite Galaxy AI feature is easily Circle to Search. With a simple gesture of a long press on the center button or the navigation bar (depending on whether you have button or gesture navigation), you can tap, circle, or scribble anywhere on the screen to look something up. It’s like Google Lens, but it works no matter what app you’re in.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

With Circle to Search, you can easily look up anything that may catch your eye while you use your phone, and the results so far have been pretty good. It’s one of those features I didn’t know I needed until I tried it, and I find it super useful when I come across cool products or interesting things I just want to know more about. It definitely beats me trying to guess at something with a manual Google search.

Circle to Search is not exclusive to Samsung Galaxy S24, though, as it became available on the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro through a Feature Drop on January 25.

Another useful Galaxy AI feature is the Generative Edit tool. This can remove unwanted and distracting elements from photos, or you can use it to resize and straighten out images and fill out the blanks with generative AI. Results are quite good — no one would know it was AI unless they scrutinized the minuscule details.

Similar to the Google Pixel 8 series, Galaxy AI also brings in generative AI wallpapers. It’s pretty much the same prompts that you’ll find on the Pixel 8, so the results can range from good to interesting to just plain weird. My issue with these generative AI wallpapers is that sometimes you get great results, but the resolution is not completely high quality and has some pixelated bits, which bothers me. Your mileage may vary here.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Other Galaxy AI features include Live Translate, a real-time voice and text translation tool. Interpreter is what you’d use if you are speaking to someone else in person and have the S24 in between you and the other person to translate your voices in real time.

There is also Chat Assist, which can help give your typed-out message a different tone — more professional, for example. However, this requires you to use the default Samsung Keyboard that many people may not like using, and the results can be quite laughable and downright awful.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

But Chat Assist does have a handy grammar and spell check that is more useful than making yourself sound like an automated robot trying to be a human being. Note Assist is also a feature to help format and summarize your notes. I don’t exactly type out long notes on my phones (I prefer using a computer for such things), so I don’t see myself using that feature too much, either.

Basically, some of the features in Galaxy AI are useful, such as Circle to Search and the generative editing photo tool. But the rest are either useful in certain circumstances or just something you’ll never really want to touch. I’m not sure if one or two super useful AI features warrant a whole phone, though. Samsung apparently doesn’t think so, as Galaxy AI is eventually coming to last year’s Galaxy S23 handsets.

Samsung Galaxy S24: cameras

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

There haven’t been many changes to the base model Galaxy S24 camera from its predecessor. In fact, they are pretty much the exact same lenses: a 50MP main camera, a 10MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom, and a 12MP ultrawide camera with a 120-degree field of view. The front is still a 12MP selfie camera.

One of my biggest issues with previous Samsung phones was the photos. It wasn’t that the cameras were bad, but Samsung has a tendency to make colors in photos oversaturated and vivid, to the point where sometimes it doesn’t look realistic or true to life. While some people like it that way, I prefer images that are a bit more realistic and true to life — if I want to make something pop a bit more, I’ll do it in the editing process.

Thankfully, it seems like Samsung has finally improved the colors in photos taken with the S24 line, at least from what I’ve noticed. While the colors are still pretty bright, they’re a bit more realistic and accurate to what you see in reality.

Images that I’ve taken so far have been quite impressive. They still pop but are more accurate with the coloring than before. The cameras capture all of the fine details, sharpness, and textures, and even close-ups have been good. I also notice that the skin tones feel more realistic this time around, too, as it doesn’t make my selfies look orange so far. It’s also quite fast to capture photos, as I tested it out while my daughter was playing with a bubble wand. It can quickly focus and capture the moment as soon as you tap that shutter button.

I do feel that it still struggles a tiny bit with lowlight photos, as my images of a sushi dinner in a dimly lit restaurant came out a bit noisier/distorted than I’d like.

I’ll still be testing out the cameras on the S24 in the coming days, but so far, I’m quite happy with the results. Even though the hardware did not change from the S23, the S24 definitely handles the color profile better.

Samsung Galaxy S24: battery and charging

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The Galaxy S24 has a 4,000mAh battery inside, which is just a smidge more than the 3,900mAh cell in its predecessor. However, don’t be fooled by the small battery size (compared to its larger brethren) — it will still last quite a while thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3’s efficiency.

I’ve been using the Galaxy S24 for over the past week, and a single charge will typically last me more than a day, depending on the usage. Again, I primarily use it for endless scrolling through social media, email, messages, video streaming, reading, and lots of photos. After a full charge and a single day of moderate to heavy use, I’d still have at least 20–30% of battery left, which could get me partly into the next day before I have to plug it in.

Unfortunately, the Galaxy S24 only supports up to 25W charging speeds, which is on par with Apple’s iPhone 15 line. I wish that the S24 would have faster charging like its larger siblings, as the S24 Plus and S24 Ultra have up to 45W fast charging. Samsung does not include a charging adapter in the box, but you do get a USB-C cable.

It’s a bit surprising that Samsung didn’t adopt the new Qi2 wireless charging standards, which would have added magnetic alignment to make wireless charging easier. Wireless charging is still available, but it’s capped at 15W, which isn’t super fast compared to the OnePlus 12, which can charge wirelessly up to 50W. There is also reverse wireless charging, still up to 4.5W.

Samsung Galaxy S24: price and availability

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy S24 is available globally as of January 31. You can purchase it directly from Samsung.com, along with major retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, and more. It’s also available from carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.

While all retailers will have the standard colors (Onyx Black, Marble Gray, Cobalt Violet, Amber Yellow), there are three exclusive colors for Samsung.com only: Jade Green, Sapphire Blue, and Sandstone Orange. The Galaxy S24 starts at $800 for the 8GB RAM/128GB storage model or $860 for the 8GB RAM/256GB storage version. Various deals can bring the price down.

For the same price, however, you could also look into the OnePlus 12, which has also just come out. Though the OnePlus 12 is much larger with a 6.8-inch curved LTPO AMOLED display, it offers a ton of bang for your buck. It also uses Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, has at least 12GB RAM with 256GB starting storage, and the triple-lens Hasselblad camera is very impressive with a 50MP main lens, 64MP periscope telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom, 48MP ultrawide camera, and 32MP selfie camera. It also has incredibly fast 80W wired charging in the U.S. (100W elsewhere), 50W wireless charging, and a massive 5,400mAh battery that will last for at least two full days.

Samsung Galaxy S24: verdict

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Even though the Galaxy S24 is the baby of the S24 lineup, it’s still packed with power. If the larger sizes of the S24 Plus and S24 Ultra don’t appeal to you, but you don’t want to miss out on the latest and greatest that Samsung has to offer, then the S24 is still a good buy.

Galaxy AI is one of the big selling points of the entire lineup, and though I wouldn’t quite say it’s the reason to upgrade, some of the AI features do come in handy. I’m mostly referring to Circle to Search and the generative photo editing tools, but the live translate and interpreter features will also be handy in specific situations.

And while the camera hardware hasn’t changed, the software behind the image processing has definitely been fine-tuned. It’s better now, in my opinion, with less “burned into your retinas” vividness and more realistic hues.

The Galaxy S24 is a good phone to have on your shopping list.

There’s also a lot to like about the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 for Galaxy chip, especially power efficiency. Even though the S24 only has a 4,000mAh cell, it has great battery life, all things considered. Plus, the performance with Android 14 and One UI 6.1 is fast, snappy, and responsive enough for pretty much anything you throw at it.

If you’re due for an upgrade this year, the Galaxy S24 is a good phone on your shopping list. It’s not a must-have upgrade if you already have a Galaxy S23, but if you’re upgrading from an older model, there’s a lot to like here.

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