I put the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs S23 Ultra through a 7-round face-off — is it worth the upgrade?

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs Galaxy S23 Ultra.
(Image credit: Future)

Every time a phone maker releases a new phone, it’s always good to dissect how much better it is than the previous model. That’s why a Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra face-off is needed — comparing the phones lets us see if Samsung has put enough into its latest flagship to make it worth buying.

Last year’s Galaxy S23 Ultra long held the titles of best phone and best camera phone, thanks to its excellent quadruple camera arrangement and packed features, so beating that device will be a tall order. With the newer Galaxy S24 Ultra, however, Samsung appears to be focusing more on AI features to differentiate its latest flagship.

In my Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review, these AI capabilities certainly felt compelling and intuitive, but the biggest controversy centers around the company’s decision to ditch the S23 Ultra’s longer 10x optical camera, for a shorter 5x zoom lens instead. Is this a downgrade? Or can AI and new image processing techniques close the gap.

I’ll answer that in this Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra comparison and also explore how these two flagship Android phones compete in areas like their software, battery life, display, and more.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. S23 Ultra: Specifications

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Galaxy S24 UltraGalaxy S23 Ultra
Starting price $1,299$1,199
CPUSnapdragon 8 Gen 3 for Galaxy Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy
Storage 256GB, 512GB, 1TB256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Display6.8 inches QHD+ AMOLED (1-120Hz)6.8 inches QHD+ AMOLED (1-120Hz)
Rear cameras 200MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP 3x telephoto, 50MP 5x telephoto200MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP 3x telephoto, 10MP 10x telephoto
Front camera 12MP12MP
Colors Titanium Black, Titanium Gray, Titanium Violet, Titanium YellowPhantom Black, Cotton Flower, Botanic Green, Mystic Lilac, Lime, Sky Blue, Graphite, Red
Battery 5,000 mAh5,000 mAh
Charging 45W45W
Dimensions6.4 x 3.11 x 0.34 inches6.4 x 3 x 0.35 inches
Weight8.22 ounces 8.25 ounces

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. S23 Ultra: Price and availability

The Galaxy S24 Ultra launched on January 31, 2024, while the Galaxy S23 Ultra launched last year on February 17, 2023. Both phones can be purchased through Samsung’s site and other retail channels.

We’ve seen price hikes in other flagship phones of late, so it comes as no surprise that Samsung raised the price of the Galaxy S24 Ultra by $100. You’ll need to shell out $1,299 for the S24 Ultra — whereas the S23 Ultra cost $1,199 when it debuted. Through special trade-in offers, you can actually get the S24 Ultra discounted down to as low as $669. These incentives are fantastic for a new phone, but I’ve seen the S23 Ultra cost as little as $299 during special sales events.

Both handsets include three storage options: 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB. However, all three storage options of the Galaxy S24 Ultra come with 12GB of RAM, while the S23 Ultra features either 8GB or 12GB.

And finally, there are 7 color options available with the Galaxy S24 Ultra, versus 8 with the S23 Ultra. Between them, I like the bolder color tones of the newer phone — like titanium violet and titanium yellow.

Winner: Galaxy S23 Ultra

Galaxy S24 Ultra: was $1,419 now $669 w/trade-in @ Best Buy

Galaxy S24 Ultra: was $1,419 now $669 w/trade-in @ Best Buy
While the hardware upgrades are iterative, it's in the software that differentiates the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. From its new Circle to Search function to Google things easier on the phone, to the incredible editing abilities of Generative Edit, the various Galaxy AI features do make for a much more satisfying experience that saves you time.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. S23 Ultra: Design

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs Galaxy S23 Ultra.

(Image credit: Future)

While the S24 Ultra doesn’t have a dramatic shift in design language, Samsung does change up the design of its flagship ever so slightly.

Gone is the armor aluminum frame of the S23 Ultra, replaced instead by a stronger, more durable titanium frame. This translates to a lighter package at 8.22 ounces, versus 8.25 ounces with the S23 Ultra. Sure, it’s not a huge difference, but it's one I can still feel when I hold the two together.

The other big design change is how the S24 Ultra ditches the curved screen that’s been a staple of the Galaxy S series for a completely flat one. Samsung says this change makes it better for the S Pen, so that the stylus doesn’t slip off the edges when you’re using it. I’m personally on the fence about this one because the curved edged screen of the S23 Ultra gives it a slicker looking aesthetic.

And finally, Samsung reduces the bezels around the S24 Ultra's screen by 42%. I see it most with the bottom edge of the S24 Ultra, which lets the display hug closer to the edge than before — along with the smaller cutout of its front-facing 12MP camera.

Overall, there are minor changes to the S24 Ultra’s design that still makes it look like the more refined device.

Winner: Galaxy S24 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. S23 Ultra: Display

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs Galaxy S23 Ultra.

(Image credit: Future)

If you compare Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. S23 Ultra specs, you’ll realize that both phones are rocking 6.8-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2x Displays. Neither one edges out the other in terms of pixel density, so they deliver incredible detail. Furthermore, they both offer the same adaptive 1-120Hz refresh rate.

I loaded up the Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga trailer on both phones to see any meaningful differences. Both phones have exceptional viewing angles and strong contrast to make the trailer pop in full screen mode, but I can make out a slightly brighter screen with the S24 Ultra.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Samsung Galaxy S24 UltraSamsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Delta-E color accuracy (lower is better)0.250.3
DCI-P3 color gamut coverage (%)98.5112.2
Peak brightness1,3631,225

In Tom’s Guide’s display benchmark tests, the S24 Ultra pulls in a peak brightness of 1,353 nits, which is a far cry from Samsung’s peak rating of 2,600 nits — but it still bests the S23 Ultra’s mark of 1,225 nits. That margin may be slim, but it’s ultimately a small gain for the latest Galaxy.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. S23 Ultra: Cameras

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs Galaxy S23 Ultra.

(Image credit: Future)

Given how I’ve used the Galaxy S23 Ultra for almost a year, it’s been a confident backup video camera to my mirrorless camera. With this year’s Galaxy S24 Ultra, Samsung makes a controversial decision that could sway people from choosing the S23 Ultra instead.

The S24 Ultra’s quad camera setup consists of a 200MP main camera, 12MP ultrawide, and 10MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom, and a larger 50MP telephoto camera with 5X optical zoom. That last telephoto camera is central to the controversy because it’s a 10MP telephoto with 10x optical zoom, accompanied with a 200MP main camera, a 12MP ultrawide camera, and 10MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom.

Most people will look at the 10x and 5x optical zooms and automatically presume that the S24 Ultra is inferior, but Samsung claims the larger sensor on the new phone effectively gives it the same optical-quality performance as its predecessor. Before I detail that, let me briefly explain how their cameras stack up in different modes and conditions.

There’s very little gain with photos captured by their main cameras of the S24 Ultra and S23 Ultra. Detail capture is identical in the photos above with the fruits on display, but I can tell the image is a tiny bit brighter with the S24 Ultra. It’s not by much. You can see how the wooden crate is exposed more, whereas the S23 Ultra casts a stronger contrast.

I like how the S24 Ultra handles portrait mode better, mainly because of its warmer color temperature, stronger contrast and bolder colors. Even though the background blur is more exaggerated, the S23 Ultra’s portrait shot looks dull and subdued, which is exemplified by its colder color temperature.

In low light, the larger sensor and bigger pixels of the Galaxy S24 Ultra are able to draw in more light, resulting in a brighter image, which you can see in the photos above of my detached garage. I wouldn’t say it's an immense difference, but it’s nonetheless an improvement.

So far, our photo comparison been leaning toward the S24 Ultra’s favor, but now I want to show you how that phone's 5x optical telephoto camera compares to the S23 Ultra’s 10x optical lens with long range subjects. This snapshot of a nearby skyscraper with both phones set to 10x zoom shows the slight disparity between the two.

Overall, they look almost identical, but there are differences worth pointing out. First and foremost, the S24 Ultra’s shot looks brighter thanks in part to the new sensor, but the S23 Ultra retains more of the subtle details in the brick work around the building.

In these 100x zoom photos, those details become more apparent with the S23 Ultra. It’s not to say that the S24 Ultra’s photo is bad, seeing that it pulls in good details with its 5x optical zoom camera. However, after inspecting other zoom photos, I can’t say it can exactly deliver the same optical-quality performance as the S23 Ultra.

Video recording tops out at 8K with both phones, but most people will probably resort to the usual 4K 30fps recording. Again, I tested out zoom performances to see if the S24 Ultra can match its predecessor — and I think it does in my test. That’s attributed to the better stabilization paired with a 5x optical camera, whereas the S23 Ultra is more finicky and results in some detail loss if you’re not steady.

Under low light, the S24 Ultra’s brighter sensor again proves its strength by making more of the scene brighter. But I’m impressed by the brighter look of the S24 Ultra's zoom camera as well — albeit, it’s a bit noisy.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra’s camera package isn’t a tremendous overhaul from what the Galaxy S23 Ultra provided. In the case of its 5x zoom camera, it's actually a downgrade of sorts. But the new Ulra is made better by the handful of new Galaxy AI features that improve photo and video editing.

Generative Edit impressively convinces of the power of generative AI for filling in gaps in photos. I used it to shrink a mug in a photo, resulting in a tweaked background that looks realistic. This is a neat editing tool that I don’t get with the S23 Ultra, simplifying what would otherwise be a painstaking process trying to do manually on my own.

Another useful Galaxy AI feature with the S24 Ultra is Instant Slow-mo, which lets me apply a slow motion effect to any video I record. This is handy because I can record normally and then apply the effect later on. And you know what? Galaxy AI adds in the necessary frames in order to deliver a convincing slow motion video. I still can’t tell that AI altered the video above of the ice skater. There are some minor nuances, but unless you’re inspecting each frame, it’s hard to notice them.

And finally, Edit Suggestions uses Galaxy AI to remove unwanted reflections from photos. This feature works really well in the before and after photos above of me nearby a window.

Winner: Galaxy S24 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. S23 Ultra: Performance

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra in hand.

(Image credit: Future)

On the surface, there’s no shortage of instant responses and fluid actions when it comes to Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. S23 Ultra performance. Whether I’m switching between apps like a mad man, or accessing my usual suite of productivity apps for work, both Galaxy phones re responsive.

Yet, synthetic benchmark tests show me that the Galaxy S24 Ultra has an incremental improvement thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3. In GeekBench 6, it scores higher than the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2-powered S23 Ultra — with greater gains in the multi-core test.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Samsung Galaxy S24 UltraSamsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Geekbench 6 CPU test (single-core/multicore score)2,300 / 7,2492,091 /5,511
3DMark Wild Life Unlimited (score/fps)20,627 / 123.514,611 / 87.5
Adobe Premiere Rush time to transcode (mins:secs)0:420:39

But the greatest leap in performance pertains to the S24 Ultra’s graphics processing performance, where it sets new records in 3DMark’s Wild Life Unlimited test. The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 14,611 score is still one of the best in a flagship phone, but the S24 Ultra smashes it with a mind boggling 20,627 score.

And since the Galaxy S24 Ultra supports ray tracing and better cooling thanks to a larger vapor chamber that’s almost double the size of the one in the S23 Ultra, it’s better at staying cooler and handling graphically intensive titles. I tried out Diablo Immortal, one of the few titles that support ray tracing, and I love how the game feels a bit more responsive.

Winner: Galaxy S24 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. S23 Ultra: Battery life and charging

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs Galaxy S23 Ultra.

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung’s decision to keep the battery size unchanged with the Galaxy S24 Ultra is a peculiar one, mainly because most of the time power packs increase ever so slightly year over year. But despite both phones featuring 5,000 mAh batteries, it’s the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3’s improved power efficiency that makes the biggest difference.

As a result, the S24 Ultra takes another leap in battery endurance by reaching a longer time with Tom’s Guide’s battery benchmark test. It pulls in a time of 16 hours and 45 minutes, versus the S23 Ultra’s 13 hours and 9 minutes. I didn't expect this kind of jump in battery life, but it gives the S24 Ultra extra ammo in being the better phone.

I was hoping for slightly faster charging speeds with the S24 Ultra, but it stays at the same 45W wired charging rate as the S23 Ultra. Despite this, though, it actually charges faster by reaching 71% with 30 minutes of charging — while the S23 Ultra gets to 57%. Wireless charging speeds are also the same with both at 15W.

Winner: Galaxy S24 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. S23 Ultra: Software

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra S Pen

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

On the surface, both phones offer the same OneUI 6.1 experience on top of Android 14. As much as I was hoping for Samsung to expand some of the core features of the S24 Ultra, namely the S Pen and Samsung DeX, they’re identical. However, I’m glad that Samsung promises to provide 7 years of software and security updates for the Galaxy S24 Ultra — which is one of the best in any phone.

While their core experiences remain similar, the S24 Ultra separates itself with its set of Galaxy AI features. I really love how these Galaxy AI features save me time, but even more when I find them practical and intuitive to use.

An image showing the Samsung Galaxy S24 with the Circle to Search feature being used on screen

(Image credit: Future)

For example, Circle to Search lessens my need to copy and paste or switch around two apps if I want to look up something. No matter what app I’m in, I can initiate Circle to Search, select what I want to search, and the corresponding search results pop up — all without leaving the app.

Another useful Galaxy AI feature I’ve been using a lot is Live Translate, which for me is best reserved for apps like WhatsApp. I play a mobile game with a group of friends that sends messages in WhatsApp in Spanish, but Live Translate will translate everything within the app. Previously, I was copying and pasting their messages to Google Translate to understand what they’re writing and send a response, but I’m saving time now with Live Translate.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Review Voice Recorder AI feature.

(Image credit: Future)

And finally, there are the Galaxy AI features incorporated into the Samsung Voice Recorder app. I’ve been using the Pixel 8 Pro’s voice recorder app because it does an amazing job of not only transcribing the audio recording, but also identifying different voices. Now the Galaxy S24 Ultra does it as well, but it takes things one step further by giving me the option to summarize the entire recording — along with the option of formatting them to look more organized in Samsung Notes.

There are other Galaxy AI features like Chat Assist and Live Translate's main purpose, which is to serve as a real-time translator during phone calls. These capabilities aren't as useful for me, but I can see how they can be tweaked and refined later on to be more handy. 

But despite this, my overall feelings about these Galaxy AI features are positive. Basically, they save me time — and that’s enough to convince me about the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s biggest selling point. That said, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is set to gain Galaxy AI features at some point during the first half of this year, Samsung says.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. S23 Ultra: Verdict

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra S Pen.

(Image credit: Future)

There are two glaring qualities about the Galaxy S24 Ultra: its $100 price increase and weaker 5x telephoto camera performance. Knowing that the gains are minimal in my opinion around the overall camera performance, you might think there’s not as much incentive for going with the S24 Ultra.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Price (15 points) 1113
Design (10 points) 98
Display (15 points) 1211
Cameras (20 points) 1817
Performance (15 points) 1513
Battery and charging (10 points) 86
Software and special features (15 points) 1510
Total (out of 100) 8878

That’s far from the truth because the processing might of its Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, brighter display, and longer lasting battery endurance are enough to justify the Galaxy S24 Ultra's higher cost. But when I also factor in all of its useful and intuitive Galaxy AI features, they easily validate the S24 Ultra worth over the S23 Ultra.

Only time will tell which Galaxy AI features the S23 Ultra will add and whether the experience will match the Galaxy S24 Ultra's seamless use of AI, so it may pay to wait. Still, if you’re deciding between the two right now, there’s no reason not to go with the newer Galaxy S24 Ultra.

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