Samsung Galaxy S24 vs Galaxy S24 Plus vs Galaxy S24 Ultra — how to pick the right model for you

Samsung galaxy s24 and galaxy s24 plus
(Image credit: Future)

Samsung's Galaxy S24 flagships are now widely available, with all three models earning rave reviews for their performance, endurance and overall look. And while that means you really can't go wrong no matter which Galaxy S24 model you buy, it also adds a new wrinkle to shopping for the best Samsung phone. Unless you have a specific model in mind, it might be difficult to figure out which S24 is the best fit for your needs.

We can help you decide, though, as we tested and rated each model for our Galaxy S24 review, Galaxy S24 Plus review and Galaxy S24 Ultra review. And while each model impresses, some excel more than others when you're on the lookout for specific qualities in a mobile device.

Let's break down the search for a new smartphone into the different categories people consider when weighing a handset upgrade and determine which Galaxy S24 model is the best fit for that particular need.

The Galaxy S24 model with the best display

Circle to Search demonstrated on a Galaxy S24 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

Get the Galaxy S24 Plus

Samsung has complicated the matter of singling out one of its flagships for the best display by making sure all three have similar specs. Regardless of which Galaxy S24 model you get, the display will offer an adaptive refresh rate that can scale all the way up to 120Hz and all the way down to 1Hz when the on-screen activity is more static. 

Likewise, all three models offer panels that promise a maximum brightness of 2,600 nits. None of the three phones approached that mark when we measured them with a light meter, but rest assured that all three Galaxy S24 panels are bright enough to see outdoors in direct sunlight.

In that case the search for best display among the Galaxy S24 models may come down to size, which seemingly favors the Galaxy S24 Ultra and its 6.8-inch panel. That's the largest screen you can get on one of Samsung's Galaxy S phones for those of you who subscribe to the bigger-is-better-school of thought.

However, shrunken bezels mean the Galaxy S24 Plus screen size has increased to 6.7 inches, and it also offers the same Quad HD+ resolution as the S24 Ultra. Whether the 0.1 inch of difference between the two displays is open to debate, but the $300 difference between the cost of the S24 Plus and S24 Ultra is not. We'd argue that you should get the Galaxy S24 Plus for a very expansive display that costs much less than the Ultra.

The Galaxy S24 model with the best performance

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review.

(Image credit: Future)

Get the Galaxy S24 Ultra

If you're buying a Galaxy S24 model in North America, you can pick any one of three options and get a top-performing Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset that's been optimized for Samsung's phone. As a result, even the lower-cost Galaxy S24 model can produce benchmarks that outperform the iPhone 15 Pro and its A17 Pro chipset in a few tests. Our Galaxy S24 Ultra benchmarks sugget the Ultra puts up the best numbers of Samsung's new phones, likely thanks to the additional RAM that comes with that particular model.

Outside of North America, it's more of a tossup. Samsung uses an Exynos 2400 chipset in the Galaxy S24 and Galaxy S24 Plus models. We don't have figures yet on how those phones perform, but if history is any guide, it may not be as good as the latest Snapdragon. To that end, we'd point you toward the Galaxy S24 Ultra, which runs on a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 no matter where in the world you happen to buy your smartphone.

There's another reason to go with the Ultra if you value performance and productivity. It remains the only Galaxy S24 model to support the S Pen, which makes note taking and photo editing a breeze. The included S Pen also comes in handy when using the new Galaxy AI features like generative photo editing — it's much easier selecting objects to edit with a stylus — and Circle to Search.

The Galaxy S24 model with the best camera

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review.

(Image credit: Future)

Get the Galaxy S24 Ultra

Samsung kept the camera hardware changes to a minimum with the Galaxy S24 lineup, with the biggest differences coming to the Galaxy S24 Ultra. The Ultra's main camera has larger pixels that capture more light, while it turns to a 50MP sensor for one of its telephoto lenses. That telephoto lens only supports a 5x zoom as opposed to the 10x optical zoom the Galaxy S23 Ultra provided, though the S24 can cropping into a 50MP shot for the equivalent of a 10x zoom.

Because of the larger pixels and the better zoom capabilities — the Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus top out at a 3x optical zoom — we'd still give the nod to the Ultra for people who demand the best possible photos and the most flexible camera phone. But make no mistake: whichever Galaxy S24 model you ultimately choose, you're going to get excellent photos. It's just that the S24 Ultra is the choice for someone who wants the best camera phone of the bunch.

The Galaxy S24 model with the best endurance

samsung galaxy s24 plus in yellow over a counter

(Image credit: Future)

Get the Galaxy S24 Plus

This is another toss-up between the Galaxy S24 Plus and Galaxy S24 Ultra, as both bigger phones turned in excellent results on our battery test. When tasked with surfing the web continuously for as long as they had power, the Galaxy S24 Ultra lasted 16 hours and 45 minutes, while the S24 Plus finished just 13 minutes behind. That's practically a dead heat, considering the S24 Ultra's slightly larger battery.

Likewise, both phones support 45W wired charging, so you can expect similar charge levels from either device. After half-an-hour, the Galaxy 24 Ultra was back to a 71% charge, while the Galaxy S24 Plus hit 70%. When things are that close, go with the less expensive model, which is the Plus in this case.

The Galaxy S24 model with the best durability

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra in hand.

(Image credit: Future)

Get the Galaxy S24 Ultra

You wouldn't know it if you looked only at Galaxy S24 drop-test results, but the Galaxy S24 Ultra is the phone to get if you want the model that has the best chance of emerging from an accident unscathed. Unlike the standard S24 and the Plus model, the Galaxy S24 Ultra features a titanium frame that should be better equipped than aluminum to handle life's blows. The Ultra is also unique in that it uses Gorilla Armor glass.

That said, you're still going to want to pick up protection for your $1,299 phone. When you go to buy the Galaxy S24 Ultra, make sure you consult our guide to the best Galaxy S24 Ultra cases. (We also looked at the best Galaxy S24 cases and best Galaxy S24 Plus cases if you're still interested in those two models.)

The Galaxy S24 model with the best value

Samsung galaxy s24 review

(Image credit: Future)

Get the Galaxy S24

Opting for the least expensive Galaxy S model usually means giving up some of the more premium features found in either the Plus or Ultra models. And while it's true you make some sacrifices for the Galaxy S24, they're not as significant as they have been with past Galaxy S phones.

Yes, the screen is smaller on the Galaxy S24 and the battery isn't as large, though the Galaxy S24 also manages to land on our best phone battery life list with a nearly 13.5-hour result on our battery test. The Galaxy S24 also doesn't charge as fast, and it's the only model to feature ust 128GB in its base configuration.

But notably, all the Galaxy AI capabilities available on the Galaxy S24 Ultra are also on the standard S24. And since those AI features are really the star of this round of upgrades, that means you can enjoy the same capabilities on the standard S24 while paying $500 less for your phone. That's a pretty substantial savings.

If you really don't like compact phones, you could pay a little more for the Galaxy S24 Plus, which has that bigger screen we mentioned along with the Galaxy AI features. And that's just $200 more than the Galaxy S24 so you're still getting some value from your new handset.

The best Galaxy S24 model overall

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra camera closeup.

(Image credit: Future)

Get the Galaxy S24 Ultra

All three Galaxy S24 models have something going for them. The standard version boasts many of the same capabilities as the more expensive models, and it remains the best option for people who prefer compact handsets that are easily to operate with one-hand. The Galaxy S24 Plus gets a bigger screen than before, while also matching the Ultra in the all important area of battery life. It's also the same $999 price as its predecessor.

But it's the Galaxy S24 Ultra that still ranks as the best phone Samsung has to offer. The Ultra gets every premium feature Samsung can think up, from the best cameras to superior materials. It's the Galaxy S model to get if money is no object.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.