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Samsung Galaxy S24 hands-on review: AI-way or the highway

With little else in the way of advancements, the Samsung Galaxy S24 is putting all its eggs in the new Galaxy AI basket

As regular as the changing of the year, Samsung has hosted its annual Unpacked showcase and spilled the goods on the new Galaxy S24 series. The Samsung Galaxy S24 serves as our entry-level model, with the Samsung Galaxy S24 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra rounding out the series.

Unsurprisingly, given that it’s set to be the biggest technology of 2024, AI gets a huge focus here, almost to the point where there’s not much else to get excited about. Aside from some minor hardware tweaks and the promise of better cameras, it feels as though the S24 will sink or swim on the appeal of its AI features.

We’ll get to exactly what those are a little further down, but first things first, let’s have a look at the specifications and see what’s new this year.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 hands-on review: Key specifications, UK price and release date

  • 6.2in FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display
  • Exynos 2400 for Galaxy processor
  • 8GB of RAM
  • 128GB or 256GB of storage
  • Rear cameras: 50MP (f/1.8) main, 10MP (f/2.4) 3x telephoto, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide
  • 12MP (f/2.2) selfie camera
  • 4,000mAh battery
  • 25W wired charging, 15W wireless
  • Dimensions: 71 x 7.6 x 147mm (HWD)
  • Weight: 167g
  • Colours: Onyx Black, Marble Gray, Cobalt Violet, Amber Yellow
  • UK release date: Preorder from 17 January, available from 31 January
  • UK price: £799 (128GB), £859 (256GB)

Samsung Galaxy S24 hands-on review: Design and key features

The first thing that jumps out from the specifications is that, after an unwelcome price bump with the previous generation, Samsung has taken steps to bring the cost back down again. The Samsung Galaxy S24 isn’t as cheap as the S22 was at launch, but the 128GB model is £50 less than the equivalent S23, and the 256GB model is £40 cheaper than its counterpart from last year.

Physically, the S24 is near-enough identical to the S23, but we’ve got a whole new swatch of colours to choose from: Onyx Black, Marble Gray, Cobalt Violet and Amber Yellow. Like last year, the “armour aluminium” frame will contrast with your chosen colour, and the phone is once again sandwiched between layers of Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on the front and back and has a IP68 dust and water resistance rating.

Beneath that front layer of glass is a Dynamic AMOLED 2X display, just like the S23, but thinner bezels have left slightly more room for the screen, so it’s now a 6.2in panel instead of 6.1in. The FHD+ resolution is the same, but there’s LTPO technology now, offering a 1Hz to 120Hz adaptive refresh rate – the first time that all members of a Galaxy S series have received this feature. Brightness is also improved, reaching an impressive peak of 2,600 nits, according to Samsung.

Flipping the phone over, we’re met with a familiar suite of rear cameras. The main lens is the same combination of 50MP and f/1.8 aperture as we saw on both the S22 and S23, although Samsung claims that, this time around, the pixels will be able to absorb 160% more light. This is joined by the same 12MP ultrawide sensor, 10MP 3x optical zoom telephoto camera and 12MP selfie snapper we saw last year. Samsung’s Space Zoom returns here, too, but like the S24 Plus, it tops out at 30x, while the Ultra goes up to 100x.

Looking at the internals, we find one of the first big changes, and it’s not necessarily a good one. We were pleasantly surprised last year to see that all members of the S23 series were fitted with the tweaked Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset, but this time around, only the S24 Ultra is getting Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 for Galaxy.

The S24 and S24 Plus are both reverting to Samsung’s own Exynos 2400 for Galaxy chipset. This isn’t a dealbreaker out of the gate, but historically the Exynos chips have underperformed in both power and stamina compared to their Qualcomm counterparts, so it remains to be seen whether or not this ends up being an unacceptable point of compromise.

The chipset is joined by 8GB of RAM, just like the S23, and your choice of 128GB or 256GB of storage. The new battery is a 4,000mAh unit – relatively small by flagship standards but still bigger than the S23’s battery – and charging support extends to 25W wired charging and 15W wireless. As only the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is getting Wi-Fi 7 support, we’ve also got Wi-fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 rounding out the specs.

The S24 will run Android 14 and Samsung’s own One UI 6.1 out of the box, and Samsung has confirmed that users can expect to receive seven years worth of both security and OS updates.

Finally, the most prominent of the new features, Galaxy AI is a blend of on-device and cloud-based AI processing, and Samsung showed off a handful of features that give a good idea of how this is being used. These range from the fun – the ability to cut out objects and people from photos, resizing and rotating them, or even saving them as stickers to be used in the future – to helpful uses such as live language translations on phone calls, with 13 languages confirmed to be supported at launch.

Not everything hit the right note for me personally: the circle to search feature certainly started out well, allowing you to hold down the home button and circling an object on the screen, which the AI then identifies and searches for via Google (fluidly, I might add, as the feature was a collaboration between Google and Samsung). Where Samsung lost me was the example used, in which you could view a photo of someone’s day out or holiday and use the feature to find out exactly where they are.

That raised some privacy concerns for me that weren’t assuaged during the presentation, so it remains to be seen whether Samsung has an answer to the potential creepy applications of this feature. For more details on Galaxy AI, you can check out our hands-on review of the S24 Ultra – all of the features mentioned are present across all three S24 devices, with the only exclusion being the 100x Space Zoom on the Ultra.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 hands-on review: Early verdict

For better or worse, AI looks set to dominate the coming year in smartphones, and likely beyond, so the Samsung Galaxy S24 certainly feels well-equipped to wade into that battle. As for whether or not it offers enough outside that to justify itself as a worthwhile upgrade, I’m less convinced.

The move back to Exynos chipsets could end up feeling like a downgrade if previous issues persist, and there’s otherwise very little different this year. We’ll be able to judge the phone’s processing power and the touted new camera features when we get our hands on a review sample. For now, however, the Samsung Galaxy S24 certainly seems to be banking on the allure of AI being enough to make it stand out.

The Samsung Galaxy S24 starts at £799 for the 128GB model and £859 for the 256GB. You can preorder from today and units are set to start shipping on 31 January.

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