Samsung says it’s time for Galaxy Note owners to upgrade to the Galaxy S24 Ultra — are they right?

    If you still have a Galaxy Note, Samsung has a message for you: upgrade to a new phone. And the phone manufacturer just happens to have a substitute gadget in mind in the form of the recently announced Galaxy S24 Ultra.

    Samsung certainly has a point about upgrading from the outdated Note phablet. The Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the final versions produced, will celebrate their fourth birthday later this year. That’s a long time to cling onto one phone, even in an era where the length of time between upgrades has gotten extended.

    There is no way to know how many Galaxy Note 20 units are still in use by holdouts. But evidently there are enough that Samsung felt forced to produce a five-point argument for why those folks should abandon their Notes in favor of the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

    As I have stated, Samsung is correct in recommending that you upgrade sooner rather than later. The question of whether that update should be a Galaxy S24 Ultra is contentious. So, if you have a Galaxy Note 20 and a strong desire to examine how phones have evolved this decade, which models should you explore instead?

    Samsung’s case for the Galaxy S24 Ultra

    Galaxy S24 Ultra

    Many of the points Samsung makes in favor of the Galaxy S24 Ultra make perfect sense since they essentially boil down to the claim that chipsets and cameras have advanced significantly since the summer of 2020. The Galaxy Note 20 gave exceptional performance and superior photographs for its time, according to the argument, and the Galaxy S24 Ultra does the same now.

    This is especially true when it comes to the chipsets in the individual phones. The Note 20 Ultra’s Snapdragon 865 Plus processor was very powerful, but it was no match for the A13 Bionic silicon that powered the iPhone at the time. These days, however, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 used by Samsung for the Galaxy S24 Ultra can compete with Apple’s chipsets, even outperforming the A17 Pro found in the iPhone 15 Pro models in some of our benchmarks. In our battery test, the S24 Ultra achieved the fastest time ever for a Samsung flagship thanks to the newest Snapdragon.

    Samsung’s upgrade argument is also primarily based on the Galaxy AI features debuted with the S24 range. In particular, Samsung smartly emphasizes the AI capabilities in the S24‘s built-in Notes app, which allow you to auto-format notes and receive AI-powered summaries complete with bullet points about the note’s contents. This is indeed an enticing offer for Galaxy Note customers who prioritize productivity. (It also helps that the Notes features are among the most refined of the Galaxy AI capabilities.)

    Samsung also emphasizes how much better the S Pen is these days, claiming a 68% reduction in latency over the Note 20’s pen. This is technically right – the greatest sort of perfect, according to Futurama — but it ignores the reality that those responsiveness enhancements were introduced with the Galaxy S22 Ultra two years ago. Since then, things have been quiet on the S Pen front. Again, if you’re upgrading from an earlier phone like the Galaxy Note 20, it doesn’t matter when the enhancements were launched, as long as they’re there.

    Is the Galaxy S24 Ultra the right upgrade option for Note users?

    Galaxy S24 Ultra

    Samsung’s justification for the Galaxy S24 Ultra is based on three assumptions. First, Samsung phones are ride-or-die, even though competing smartphones, such as the OnePlus 12, may outperform the S24 Ultra in some areas. Second, you like a phone with a large screen. Third, you cannot live without the S Pen.

    We’ll grant the first point: Galaxy Note upgraders are likely to prioritize Samsung products. As for the final issue, if the lack of a S Pen is a deal-breaker for you, you’re pretty well bound to the Ultra, as the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is the only other stylus-supporting smartphone in Samsung’s range. It’s a great foldable phone, but at $1,799, the Fold is even more expensive than the Galaxy S24 Ultra, even after Samsung raised the Ultra’s price.

    I believe that the price increase will cause some Galaxy Note users to reconsider upgrading. If you’re still using a phone from 2020, it might be because you’re afraid to spend a lot of money on a new one. And, as impressive as the Galaxy S24 Ultra is, $1,299 is a lot to pay on a new phone.

    Perhaps not for Galaxy Note 20 Ultra users, who paid the same price for their smartphone in 2020. Perhaps not for those who can save significantly by taking advantage of the best Galaxy S24 Ultra discounts. But I have a sneaking hunch that some owners of the normal Note 20 will not want to pay four figures for a new phone, even if it has their beloved S Pen.

    So, what should a Galaxy Note user do if they believe that $999 is more than enough to spend for a phone? Assuming they’re not too attached to the notion of the S Pen, I believe the Galaxy S24 Plus is an excellent big-screen option.

    Galaxy S24 Ultra

    My colleague John Velasco makes a solid case that the S24 Plus is a far better bargain than the Ultra, so I’ll simply explain it here. Although the Plus model costs $300 less than the Ultra, it has many of the same features.

    Both the S24 Plus and S24 Ultra basic versions include 256GB of storage and are powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 CPU. (That is, if you buy your phone in North America; elsewhere, the Galaxy S24 Plus has an Exynos 2400 processor.) The Galaxy S24 Plus charges at the same 45W wired charging rate as the Ultra, and it took only 13 minutes longer to complete our battery test than the S24 Ultra. These are two phones that both rank highly on our best phone battery life list.

    The Galaxy S24 Plus shares all of the Galaxy AI features found on the Galaxy S24 Ultra. (So does the ordinary Galaxy S24, in fact, but I’m guessing that a phone with a 6.2-inch screen is a no-go for Note enthusiasts.) The lower bezels on the S24 series mean that the Plus model now has a 6.7-inch panel, the same as the Note 20, thus there is no screen size reduction. Again, all you’re giving up is S Pen compatibility and the longer telephoto lens that comes with the S24 Ultra — and, to be honest, this year’s telephoto lens feels like a step back.

    Which Galaxy S24 model should Note users pick?

    In the end, it all boils down to the S Pen and if having one is worth the extra $300 to you. Otherwise, there is no notable difference between the Galaxy S24 Plus and Ultra variants.

    So, in one aspect, Samsung is correct: it is time for Note owners to upgrade to a new phone and reap the advantages of three years’ worth of mobile improvements. However, deciding which phone to buy is not as simple as Samsung has made it appear.

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