Beyond the Alphabet
Beyond the Alphabet is a weekly column that focuses on the tech world both inside and out of the confines of Mountain View.
You might have noticed by now, but I’ve picked up a new hobby over the past few months. I can’t get enough of dedicated gaming handhelds despite having a couple of foldable phones and a plethora of slab phones. But, there was one thing that the Galaxy S24 Ultra is being touted for, and it has me quite intrigued.
During Galaxy Unpacked, Samsung stated that the entire Galaxy S24 series would support ray tracing. As detailed in the announcement post, “Ray tracing enables lifelike visuals with superior shadow and reflection effect.” Phone companies trying to implement this isn’t anything new, as the Galaxy S23 series also supported the technology.
More recently, Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max include support, and some pretty big titles allow you to take advantage of it. Notably, Resident Evil Village is already available, and Death Stranding will arrive on January 30. However, there were only a handful of titles that were mentioned when Samsung spoke about ray tracing on the Galaxy S24.
There’s a pretty good chance that you haven’t heard about three of the four, but Diablo Immortal already supports the technology. The others are Racing Master, Night Crows, and Arena Breakout. I couldn’t tell you anything about those games off the top of my head, and that’s kind of where I feel like Samsung missed the mark.
Samsung invested an untold sum of money to bring Pokimane on stage and to have Mr. Beast record a video showcasing the S24 Ultra. But, when it came to the gaming portion, it wasn’t like Samsung brought someone like Hideo Kojima on stage to reveal a major release for these new phones. Not to mention that Samsung was a partner of The Game Awards while also showcasing the Samsung Gaming Hub.
So, if you were to ask me whether ray tracing matters on the Galaxy S24, I’d have to say no. That doesn’t mean that this won’t, or can’t, change moving forward; it’s just that I feel if Samsung really cared more about this, it would’ve shown us. And I don’t mean in the lip service that’s been paid or the countless commercials showing off gameplay on the S24 Ultra without actually showing off something recognizable.
That’s where I feel as though Samsung swung and missed. The first Galaxy Unpacked of the year could have been arguably the biggest ever if Samsung had managed to announce something like Death Stranding coming to Android. Throw in the Galaxy Ring teaser at the end of the presentation, and we probably would’ve lost our minds.
Ultimately, I’m left feeling like Samsung only mentioned the ray tracing capabilities because Apple did with the iPhone 15 Pro. This probably means that we won’t hear anything about it again, outside of commercials, until gaming is “reimagined” or “reinvented” with the Galaxy S25.
I’m still excited for the potential
You might have made it this far and are wondering why I bothered mentioning the Android gaming handhelds at the beginning. Well, it offered a nice segue to talk about how I’m still excited and intrigued to see what the Galaxy S24 Ultra is capable of with mobile gaming.
Without going into too much detail due to the “gray area” nature of the subject, I’ve been finding myself playing Switch games on non-Switch devices. The Pimax Portal is just one of them, while there are a couple of others that I’m in the process of reviewing.
I’ve also gone down this path with the OnePlus Open and Galaxy Z Fold 5 paired with a gaming controller, experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t. One could argue that the state of game emulation on Android has never been better, and I’m hoping that it only continues to improve.
The Galaxy S24 Ultra could be the penultimate solution to mobile gaming. A single device that can handle ray tracing with heavy titles and Nintendo Switch emulation in one fell swoop. Currently, none of my Android gaming handhelds can offer that, even the AYN Odin 2 with its Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC.
It’s also clear that Samsung’s not the only player here, as both ASUS and RedMagic have recently released gaming-centric phones. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find the ROG Phone 8 Pro in stock, and if it weren’t for the S24 Ultra, I’d probably already have the RedMagic 9 Pro.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is said to offer 30% more performance while being 20% more efficient compared to its predecessor. That’s quite an impressive boost, and that alone has managed to make me change my mind about trading in my Galaxy S23 Ultra for the one that’s new and shiny.