It’s that time of the year again folks.. May, hope, oh spring… nope. Oh it’s the next Galaxy S device being launched. That’s the one!! Yes, Samsung have released their latest smartphone to the word and by latest smartphone of course I mean the Galaxy S4. The new device drops the roman numerals and uses the simple 4 instead.
Now if that was the only change this review would be pretty pointless over the S3, but Samsung have made quite the few changes to the S4 over the S3, with some big changes and some not so big changes.So let’s kick of this review like we always do with some defined specs and the full specs below that in a drop down list.
- Android 4.2.2
- 5-inch AMOLED display with 1,920 x 1,080 resolution(441ppi)
- Qualcomm APQ8064T Snapdragon 600
- Quad-core 1.9 GHz Krait 300
- Adreno 320
- 2GB of RAM
- 13MP camera with 1080p video recording(2mp front facing camera)
- 16GB/32GB/64GB storage options with MicroSD slot available
- Removable battery
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[accordion title=”Galaxy S IV Specifications” id=”id-here”]
|2.5G (GSM/ GPRS/ EDGE): 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz3G (HSPA+ 42Mbps): 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 MHz4G (LTE Cat 3 100/50Mbps) : up to 6 different band sets(Dependent on market)|
|5 inch Full HD Super AMOLED (1920 x 1080) display, 441 ppi|
|1.9 GHz Quad-Core Processor The selection of AP will be differed by markets.|
|Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean)|
|Main(Rear): 13 Mega pixel Auto Focus camera with Flash & Zero Shutter Lag, BISSub (Front): 2 Mega pixel camera, Full HD recording @30fps with Zero Shutter Lag, BIS|
|Codec: MPEG4, H.264, H.263, DivX, DivX3.11, VC-1, VP8, WMV7/8, Sorenson Spark, HEVCRecording & Playback: Full HD (1080p)|
|Codec: MP3, AMR-NB/WB, AAC/AAC+/eAAC+, WMA, OGG, FLAC, AC-3, apt-X|
|Dual Camera: Dual Shot / Dual Recording/ Dual Video CallDrama Shot, Sound & Shot, 360 Photo, Cinema Photo, Eraser, Night, Best Photo, Best Face,Beauty Face, HDR (High Dynamic Range), Panorama, Sports|
|Group Play: Share Music, Share Picture, Share Document, Play Games|
|Story Album, S Translator, Optical Reader|
|Samsung Smart Scroll, Samsung Smart Pause, Air Gesture, Air View,|
|Samsung Hub, ChatON (Voice/Video Call, Share screen, 3-way calling)Samsung WatchON|
|S Travel (Trip Advisor), S Voice™ Drive, S Health|
|Samsung Adapt Display, Samsung Adapt SoundAuto adjust touch sensitivity (Glove friendly)|
|Safety Assistance, Samsung Link, Screen Mirroring|
|Samsung KNOX (B2B only)|
Google Mobile Services
|Google Search, Google Maps, Gmail, Google LatitudeGoogle Play Store, Google Plus, YouTube, Google Talk,Google Places, Google Navigation, Google Downloads, Voice Search|
|WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (HT80)GPS / GLONASSNFC, Bluetooth® 4.0 (LE)IR LED (Remote Control), MHL 2.0|
|Accelerometer, RGB light, Geomagnetic, Proximity, Gyro, BarometerTemperature & Humidity, Gesture|
|16/ 32/ 64 GB User memory + microSD slot (up to 64GB)2GB RAM|
|136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm, 130g|
Most people will think of the Galaxy S3 when they see the S4 as they look nearly identical when they’re not next to each other for comparison. The S4 sees some significant changes when you look closer. The screen size has seen a bump from 4.8-inches to 5-inches, but Samsung did this without increasing the size of the Galaxy S4 compared to the S3, they in fact made it smaller. The Galaxy S3 measures in at 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm (5.38 x 2.78 x 0.34 in) with the S4 coming it at the 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm (5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 in).
While the height is the same on both, the width and thickness of the S4 is smaller in both regards. So not only did Samsung manage to fit a bigger screen on the S4, they also made it smaller than the S3 as well. This makes the S4 a great piece of hardware design in its own right. The rest of the device is pretty much the same, except for the curves being less curvy than the s3 was and it being a tad bit more symmetrical than before, but overall the design imprint on the S4 is very much the same to that of the S3. That being said, the S4 is easily an improvement over the S3 and feels nicer in the hand, but more info on that during the conclusion.
TouchWiz UI (Gestures, Air View and other features)
The only real change to the UI in the Galaxy S4 is the settings menu, which is now broken down into tabs for easier navigation. Most if not all the other layouts and looks are pretty identical to TouchWiz on the Galaxy S3 and Note series. The real changes to the UI on the Galaxy S4 is how the user actually interfaces with it and how they control the device.
Samsung added some very interesting control mechanics to the S4, the most interesting would easily be Air-view in where the user simply has to hover their finger above the screen and it will activate secondary function. This works just like it did with the Galaxy Note 2 hover feature with the S-pen however this time you can just use your finger.
The other control mechanics included in the S4 is Gesture control. This allows the users to swipe through photos on the device by simply waving their hand over the device, they can also answer a phone call the same way and have the S4 go straight to loud speaker which is a handy ability.
Before we jump into some camera shots and videos let’s take a look at the camera UI as Samsung have made some big changes to the layout and added some very nice looking features to the camera on the Galaxy S4.
The camera app on the Galaxy S4 now has a different layout and it’s own new set of features. The big change is now the mode selection area which allows the users to select from many different modes that include some very nice new features.
Above is the mode selection screen, the different modes available are Auto, Beauty Face, Best Photo, Best Face, Sound and Shot, Drama, Animated Photo, Rich Tone(HDR), Eraser, Panorama, Sports and finally Night. Clearly there is a lot of different modes to choose from and below is a quick list of what each mode does.
- Auto: Automatically adjust the exposure to optimize the color and brightness of pictures
- Beauty Face: Enhances facial features automatically when taking portrait pictures
- Best Photo: Take a series of pictures, and then select the best to save
- Best Face: Select the best picture of each person from 5 consecutive pictures to get the best merged group shot
- Sound and Shot: Enriches pictures of adding a few second of background sound
- Drama: Takes multiple exposure pictures of a moving subject and merges them into one dramatic picture
- Animated Photo:
- Rich Tone(HDR): Creates a soft, rich color by merging pictures taken at various exposures
- Eraser: Save the best picture after erasing moving objects from 5 consecutive shots
- Panorama: Take pictures in either a horizontal or vertical direction to create a linear panorama
- Sports: Take pictures of fast moving objects
- Night: Take brighter, clearer pictures in low light without the flash
So now it’s time to take a look at some photos and videos taken on the Galaxy S4. No need for more of an introduction than that.
The 13MP camera on the Galaxy S4 is a decent upgrade to that of the S3 and Note 2 or any other camera phone on the market. The extra pixels do add some quality increase, but most probably comes from tweaking on Samsung’s side of things. The only issues with the camera is the decreased field of view and not the best low light performance, however nearly every camera phone suffers this same fate expect not so much on the Nokia Lumia 920 and the HTC One. Below is the full sized images if you wish to see them.
The Galaxy S4 can of course record full 1080p video, so below is a video of a few recordings that were taken with the Galaxy S4 and you can check out the quality for yourself.
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The quality is outstanding for the Galaxy S4 and it’s a simple as that. The video really speaks for itself but to say a few words, the color is the main stand out here as it just pops out of every video and the detail is remarkable for the a camera phone (more in the conclusion)
This part is fairly straight forward. Inside the Galaxy S4 we are reviewing is the Snapdragon S600 chipset with the Krait CPU clocked at 1.9GHz with the Adreno 320 GPU. So let’s take a look at some bench numbers.
Now this part can get confusing since there are two version of the Galaxy S4 floating around, the one we are reviewing is the Qualcomm(i9505) version with LTE support. Now this means that inside the Galaxy S4 is the Qualcomm made Snapdragon S600 chipset, so we are expecting top performance from the Galaxy S4 and it does not disappoint. The synthetic performance results show a clear beast on pretty much every test.
Using the Galaxy S4 for over a week I was easily able to gauge the battery performance and like all other review I used one day to use the phone in what I call a typical medium to heavy usage setting. I made around 20 minutes of phone calls, a few text message, around 20 or so photos with some video. The heavy tasks included around 30 minutes of gameplay and over an hour of web browsing. I used 3G for most of the day with a little WiFi.
I made it to the end of the day with just over 40-percent battery life remaining and that’s impressive to say the least. I decided not to charge the device at all that night and see how it handled the night and it only dropped 2 percent through the night. Now I have to include the fact I had nothing pulling information on its own throughout the day and everything like email and social networks were set to manual. Now while the battery life isn’t the best I have seen on a smartphone(cough Note 2) it still easily an impressive battery life considering the the thing it has to power (1080p display, Krait 300 CPU and Adreno 320 GPU).
I also have to include the fact I had a lot of the S features turned off like Smart Stay, Smart Scroll, Air Gesture. Now while some of these features are only used in certain apps, others can drain the battery easily by adding extra strain on the CPU. I did have Air View active and did use it throughout the day when checking emails and such.
The Galaxy S4 will easily get you through the day with regards to battery life and even with heavy usage and I think that’s the most important factor in any smartphone and at the end of the day if your phone doesn’t have battery life it’s pretty useless and fortunately the Galaxy S4 doesn’t suffer from a lack of power when you need it.
Since we are now on 1080p displays, I think it only makes sense that we have a nice gameplay video to see it in action, but to also get a nice look at the performance of the device as well. So check out the gameplay of GTA: Vice City, Dead Trigger and Real Racing 3 below.
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Now it’s time to sum up the Galaxy S4 in all the aspects that make a great smartphone. I also added another conclusion area which deals with all the extra features Samsung have included like Air View and Air gestures because at the end of the day some of these features are what make smartphones more fun to use.
The 1080p AMOLED is just the easiest thing to sum up. It’s by far the best display on any smartphone ever! Simple huh! Basically there isn’t a single drawback for the display except perhaps brightness. Everything just jumps of the display and it’s really hard to put into words how good it actually looks. The display uses a Diamond shape matrix layout for pixels and while it is actually a Pentile display. The human eye can’t see it with the 441 PPI. The real winner is just looking at any video, picture, game, on a screen of this quality and it really completes the device as a flagship smartphone. The only downside to the screen and yes there is one and it’s the fact the brightness could be a tad better, but that’s not to say it’s bad in anyway.
However, the lack of having the highest brightness on a display doesn’t stop it from being the top display on a smartphone and that’s simply because of how good it looks.
The Galaxy S4 is rocking a 13MP camera with 1080p video support. I took a good few pictures and videos with a lot shown above. The quality is outstanding and that can’t be denied by anyone when you see the photos and videos taken by the device. Everything is captured with near perfect color and detail. The only thing that really draws the camera back is the rather poor field of view which means you need to be fairly far from objects to get them all in the picture. While it’s disappointing to see such a limited FOV, I must conclude the fact the quality still stands out as probably the most impressive camera on a smartphone yet.
There are tons of features in there from drama shot to picture with sound and while some will probably never get used, there is no harm in having more camera features and sometimes you may produce a fun shot to share around. The dual camera function is useful for video chats but I can’t see it being used that much in the real world when taking pictures, although again, you may find it fun to use at times.
We have gotten to a point in smartphones that CPU/GPU are becoming pointless and that’s sad to see and have to admit. Nearly every benchmark we did either beats or matches the competition and at that doesn’t really matter because it’s all synthetic benchmarks and performance should always be gauged by games, apps and general interaction with the device, but since hardware is way ahead of any games and applications, we generally don’t see any issues with performance on any flagship device.
The only thing that now stands in the way with hardware and software performance is optimization. Having the best hardware is pointless if the software isn’t optimized to run on it and nearly every app can game tested on the Galaxy S4 ran absolutely perfectly and didn’t lag or stutter at all. This is the turning point when software has to catch up with hardware and we can finally see the CPUs and GPUs get pushed even more.
The Galaxy S4 has inside it the Qualcomm Snapdragon S600 and it performs like a beast on steroids, but again this is only noticeable in benchmarks and real world games aren’t at a point were they are taking advantage of it. The positive thing is that hardware is there for when it does.
The extra features such as Air-view and smart stay and fantastic and really add more to the experiance on the Galaxy S4, having the ability to keep phone awake by simply looking at it was a feature on the Galaxy S3, but none the less a valid one.
Now we have Air view which allows the user to simply hover their finger above the display to gain extra information or previews, I must say I actually love this feature and it works the same way the hover feature on the Note 2 did with the S-pen, but this time around you just use your finger.
There is nothing really negative about the gesture feature, I just don’t see a point to it when it comes to scrolling through images, since it’s just a swipe of the finger to do it. However, the ability to answer a call and automatically have it go to loud speaker with the wave of a hand is a fantastic ability and one that provides great use for at a desk or in the car.
The question now isn’t is the Samsung Galaxy S4 any good because let’s all be honest, the phone is amazing. The real question that people will want to know is if the Galaxy S4 is the best smartphone on the market. To answer we need to first answer what is a smartphone really?
I always believe that a smartphone is a phone that evolves and can do something more than what it was original designed to do after it’s release. This can can be done by simply installing a new app or software upgrade that brings new features, either way you can get a new experience days/weeks/months after the you got the phone. The Galaxy S4 is easily one of if not the most impressive device on the market and that isn’t an easy task, the hard thing to is keep it relevant and take advantage of everything it has to offer and keep the updates coming as fast as possible.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is the best phone on the market and the reason is because Samsung are only going in one direction and that’s up, the Galaxy S4 is an upgrade on every aspect to is predecessor the Galaxy S3. The screen, camera, CPU/GPU, battery. Nearly everything on the Galaxy S4 has been upgraded to something better and Samsung did it all while making the phone smaller and lighter. Samsung did a fantastic job designing the Galaxy S4 and it ticks every box from display and battery life to raw performance and camera.
The Galaxy S4 adds so much on top of the Galaxy S3 which has been the best selling Android device so far, there is no risk in saying the Galaxy S4 will be the next best selling device.