Samsung Galaxy S4 review: Supernova
As the Galaxy S counter flips another digit, Samsung has hopes of getting an even tighter grip on the smartphone market, and reasserting its Android dominance. With two of the main rivals enjoying a head-start to the market, the Samsung Galaxy S4 would need to be something special to quickly erase their lead. Not to mention, it’s looked upon to match, and outdo, its predecessor. And by the first impressions of the smartphone, that might be not be as tall an order as it sounds.
The new Samsung flagship improves on just about every aspect of the previous generation, coupling more powerful hardware with another handful of new software features. With a bunch of new sensors too, the Galaxy S4 aims to be your must-have all-in-one tool.
Here’s the full cheat sheet for our Samsung Galaxy S4 review:
*. Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE; quad-band 3G with HSPA; LTE
*. 5″ 16M-color 1080p Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen with Gorilla Glass 3
*. Android OS v4.2.2 Jelly Bean with TouchWiz UI
*. Quad-core 1.9 GHz Krait 300 CPU, Adreno 320 GPU; Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 chipset/ Quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A15 & quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7, PowerVR SGX 544MP3 GPU; Exynos 5410 chipset
*. 2GB of RAM
*. 13 MP autofocus camera with LED flash,1080p video recording @ 30fps, continuous autofocus and stereo sound
*. 2 MP front-facing camera, 1080p video recording
*. Dual shot and dual video recording, Drama shot, Shot and sound
*. Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA
*. GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS
*. 16GB/32/64GB of built-in storage
*. microSD card slot
*. microUSB port with USB host and MHL 2.0
*. Bluetooth v4.0
*. IR port for remote control functionality
*. Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
*. Accelerometer and proximity sensor
*. Barometer, thermometer, hygroscope
*. IR gesture sensor for Air gestures
*. Smart gestures: Smart stay, Smart pause, Smart scroll
*. Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
*. Ample 2600 mAh battery with great endurance
*. 7.9mm thickness
*. Smart volume and Adapt Sound features for the music player
*. Design is a bit played out by now
*. Hyperglaze finish doesn’t feel as premium as aluminum on HTC One or glass on Xperia Z
*. No FM radio
*. Video recording is slightly worse than on the Galaxy S III; FOV in video is pretty narrow
*. Shared camera interface makes framing tricky
So, there are enough major wows, some minor ohs and just a few oh wells – not a bad achievement when you are succeeding the most popular droid of all time. The Samsung Galaxy S4 was always expected to aim for the top, but its announcement still managed to surprise a few. The fact that the Koreans squeezed a larger screen, a bigger battery and more power into something smaller than the Galaxy S III is impressive enough in its own right, but the novelties certainly don’t end there.
We only got the chance to get to know a few of the Samsung Galaxy S4 exclusive software tricks in our preview, but we’ll be testing the full set this time around. The new camera also showed promise and we’ll put it through all the motions to find out if it can really live up to its potential.
The Samsung Galaxy S line has produced some of the best smartphones over the years, and the Galaxy S4 lives up to its legacy. Some consider it an evolutionary step from the Galaxy S III, others would go ahead and call it a revolution, there’s the third kind too who insist it’s a mere rehash.
Without getting into the semantics, we believe the S4to be a worthy update over its predecessor, which was already one of the most capable smartphones around.
Let’s run it down: the big 5″ screen fits into a very compact body (same footprint as the Galaxy S III andslimmer), the new 1080p Super AMOLED matrix offers a significant improvement in image quality, the 13MP camera is one of the best around and, performance-wise, the Galaxy S4 will probably hold the crown until the Galaxy Note III comes around.
Before moving on, we have to discuss the two versions of the Galaxy S4. One is the I9500, poweredby the Exynos 5 Octa, and the I9505, the LTE-enabled Snapdragon 600 model. This review is based on the I9505. Early benchmarks suggest the I9500 will have a slight edge, but how that will impact the battery performance is unknown at the moment.
Samsung’s drive to offer the best Android software package borders on an obsession. Launching the Galaxy S4 with the latest Jelly Bean version is a good start, and we really like some of the home-brewed TouchWiz features. The complete list of options is so long that half of them may take unsuspecting users a while to discover. Now, a good portion of those are only gimmicks that still need a lot of work, but there are some real gems too and it would be a pity to miss those.
Anyway, the camera is the other thing we liked aboutthe Galaxy S4, besides the screen and processing power. It has a simple interface and while it’s not groundbreaking in any way, it combines the best from mobile cameras and has the image quality to match.
The Galaxy S4’s competition is out in full force. The HTC One has a slightly smaller (but still excellent) screen, an optically stabilized camera, and killer looks – the only thing the Galaxy S4 seemingly lacks.We already did a dedicated shootout with those two, so you might want to check it out.
The Sony Xperia Z also earns compliments for its looks and adds the rare feature of an IP57 certification (water and dust resistance). If you prefer compactness over waterproofing, the Xperia ZL offers the Z specs in a shorter body (and adds an IR emitter). The Xperia’s 5″ screens leave something to be desired, however.
The HTC Butterfly didn’t get to sit in the HTC thronefor long before the One came in, but the bigger screen and traditional camera make it a good alternative. The LG Optimus G Pro is more of a Note challenger, but if you’re not afraid to go big, it successfully stacks up against the Galaxy S4 on almost every front.
The Asus Padfone Infinity adds a 10.1″ tablet dock to the S4-like specs to make sure you really get your money’s worth from that powerful chipset and advanced OS (Android 4.2). The Infinity should be on sale not long after the Galaxy S4 hit the market, but its €999 price tag is only worth considering if you really need a smartphone and a tablet and you never plan on using them both simultaneously.
The Oppo Find 5 and ZTE Grand S come from makers that are rising in popularity and offer flagshipspecs, without the premium name tax. Finding either of those in your local stores can be quite hard, though.
While the Samsung Galaxy S4’s exterior might be its Achilles’ heel, we can’t blame Samsung for sticking with the Galaxy S brand image it spent so much resources trying to build (that phone sold over 50 million units too, so being associated with it cannot be too bad).
With the sheer number of excellent flagships to choose from, if you are looking for the best smartphone, you had it better than ever. There’s no need for choice anxiety either, as the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a safe bet as long as you can get past its increasingly dated design or you need that IP57 certification.