Samsung Galaxy S4 review

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

T3 5
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 review: Samsung's flagship smartphone wants to topple the iPhone from its top spot, and wipe the floor with other manufacturers. Can it succeed?

    Samsung Galaxy S4 review

    Love

    • Range of innovations
    • Super fast processor
    • Great battery life

    Hate

    • Too many gimmicks
    • Too big for some
    • Design lacks class

    Update:The Samsung Galaxy S5 is tipped to make its debut at the MWC show in Barcelona on 24 February 2014. Catch up on everything we know so far with our Samsung Galaxy S5 rumous round-up

    It’s here at last, Samsung’s biggest release for a year. The Samsung Galaxy S4 will doubtless be popular but is it the best smartphone of the year, and are the new features – and there are oh, so many of them – worth having?

    The brand has not radically changed the design of the phone compared to last year’s Samsung Galaxy S3. Why would it? – the S3 was massively popular, so the company knew it had a winning design.

    Even so, look closely and you’ll see definite style improvements, with straighter lines and a sleeker, more serious look to it. The S3 had swirly, curvy lines demarcating the chrome effect from the colour. On the Samsung S4 it’s all straight edges, giving a more elegant and slightly more clinical look that is at once more demure and grown-up.

    And to be honest, it looks a bit more like the conventional design of other smartphones so whether this new design is better or worse is purely a matter of taste. The curves at the top and bottom edges are less tapered this time, so the corners are a touch squarer, which is also more pleasing. Less of a lozenge, more of a rectangle with soft edges.

    But it’s the same gloss plastic finish, so if you’re keener on a more premium feel like the iPhone 5 or HTC One, you may feel this is a bit shouty. Even so, it’s a classier look than the S3, even on the back where the camera lens (bigger this time) has just the flash near it. On the S3 the flash was to the left of the lens, the speaker to the right. Here, the flash is directly below the lens, both centred at the top of the handset. And the speaker grille is towards the bottom and off-centre, which looks neater.

    The design of the buttons has barely changed. The S3 wasn’t big on buttons, sporting only a volume rocker on the left edge and the power button on the right. These are in the same places, but this time around the power button is a little bigger. So is the volume rocker which is a little higher up on the left edge, but these are small changes but, we’d say, are all improvements.

    Samsung Galaxy S4: Size and build

    Like last year’s model, this isn’t a phone for petite hands. But Samsung has squeezed in a screen that’s bigger than the S3’s into a handset that’s slightly smaller (the dimensions are 136.6mm tall, the same as the S3, while the width and depth, 69.8mm and 7.9mm, are smaller).

    The change in depth is particularly noticeable and means that though it’s big it doesn’t feel unmanageable. The display is 5in this year, against last year’s 4.8in on the S3.

    Check out our Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Samsung Galaxy S3 specs showdown

    Even so, this phone clocks in at 130g against the marginally heavier 133g last time around. Most premium smartphones these days have sealed-in batteries – without the need to finish the battery in a removable case it’s possible to maximise the size and power of the cell – but Samsung has opted for a back that pops off.

    This has a big advantage because it means if you run out of juice you can pop in a replacement battery. But it can mean that the build is less persuasive or creaks annoyingly when you flex the phone in your hands. In fact, there’s precious little creak – this is a well-engineered machine.

    As before there are two colours, this time white and black. Both look good, though the white looks more lively and has a gentle, subtle texturing that you only see when you look closely.

    As with any smartphone, you need buttons to supplement that touchscreen. Samsung, like Apple but unlike almost everyone else, has a physical home button on the front, making it easier to wake the screen. This is especially important when the screen is as big as this phone. Reaching to the bottom of the display rather than the top right can make a palpable difference.

    Even so, you can go there if you prefer as the power button is towards the top of the right edge, as usual with Samsung phones. The Home button is a more symmetrical shape than on last year’s model, though still standing slightly proud.

    The headphone socket is in the conventional place on the top edge. Apple’s iPhone 5 has it on the bottom. Why should this matter? Well, if you have a protective slipcase, say, you have to remember when listening to music to slide the iPhone into it the wrong way up, which is counter-intuitive.

    Better to make a statement with it, as the Nokia Lumia 920 does by plonking it on top in the centre. This left-of-centre placement on the top of the S4 is unexceptional, but fine.

  • The Samsung Galaxy S4 is finally here, bringing with it a 5-inch screen, Exynos OCTO processor and a 13-MP camera and a host of features

    Samsung Galaxy S4 review

    Love

    • Range of innovations
    • Super fast processor
    • Great battery life

    Hate

    • Too many gimmicks
    • Too big for some
    • Design lacks class

    Update:  We have the Samsung Galaxy S4 in our clutches and we'll be posting a full review very soon - keep you eyes peeled...

    The UK version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 will not receive the octa-core processor announced at the brand's epic launch event. Instead, a 1.9GHz quad-core processor will feature. It's unclear exactly what impact the alternative processor will have on the performance of the S4, but we'll let you know as soon as we get a UK model in for testing. Samsung hasn't confirmed whether the uk will be getting the eight-core version of the phone at a later date.

    Samsung Galaxy S4 hands-on review:

    The Samsung Galaxy S4 is the latest flagship phone from Samsung and is a step-up from its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S3. Its large screen means that its size comes close to the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. It has the specs to take on Apple's iPhone 5 and could well take the Android crown, trumping the likes of the recently announced HTC One and the Sony Xperia Z.

    T3 was flown out to meet the new Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean-toting Samsung Galaxy S4 at the launch event in New York City and here are our first impressions.

    Samsung Galaxy S4: Size & build

    Considering the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, we knew that the S4 wasn't going to be small. With dimensions of 69.8mm x 136.6mm and 7.9mm thick, it's surprisingly thinner than the S3 and feels far from big to hold.

    Weighing it at 130g, it's heavier than the iPhone 5 (112g) and the featherweight Sony Xperia Z (146g) but the extra heft gives it a reassuring feel in the hand.

    Exterior buttons are fairly similar to the Galaxy S3 with the on/off button on the right hand-side, volume rocker on the left, headphone jack on the top and charging port on the bottom as per the Samsung Galaxy S3. The only other exterior button is the home button on the bottom of the device, under the screen.

    When it comes to materials, it's honed from plastic and has a very similar feel to the S3. It'll be available in black and white at launch.

    Samsung Galaxy S4: Features

    The S3 was packed with features, some more useful than others, and the Samsung Galaxy S4 is no different. As rumours suggested, the Smart Stay function has been updated to include a Smart Pause feature.

    The S4 will know when you're looking at the phone and will pause a playing video if you look away and continue to play when you look back. It worked well with our brief time with the handset and seemed much more responsive than the previous iteration.

    Along with Smart Pause, there's also Smart Scroll, that allows you to tilt the phone to scroll up and down webpages and left-to-right in a gallery.

    Taking a few cues from the Galaxy Notes, Air View has been added to the S4 but without the need of a stylus. Hover your finger around 2cm from the screen and you'll get a preview of an email or video. 

    Another gesture-based feature is Air Gesture. This somewhat pointless function allows you to wave your hand up and down to scroll content or answer a call hands-free.  It work very well during our play with the device, but we question its usefulness.

    Group Play is another feature that's been loaded into the phone. It allows you to connect up to eight other S4 devices to play a game or listen to a track. We didn't get a chance to demo this, but it'll be interesting to see how it works with a game.

    Samsung Galaxy S4: Screen

    As with the Samsung Galaxy S3, the gigantic 5-inch screen is probably the phone's most striking feature. It trumps the HTC One (4.7 inches), iPhone 5 (4 inches) and Nokia Lumia 920 (4.5 inches).

    Along with the size, the quality of the screen has been upped too. It now boasts a 440 PPI. Specs never seen before on a phone, and we have to say, it's impressive. Menus, webpages and pictures are dazzlingly bright and pin-sharp.

    Samsung Galaxy S4: Camera

    The camera on the S4 is what Samsung is hoping will be its trump card. The rear-facing camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with auto-focus and the capability to record 1080p video and there's also a secondary front-facing camera at 2-megapixels. It's not just the specs that are impressive, there's also some natty new features.

    First-up is dual shot, which allows you to use both the front-facing and back-facing cameras simultaneously and creates a picture-in-picture image. There are various options that allow you to be creative on how the picture- in-picture appears from a postage stamp to a split screen. It also works as a video.

    Other new features are Drama Shot, that stiches multiple burst shots together into one image, Cine-shot that creates a picture that's a mixture of still shots and video and finally Racer-shot that allows you to delete a moving person from a picture. Handy for those pesky photo-bombers.

    Samsung Galaxy S4: Performance

     

    Under the chassis you'll find a Exynos OCTO processor clocking in at 1.6Ghz, which makes for a pretty zippy experience when navigating the UI and switching between apps. You'll also get 2GB of RAM plus a choice of 16, 32 or 64GB onboard storage with the option of micro SD up to 64GB.

    Samsung Galaxy S4: Battery

    When it comes to battery, we're taking the stats Samsung quote as given as we only had a short time with the device; it's claimed that the S4 will last longer than the S3 and the specs agree with a 2,600mAH battery on board, a step-up from it's predecessor.

    Samsung Galaxy S4: Verdict

    There's no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a significant step-up from the S3. It's impressive that Samsung has managed to slim-down the device even though it's added a bigger screen and a host of new goodies.

    As with the S3, there are some innovative new features in there, some more useful than others but there's no doubt that stalwart Galaxy and Android fans will be impressed (not to mention the odd potential iOS defector).

    The Samsung Galaxy S4 was the most hotly anticipated Android phone of 2013 and based on what we've seen, it's certainly living up to the hype so far. We'll bring you a full review as soon as we can...

    Have you been won over by the S4 and bought one? Well check out these 7 Secret Tips for the Samsung Galaxy S4:

    Samsung Galaxy S4 release date: 26 April 2013

    Samsung Galaxy S4 price: £TBC

    Hands-on review by Rhi Morgan

    • Samsung Galaxy S4 unboxing
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    • Samsung Galaxy S4 hands-on
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