Dimensions: 5.38 x 2.75 x .31 inches
screen: 5 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels,441 ppi
2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900
3G: HSDPA 850/900/1 900121 00
Wireless a/b/g/n/a/c NFC
OS: 4.2.2 Android
Camera: 13MP. secondary: 2MP
Processor: Quad-core 1.9GHZ Krait
Battery: 2600 mAh
• Fast, fast fast
• Extra features are actually useful
• Gorgeous screen
• Poor battery life on LTE
• Camera gimmiks need a little polish
• Bloatwear. Quite a bit of lt.
If you have been waiting for a phone that does everything, your wait is over.
There is only ever enough room at the top for one. In the case of the Android world, there’s a lot of competition for the title of”King of the Hill.” While some are clearer bets than others, talk of the best ‘drold currently in existence cannot begin without mention of Samsung’s Galaxy S4.
I got the S 4 just about two weeks before starting this review. In that time, I have uncovered more than enough to give you folks a good Idea of what the S 4 brings to the table. This is a device that is set to sell millions upon millions, but I should say up front that it is not because of its looks. The S 4 is a little on the plain side. There’s actually very little by which one can tell it apart from the previous iteration. This Is not to say the phone is ugly. Far from it, actually; the phone is quite nice. The black version, in particular, has an eye-catching finish that I rather like. If they had done just a little more perhaps change the lines a bit, make the accents a little more interesting, it would have been straight-up beautiful.
Having said that, it’s really great how the engineers at Samsung managed to trim this device down to a size smaller than the previous one. It isn’t too far removed, and it will take a side-by-side comparison and a sharp eye to see the difference. The S 4 is as pleasant to hold as ever, if a little slippery, but won’t really run the risk of jumping out of your hand. People the world over have complained about the plastic construction of the device, though honestly, I don’t think the vast majority of them have gotten to hold the S 4. Despite it’s mostly plastic build, it is solid.
Despite twisting, pressing and manhandling the device, I couldn’t get a single creak out of it The folks over at Samsung clearly knew what they were doing when they put this thing together, and I don’t believe the plastic is really anything to complain about.
The S 4 runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, with a rather heavy Samsung TouchWiz overlay. I’m not the biggest fan of a vanilla OS, so I like that Samsung has added a layer on top. It’s more of the same stuff we have seen from them in the past, and while the amount of bloatware is a little much, the raw power of the four CPU cores and 2GB of RAM is enough to make short work of anything, even the feature-heavy Touch Wiz overlay.
Performance of the S 4 is spectacular. Having had my fill of the Samsung launcher, I went and installed my own, graphics-intensive one, and proceeded to populate my home screen with the appropriate widgets. No matter how much I did with the widgets, home screens and other doodads, flipping through screens, launching apps and other phone functions acted like there wasn’t anything else going on. It was an extremely pleasant experience, and it should be. This device has more power than most of the hardware I used in college.
A lot has been said about the extra features Samsung included with the S 4, particularly the “gimmky• motions and gestures. Sure, there are those out there who will deactivate them and then never use them again, but I believe it’s a nice thing to have all the extras. It doesn’t slow the phone down, and to be honest, I like bells and whistles on my phone, as long as it doesn’t affect performance. I have organically been using more or less all the whiz-bang features, particularly Smart Scroll, which scrolls web pages based on how you look at the screen, Air Jump, another hands-free way to scroll through a page, and Quick Glance, which lets me check if I missed any notifications while the phone is locked. Call ’em what you want; they’re pretty useful.
The camera on the S 4 Is amazing. It is a little over-saturated, but the crispness is through the roof, and response is pretty quick, so you won’t miss that decisive moment. The extra camera features, such as removing unwanted people in the back and capturing action, work, but could use a little polish. They don’t work perfectly yet, but the potential is there, and if conditions are favorable, they will actually cooperate.
Connectivity on the S 4 is amazing. It has everything, down to an IR blaster for controlling TVs. LTE service, where available, is going to spoil you, and oftentimes, you’re going to kill Wi-Fi and opt instead to jump on LTE. Be warned, though LTE is going to kill the otherwise exceptional battery life of the S 4. With data off, the Galaxy S 4 will happily last well over a day calling, texting, and internet via Wi-Fi. Data, however, will drain your battery in about five hours. Apart from the power costs to run data, this is also because the screen will constantly be on due to all the browsing you will be doing.
You wouldn’t be blamed for it. The screen is gorgeous. 441 ppi on the 5-inch AMOLED screen is about as nice as a screen can get with our technology, and videos are absolutely fun to watch on it. It’s also a great way to view webpages, particularly when you have a fast LTE connection to back it up.
The Samsung Galaxy S 4 certainly deserves the Flagship status the Korean manufacturer has bestowed on it. It’s the bleeding edge of what mobile phone technology is at the moment, and is very well executed overall. Despite a few hiccups here and there, it really is a remarkable gadget, and one any gadgeteer would love to own.
Words by Ren Alcantara