Review: Samsung Galaxy S4
It wasn’t easy for Samsung to reach the top. During the days when Apple’s iPhone was the sole ruler, Samsung was playing catch up. Everything changed though when the Korean tech company launched the venerable Galaxy S3. Sales were off the charts! The device racked praises left and right, earning thumbs up even from previously critical international tech blogs. The Galaxy S3 was definitely a tough act to follow. Fast forward one year we now have the successor to the S3 — the Samsung Galaxy S4. People were initially skeptical it would do well since it still had a plastic chassis and it looked a whole like the S3 but it’s now the fastest selling smartphone in history! Samsung definitely did an excellent job building hype for it and they matched it with an impressively mind-blowing set of internals. We’ve been playing around with it for the last few weeks and we wanted to share with you guys our review.
Samsung Galaxy S4 Spec Sheet
- 5-inch Super AMOLED Full HD display (1080 x 1920 pixels), 441 ppi
- Corning Gorilla Glass 3
- 1.9GHz quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor
- Adreno 320 GPU
- 2GB RAM
- 16/32/64GB internal storage with expandable storage up to 64GB
- 13 megapixel rear facing camera with autofocus and LED flash
- camera feature: dual shot, HDR, image stabilization, touch focus, simultaneous HD video and image recording
- shooting modes: beauty face, best photo, best face, drama shot, animated photo, sports, panorama
- 2 megapixel front facing camera
- LTE, 3G, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, DNLA, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, Infrared port
- Features: S Voice, Smart Stay, Smart pause, Smart scroll, Air gestures, TV out
- 2,600 mAh battery
- Android 4.2.2 Jellybean
Design: Evolution of the Galaxy S3
Like what we mentioned earlier, the Galaxy S4’s chassis is mostly plastic. However the execution is far superior compared to previous Samsung products. The Galaxy S4 is a little less curvy than its predecesor and far more compact and tight. Samsung has used plastic so many times already that they’ve mastered and refined it to a level that other manufacturers can only gawk at, hehe.
That said though plastic can still be polarizing. Not everyone will appreciate it. Some people who’ve bought the GS4 have actually said that the phone doesn’t have a premium feel. That’s understandable though since you’d think a manufacturer would go beyond plastic if they priced their product at Php30,990, hehe.
Anyway, despite the 5-inch display you can still use the GS4 with one hand. The reason you can still do this is because the phone is very thin, lightweight, and ergonomic. It rests easily on your palm without biting into your flesh. When it comes to the looks department though it definitely still looks like the Galaxy S3. The only major difference other than the slightly less curvy shape is the thinner screen-to-bezel ratio (which is just gorgeous).
The 5-inch Super AMOLED display with 1080 x 1920 pixels is stunning! This maybe one of the S4’s greatest strength. Its vibrant and warm colors tones makes it one of the best screen displays we’ve ever seen. Colors are more natural and less saturated than its predecessor. Watching videos, playing graphing intense games will be a nice experience because of the big and sharp screen. Using the phone under direct sunlight is no problem because the screen remains very visible at 100% brightness. Viewing angles are impressive for it is like IPS-like standard.
Software and Performance: Crazy Fast and Fluid Android Experience with lots of Extras
The Samsung Galaxy S4 runs with Android 4.2.2 Jellybean with a heavily customized ToucWiz UI on top of it. The UI feels so cluttered like there are so many functions and features to learn especially when you are a first time Android and TouchWiz user. Thankfully, Samsung made a Home Screen Mode where you can choose Easy Mode for first timers and Standard Mode for those who have been using TouchWiz for a long time.
Just so you have an idea of all the features, check out this photo of the controls on the settings bar:
Samsung packed the GS4 with tons of features that make use of motion gestures. Smart Pause is when you turn your eyes away from the screen the video you are watching takes a pause. When we tested it there were times it didn’t work perfectly. The other gesture features were the same. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t. Smart Scroll lets your eyes control the scrolling using your eyes while Air Gestures lets you navigate without touching the screen (perfect when your hands are covered with Cheetos). Note though that when it doesn’t work on all apps. Smart Scroll, for example, works only on the stock browser and not the Google Chrome app. Hopefully Samsung will release an update that will make them more universal.
When it comes to transitions and core services the Samsung Galaxy S4 overdelivers. The 1.9Ghz Quad-core CPU is a BEAST. Playing graphics intensive games was a breeze while the usual phone animations were ridiculously buttery smooth. Definitely one of the best implementations of Android when it comes to fluidity. Perfect marriage of hardware and software.
Camera: Excellent Shots with a lot of Smart Features
If you’re in mid to good lighting environments, the Galaxy S4’s camera will blow you away. It’s no doubt the best Android camera out there right now. However it’s still not as good as the Lumia 920 when it comes to low light photography. No one still comes close to PureView. Here are a few sample shots:
The S4’s new camera features are the scene modes – Drama, Beauty Face, Best Photo, Sound and Shot, Best Face, Eraser and Panorama. We liked the eraser mode where you can erase anybody or anything you don’t like to see on you picture. We also love the dual shot. The one taking the picture is included in the photo. For more info on these shots, click here.
Battery: Very Good
The 2,600 mAh battery gives more than enough juice to last you for most of the day. We unplugged the charger with 100% battery at 7am. With Wi-Fi hotspot and LTE turned on plus auto brightness off with intense web browsing, playing Candy Crush for 3 hours and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram turned on, and watching You Tube videos for 4 hours (not straight actually), the battery died at 4:30pm. That’s about 10 hours with extreme usage. Not bad.
Verdict: A lot of Gimmicks but it’s a damn Good Android Smartphone
The Samsung Galaxy S4 has tons and I mean TONS of features but not all of them you’ll end up using. For example, the motion gestures are fun to use at first but in reality won’t be useful everyday. Beyond the gimmicks though the Galaxy S4 is an excellent Android smartphone with monstrous internals.
Which leads me to our final reco. If you think you’ll use the Samsung extra features, go for this one. If not then just wait for the Galaxy S4 with stock Android which Google announced during Google I/O 2013.