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Samsung Galaxy S4 review


The Samsung Galaxy S4 has a lot to live up to. Follow-on to the Samsung Galaxy S3, the most successful Android handset to date, the Galaxy S4 pits itself against renewed efforts from old rivals as well as the ever-present threat of Apple.

Given the hype surrounding the handset’s launch, however, a period that has seen months of build-up paired with countless rumours that would be the envy of any Apple launch, Samsung’s latest flagship phone looks set to face no issues in once again storming to the top of smartphone sales charts.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Samsung Galaxy S3 and rivals

Off the bat, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a truly impressive powerhouse smartphone. On paper, it’s Samsung’s most impressive handset to date, not least as it jumps from the 4.8-inch S3 to a 5-inch screen without any added bulk.

At 7.9mm thick, 136.6mm tall and 69.8mm wide, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is actually 0.8mm narrower and 0.7mm slimmer than the S3. It tips the scales at just 130g – 3g less than the S3 and a genuine featherweight. Unlike past models, however, it doesn’t feel unnervingly light, instead, balancing its weight evenly and reassuringly across the handset’s full length.

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung hasn’t just made the screen larger. The stunning 1,920 x 1,080p Super AMOLED Samsung Galaxy S4 screen is a serious boost from the S3’s 720p screen that creates an instant wow factor. It’s arguably the best screen ever seen on a smartphone and proves the Samsung Galaxy S4 is more than a spec baiting feature fest – it’s a quality product.

But it’s far from the first phone to have a 1080p full HD display, and the Samsung Galaxy S4 faces stiffer competition than its most recent predecessor. It goes head-to-head with a reinvigorated collection of high-end Android handsets, with both the HTC One and Sony Xperia Z lining up as the best smartphones ever produced by their respective manufacturers. There’s always the looming presence of Apple and the iPhone 5, too, though if anticipation is anything to go by then Samsung’s execs won’t be losing any sleep.

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4 – Key Features Explained

What might be an issue, however, is the Samsung Galaxy S4’s less than ideal start to life. Less than a week after it was announced, Samsung backtracked on its promise to deliver the much-touted 1.6GHz Exynos 5 eight-core powered version of the phone originally pegged to hit the UK, instead sending the 1.9GHz quad-core option to British shores.

Although this revised British spec lacks the battery saving prowess promised by its eight-core sibling, it certainly has the grunt – the Samsung Galaxy S4 suffers virtually no lag, even when tackling all the heavy-duty tasks, power-hungry apps, games and multimedia content we could throw at it.

Other hardware upgrades on the Samsung Galaxy S4 follow recent Android trends. Its 13-megapixel rear-mounted camera is akin to that of the Sony Xperia Z, while 1080p Full HD video recording and an integrated flash ensure it’s equipped for any occasion.

Combined with a second, 2-megapixel snapper upfront – again with 1080p Full HD video recording at 30 frames-per-second –  the S4 cameras are excellent and the new Dual Shot feature lets you make use of both cameras simultaneously.

Dual Shot lets you take a photo or shoot a video with both cameras, with the front camera view appearing as a small ‘picture-in-picture’ thumbnail. It’s largely a gimmick that won’t appeal to everyone, but for those interested, Dual Shot gives the option for more personalised tourist snaps and party shots. It’s joined by Panorama, Eraser and Animated photo options that are quick and easy to set up and use, adding a new realm of possibilities.

At its core, Samsung has paired Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with the most recent iteration of its TouchWiz UI, creating an experience that is equal measures intuitive and brimmed with high-end features and options. Indeed, it’s the Samsung Galaxy S4’s software where Samsung has innovated over the S3, and how it distinguishes itself from the competition.

See the following pages of the review for a more detailed look the numerous unique software features, such as the S Health fitness app, Smart Pause, Smart Scroll and Air Gesture

There’s a raft of premium add-ons, like NFC, 4G LTE and even IR remote control, too, and unlike the HTC One it has a built-in microSD card slot to expand the standard 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities – although actual available storage is considerably less than advertised, more on which later.

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4 – Price & Deals

All this muscle and a hearty collection of headline grabbing features come at a price, however, and in terms of the Samsung Galaxy S4 price, it’s a considerable one.

Indeed, the Samsung Galaxy S4 price exceeds Apple and the iPhone, usually the benchmark for costly smartphones, as the entry-level 16GB Samsung Galaxy S4 SIM-free price is around £580 – £50 more than the iPhone 5. It’s pricey on 24-month contracts, too – a little more expensive than its closest rivals, with some retailers offering the handsets for free when taken on a £37 per month two-year deal.

If you’re looking to buy, we suggest you look at our round-up the best Samsung Galaxy S4 deals.

Samsung Galaxy S4 – Quick Verdict

There is no getting away from the fact that this phone has more hype surrounding it than any Android device that has preceded it. Fortunately, Samsung has backed up much of this anticipation with action, offering a well-rounded, extremely powerful device that, although lacking something on the aesthetical front, is sure to impress the masses.

Given the Samsung Galaxy S4’s near identical looks to the S3 and the somewhat run of the mill hardware updates, some will argue that the handset is more of a Samsung Galaxy S3S in the vein of Apple’s incremental updates than a true S3 successor. In truth and practice, however, the handset is a whole new beast and one which far outstrips what has been, until now at least, the world’s most successful Android smartphone.

To compare the S4 against rivals, take a look at our best mobile phones 2013 round-up.

For a more detailed look at all the new features, hit the next page button below to delve deeper into our in-depth review.

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