Android, Mobile Tech, Review

Samsung Galaxy S4: Quick Review

Samsung Galaxy S4

Finally, for Android fans out there, the wait is finally over as Samsung, the consumer electronics giant, unveils and ships the latest installment in the Galaxy lineup of smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy S4. How does this new beast fare in terms of raw power and user experience? Read on to find out.

Hardware

The new Samsung Galaxy S4 improves on almost all aspects of the previous generation, with more powerful hardware and a handful of new software features in tow. Also armed with a battery of new sensors, the S4 aims to be the ultimate life companion for its consumers. For a quick rundown of the S4’s specifications, see the summary below:

Connectivity GSM 850/900/1800/1900HSDPA 850/900/1900/2100LTE (carrier dependent)

WLAN (802.11a/b/g/n/ac)

Bluetooth (V4.0 with A2DP, EDR, LE)

NFC

Infrared

USB (microUSB 2.0, USB on-the-go, USB Host)

Dimensions 136.6mm x 69.8mm x 7.9mm130g
Display Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors5inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (441ppi)Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Memory 16/32/64GB internal storage2GB RAMmicroSD expansion slot (up to 64GB)
Processor Quad-core 1.6GHz Cortex A15 orQuad-core 1.2GHz Cortex A7
GPU PowerVR SGX 544MP3
Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, temperature, humidity, gesture
Camera Primary: 13MP, 4128 x 3096pixels, autofocus, LED flashSecondary: 2MP, 1080p@30fps, dual video call
Battery Li-Ion 2600mAh

The Samsung Galaxy S4 ships in an eco-friendly retail packaging made entirely of recycled paper and printed with soy ink. It also comes with a standard set of accessories: A/C adapter, microUSB cable and complementary earphones. However, it should be noted that the earphones bundled with the S4 has been redesigned and features dual speakers for an improved listening experience. Although they are not expected to fully replace high-end aftermarket earphones, they are a tad better than what the Galaxy S3 shipped with before.

In terms of design and build quality, not much have changed since the previous generation. The S4 shares the same Hyperglazed finish as the S3, and as such is expected to receive the same criticism as its predecessor with its overall handling and feel. However, with a new texture employed, the Galaxy S4 looks more stylish and premium than its predecessor. It also features slimmer bezels, providing more space for the Super AMOLED screen.

As far as the screen of the S4 goes, it now comes equip with a new 5inch Super AMOLED screen with a 1080p resolution. Although still sporting a PenTile matrix configuration, the 441ppi pixel density as well its redesigned pixel matrix offers image quality like no other. It has impressive contrast and amazing viewing angles, with color saturation unbeatable by any other LCD screen today.

Compared to the Galaxy S3, the Galaxy S4 boasts of a slightly superior battery performance, owing this to its slightly larger battery.

Lastly, in terms of camera performance, the Galaxy S4 brings about a resolution bump to the Galaxy family. The 13MP camera is capable of capturing up to 4128 x 3096 pixels of pictures, while the 2MP camera on the front can snap a photo or record a video simultaneously.

The camera can be used in a variety of shooting modes such as Rich Tone (HDR), Panorama, Night and Sports shots. A number of specialty modes are also available, similar to other Galaxy phones before. Best Photo and Best Face snaps multiple photos and lets you choose the best one, while Beauty Shot does automatic beauty touch up.

360 Photo, similar to Photo Sphere, creates a spherical panorama similar to those in Street View. Eraser, on the other hand, allows “photo bombing” objects or features to be removed on your final photograph, making it a great feature when travelling. Drama mode, meanwhile, captures a moving object and clones it several times, while Cine Photo creates cinemagrams which is simply an animated GIF image.

Another great travel feature of the camera is Sound & Shot, which captures a photo while recording the ambient sound at the same time. Lastly, Double Shot snaps a photo with both the front and primary camera, which is great if you want the person holding the camera to be included too.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is currently available in two versions: one with the Exynos 5 Octa CPU and the other with the LTE-enabled Snapdragon 600. Although early benchmarks show that there would be a slight edge with the Exynos chipset, this is generally seen to be negligible in normal, day-to-day usage of the device.

User Experience

The Samsung Galaxy S4 ships with the latest release of Android with 4.2.2 Jelly Bean out of the box. TouchWiz still dominates the User Interface of the device, but now it comes with a laundry list of new features that is aimed to further improve the overall usability of the device.

The lockscreen features the new lockscreen widgets that comes default with Android 4.2, with multiple panes capable of displaying one widget at a time. Similar to the Galaxy Note II, the Galaxy S4 also features a Quick Glance option that uses the proximity sensor to automatically show you device information such as the time, missed calls, message counters and battery charge whenever you reach for your phone.

At the top, the notification area features a total of 20 configurable toggles to quickly enable or disable features. The homescreen looks almost the same as before, and the app drawer hasn’t also changed much, with the app shortcuts presented as a customizable grid.

The Galaxy S4 comes with a Multi-Window feature, letting you run two apps side by side on the screen. Users can adjust the dividing line between two apps depending on which one needs more space. However, only compatible apps can use this feature, which means right now, mostly the ones that comes preinstalled in the phone would benefit from this.

The Settings menu has been overhauled and this time, instead of using a scrollable grid of icons and sections, the TouchWiz interface on the new S4 now uses a tabbed approach. Up top you get four tabs: Connection, My Device, Accounts and More. Related features are correspondingly dumped on their respective tabs, making navigating the menu faster and more user-friendly.

Now, let us talk about the Galaxy S4’s new advanced features. With powerful hardware paired with dedicated sensors, the S4 is able to provide more nifty tricks than ever before. Air View, which debuted on the Galaxy Note II, comes preloaded in the S4. It can detect your finger hovering over the screen, and could consequently enable the following: information preview (SMS, calendar entry, etc), video preview by pointing to a spot in the timeline, changing tracks in the music player by hovering over the next/previous button, previewing folders, speed dial contacts, etc. The feature is able to detect fingers 1cm away from the screen.

Another advanced set of feature available on the S4 is called Air Gestures. Vertically waving your fingers allow scrolling web pages in the browser, while waving horizontally allows you to move between music tracks or photos, accept a call, and move app shortcuts. Air Gestures can detect your hand up to 7cm, although only the native apps support them.

Smart Stay and Smart Rotate features are also available. Stay prevents the screen from locking as long as the front-facing camera can see your face and Rotate uses the orientation of your face rather than accelerometer info to decide how to rotate the screen.

Smart Scroll, a new feature on the S4, allows you to scroll up and down by tilting the phone or by tilting your head. It’s a bit hard to get it right the first time, but after that you can tilt your head down to scroll down and up to scroll back up. Smart Pause, on the other hand, uses the front-facing camera and tracks your face. It will automatically pause the video when you look away. Look back and the screen and the playback continues.

Wrap Up

Hands down, the Samsung Galaxy S4 lives up to its legacy as the worthy successor to the Galaxy S line. The big 5inch screen fits well into its compact body, with the 1080p Super AMOLED panel allowing significant image quality. The 13MP camera is one of the best in the industry today, and performance-wise, few could actually keep up with the S4. Add up the handful of new and advanced features included in the S4 and you have a very capable and complete life companion. Kudos to the guys at Samsung for this one, because indeed, the company is proving yet again that they are the king of the Android handset world.

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