Review: Samsung Galaxy S4

By Mike Wheeler

Full disclosure before I start the review – my current handset is the Samsung Galaxy S3, so I had more than a passing interest in how S4 stacked up against its predecessor and what it had on offer.

By Mike Wheeler

Full disclosure before I start the review – my current handset is the Samsung Galaxy S3, so I had more than a passing interest in how S4 stacked up against its predecessor and what it had on offer.

The first thing I notice is that it feels a lot lighter than the heavier previous iteration, which was surprising in that the specs say the new unit is only three grams lighter. When you look at the build, you think “well, not much difference there”, however, when you look a little closer you will notice quite a few minor changes. For a start, the size of the S4 is ever so slightly thinner and a smidge skinner on the width. It is the same height, but you’ll notice the bezel around the screen on the S4 is thinner and that is because the touchscreen is bigger – a full five inches.

Speaking of the touchscreen, it’s a beauty, with the face being made of Corning’s tough gorilla glass 3.0. The resolution is fantastic, and you can seriously notice the difference when put up against the S3 – which to be honest, was a tad surprising. Navigation was a breeze, and it only takes a light touch for you to move around the different apps/screens.

Samsung has upped the specs in many areas, not least the cameras. The S4’s rear-facing camera has 13 megapixels, while the rear-facing device has been upped to 2 megapixels – and, as mentioned, this is very noticeable. Those who were thinking of investing in a compact camera might have second thoughts if they buy this handset. One super nifty feature is the Smart Scroll technology , which will follow your eyes as you read down a document and automatically scroll up when you get to the bottom of the page. Very cool. In the same vein is Air Gesture, which allows you to wave you hand over the screen and it will move pictures around instead of having to touch the screen. However, we did find that it didn’t work as well as it possibly could, as when swiping over one picture it would go from left to right, then right to left even if I wasn’t indicating to do the latter.

Samsung has also crammed in features designed for busy people or businessmen and women on the move. There is the almost standard NFC tap-and-go technology, with its cousin S-Beam that allows you to send files to other devices via NFC and wifi Direct technologies. There is also Screen Mirroring to share your smartphone’s screen with a PC or other device – very handy for presentations etc.

For travellers there is the S-Translator, which allows you to type or speak into the phone and it will translate what you are saying into another language including Spanish, Korean, French, German, Italian and Mandarin.

If you are a health nut, or just want to get on a health kick, then the S-Health app might be up your alley. S-Health allows you to set your own fitness and eating agenda by keeping track of your exercise regime and what you eat. And if you eat food or drink beverages out of a can or packet, you can use the Q code on the product and it will calculate how many calories you have consumed. The only down side is that to get the most out of this feature you will have to get peripherals like wrist bands and heart monitors.

Other specs include 4G capability, 2GB of memory, which also gives it a little more oomph; a choice of either 32GB or 64GB storage; a 1.6GHz quad-core CPU; the Android Jellybean operating system (4.2.2 version); a Full HD Super AMOLED screen, as well as a 2600 mAh battery, which lasted more than a day with average use.

Overall, this is one fine piece of kit and has yet upped the ante even more on its competitors. It’s one thing to have a device that is lighter and faster, but to also have one that has an array of eye-opening, top-end features, is another thing altogether, and the reason this will set the benchmark for smartphones for the rest of 2013.

Pros: Nice form factor; fantastic features; lighter than predecessor; good battery life
Cons: Air gesture feature needs work; pricey

4.7 Shacks Out Of 5


Updated 24/04/13

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