Samsung Galaxy S4 ReviewMay 23, 2013
Samsung’s Galaxy S4 packs a host of features, and its gorgeous display, 13-megapixel camera and quad-core processor are hard to beat.
The Samsung Galaxy S III was one of the fastest-selling smartphones ever created. The Galaxy S series has quickly become the iPhone’s greatest competitor, and once I got my hands on the Galaxy S4, it was easy to see why. While some may knock the aesthetics of the device (it may be a smudge magnet, but I find it to be quite sleek-looking), the S4 has one of the most beautiful screens I’ve seen on a smartphone; its 1080p 5 inch Super AMOLED screen combined with a powerful graphics chip and quad core processor creates truly beautiful imagery. The Galaxy S4 is extremely feature-rich, to the point that it may seem gimmicky, and it does come with a fair amount of bloatware. However, the few negatives I found during my time with the S4 are far outweighed by the positives.
Though the Galaxy S4 looks largely the same as last year’s model, it somehow manages to come in at a lighter weight and smaller size while packing a larger battery and bigger screen. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor certainly packs a punch; during my time with the Galaxy S4 I never encountered any lag, frame-rate drops or overheating. I tested it with some pretty graphically-intensive titles, too: Asphalt 7: Heat, Need For Speed Most Wanted, Iron Man 3: The Official Game and Dungeon Hunter 4 all performed admirably, with silky-smooth frame rates and stunning, vibrant detail. I should mention that I tested these titles while the device was paired with PowerA’s MOGA Pro Controller, and still encountered no noticeable lag.
The Galaxy S4’s 13-megapixel camera is absolutely stunning. In my tests it produced crystal-clear, colorful images and 1080p video, and outgunned just about every digital camera I’ve ever owned. I’m no professional photographer, but that’s quite a feat for a phone. There’s plenty of interesting shooting modes, as well: Eraser, Animated Photo, Rich Tone (HDR), Panorama, and Sports are just a few. Sure, most users will probably only use these a few times, but they can come in handy and they don’t get in the way for those that aren’t interested. I found Best Face and Best Photo to be the most interesting. Best Face can merge different facial elements from multiple photos, and Best Photo takes a series of pics quickly and lets you choose the… well, best. It’s great for capturing the perfect smile and making sure your target’s eyes are open in the picture. There’s also a streaming feature that lets you stream video to a Samsung TV like Apple’s AirPlay, and the device can be mirrored with an optional HDMI cable.
The Galaxy S4‘s IR blaster is definitely a welcome addition. With the included WatchOn app, you can control your TV, cable box, and even Netflix. It’s much more intuitive and useful than it sounds; I thought it would be cumbersome to use and difficult to set up, but it’s quite the opposite. There’s a ton of other features, which range from cool to unnecessary. One of the more noteworthy ones is S Health, which can be useful. The app can use the phone’s many sensors to track your daily steps; once it knows your weight, height, and fitness goals, it can tell you how many daily calories you need. Really, all of this can be done on something like the MyFitnessPal third party app, but the step counter will be useful to some. Some of the features that came off as a bit gimmicky or unnecessary include things like Air Gesture and Air View, as well as the feature that auto-pauses video when you turn your head. All of these worked fine, and were cool to show off, but I felt these tasks could be easier accomplished just by using the touch screen. Of course, you also need to think about the toll all these things can take on your battery life. Though in my tests, even with every available feature turned on, the battery life on the Galaxy S4 was excellent. There’s plenty of other neat stuff included, like the ability to share media with other devices, translate language while traveling, and scribble notes down.
The lone speaker on the Galaxy S4 is located on the back of the phone, which is a strange design choice. The speaker is pretty loud, but the sound is nothing spectacular. It doesn’t help that the sound is flowing in the opposite direction of your ears, and can be pretty easily muffled by your hands.
Overall, the Galaxy S4 is a great choice for those who are in the market for a new high-end smartphone. The insane variety of features can be a bit overwhelming at first, but a fair amount of them are quite useful, and the camera, processor and graphics chip in the Galaxy S4 are hard to beat. The S4 packs just about every feature you could ever want in a smartphone, and even some you didn’t even know you wanted.