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Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active 8.5

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Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review
Introduction:

Water-resistant Android smartphones are anything but new. The Motorola DEFY – released back in 2010 – was one of the first notable members of the species, followed by handsets like the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active and the Samsung Galaxy Xcover, to name a few. These, however, were mid-range handsets at the time of their release, and it took a while before someone managed to deliver a water-resistant Android smartphone that was actually good on a hardware level.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is one such smartphone. Being IP67 certified, it doesn't mind getting a little wet every once in a while. In fact, it should be able to survive a dive into water down to a meter for up to 30 minutes. The handset is dust-tight as well. At the same time, it has the hardware specs needed to rank among today's best Android smartphones: 1080p screen, Snapdragon 600 silicon, 2GB of RAM, 2600mAh battery, with Android 4.2 running the parade.

All in all, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is a remarkable Android smartphone – packed with features that we rarely get to see incorporated into a single device. Read on in case we've sparked your interest already!


Design:

Samsung is known for rehashing the same design over and over with each newly launched smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, however, doesn't look like your typical Galaxy handset. It has an elegant, yet adventurous appearance, and that's something we surely like.

We are reviewing the grey version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, with a body made of glossy plastic. The material is suitable for a smartphone meant to be tougher than the rest as it is more durable than glass or metal. Thankfully, the handset doesn't slip easily out of the user's hand, although its orange variant provides even better grip with its textured matte surface. Samsung has a blue Galaxy S4 Active version as well, in case grey or orange aren't among your favorite colors.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active doesn't slip easily out of the user's hand - Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active doesn't slip easily out of the user's hand - Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active doesn't slip easily out of the user's hand - Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active doesn't slip easily out of the user's hand - Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active doesn't slip easily out of the user's hand


Compared to one of its rivals – the Sony Xperia Z – the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is noticeably thicker, but still well within the acceptable range. It is also very close to Sony's flagship in terms of size and weight. Single-handed use of the Galaxy S4 Active may be a challenge, depending on the size of the user's hands, although we were mostly comfortable with its proportions.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
5.5 x 2.81 x 0.36 inches
139.7 x 71.3 x 9.1 mm
5.33 oz (151 g)

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active

Samsung Galaxy S4
5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches
136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm
4.59 oz (130 g)

Samsung Galaxy S4

Sony Xperia Z
5.47 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches
139 x 71 x 7.9 mm
5.15 oz (146 g)

Sony Xperia Z

LG Optimus G
5.19 x 2.71 x 0.33 inches
131.9 x 68.9 x 8.45 mm
5.11 oz (145 g)

LG Optimus G


To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page.

Front - Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review
Android buttons - Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review
Front camera - Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review

Front

Android buttons

Front camera


Taking off the back cover of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active reveals what gives it its water-resistant properties. There is a rubber band around the sides, preventing water from penetrating into the housing and damaging the phone's internals. However, we must note that while the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is protected against dust and water damage, it can't be regarded as shock-proof. There are no rubber elements on its sides to absorb the energy of shock and vibrations, not to mention that the 5-inch screen on its front is still vulnerable to cracks or scratching. Simply, one must avoid dropping it on hard surfaces.

Back - Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review
Rear camera - Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review
Battery compartment - Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review

Back

Rear camera

Battery compartment


There is an excellent set of physical buttons present on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active. They are all textured and respond with an audible click when pressed. Since they are all raised well, one can operate them comfortably even while wearing mittens.

Power key (right) - The sides of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active - Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review
Volume rocker (left) - The sides of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active - Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review
3.5mm jack (top) - The sides of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active - Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review
microUSB port (bottom) - The sides of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active - Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review

Power key (right)

Volume rocker (left)

3.5mm jack (top)

microUSB port (bottom)

The sides of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active



Display:

Just like the Galaxy S4, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active comes with a 5-inch touchscreen. The resolution is also identical – 1080 by 1920 pixels, resulting in an outstanding pixel density of over 440 ppi. However, a TFT LCD screen has been used instead of a Super AMOLED panel – a solution that has both its positive and negative sides.

On one hand, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is easier to use outdoors as its screen is slightly brighter than the S4's Super AMOLED display. Under the right angle, we had no troubles reading email, browsing through our contacts, using the camera interface, and even checking out a web page or two on a bright, sunny day. Also, the level of detail is nothing short of excellent due to the screen's high pixel count. Color reproduction is accurate and neutral, which is how it is supposed to be, although one can boost the saturation up a notch from the display settings menu. But on the other hand, The S4 Active's screen can't quite achieve the deep blacks seen on Super AMOLED panels.

Being a smartphone made for adventurous folks, it comes as no surprise that the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active can be operated even while wearing gloves. That is made possible by its super sensitive touchscreen. Oddly, using the phone with wet fingers is a no-go, which is shocking given the fact that Samsung is advertising the Galaxy S4 Active as capable of taking photos underwater.

Yet overall, we are more than content with the screen outfitted on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active. It is big, bright, beautiful, and perfectly suitable for every task.


61 Comments
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posted on 19 Jun 2013, 09:10 17

1. Diego! (Posts: 643; Member since: 15 Jun 2009)


Nice review! I prefer the design of S4 Active over the regular S4.

I'm looking forward to reading Samsung Galaxy S4 Active vs Sony Xperia Z! :D

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 19:33 7

23. KINGJUAN27 (Posts: 210; Member since: 02 Jul 2012)


This GS4 is just a Sony Xperia Z wannabe! LOL. No doubt the SXZ is faaar more premium-looking and gorgeous than this one! :D

posted on 21 Jun 2013, 04:41 9

32. taikucing (unregistered)


yeah, with horrible viewing angles.

posted on 22 Jun 2013, 10:15 5

37. moroninc (Posts: 193; Member since: 14 Jul 2012)


and a so so camera

posted on 20 Jun 2013, 18:16

31. RiseAgainst94 (Posts: 281; Member since: 03 Mar 2012)


I would as well if the camera were the same. it's not horrible, but why not keep the old camera?! I guess they have to give people reason to buy the original.

posted on 23 Jun 2013, 10:53

45. Taters (banned) (Posts: 6474; Member since: 28 Jan 2013)


In theory, this camera should be better because less pixels on a tiny sensor should equal less noise. 4mp is too little and 13mp is too much. This should be the sweet spot. They might have attempted to make this better and failed or maybe 13mp is too noisy underwater. Or they could be just making sure this doesn't cost more to produce than the GS4.

posted on 23 Jun 2013, 04:26

41. Hassan420i (Posts: 24; Member since: 23 Jun 2013)


the only thing i prefer in Samsung Galaxy is their Super AMOLED displays, since this have TFT display I can say my luxury-looking phone (Xperia Z) is much better than the tough- or metal-looking phone maybe?!

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 09:14 16

2. chunk1x (Posts: 248; Member since: 25 Jun 2011)


Why is Phone Arena keeps complain that there are no rubber protection on S4 Active. I have some rubber in my wallet that I can share to you. :P

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 09:38 4

3. Diego! (Posts: 643; Member since: 15 Jun 2009)


LOL xD I think they need som jelly too! LOL once more! xD

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 09:39 16

4. whoyton2 (banned) (Posts: 142; Member since: 19 Jun 2013)


Lol the s4 active beats lumia 925.....poor poor Nokia.....

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 09:56 3

5. roldefol (Posts: 4332; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)


Just about every Android is beating the Lumia line these days. Except the 720 for whatever value reasons PA came up with. The 92x series is getting stale.

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 09:59

6. zuckerboy (banned) (Posts: 898; Member since: 22 Dec 2011)


you cant compare 720 with highend devices. 720 gets high score as a midranger.

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 10:06 2

8. roldefol (Posts: 4332; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)


True, but when is the last time a midrange Android got a 9+ here?

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 14:49

16. zuckerboy (banned) (Posts: 898; Member since: 22 Dec 2011)


which one ?

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 19:52 7

24. KINGJUAN27 (Posts: 210; Member since: 02 Jul 2012)


I agree! Most handsomely-specd midrange Androids only get an average of 8. The Sony Xperia SP only got an 8, the LG Optimus F7 an 8 too, the Optimus L9 a 7.5, the GS4 mini got an 8.5 and the Samsung Galaxy Grand an 8 too. It seems that WP doesn't need very huge processors, gpu and ram to run buttery smooth, and the cameras are also great. Windows Phones are indeed very well optimised!

posted on 22 Jun 2013, 10:19 2

38. moroninc (Posts: 193; Member since: 14 Jul 2012)


actually Android AOSP doesnt need much to be buttery smooth... even at 1 GHZ processor and 500MB ram you could still run Android 4.2.2 ... its only when the touchwiz and other skins on top that slow the system down along with all that bloatware they just love to spoon feed us.

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 10:17

9. samystic (Posts: 230; Member since: 25 Mar 2012)


'Screen does not work when wet'... yes it beats Nokia hands down... LOL... kids these days!

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 10:46 5

12. Commentator (Posts: 3709; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)


What Nokia phone works when wet?

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 10:23 8

10. SleepingOz (unregistered)


What did you expect? Better hardware, screen, CPU, battery etc.. and it runs on Android 4.2 on top! But cm'on, you don't say it out loud, dude.. You'll make the nokia fanboys even more butthurt than they were yesterday.

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 11:08 1

14. SleepingOz (unregistered)


*don't have to say it

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 10:04 9

7. Jason2k13 (Posts: 1217; Member since: 28 Mar 2013)


I prefer the front of the original S4, but the back of the active, i really dont like the looks of the physical buttons.

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 10:29 7

11. SleepingOz (unregistered)


Same here, I like the Active's overall design but not its front buttons.
I also don't like TFT screens even if this one seems to be an excellent display, I still prefer amoled.

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 18:21 4

20. thelukewarm (Posts: 18; Member since: 18 Dec 2012)


I agree, the s4 wasn't actually designed to be waterproof........ I think that's why xperia z looks better than this device.

posted on 20 Jun 2013, 00:51

25. mottykels (Posts: 385; Member since: 15 May 2013)


Me too i dont like the design of the physical button

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 10:59 6

13. _Bone_ (Posts: 2155; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)


How is a stronger built, better looking S4 goes below 9.0? Feels a bit like PA didn't dare giving it the same score in the fear of the anti-Samsung scum predictably calling for bias.

I'm very much interested in this phone, more so than in the S4, which's glossy fingerprint plastic is not my thing. The only setback I see here is the lack of 13MP cam, but it still deserves a 9.0 if everything else is there AND water & dust resistance.

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 14:53 1

17. Nick_T (Posts: 170; Member since: 27 May 2011)


Had the camera been a bit better I would have gladly given it a 9.

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 15:52 2

18. roldefol (Posts: 4332; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)


The camera of the 928 was an improvement over the 920, but the 928 got an 8 and the 920 a 9. I thought time/competitiveness was a bigger factor than camera.

posted on 19 Jun 2013, 17:32

19. roldefol (Posts: 4332; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)


Wow dude. Way to stay on topic.

I did expect a higher score for the S4 Active. But like other devices like the Razr HD the camera pulled it down.

posted on 23 Jun 2013, 13:05

47. SleepingOz (unregistered)


You forgot to switch account before posting this comment! LMAO!

posted on 20 Jun 2013, 17:49

30. Berzerk000 (Posts: 4275; Member since: 26 Jun 2011)


The 928 and 920 were way too similar to be scored the same when they were so far apart in release.

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Samsung Galaxy S4 Active

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active

OS: Android 4.4.2 4.2.2
view full specs
Display5.0 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (443 ppi) IPS LCD
Camera8 megapixels
Hardware
Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, Quad-core, 1900 MHz, Krait 300 processor
2 GB RAM
Size5.50 x 2.81 x 0.36 inches
(139.7 x 71.3 x 9.1 mm)
5.33 oz  (151 g)
Battery2600 mAh, 17 hours talk time

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