Samsung Galaxy S4 Review
Another year, another Galaxy S phone! Since the very first Galaxy S, which came out in 2010, Samsung has been regularly refining and improving its formula for success in the mobile industry. It is mainly thanks to this series of handsets that the manufacturer is now enjoying lush revenue streams and having a profound influence over the whole Android ecosystem.
Today, the Galaxy S phones stand for approachable design, superb performance and premium features. By the looks of it, the new Galaxy S4 is going to have all three components. But will it see the same outstanding success as its predecessors?
The market landscape this year is different from what it was in previous years. The competition is no longer as confused and unprepared as it used to be. For the first time ever, the Galaxy S smartphone of the year will have to go against some very tough Android-powered opponents like the marvelous HTC One and Sony Xperia Z, both of which offer impressive designs and unique features. Has Samsung managed to come up with enough goodies to make the Galaxy S4 the undisputed king of the Android jungle, or will the throne be stolen by some of the other contenders?
The smartphone wars are getting more and more intriguing. The battle which used to be between two powerful factions has grown into a full-blown massacre now that the other parties have joined. The Galaxy S4 is here, so let's take a good look at it and try to determine its chances of being the last phone standing!
It's not that the appearance of the Samsung Galaxy S4 is untouched compared to the one of the S III, but let's just say that the design language is almost identical. Still, we have to acknowledge the fact that the manufacturer has refined the exterior a bit. Even then, the Galaxy S4's appearance isn't anything to write home about. Its main virtues are that it's not bad and it's comfortable to hold, despite the considerable dimensions.
The latter is not only due to the ergonomic shape of the product, but also to the nice glossy plastic material that's been used for the casing. If you've touched a Galaxy S III, the GS4's plastic feels exactly the same way. As always, it attracts fingerprints, but that's not a major problem. The nonslippery, pleasant-to-touch finish more than makes up. The design of the back side is rather bland, as it only houses the camera, LED flash, Samsung logo and tiny speaker grill.
The GS4 is a true engineering achievement, as it packs a larger screen than the GS III, but manages to be a bit smaller and lighter at the same time!
All physical keys on the Galaxy S4 function very well. That includes the Home, Power/Lock and Volume buttons. Of course, some of them could be even better, namely the volume rocker, but they won't cause you any trouble the way they work now.
If we have to describe our feelings towards the SGS4's design in a single sentence, we would say that it isn't anything to write home about, but it works. We still dislike the fact that the back cover is a thin, flimsy piece of plastic, but at least it has a pleasant in-hand feel to it.
pixel density of 441 ppi, it's obvious that the display is incredibly sharp and detailed. It's still a Super AMOLED screen, though, which means that the inherent pros and cons of the technology are all present here.
As before, this Super AMOLED screen by Samsung uses a PenTile matrix, but the manufacturer has tweaked the technology a bit, adding an additional green subpixel to each pixel. This, combined with the high pixel density means that you won't be able to notice the pixelization problems observed with the early PenTile screens. On the screen of the Galaxy S4, everything is smooth and free of graininess.
Needless to say, colors are quite vivid and saturated. They make for an amazing multimedia experience (images, video, games...), but aren't particularly natural, which might be irritating to some, or in some cases. Thankfully, there's an option allowing you to tone the saturation down a bit and make the colors look a bit more realistic.
As you would expect out of an AMOLED screen, viewing angles are terrific, though there's some color degradation observed when you're viewing the handset at more extreme angles, but this generally isn't a problem.
Outdoor visibility isn't top-notch, because the screen can't get very bright. We mean, it's bright, but definitely not the brightest out there. As a result, viewing will be difficult if you're outside and it's a beautiful, sunny day. The brightness can also be set very low, but again, it would have been better if it could go even lower, so as to make using the handset in the dark a bit more comfortable for our eyes.
Update: Read our Galaxy S5 review!