Samsung Galaxy S4 Hands-on Review
The smartphone that needs no introduction. With over 10 million handsets sold so far in the first month, Samsung Galaxy S4 will no doubt be the best-selling smartphone of the year. As soon as I got hold of the device the first thing that mesmerised me was the display. The colors literally punched me in the face and all the hatred that I had regarding SIV’s outlook was gone.
Ever since the leaks started popping out in the cyberspace regarding the much anticipated smartphone, most of us were in a quandary imagining how the SIV would look like. Would it have the bendable display? Would it change it’s design? What would the specs be? And numerous other questions.
As the Galaxy S4 rolled out, I was confused whether it was a revamped version of its predecessor, Galaxy SIII or a totally new flagship model. The design language was a disappointment at first but as Samsung started mentioning all the great new features it sported and numerous other functions, the disappointment turned into excitement.
I was lucky enough to get a hands-on experience with this awesome device and even though it has already been a month since its release, here’s my view on it.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 largely follows the design language of its popular predecessor SIII. Though the SIII had a fat bezel around the screen, the S4’s bezel is a lot thinner giving a lot of room for the 5 inch display to pop out. The only difference that you would find in the Galaxy S4 is the camera placement and almost everything else follows the SIII with the power button on the right , volume buttons on the left and the home screen button at the bottom center.
The S4 at first sight would seem to be of the same size as the SIII but it is a lot smaller and weighs less too. As more preference is given to the screen with the shrunken bezel, it takes up most of the front face. The back cover, made of polycarbonate, is what I found to be of low quality. Take, for example, the HTC One. With an elegant metallic look at the rear, you would simply know that this is one great smartphone but for the SIV, I found that feeling missing. As it retains the same plastic material that has been used in the SIII, it easily captures fingerprints.
Since the back is removable it would be possible to swap batteries and increase the storage capacity by adding a micro SD card. Facing front with the display on, it would easily attract anyone, but with seeing the rear no one would even understand it is the much acclaimed S4.
Around the side there’s a plastic metal type of band that runs all through out the device separating the front and the back.
The 3.5mm headphone jack is placed on the top with the speakers at the back. Compared to the HTC One, which gets a much clear and sharp sound with the speakers at front, the SIV’s case is different. As the speaker is placed right at the bottom in the rear, the sound does not seem to amplify much as I expected it to be but is still audible for anyone to use.
There is no HDMI port but if you still want to link up with your TV you will have to buy the adaptor and then connect with the micro USB port which supports Mobile HIgh Definition link 2.0.
In terms of handling the device, it is one of the best 5-inch smartphone out there. But there is a factor. Your hands. As an average built 6ft tall person I have a large hand compared to most of the people around which makes it very easy for me to handle it all with only my thumb. From swiping down the notification/settings panel to pressing the home button, no special hand gymnastics were required on my part at least. Not everyone has a large hand and to some it might be cumbersome to use it with two hands but that depends on the user.
And If you love S4 and want a smaller version, no worries – the S4 mini will be rolling out soon but remember that it won’t have the same hardware specs!
From the design perspective, this is an evolutionary update from its predecessors minus the back cover.
If it wasn’t for the edge-to-edge display, the S4 would not have such appeal. The display is, hands down, one of the best I have ever seen. Heck, I did not even find the display of the iPhone 5 comparable to it. The 5.0 inch Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels is simply amazing. It’s big, classy and would keep you fiddling with it until your utility is entirely maximised.
There is barely any flaw but if you look real close, which you normally wouldn’t do, there are some colors which seem to be abnormally brighter than the rest such as green and orange.
For the touch sensitivity, it is totally unmarred and with frequent swipings and touch, the S4 did not seem to lag, thanks to its powerful processors.
No matter whichever angle you view the phone, you will still be able to see the amazing display without any hassle and in any condition. As you know, in countries where the winter is harsh, the touch sensitivity does not work and it is not possible to operate the device with regular gloves on. Keeping this in mind, samsung has made it possible for users in those cold countries to even use the phone with their gloves on. Unfortunately, when I tested it out with my gloves, it did not respond well.
For display, not giving it a solid 10/10 would be committing an injustice.
The display was one factor of it getting such mass appeal and the other factor is the strong tech specs. The product that I received was the Octa-Core version which is normally sold worldwide and has 1.6Ghz QuadCore plus another 1.2GHz Quadcore processor to power it to the fullest. This is, no doubt, a giant leap from the SIII. Other specs include a 2GB of RAM and an Andreno 320 as its graphic processing unit.
I tested out all the elements in UI and multitasked with no problems. To test the benchmark of the S4, I put Antutu Benchmark to the task. It had an impressive score of 23082 which outranked all the devices listed there.
Though, when testing out the camera application with the numerous features embedded, the S4 did lag. Maybe I was feeding it too many apps to load.
There is a drawback which is the internal storage. Though it was mentioned to be 16GB, it had only 8.8GB of free space. Thanks to the micro SD slot, there’s the option to increase the space.
Software and Apps
The S4 runs on the latest Android 4.2.2 operating system, which you already know by now, and hosts numerous numbers of apps and features such as their own S Health, S Memo, S Translator, S Voice, Samsung Apps, Samsung Hub, Samsung Link, Settings, Story Album and many more. Personally, I hate the TouchWiz UI but with the amazing 5-inch display, it barred me from heading towards another launcher.
For the apps, It wouldn’t be possible for me to review all the apps here because some of them wouldn’t work here in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I loved using the S voice, simply say what you want and gives you the result with the help of Google Now.
Apart from apps, the features that made Galaxy S4 popular are the hand and air gestures. With the infra-red sensor at the top, it makes it easy detect all the gestures at once. By waving your hand infront of the sensor from left to right or vice versa you can easily change browser tabs, music and pictures.
Smart Scroll is another great feature but as a person who wears glasses, it is of no use. I had to take them off to give it a shot. First you need to hold the device infront of your eyes so that the sensor can detect it. Initially I was trying my best to look down and up but failed to see it scroll automatically. All I saw was an eye-symbol that was just popping around and then I understood that you first have to give the sensor a second to register your eye and when the eye icon turns green you are all ready to go. But it would be of no use to me because I wear glasses as I mentioned – and I tried numerous times to see if it works with them on, but failed. Perhaps a future iteration will fix this issue.
Smart Pause comes in use when, say, you are watching a movie and your Mum calls. You look towards her and you expect the movie to still go on. With smart pause enabled, the movie will instantly stop when you look away from the screen. Again, for a guy wearing glasses, this doesn’t work for me. Nevertheless, a great feature. And once again, one can hope for a fix in the future.
One word – Amazing. The 13MP camera of the Galaxy S4 is a big upgrade and is another strong feature that would make one drool. Capable of taking brilliant photos with 12 awesome modes, capturing pictures have never been so fun. Auto, Best Face, Sound & Shot, Drama, Animated Photo, Rich tone (HDR), Eraser, Panorama, Sports, Night, Best photo and Beauty face are all the modes available in the S4.
Out of these, I loved using Rich Tone (HDR) and Drama. Rich Tone HDR works perfect in the daylight and the picture output looks sharper with rich colors.
I tried the Drama mode out with moving vehicles in front of me and due to the high speed of the vehicle it managed to capture only two frames of it. By taking multiple exposure pics of the moving subject, this mode mergers all of them into one. Pretty interesting.
Here’s some pictures I took, mostly in North South University, Bangladesh.
Another great mode is the Eraser. Imagine you are taking a picture of your lovely family in a mall and you have people walking in front of the camera without knowing. You either have to wait to let everyone pass or tell them to stop and take the picture in one go. With the eraser mode on, you would be able to select the moving subjects around the whole frame and delete the ones you do not want to see!
The front camera, with 2MP sensor, is not only meant for video calls in the S4. With Dual camera, you can take a picture with both rear and front cameras together and merge on on another so the person who is actually taking the picture is also included. Good for family shots where one seems to get left out.
Summing up, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is one of THE best smartphones ever. There is no doubt that there will be a rise in sales of the S4 in the coming months. Just forecasting. The S4 stands out from the others with the amazing display. Reiterating again, I have never seen such an awesome display in a 5-inch smartphone till now. Packed with great features and apps and a powerful camera with interactive modes, I find no reason for this smartphone not to be included on everyone’s wish list.
If you want Samsung phone cases, do visit the link!
I did expect the S4 to be best in all aspects but there are some factors which I disliked such as the back cover being plastic and most importantly the cheap look. If not for the display and the camera, the Galaxy S4 wouldn’t rank so high.
However, the saying “don’t judge the book by its cover” perfectly matches the Samsung Galaxy S4.
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