Channel 5

Samsung Galaxy S4

Friday 17 May 2013

G-Rating

Rating of 4

The basics

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a blockbuster in every sense. It’s a giant phone with a whopping five-inch, full HD AMOLED screen, 4G speeds, 13 megapixel camera and blazing quad-core 1.6GHz processor. It’s also got big boots to fill: its predecessor has sold more than 50 million in less than a year, and side by side, the pair look awfully similar. Can Samsung’s new internals and bonus software help set it apart? Let’s find out.

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The good

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a tech fiend’s dream phone. While it may lack the metal body and design panache of the HTC One, it makes up for its shortcomings with a removable battery and an external memory card, potentially giving you up to 96GB of storage to play with in total - along with 50GB of free cloud storage on Dropbox. It’s also rock solid, and feels like it can take a tumble or two - though we’ve seen a few shattered Galaxy S3 screens in our time.

It’s also a spec-fan’s friend: it’s a monstrous beast that blazes along on its quad-core chip, chomping through the latest 3D games. And did we mention that this phone screen’s glorious? As ever with Samsung’s Super AMOLED (rather than traditional TFT) panels, the colours are saturated to the point of silliness, but the 1920x1080 full HD display is pin sharp and so vibrant it’s hard to take your eyes off it - accurate it may not be but we love it nonetheless.

The thirteen megapixel snapper too is superb, grabbing crisp images with low noise. It may not be able to compete with Nokia’s upcoming Lumia 925 PureView snapper in this department, but it’s a solid offering nonetheless, and the option to shoot HD video and videos at the same time is a welcome one.

Then there’s the speedy software - it’s hard to go wrong with Android these days, and it flies here. Samsung’s added a few extra useful tweaks too, including an optical text reader for scanning writing, and a dual-view mode that lets you have two (supported) apps open at the same time. Want to watch a film and read an email at the same time? Er, OK, you can!

Thankfully, we’ve found the much beefier 2600mAh battery keeps up with all the extra demands. It’s nothing special, but we managed to get through the best part of day while snacking on video and constantly checking out apps.

The bad

You’d be hard pressed to call the Samsung Galaxy S4 original. It looks identical to a Samsung Galaxy S3 - in fact, the only noticeable differences are the chrome trim around the sizes and ever so slightly larger display. That also means it inherits its foibles, including a cheap and flimsy plastic back panel, and control buttons below the screen that don’t always light up, leaving you guessing which side the Back button is on every time.

It’s a tad dull, in other words. Of course, given just how many Galaxy S3s have flown off the shelves in the last twelve months, you could certainly argue that that’s no bad thing. Why fix what ain’t broke? Don’t you want to just concentrate on the screen, anyway? More of an issue is the software: the Samsung Galaxy S4 is running Android 4.2 “Jelly Bean”, the latest edition of Google’s screaming mobile OS.

That’s good, but some of Samsung’s additions are not. Some are superfluous - S Translator does exactly the same job as Google’s Translate Android app, and S Voice isn’t nearly as fast or useful as Google Now. Some are substantially worse than alternatives - like Samsung’s own web browser, which looks cumbersome next to Chrome - and some are nothing more than party tricks. Sure, You can wave your hand over the screen to wake the phone up, but it’s far quicker to press the lock button, and as for eyeball tracking or dual-view photos that put you sort of in the frame but not really? You will never, ever use either.

Of course, the beauty of Android is that you can replace any and all of these features. But not everyone knows that you can, and at the same time, we can’t help but wonder what Samsung could have achieved had it spent less of its budget on gimmicks, and more on services built to last.

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The bottom line

Samsung’s well and truly established itself with its Galaxy S series at this point, and as Apple now operates with its iPhones, each new instalment is no longer a breathtaking revolution, merely a gradual evolution. What you won’t find here are any surprises whatsoever, or anything as beautiful as the HTC One. What you will find however, is a massive, powerful Android smartphone that succeeds in spite of some of the frivolous extras Samsung has spent time, money and manpower, and likely the best super-sized phone on the planet right now. That said, we can’t wait to check out the un-Samsungified, Nexus version of the Galaxy S4 when it goes on sale on the Google Play store next month.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is available to buy on Three

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Samsung Galaxy S4 is tagged with Samsung, galaxy s4 and Android. Select a tag (Samsung, for example) to find everything on The Gadget Show about the subject.

User comments (12)

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Karl

So how much did Samsung pay you to say the S4 was the “best super-sized phone on the planet right now” despite almost every other review placing it well and truly behind the HTC One?

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Matthew

Why are your details so inaccurate? It has a1.9GHz quad core processor... Don't contradict yourself-you say the software is a good thing, then you say its a downfall... The'flimsy'back shouldn't be an issue-how often do you take it off,and if you break it, how expensive would it be too replace? You have to include these things... you can shoot photos and video at the same time... Every current camera phone shoots video and video...

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mark

i feel this is a not the best review. now as for the same looks comment. Try looking at most phones. Take a iphone 4/4s yes exactly the same no difference. besides it whats inside the hardware and software. i own one and its quite simply the best phone on the market. in what it can do,

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Geoff

The 1920x1080 AMOLED display, removable battery and external SD card slot, make it by far the best smart-phone on the market. Nit picking over the flimsy back cover, that might - or might not EVER be removed, is plain stupid!

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lee

I am about to upgrade to an s4 and cant wait in my opinion the galaxy s series by samsung has been the main stay in the smart phone industry over the last couple of years and has got apple well and truly rattled. Good on them apple think they can just produce a single phone and dominate the market maybe they did but not anymore without steve jobs at the helm they are in for some rough water ahead with samsung making the waves. Lee http://www.coolcampinggadgets.org

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chris

Totally misinformed review! HTC One has better: Screen Design Build materials Storage Speakers I say storage, as the S4 only has 8gb of useable space on the S4 and sdcards do not work at all for apps! (Even if rooted, they don't work 'well' for apps) - and HTC comes with 25gb of useable space. Also, you talk of specs and the HALF PRICE nexus 4 still remains the fastest and smoothest phone out-there, the S4 is nothing but a massive lagfest.... Go read the internet! The HALF PRICE Nexus 4 has a higher quality build, still quad core, still 2gb ram, and even has the same adreno320 GPU for gaming compared to the quad core S4 version but real world usage puts the Nexus 4 still has the fastest and smoothest phone out there - period! S4 has a ROM that is 1.6gb compressed HTC ONE has a ROM that is 930mb compressed Stock Nexus 4 has a ROM that is just 274mb compressed The Nexus 4 has a lot less running processes, bloat and less CPU usage for all these processes. The sad thing is, I've just told more facts in this review than you managed in your full page spread - which is a shame, as I'm a fan of TGS.

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Matt

Im writing this on my S4... the screen is BEAUTIFUL. There is no sign of lag, and the internet is superfast (24mbps on H+ only). The software is beautifully integrated, and although im not going to use some of the apps, its nice to know theyre there incase i do need them. Ok, storage is an issue, but you can put an sd card in, AND you get 50gb of dropbox storage... so you can have a maximum of 16 + 64 + 50= a whopping 130GB of storage... i have 10gb of usable space on mine, not the 8 or 6 being suggested elsewhere. Gadget show; your review was inaccurate and unhelpful. Commenters - theres no lag whatsoever, and the removable battery and sd card is a godsend. The HTC One is a better phone for some people, and the S4 for others. You also have to consider the cost to repair. A small polycarbonate piece(the S4s back) is cheap. A five inch block of aluminium is waaaay more expensive. Which is best? For me? Its the s4, because of the physical button, cool features, and removable back .

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tony

@matthew, you are not correct. Before flaming the reviewer you should check your own facts first. The samsung galaxy s4 i9500 international version has 8 cores, 4 1.6ghz and 4 1.2ghz. The i9505 is the version that has 1.9ghz and only four of them. The htc one is getting great revuews but just because of that doesnt mean the s4 cant get any good reviews? Dont be childish, the s4 has only just come out.

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Etienne Theron

Don't criticise, the review is merely a short glance at the full picture. If you really want decent phone reviews, visit www.gsmarena.com , as they clearly know what they're doing. One phone isn't better than the other, it merely suits someone better. For me, it's the S4. My friend the iphone, you the HTC one. Is your ego really worth fighting for?

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Steve Lloyd

The only problem with my S4 is, I just can't put the damn thing down. I'ts absolutely epic. So glad I ditched that tired looking iphone.

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Anonymous

my wife has just got the galaxy S4 what a lord of rubbish ill stay with my iPhone 4 it works

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Anonymous

my wife has had the galaxy S4 for three weeks now she loves it its not that bad as thought she has got the hang of it and she cant put it down but ill still stay with my iphone 4

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