• Run, don't walk! Our Samsung Galaxy S4 review


    Samsung has done so well with their Galaxy S line that a) many people donít know what Android is b) people think other Android phones are copies of the Galaxy S series (the irony).

    So, without a doubt, one of the most important phones of the year is the Samsung Galaxy S4. Itís a 5Ē 1920x1080, quad core monster with a 13 megapixel camera and a giant 2600mAh battery.

    However, there are a number of alternatives like the HTC One and Sony Xperia ZL with similar specs that are cheaper alternatives. So, letís see if the GS4 has what it takes to stay on top.
    Screen:



    I think their Super AMOLED displayds are one of the main reasons why Samsung sells so many phones. Super AMOLED displays have very deep blacks, which makes the colour on them Ďpopí out. I mean super accurate displays are great but thatís something you have to explain to customers. Super AMOLEDís donít really need an explanation. Many people look at them and are impressed right away.

    Like itís predecessors, the GS4 has a SuperAMOLED display. This one measures an impressive 5Ē with a mind-bending resolution of 1920x1080. That resolution is probably the same as the TV hanging in your family room.



    Of course, one complaint users have had about some Super AMOLED displays is that theyíre arranged in a penTile matrix which makes the screen look grainier than one thatís arranged in a RGB stripe.

    The original Galaxy S which got the ball rolling for Samsung had noticeable grain. Last yearís GS3 had grain but it wasnít that noticeable because it had a relatively high pixel density. You wouldnít notice it unless you were looking for them, or if you put it next to a regular display. The GS4 also has a PenTile display but now the pixel density is so high that I donít see the grain even if I look for it. As far as Iím concerned - the whole ďPenTile not being as goodĒ argument is now moot.

    Besides the super high resolution, the GS4 display simply blows away the GS3 when it comes to colour and more importantly outdoor performance.

    Believe it or not, my biggest complaint about the GS3 isnít Samsungís annoying whistle whenever you get a new message. Itís that the display has a weird cast to it that turned all the colours greenish or blue. You do get used to it but it means you shouldnít use it to adjust colours if youíre editing pictures, you should double check on a regular monitor if youíre planning on using the GS3 to buy anything. That sort of thing.

    In that sense, the GS4ís display is much easier to live with. While its colour is still slightly cool, itís much more normal looking, which will make it much easier to live with.

    Outdoor performance is a quantum leap forward over the GS3. While the GS3ís screen turns black and is basically unusable in direct sunlight, the GS4ís works much better. Itís not as good as the iPhone 5 or HTC One display in this sense, but itís good enough - under the sun you donít really lose any functionality.

    Viewing angles are excellent but the display has an annoying shift where everything turns slightly blue if you move off-center.

    Besides the blue-shift my only other real complaint about the GS4 display is that while it looks fantastic at maximum brightness, itís bluish if you bring it below the maximum. It takes some getting used to.

    Iíd say the GS4ís is the best Super AMOLED display yet. Itís the best one since the Galaxy S IIís.


    Note that you can right click in order to view a bigger version of any of these images.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Run, don't walk! Our review of the Samsung Galaxy S4 started by howard View original post
    Comments 29 Comments
    1. kizagjo's Avatar
      kizagjo -
      gawd, i hate that annoying whistling noise too... esp if you have a lot of messages... *shudder
      what's wrong with just a "DING"?
    1. DannyOcean's Avatar
      DannyOcean -
      Great phone, can't deny the technology. Only thing I hate about is the plastic it's made of, make the phone feel so cheap compared to HTC One or iphone.
    1. tokyo_dom's Avatar
      tokyo_dom -
      I hate that blue shift when you are off center on the display - to me that means the display angle is only 5 degrees or whatever. I never actually looked at a Galaxy dead-on until recently and i just assumed that all Galaxy phones had extremely blue displays. I now know it is just the blue-shift, but still think its a big minus.
    1. mikethaler's Avatar
      mikethaler -
      The HTC One and iphone give you dead phones by the end of the day after moderately active use. This phone at least lets you pop in a new battery and give you more memory via SD card if you shoot lots of video.
      The problem with the market in general is - there isn't enough time between new models to get bug fixes out for the old models. In the past, it took almost a year to get various updated OS versions to correct/fix bugs. Now, before a year is up, that phone is obsolete because a new model with its own bugs has been released.
    1. Climb14er's Avatar
      Climb14er -
      The S4 sounds great! However, I'm really cruising well with the S3 that I bought the first release week of last July and it's treating me really well.

      If it continues to work near perfectly... I'll be waiting for the S5!
    1. Steve Punter's Avatar
      Steve Punter -
      Quote Originally Posted by mikethaler View Post
      The HTC One and iphone give you dead phones by the end of the day after moderately active use. This phone at least lets you pop in a new battery and give you more memory via SD card if you shoot lots of video.
      The problem with the market in general is - there isn't enough time between new models to get bug fixes out for the old models. In the past, it took almost a year to get various updated OS versions to correct/fix bugs. Now, before a year is up, that phone is obsolete because a new model with its own bugs has been released.
      I dislike non-removable batteries on principle, but there's really no excuse to be without battery power. You can buy any number of EXTERNAL batteries with capacities from 2000 mAh or well over 8000 mAh. I own a small 2000 mAh battery and a larger 5200 mAh battery. The small one is tiny and easy to carry around, along with a retractable Micro USB cable. It's not much more of a pain than to carry a SPARE BATTERY, which is what you are implying is the ONLY solution to ensuring your phone doesn't run out of power in the middle of the day.
    1. Steve Punter's Avatar
      Steve Punter -
      I just finished reviewing both the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One (thank you to Howard Chui for lending me the phones). Had the HTC One not existed I would have rated the S4 very highly, as it represents a fluid evolution of the S3. It would have been the best Android phone out there if it weren't for two industry-changing features of the HTC One:

      1) The low-light performance and OPTICAL stabilization on the HTC camera puts it lights years ahead of the camera on the S4, which comes across like "last year's technology" by comparison.

      2) The speakers on the HTC One should turn the entire smartphone industry on its ear (so to speak). The stereo speakers on the HTC One are so far removed from the crap that we've been putting up with until now (including the S4) that it's difficult to listen to any other smartphone without feeling like you're playing with an antique.

      I noted in my review that this actually creates a bit of quandary for me, because when I look at the S4 and compare it with the HTC One I can't honestly say that I could buy either of them. If I got the S4 I'd be constantly annoyed by the cheap speaker and lesser-quality camera. If I bought the HTC One I'd be constantly annoyed by those stupid things HTC seems to do with their phones, like terrible buttons, missing menu softkey, Sense UI, etc.

      Maybe this is what TRUE COMPETITION is supposed to feel like.
    1. howard's Avatar
      howard -
      I agree with you 100% Steve. The GS4 is a fantastic phone - the only problem is that you can also get the HTC One.

      The HTC One is fantastic piece of hardware that's partially let down by some of HTC's idiosyncrasies like the buttons, built-in battery, lack of microSD and the reworked Sense UI.

      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Punter View Post
      I just finished reviewing both the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One (thank you to Howard Chui for lending me the phones). Had the HTC One not existed I would have rated the S4 very highly, as it represents a fluid evolution of the S3. It would have been the best Android phone out there if it weren't for two industry-changing features of the HTC One:

      1) The low-light performance and OPTICAL stabilization on the HTC camera puts it lights years ahead of the camera on the S4, which comes across like "last year's technology" by comparison.

      2) The speakers on the HTC One should turn the entire smartphone industry on its ear (so to speak). The stereo speakers on the HTC One are so far removed from the crap that we've been putting up with until now (including the S4) that it's difficult to listen to any other smartphone without feeling like you're playing with an antique.

      I noted in my review that this actually creates a bit of quandary for me, because when I look at the S4 and compare it with the HTC One I can't honestly say that I could buy either of them. If I got the S4 I'd be constantly annoyed by the cheap speaker and lesser-quality camera. If I bought the HTC One I'd be constantly annoyed by those stupid things HTC seems to do with their phones, like terrible buttons, missing menu softkey, Sense UI, etc.

      Maybe this is what TRUE COMPETITION is supposed to feel like.
    1. HC - NO "i"'s Avatar
      HC - NO "i" -
      Fellow HC / Steve,

      Though it will eventually become irrelevant, have you guys found out how to make the Adobe Flash Player 11 work? I have installed it but the stock browser does not seems to be compatible.

      BTW, the Service Mode access is no longer triggered by keying in *#197328640#. However, the handy screens like basic RF info (*#0011#) and RAT/Band selection menu (*#2263#) are still accessible. Regarding the awesome discovery of the network unlock menu item #4 (NV LOCK DATA INITIALIZ) in many Samsung models with Android 4.1.1 firmware, it no longer exists in Galaxy S 4.

    1. rvdb2003's Avatar
      rvdb2003 -
      Is it fair to tell about my experience with my HTC Raider? This was to be the best phone on the market as it had LTE. This is my third unit and HTC sense crashed 20 minutes after I got it back from the dealer. I have lost over 10 hours of my life fighting this phone and HTC does not seem to care!! I was willing for HTC to win me back with the One, but no offer has yet to come across my email. Bell has been fabulous and offered me a deal for all my pain, but I still want HTC to step-up and give Bell a credit for my pain. Come May 3rd, I will be trading up to the Galaxy 4 and will NEVER buy HTC again!!
    1. Steve Punter's Avatar
      Steve Punter -
      Quote Originally Posted by rvdb2003 View Post
      Is it fair to tell about my experience with my HTC Raider? This was to be the best phone on the market as it had LTE. This is my third unit and HTC sense crashed 20 minutes after I got it back from the dealer. I have lost over 10 hours of my life fighting this phone and HTC does not seem to care!! I was willing for HTC to win me back with the One, but no offer has yet to come across my email. Bell has been fabulous and offered me a deal for all my pain, but I still want HTC to step-up and give Bell a credit for my pain. Come May 3rd, I will be trading up to the Galaxy 4 and will NEVER buy HTC again!!
      Unfortunately it's the nature of writing reviews that we can't really comment (or speculate) on the reliability of any given model. Unless it crashes relentlessly during the testing period (or breaks outright) any speculation on the durability or reliability would be wholly inappropriate.

      However, a company's reputation is hard to ignore, and the possible reliability issues with HTC phones is certainly another factor in choosing the S4 over the One. For my part, I just wish Samsung had taken a more serious look at their sound and camera functionality the way HTC had done with the One. Instead they seem to have spent a lot time and effort on software and gimmicks that I'm not likely to use much at all.

      Even though I too will likely never buy an HTC phone, the very existence of the HTC One has thrown a wrench into the works by proving that it is possible to make VAST improvements to facets of the smartphone that other manufacturers have chosen to ignore. HTC has simply given other scrappy manufacturers (like ZTE for example) something to aim for, even if Samsung decides to rest on its laurels and do nothing to change what has now been exposed as serious weaknesses in their design philosophy.
    1. Bagbug's Avatar
      Bagbug -
      Quote Originally Posted by kizagjo View Post
      gawd, i hate that annoying whistling noise too... esp if you have a lot of messages... *shudder
      what's wrong with just a "DING"?
      I cant believe I have to post this: you can change it to what ever you want btw.
    1. DannyOcean's Avatar
      DannyOcean -
      The thing that bugs me a bit about Samsung is that I feel their only motivation is to outsell Apple and are constantly looking for any kind of gimmick to do it. Personally I'm a very big fan of phone design and I appreciate when a manufacturer puts effort in to it. I started to look less and less at phone software because for my uses I'm pretty much good with any top phone (calling, texting, browsing, social media, a good camera, instagram..) so forgive me if I don't get excited when I hear about a new technical feature I will never use like smart pause or something like that. I find that any of the phones can pretty much do 99% of whatever the other top phones can do with minor differences..so the thing that sets these phones apart for me is the design and build quality. So I can really appreciate when a manufacturer puts in a little effort to break the mold. For example Samsung has to have the biggest screen so they will forgo design to just put in the biggest display possible so they can do a commercial about it. I find such little was put in to the design of the s4, just disappointing. On the other hand HTC just really impressed me with the build quality and design of the One that I will give them a shot. I remember when Nokia came out with the 7610 I think, even though it some design issues I said to myself wow at least they are trying and to this day I can appreciate the 7610. Just my 2 cents!
    1. howard's Avatar
      howard -
      True but many owners do not. That's what's annoying.

      Quote Originally Posted by Bagbug View Post
      I cant believe I have to post this: you can change it to what ever you want btw.
    1. Fore's Avatar
      Fore -
      nice/.....
    1. Steve Punter's Avatar
      Steve Punter -
      My full review of the Galaxy S4 it's now online at:

      http://www.arcx.com/sites/Samsung%20Galaxy%20S4.htm

      Many thanks to Howard Chui for lending me the phone to review.

      Sent from my Samsung Galaxy S2 LTE running CM10
    1. DerekToronto's Avatar
      DerekToronto -
      It's like the Leafs not winning the Stanley Cup. It doesn't matter if the HTC One is better than the S4. The S4 will do better than the One in sales!
    1. IamAllan's Avatar
      IamAllan -
      I want to thank Howard for letting me use his S4 for a few days...
      It's a decent phone - a LOT smaller than I though (I had the S3 and it matched sizes with my Moto Razr HD, so I thought the S4 would be a lot bigger... ) it's not! At Treatz can attest the S4 is maybe a millimetre larger left/right and a couple millimetres top/bottom bitter. It makes it feel like I'm holding an Galaxy S3 or Razr HD or HTC One X.

      The software - well, it's an improvement over what was there before... now I prefer to use Apex Launcher, as I don't like the right alignment for the Apps key - it's my preference that it be centred - but I gave it the old Seneca College try and kept TouchWizUI for the 36 hours I played with the phone.

      I poked at all the widgets, all the software and, when I do my 6 month phone change, I'll seriously consider the SGS4 - I am thinking now, that a 5" screen is the max size I can use - mainly, because I holster it and it doesn't have trouble with my flab... I'm fat, I admit it. *L* Larger phones - i.e. the Note II - didn't work well with my side flab, as it was uncomfortable, but the SGS4 seems to work well in that area, with no noticeable discomfort.


      Overall ... I'd give the SGS4 an 8/10 - it does lose 1 point for the damn side mount power button, and the slightly cheap feel of the plastic. This was obvious, as when I got the phone, there were a couple hairline cracks - that you can see in the photo below.

      Attachment 92003
    1. Sonosav's Avatar
      Sonosav -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Punter View Post
      I just finished reviewing both the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One (thank you to Howard Chui for lending me the phones). Had the HTC One not existed I would have rated the S4 very highly, as it represents a fluid evolution of the S3. It would have been the best Android phone out there if it weren't for two industry-changing features of the HTC One:

      1) The low-light performance and OPTICAL stabilization on the HTC camera puts it lights years ahead of the camera on the S4, which comes across like "last year's technology" by comparison.

      2) The speakers on the HTC One should turn the entire smartphone industry on its ear (so to speak). The stereo speakers on the HTC One are so far removed from the crap that we've been putting up with until now (including the S4) that it's difficult to listen to any other smartphone without feeling like you're playing with an antique.

      I noted in my review that this actually creates a bit of quandary for me, because when I look at the S4 and compare it with the HTC One I can't honestly say that I could buy either of them. If I got the S4 I'd be constantly annoyed by the cheap speaker and lesser-quality camera. If I bought the HTC One I'd be constantly annoyed by those stupid things HTC seems to do with their phones, like terrible buttons, missing menu softkey, Sense UI, etc.

      Maybe this is what TRUE COMPETITION is supposed to feel like.
      I owned the HTC One for just over a week before the S4 came out. My thoughts are exactly the same as you. I loved the HTC camera, so much that I almost kept the phone it was so good. It defiantly smokes the iphone camera as well. The HTC speakers were good but really didnt do much for me since I never really listen to music on my phone. The thing that kept me from keeping it was no sd card access and the sealed battery. That and the phone is just about imposable to service. Without a back up like Applecare or a Apple store there was no way im gonna deal with AT&T for any phone problems. I will miss having the Apple store to go to with phone problems.

      The HTC One also had much better daytime viewing. The S4 is almost useless in the sun and outdoors with no sun you still need the brightness turned all the way up to see it. One more majour downfall for me with the HTC was that the phone MUST have a case on it for protection. The glass has no protection on the sides and one small fall and that phone is toast. I hate having cases on my phones since I keep it in my front pocket all the time and like to slide it in and out. Put a decent case on the HTC one and now that thin light phone becomes a monster heavy phone. I just couldnt keep it in the long run, but I do miss it.

      Im happy with the Samsung though and being new to Android in general anything is an improvement over 6 or 7 years of the same old Iphone. At least now I can change the battery on the fly and repair the phone if I need to. Great review though, you spoke what I was telling everybody else about the 2 phones.
    1. Fortissimo's Avatar
      Fortissimo -
      I found only Firefox beta can accommodate flash Player on my Nexus 7. Others claimed a couple more browsers but they didn't work for me, like Maxthon, etc. just try them all though if your want, but Chrome will never work.

      Sent from my SGH-T989D using HowardForums