Its been just over a month since the Samsung Galaxy S4 was released. We have taken a while to write this review because we wanted to use the phone first hand for a while before we give a verdict. This review will be based on what we saw in practice. We will talk about all the things you really want to know. In case we miss out on anything, then please do let us know and we will try and ensure we address all your questions.
There are two variants of the Galaxy S4 which are the i9500 (2×4 cores) and the i9505 (4 core). The i9500 model is predominantly available in Asia whilst the i9505 is available in the US and Europe. The only difference between the two is the processor. All the rest of the things are same.
This review is mostly focused on the i9500, though we will discuss the processor in the Phone Performance section.
A common rumor spreading around is that the i9500 model is 8 cores and thus would run very fast. This is both true and false. Whilst the i9500 is indeed 8 cores, these are infact two 4 core processing units. One is a 1.6Ghz x 4 core unit and the other is a 1.2GHz x 4 core unit. At any given time, only one of these units will be active. The thinking behind this from Samsung is that when a user is performing a processing incentive task such as playing a game or watching a video, the higher 1.6GHz is used whilst for routine tasks such as calling and messaging the 1.2Ghz is used. Using a processor with a lower frequency should in theory increase battery life. However practically this has not been seen, as we have found that the battery life of the i9500 is fairly ordinary. The i9505 is based on a standard processor with 4 x 1.9GHz cores.
Both models perform quite well in basic usage and gameplay, but tend to heat up significantly. Battery life also drops drastically if you use the phone for gaming or watching videos.
The camera is one area where the S4 really excels. It is probably the best camera available at the moment (though the HTC One would run it very close). The S4 has a 13MP snapper that takes excellent pictures both indoors and outdoors. It also takes very good pictures in dim light.
Screen and Dimensions
The screen is another area where the S4 is very impressive. A 1080p 5″ screen with a pixel density of 441 makes it perfect to view pictures and videos in HD.
The S4 in terms of its physical size is small and slimmer than the S3. However the S4 has a 5″ screen whilst the S3 has a 4.8″ screen. This is achieved by smaller borders on all four sides of the S4 (borders referring to the phone casing).
Overall the dimensions of the phone are phenomenal considering it has a 5″ screen. Samsung have really squeezed the phone size to accommodate a large screen in a very practical size!
WiFi and 2G/3G performance was exactly the same as we found on the S3 and Note 2.
There are many “special” features that Samsung has introduced, such as Air Gestures (phone will detect your finger when you hover it over the phone), Eye Control (it will scroll a document upwards as you tilt your head) and other such features. However we think none of them are really practical or make a significant difference to the overall package.
The S4 also comes with new Samsung apps such as SHealth, SMemo etc. They are quite handy though nothing revolutionary that wasn’t already available on Play Store!
We found the S4 quite impressive but would still be hesitant to recommend it. For a start many people have complained about the phone heating up, poor battery life and the phone hanging (getting stuck). This is not a good sign for such a high end phone.
The screen, camera and the overall dimensions of the phone are simply awesome. It is great to hold and gives a solid feelings, especially with its straight lined edges instead of the curves in the S3.
However, given the steep price of the phone and the fact that to the average user it offers no major advantage over the S3 or Note 2, it would be really up to you whether you want to invest in the S4. If you already own a S3 or Note 2, then we would suggest you wait for the Note 3 or wait for the price to come down at least by another 30%. The price at the time of writing is approx. $650 US. We think a price of around $450 is more suitable for this phone!
PS: Do keep a lookout for our next post on how to fix various issues (heat, battery, hanging etc.) with your S4.