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The Samsung Galaxy S4 Set A New Benchmark
Company: Samsung

Pros: First looks are deceiving, it is not till one feels this device in the hand and you have switched on the display that one starts to get the impression that this device is a tad different. Then the speed kicks in suddenly you realise that you are the owner of a device that really kicks arse when compared to a lot of other so called smartphones. This is a serious contender for the crown of best ever smartphone.

Cons: The biggest issue I had with this device was the battery which chewed through power when I had several apps running. Properly managed this issue can be controlled and when you are travelling and don't have access to a desktop top up make sure that you are only using the apps that are really needed.

Product Rating:

4.5 Star Rating: Recommended

Editor Rating 4.5

User Rating 0

REVIEW:Has The New Samsung S4 Raised The Smartphone Bar A Tad Higher?

By David Richards* | Friday | 26/04/2013

One of the hottest new smartphones that you will see this year is here and it really packs some punch, brighter screen, better display and a processor that really delivers some kick arse performance but is it the best smartphone yet.

One of the hottest new smartphones that you will see this year is here and it really packs some punch, brighter screen, better display and a processor that really delivers some kick arse performance but is it the best smartphone yet.

The new 4G Galaxy S4 comes in at 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm, case which feels great in the hand despite the larger 5" screen and what other Android smartphones don't have is the jaw-dropping performance that only Samsung and their Galaxy S4 has been able to deliver.


The display is one of the best you will find on a smartphone today, it is bright, clear and is made of Gorilla Glass 3 it also delivers Full HD 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. You can change the brightness from the notification bar or just tag the auto button and let the S4 choose the best resolution for the conditions you are in. 

Protected by a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 coating, the Samsung Galaxy S4's screen is further enhanced by a 441 pixels-per-inch image density, a PPI that whilst eclipsing that of the iPhone 5's Retina display, ensures ultra display performance.

With a 13-megapixel camera, slimline bezel design and a selection of new software features, including the likes of Smart Pause and Smart Scroll, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is lined up as the Android handset to beat for the next 12 months.

While it looks like the old Galaxy S3 it is not till you start using this device that you realise that smartphone technology has taken another step forward where the look on the outside can be deceiving compared to what is under the bonnet.

Only 8mm thick and weighing in at 130g this device is light, this has been achieved through the use of new polyurethane technology that is used by Formula One teams to develop light construction driver's helmets.

Although the removable back panel is still crafted from extremely flimsy plastic, the handset feels sturdy and well built, offering little flex when placed under considerable pressure. Further adding to the handset's high-end appeal, an almost checkerboard effect has been ingrained within the plastic body, adding some variety to the Samsung Galaxy S4 design. 

Featuring a heavily reduced bezel, Samsung has managed to squeeze a larger 5-inch display on to the Samsung Galaxy S4 without having to make a jump in size over the Samsung Galaxy S3's form factor. 

What's more, at a mere 7.9mm thick, the handset is in fact slimmer than its 8.3mm predecessor. In addition, even with the larger screen it is exactly the same height as the S3 at 136.6mm and is ever so slightly narrower at 69.8mm as compared to 70.6.

With Samsung scrapping the Pebble Blue colour scheme that caused manufacturing woes with the S3, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is set to land in 'White Frost' and 'Black Mist' colour schemes. Both devices look impressive with either hue providing a strong, high-end look.

These impressive features come with a premium price tag; the Samsung Galaxy S4 is far from cheap. With the handset now available for pre-order it will be on sale this Saturday at Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile, the outright price is $899.

This device reminds me of a BMW M3 where the output from the engine which with the S4 comes from a 1.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor leaves many a competitor quivering at the roadside because they have tried to take on a vehicle that looks pretty ordinary on the outside. 

The only doubt I have about this device is the battery which despite Samsung claiming it is bigger and better than before it appears to be a tad on the hungry side when powering all the added capability that this device delivers. I suspect that the drag on the battery is caused by the juice being used by the 1.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon quad core processor that is working hard to deliver improved functionality.

The biggest problem is that with a smartphone like this you want to run it full throttle, with all the key apps performing at once, the health app, the new gesture control the automatic geo tagging to the brand new camera that allows you to use both front and back camera's at the same time, hence the drag on the battery.



What you get over the prior model is a significantly improved way to communicate with contacts and friends and one app that I fell instantly in love with was a brand new health app which allows you to set your calorie burn while measuring your steps and exercise programs.

Another excellent app is the Samsung translator that translates 10 languages. All you have to do is speak or write one language and it will be instantly translated into text or voice of a foreign language.

Sensors
And because Samsung now has nine sensors vs. the seven in the S3 this smartphone can also measure temperature and humidity.

The sensors that is located on the front of the device above the screen, track hand movements allowing you to swipe through an image gallery without touching the screen. 

The front facing cameras track your eyes when watching a movie so that when you stop or move away the video stops. There is also a proximity sensor for knowing where the phone is in relation to your ear. 

There is also an infrared controller on the top of the phone but please make sure that you have stripped the clear plastic away from the edge of the device when you take it out of the box, it is easy to miss as I found out. 

This sensor allows you to control your TV, Foxtel player, DVD player, or a Samsung air conditioning unit.

Another big plus is that the cover comes off allowing owners to replace the battery on the S4 you also don't need to find a paper clip or pointer to get access to the SIM.

Another plus is the location of the power button in the past one often had to feel for the button now it is right where you want it on the right-hand side, making it easier to locate.

Camera
The camera is excellent but not as good as the HTC One which has both a hardware and software edge. 

The 13 megapixel camera is designed to allow users to include a back facing face shot into the picture using the second camera so if you are shooting a stunning location shot you can also shoot a picture of yourself on location however it is a squeeze when you try to get two people or a family into the shot at the same time.

The S4 has a good auto mode that allows you to get really great shots whether it is a location shot one minute or a portrait shot the next.

In fact the camera is set up almost identical the recently launched Samsung Galaxy Camera including mode shot such as Drama, Eraser and Beauty Shots, you can also set up HDR mode to improve the quality and light levels.

For those who are thinking what is Eraser mode this is a technique that allows you to take five pictures and if someone has their eyes shot in one frame but open in another you can use the best image and eliminate the rest. You do have to set this mode up and when you do remember to change back if you do not want every click to shoot five images.

A big standout with this camera is the simple way that all of the functions have been set up.
During the S4 presentation at the Sydney Opera House I used the video and the zoom on the Galaxy Camera and the then I used the S4 to shoot a similar sequence both delivered excellent results.

When it came to shooting and function shots I still favour the HTC One camera though having said that they Samsung offering is no slouch and significantly better than almost all sub $500 compact cameras.

During video playback, the Samsung Galaxy S4 screen provides strong, bold, detailed colours with strong contrast ratios able to show the nuances of scenes. With motion blur practically non-existent, the handset's display further benefits from a Full HD 1080p resolution meaning images look impressively detailed.

The TouchWiz interface on the Samsung Galaxy S4 sits on top of an Android Jelly Bean 4.2 OS it has seven home screens which come in handy. For example I set one screen up to deliver the camera and several camera applications along with my Dropbox and gallery icon. This allows me to have my entire camera and image management software in one location.

Aussie buyers of this smartphone will have bragging rights over their Brit mates who have only been given a smaller processor S4.

What I did notice is that the lock screen has undergone a significant change compared to the S3. This makes access the phone a lot easier. You can also write your name on the lock screen and include a corporate logo.



The new lock screen allows you to access widgets before you open the phone.

Samsung Galaxy S4 - Operating System

Running Google's Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean OS, the S4's operating system is much the same as that of the S3 before it. A familiar affair with the usual Android heart, the Korean manufacturer's much loved TouchWiz UI is also in residence offering a selection of performance-improving software features such as the customary Swype keyboard interface.

The Samsung Galaxy S4's keyboard is a well spaced affair, making use of the handset's new 5-inch display to provide a simple and fluid usability. With no accidental key presses recorded during our hands-on time with the device, we were impressed with the intuitiveness of the keyboard - an aspect of the handset that will receive heavy usage.

With the usual selection of Samsung and Android apps pre-installed on the device, the Galaxy S4 OS is complemented by the likes of the Chrome browser and the Google Play Store. What's more, the Samsung Hub offers wide-ranging access to all manner of music, movie, gaming and educational content direct from the device.

Conclusion. 
First looks are deceiving, it is not till one feels this device in the hand and you have switched on the display that one starts to get the impression that this device is a tad different.

Then the speed kicks in suddenly you realise that you are the owner of a device that really kicks arse when compared to a lot of other so called smartphones. This is a serious contender for the crown of best ever smartphone. 

Issues

The biggest issue I had with this device was the battery which chewed through power when I had several apps running. Properly managed this issue can be controlled and when you are travelling and don't have access to a desktop top up make sure that you are only using the apps that are really needed. 

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The Samsung Galaxy S4 Set A New Benchmark Reviewed by David Richards* Rating: 4.5