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Samsung Galaxy S4 review

The Galaxy SIV is here - but does it pack enough of a punch?

Our Verdict

The Galaxy S4 is a stunning smartphone that won't let you down for a variety of tasks. It's not as good overall as the HTC One, especially when you factor in the design, but we love the S4 and would be proud to have it in our pocket.

Product features

  • Built-in Memory : 16 GB
  • Rear Camera Resolution : 13 Megapixel
  • Screen Resolution : 1920 x 1080
  • Processor Core : Quad-core (4 Core)

View full specification

For

  • Stunning screen
  • Superfast processor
  • Great camera

Against

  • Feels cheaper than similar-priced phones
  • 'Innovation' makes things too complex
  • Slight UI issues

Battery life

Ah, the old battery life test. One of the world's most difficult things to rate, thanks to the sheer range of things you can do with the phone to keep it from throwing out all its juice in a heartbeat.

If you can't be bothered to read why, just understand that Galaxy S4 = pretty good battery life.

Galaxy S4 review

For one person the Galaxy S4 is a treasured beast, only brought out into the dappled light to check emails manually once an hour for most of the day. For the next it's an all-powerful media gruntmonkey, one that will be streaming movies over a 4G connection while auto-updating every app under the sun.

Whatever you use your phone for, in our eyes it should be able to handle what the handset's main USPs are.

Galaxy S4 review

But the good news is that the Samsung Galaxy S4 is able to handle all the things you can throw at it and still keep the 2600mAh battery chugging along at the end of the day. We found that in general use it was very well received, as nothing we found could hurt it.

Our usual test is performed on the commute to work, the time where we're at our most 'phone-use-y'. For this test, like all other phones, we streamed the audio over Bluetooth headphones (Rockaway Novero, if you're asking).

A 10 minute cycle ride with music playing dropped things by 1%. Streaming video over 4G for 10 minutes with full brightness on the screen pulled down another 3%. Then it was more music for 30 minutes, which ate another 2%, and then downloading a 86MB game file over 4G, which munched 3%.

A little more music playing, combined with general email checking and testing out the air gestures, air view and smart scroll saw a battery drain of just over 10% for the hour we were trundling to work. That's really impressive, as we reckon high drain capability of 10% per hour will lead to more than enough juice come the end of the day.

We never found ourselves in that situation, which is great. You can always pop in another battery, thanks to this being removable, but in truth, it wasn't needed.

We will say that those that like gaming, movie watching and internet browsing will struggle to make the battery last on this phone, as the screen is the biggest drain. That sounds obvious, but we're actually happy that the Galaxy S4 isn't one of those devices that will see your battery juicing down from an overly-enthusiastic background syncing process.

After a few months of using the Samsung Galaxy S4, we found that the battery life was definitely better than other models on the market. With medium to low usage, you'll easily get to 50% by the end of the working day, and that's including some music streaming, internet browsing and video watching.

The Galaxy S4 has an excellent sleep mode that means that when it's inactive it can really drop the drain on the CPU, and achieve that in a much better manner than other devices.

While the S4 is OK, the lower-end CPU isn't up to the power of the Qualcomm 800 seen in the LG G2 and Sony Xperia Z1 Compact - these are much more power efficient and are even more adept at connecting to wearables without an impact on battery life.

Connectivity

Connectivity on the Samsung Galaxy S4 is well catered for, thanks to simply packing every kind of sensor under the sun in there. For instance, you've got low power Bluetooth (Bluetooth 4.0) which means you can connect to a wide range of sensors - like trainers - and have them send back up data without taking up loads of power and sucking the battery dry.

As you can imagine, S Beam and NFC are both present and correct on the Samsung Galaxy S4, with both working well in tandem to nab stuff off other phones which you've tapped the back of.

It uses a Wi-Fi Direct connection to make it easier to send items from A to B, and does do very speedily indeed. It might look odd, but we still believe massively in the power of NFC thanks to the plethora of speaker docks and headphones that now use it for easier Bluetooth pairing.

GPS and GLONASS are on board, as we mentioned above in the Maps section of the review, and combined offer a startlingly quick location time when firing up the mapping services. Seriously quick – we urge you to try it.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 supports all manner of Wi-Fi connections, and can hang on to the signal even when weak thanks to dual-channel bonding to preserve the data transfer.

We can't say that we noticed much of an upgrade over other models, but then again that's not bad thing as most of the top end smartphones will now manage to offer decent Wi-Fi connections given they're so crucial to the running of the phone.

When downloading large files we did notice some dropouts and speed losses, but that was more to do with the server connection it seemed. A 700MB video file from Samsung's Video Hub took a lot less time to download than a 590MB file from Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit.

4G

We were testing the Samsung Galaxy S4 on the EE network, and if you're new to the 4G game then we urge you to make sure you're going to get the superfast service on your new S4, should you have got this far and decided to rush out and buy it.

From app downloads to streaming video, it was just so fast. Web pages load in a heartbeat, updates occur almost instantly and everything you could hope for is serviced by upping the speeds to 4G levels.

If you've got fibre optic broadband then the effect is similar – we're loving the fact you can download things on the go at lightning speeds. The S4 is well set up too – we moved between two tube stops (overground, obviously) and managed to nab a massive 87MB of data in just a few minutes.

The data levels need to be watched though. It's very easy to get over excited with 4G on the Galaxy S4 as so much of it is enhanced by the faster speeds – from video to music to game downloads, we found ourselves wanting to do everything superfast, and as such were heading between 500MB and 1GB of data per day.

So make sure you've got enough data to manage – if you want the full force of 4G, you'll probably be wanting at least 8GB of data, if not more.

One more thing...

Oh, and a big shout out for USB on the go. It's a massively underloved feature that enables you to connect a USB dongle to your Galaxy S4 and transfer files without having to fanny about with microSD card and taking off the back of the phone.

Yes, you need a separate cable, and yes, finding one is harder than extracting teeth from a chicken, but we still like to see it added as a feature.

Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
TouchscreenYes
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
USBYes
Contract TypeSIM-free
Maximum Memory Card Size Supported64 GB
Built-in Memory16 GB
Built-in FlashYes
Memory Card SlotYes
Cellular Data Connectivity TechnologyGPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA, UMTS, HSPA+
SAR Value0.28 W/kg
GPS ReceiverYes
Multi-SIM SupportedNo
Near Field CommunicationYes
Integrated TV TunerNo
Product FamilyGalaxy S4
Cellular Generation4G
Cellular Network SupportedGSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900, WCDMA 850, WCDMA 900, WCDMA 1900, WCDMA 2100, LTE 800, LTE 850, LTE 1800, LTE 2100, LTE 2600
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution13 Megapixel
Number of SIM Card Supported1
Front CameraYes
Memory Card SupportedmicroSD
Phone StyleBar
ColourWhite
Operating SystemAndroid
Brand NameSamsung
Product ModelGT-I9505
Screen Size12.7 cm (5")
Screen Resolution1920 x 1080
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)130 g
Processor CoreQuad-core (4 Core)
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Processor ManufacturerQualcomm
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Operating System VersionAndroid 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), Email, Instant Messaging
RealtoneYes
Call FeaturesCall Log
Pixel Density441 ppi
Height136.6 mm
Width69.8 mm
Depth7.9 mm
Radio TunerNo
ManufacturerSamsung
Product NameGalaxy S4 GT-I9505 Smartphone
Processor Speed1.90 kHz
Processor TypeSnapdragon
Product LineGalaxy S4
Screen TypeOLED
Sensor TypeGyro Sensor, Barometer, Accelerometer, Proximity Sensor, Digital Compass, Temperature Sensor, Humidity Sensor, Health Sensor, Ambient Light Sensor
Manufacturer Part NumberGT-19505ZWABTU
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.samsung.com/uk/
Marketing Information

captures all the fun

The Samsung GALAXY S4 captures all the action wherever you are. Don't just look at your photos, hear what they have to say and relive those exciting memories. Take multiple exposure pictures and edit them together to add a special dramatic touch. Once done, spread the fun and instantly share your albums with friends and family.

brings everyone closer together

The Samsung GALAXY S4 is all about 'togetherness'. It brings people together when they're apart. You and your friends can share screens as well as explore each other's favorite music, files and games. The Samsung GALAXY S4 not only overcomes barriers of distance but also breaks down language barriers.

Limited Warranty2 Year