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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

Internet on the Samsung Galaxy S4 is covered by two applications: the inbuilt browser and Google Chrome. This might lead to some confusion as, for the most part, the two applications do precisely the same thing.

However, the default browser (Samsung's own) still comes with a few tricks of its own, and has been upgraded since the Galaxy S3. It's not any quicker, which is odd given the uprated processor, but that's likely because the Galaxy S3 was already running at the top end of the speed the connection would let it.

It's also really bad at rendering some sites, with the touchscreen becoming decidedly patchy when navigating around... there are definitely better handsets out there for wandering the 'net.

In speed tests with the HTC One it managed to match it in most cases - interestingly, the HTC would load pages the fastest, but navigating through pages on a site would see the Galaxy S4 come out a shade quicker. We had hoped for slightly faster, but it wasn't a slouch by any stretch.

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

Zooming in and out of text is a little bit tricky at times though, as it would sometimes zoom in incorrectly and not enable the full text to stretch across the screen. A couple of taps in and out on another part of the text saw this sorted, but it still pales in comparison to the auto-reflow on offer from the HTC One.

To be honest, that may be the hundredth time we've written that statement - ever since the HTC Hero we've been impressed with this functionality, so we've no idea why Samsung won't implement it when others will. There's an option to have the text fit the zoom level you're after in the menu settings, and it's so useful that we've no idea why it's not enabled by default.

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

However, once you've got past the niggly elements, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a phone that's right up there with the best when it comes to internet browsing. We found that a little tweak in the Accessibilty menu (found in Settings within the browser) enabled us to make text a little larger than normal, which led to a really easy to use page no matter what we looked at or at which zoom level.

As you can imagine, everything is razor sharp here, with the HD screen offering levels of detail we could barely comprehend at times. Those upgrading to the S4 will be blown away by the difference between this and a WVGA screen, so get ready to be able to browse the internet in a way you'd want.

The bookmarking system is a little odd though: where before you could have bookmarks brought across from your Gmail account, this functionality has been stripped out here. Those that don't want to use Google Chrome will be annoyed as it means they'll have to re-find all their favourite pages rather than having them drawn in from the cloud now.

The UI of the internet browser has changed somewhat, with those changes being positive and... less so in some cases. For instance, if you tap on a link that's next to another when zoomed out, a small magnifying box will appear and you can more easily select the link you're after - wicked.

Also, the tabbed view (where you can see all the web pages you've got open) has been changed to work vertically now (taking more cues from Google Chrome) so it's easier to swish through all the pages you've got open. But it takes an age to open this window, and it can even freeze sometimes.

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

The look of the default browser is a bit low-key now though, and feels like it could do with a bit of a visual overhaul. We're all for simplicity here, as content should always be king in the browser, but the overall feel is very blocky and doesn't have the clout of other versions visually.

That said, all the pertinent functionality (namely moving forward and back through sites, bookmarks and tabs) is all present and correct and we weren't cursing the inventors of the browser for hiding the things we use loads (we're looking at you, Microsoft with Windows Phone 8).

Flash is still absent, but now HTC has offered it as an optional plug in when you need it, we're missing it more than ever. There was a point last year, when Adobe ceased the updates to the mobile Flash browser, that we thought it would become irrelevant on mobiles, but it seems that this isn't the case still.

The BBC website still throws loads of 'You don't have the correct version of Flash' errors at us when browsing through, and while you can still sideload it, we're still rather missing it on mobiles (in general, not just the Galaxy S4).

Google Chrome, which we touched on earlier, is another good browser on the phone, but one that offers very similar functionality to the main browser, which leads to the confusion we mentioned. However it's got those cloud bookmarks, the ability to sync with a desktop browser (so you can see which tabs you've got open across both devices and is therefore a little bit more well endowed when it comes to internet browsing.

We found it to be a little faster when chugging through the internet as well, meaning we're surprisingly leaning towards recommending you go Chrome when firing up your Galaxy S4 - something that seems to have Google's intent all along written all over it.

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