Locked in serious competition with a number of other flagship Android phones that have been released so far this year -- the HTC One, the Sony Xperia Z, the LG Optimus G Pro -- the Samsung Galaxy S IV has a lot riding on it. The Android 4.2 Jelly Bean handset is equipped with some impressive hardware, including a 5-inch full HD, Super AMOLED display and a quad-core processor, but does it deliver enough to edge out its competitors? Let's have a look and find out.
Editor's Note: This review is for the U.S. version of the Samsung Galaxy IV. For our review of the international version, click here.
Build and Design
When we first set hands on the GSIV at its launch event in New York City earlier this year, we praised the build for being so svelte, and this still stands true. The bezel is super thin, the chrome trim around the edge of the device is subtle but classy, and Samsung manages to keep the footprint as small as it can despite cramming a 5-inch display into the device. It's definitely more than a little reminiscent of the Galaxy S III build, which is unfortunate, but there are worse ways for a phone to be designed.
With that said, it's still too big. You can be as efficient as humanly possible with the space surrounding a 5-inch screen and it will always be too big. The thinness of the device (a mere 7.99 mm) makes it somewhat tolerable to slip into your pocket, but it's simply too big to actually use comfortably. For this reviewer at least, it just wasn't possible to reach with my thumb from one corner of the screen to its opposite without having to shift my grip on the device. And having to do that shuffle to slide the phone up or down in my hand to reach a different part of the screen is just awkward.
The phone is comfortable to hold in terms of its heft, though, as it only weighs in at 130 grams. Some may slight this attribute for making the phone feel cheap, but if there's any aspect that's making the GSIV feel cheap, it's the materials with which it's made. Sticking with the slick plastic build was a mistake, especially considering the fantastic, high-quality feel offered by the metal frame of its main competitor, the HTC One.
The display of the GSIV is undeniably beautiful. The full HD (1920 x 1080), Super AMOLED 5-inch display is incredibly sharp thanks to a 441 ppi pixel density, with nary a rough edge in sight; seriously, it's amazing how crisp images look on the GSIV. Equally shocking is how bright the screen is, and it's easily viewable even in direct sunlight. The viewing angles are also impressive, with the screen looking just as clear and maintaining the same level of contrast no matter how the phone is being held.
Colors look fantastic, with blacks and whites that are equally deep and bright, respectively. If we really had to nitpick and find an issue, it would be that the white balance can look a little funny at times, with the display generally leaning towards warming tones. But other than that, the massive, dazzling display of the GSIV is definitely a selling point.
Previous Samsung users will feel right at home here, with the typical set up of the power switch on the right edge, the volume rocker on the left, and the physical home button centered right below the display. Other than that, there's just the capacitive menu and back buttons (located on the left and right of the home button, respectively), the 3.5mm headphone jack and IR blaster on the top edge, and an array of sensors above the screen.
As for the shooters, the GSIV's 13-megapixel rear-facing camera is centered on the top of the device's back, while the 2-megapixel webcam is located in the upper right-hand corner above the display. The phone's charging jack is a micro USB/MHL 2.0 port located on the bottom edge of the device.
The one benefit of Samsung opting for the same flimsy plastic backing that was found on the GSIV's predecessor (and passing on a unibody build) is that it's removable. As such, users have access to the phone's 2600 mAh battery, a microSD card slot, and the micro SIM slot, all of which are found under the back cover.
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