- Outstanding sharpness and display contrast
- Fantastic fluidity offered by the powerful chipset
- User interface with plentiful additional options
- Mass and dimensions
- Non-innovative design and familiar performance
- Poor battery life while numerous sensors are activated
- Poorly realized Air Gestures function
- Does not offer a different feeling than Galaxy S III when being used
Quick TakeThe Samsung Galaxy S IV is a top-of-the-line Android smartphone, but it may not be innovative enough to convince Galaxy S III users to upgrade.
Compared to Galaxy S III, which sold over 50 million units, the new Samsung Galaxy S IV has advanced absolutely every detail when it comes to the hardware and software. With a full HD, 5-inch Super AMOLED screen, a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, either an eight-core or a quad-core processor, 2 GB of RAM, a bigger battery, and Android OS 4.2.2. modifications, Galaxy S IV is, at least on paper, a serious upgrade in relation to Galaxy S III.
Inspired by the exceptionally stiff competition which has already revealed its top models of the year, Samsung has presented Galaxy S IV only ten months following its predecessor, responding as expected with a device which proves itself a well-touched up and well-rounded product, even in practice. It represents the very pinnacle of technology at the present, and it’s very hard to find a flaw in it. However, flaws do exist and boil down to a feature of the device that Samsung has not worked on at all in these ten months while the competition definitely has — design and craftsmanship.
It is probably this shortcoming which might prove to be dangerous for Samsung: anyone who tries the Galaxy S IV will not find a reason to replace their Galaxy S III with it because, despite all advancements offered by the newer model, both devices provide an almost identical premium experience in practice.
NOTE: Depending on the market, the Samsung Galaxy S IV has two different chipsets. The model marked Galaxy S IV I9500 has a ‘home-made’ double quad-core Exynos 5 Octa 5410 chipset, while the model marked Galaxy S IV I9505 comes with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600 with four Krait cores. The device I tested is the Galaxy S IV I9505, i.e. the one with Qualcomm’s chipset. This is the version that will be available on the U.S. market.
Just as it resembles its predecessor too much in photographs, the Galaxy S IV does not seem to be any different from Galaxy S III when held in the hand, either. It’s unimpressive and doesn’t do justice to the most prestigious Android smartphone series. The non-innovative design is dominated by the fishnet pattern engraved in the plastic under the hyper-glaze, but this does not help such a disappointing impression.
In reality, of course, Galaxy S IV is much more solid, robust, and resilient than it seems. Scratching the casing is significantly harder than the one on the Galaxy S III, thanks to the glazed plastic and Gorilla Glass 3 which covers the screen. Despite this fact, when held in hand Galaxy S IV does not even come close the premium feeling offered by aluminum HTC One and iPhone 5, or the glass Sony Xperia Z.
The only praiseworthy feature regarding the design of of Galaxy S IV is the fact that despite a bigger screen compared to its predecessor (5 inches instead of 4.8 inches), bigger battery, and greater amount of sensors, its dimensions are slightly smaller and its weight is less than the Galaxy S III (136 x 70 x 7.9 mm and 130 grams compared to 136 x 71 x 8.6 mm and 133 grams). The device offers the best ergonomics and the most natural feeling among smartphones with a 5-inch display. The Samsung Galaxy S IV is by no means a beautiful phone, but it is frequently pleasant to use.
The 5-inch 1080 x 1920-pixel Full HD Super AMOLED screen is undoubtedly the most impressive feature of this smartphone.
Image sharpness is fantastic and despite the usage of the PenTile matrix due to the vast pixel density (441 ppi), it is impossible to feel its disputed, ‘unnatural’ subpixel pattern in practice. All edges of objects look perfectly sharp, even when exceptionally slim and sloped lines are in question, regardless of whether they are static on the screen or moving. Even the tiniest, slimmest fonts look beautiful and are legible.
This is greatly aided by the outstandingly good display contrast, as blacks are very dark and whites are well-lit, snow-like whites at the opposite side of the spectrum. No other rival model looks this good, and the perfect viewing angle is also praiseworthy; irrelevant of the position the Galaxy S IV is held in, the contrast remains the same, just like the imaging sharpness and the excellent display brightness, which is improved compared to the Galaxy S III.
All this results in pleasant color saturation, and the only issue is with the slight loss of contrast sustainability when the display is exposed to direct sunlight. Despite better screen brightness, the Galaxy S IV does not offer an improvement in this regard in relation to the Galaxy S III. And the display is remains poorer than the one in the iPhone 5. Still, just like Galaxy S III, if we limit our search to Android OS devices, it is still the best smartphone when it comes to display visibility in the sun.
Full HD resolution on a 5-inch diagonal, however, does not reveal an easily spottable difference to the average human eye compared to HD resolution on a 4.8-inch diagonal. So despite the good impression made by the Galaxy S IV’s display, the superlatives it deserves will not be enough to motivate Galaxy S III owners to go for an upgrade.
Buttons and Ports
There are two capacitive keys under the screen (Menu and Back), with the physical Home key situated between them. A long press of the Menu key will activate the Google Now application which comes with Android OS while a long press of the Home key activates the task switcher. Similarly, a long press of the Back key activates the Multi-Windows option (if enabled), making it possible for two separate applications to work in two separate windows, while a double click of the Home key runs the Samsung S Voice, a voice assistant which matches Apple’s Siri.
Apart from the earpiece, the ambience and proximity sensors, the IR Air gestures sensor (for managing the phone by waving the hand in front of the display), the area above the screen also includes a 2.1-mega pixel frontal camera and an LED indicator.
The Power key is located on a natural spot in the upper half of the right edge of the phone, while the left side includes the volume control. Unfortunately, there is no designated camera key. The upper edge includes a 3.5 mm audio jack, a secondary microphone, and an IR transmitter, allowing the phone to be used as a remote control. The lower edge includes the primary microphone and a microUSB port with MHL 2.0 support. The back-facing camera comes with a LED flash, while the back cover also includes a loudspeaker. The microSIM slot is situated under the battery cover.