The version of the Galaxy S IV that I tested comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 chipset with four Krait 300 cores running a 1.9 GHz clock with Adreno 320 graphics. With 2 GB of RAM, this is a hardware platform which has yielded record results on almost all synthetic benchmarks. AnTuTu has provided the score 23604, which is roughly 40 percent more than Galaxy S III and a little higher than HTC One (22680) and the Sony Xperia Z (20797).
With just about the same difference, Galaxy S IV wins with all other benchmarks as well, which it proves in practice: lags, glitches and waits…all of these terms are unfamiliar to this device, no matter how complex the task at hand is. Of course, just like the case was with the display, the fact is that in practice, other top of the line smartphones — including Galaxy S III — offer equal speed in everyday work, even if they use less powerful hardware.
Samsung representatives are clearly aware that by improving the processor performance, the user can no longer be presented with additional, realistic value which might be felt in everyday work, so they have designed new software options that take advantage of this vast hardware potential. One example is the multi-window mode on Galaxy S IV, where two active applications are simultaneously present on the display. The size of the space they take up on the screen can be altered as well (by decreasing the size of one window, the other increases), however, only some of the preinstalled applications are supported.
In similar fashion, videos can be watched in a special, “floating” window (just like on Galaxy S III) and can be zoomed in during playback. All of these are quite nifty things, but in reality, the user experience provided by Galaxy S IV has not been advanced enough in relation to Galaxy S III in order to motivate those users to upgrade.
In times when diversification among top models is difficult to achieve with hardware, manufacturers try to make their devices different with software. Samsung succeeded in this regard with its previous flagship and has applied the same formula to the Galaxy S IV. The new TouchWiz UI includes an incredible, almost endless line of novelties, which make sense more or less. Independent of the practical value they bring for the user, some are well-realized, while others are not.
As far as the lock-screen goes, the welcome note can be altered, which is a likeable feature and the notifications screen has been given a useful addition, where 20 toggles can be displayed instead of 5 and these turn certain options on and off. They can be rearranged, while the five that are set up in the first of the four rows will be visible automatically when the notifications screen is pulled down from the edge of the phone (the display of the remaining 15 will have to be additionally activated by a touch, every time).
Air View and Air Gestures are the biggest novelties. We have had the opportunity of seeing the former on Galaxy Note II, but instead of S Pen, Air View is now activated as the finger approaches the screen. When the finger is just a millimeter away from the display, a cloud can be activated which shows details of a text message, e-mail or any other similar object. Air Gestures, meanwhile, enable users to manage contents on the screen by literally making hand gestures 7 cm away from the display. Thus, web sites can be scrolled if the user waves up or down in front of the display.
It sounds nice and useful, but performs poorly in practice. I have not learned how to navigate with this feature in such a way that my gestures are understood correctly, even after several days of usage. Whether the Galaxy S IV actually performs how we want depends on an endless line of factors: the speed of the wave, ambience lighting, the distance between the hand and the phone, the phone’s angle. After a few days, everyone will realize that Air Gestures is a useless feature and, as it consumes a lot of battery power, they will turn it off for good.
Smart Stray has been equally poorly implemented (it enables the screen to be locked as the user is looking at it), just like Smart Rotate (rotates contents on the screen depending on the position of the user’s head), Smart Scroll (scrolling texts by tilting the device upwards or downwards), Smart Pause (pausing video playback while looking away from the screen) etc.
Applications that are delivered exclusively with Galaxy S IV have been much more successfully realized, like S Voice (personal voice assistant), the S Translator (a translating application with several global languages) and S Health (an application for monitoring the user’s health). Great news is that apart from Google Play, a special Samsung online store application is also included, which offers software developed exclusively for this device.
The Galaxy S IV comes with a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera that can record video and take photographs at the same time, and the software it uses for recording is almost identical to the one Galaxy Camera has. Images taken by this camera are above average when it comes to their quality; the exposure is right and there is hardly any noise, even if users are taking pictures at night. The colors are precisely interpreted, although slightly oversaturated. Just like all previous Galaxy models, thus Galaxy S IV offers white balance somewhere between neutral and cold.
All this goes for video, except it should be pointed out that the camera has a narrow field of view. The shortest focal length is somewhat greater than on Galaxy S III and much greater than on the HTC One with a wide field of view.
It is important to mention that using the phone’s demanding options for the processor significantly affects the battery life of the Galaxy S IV. Its capacity has been increased in relation to the previous model to 2600 mAh, which results in great longevity…during stand-by. As soon as the device’s antennas are activated, especially its sensors (particularly those for managing phone movements), the battery starts rapidly “leaking”. If all of the options that the phone offers are used (or at least most of them), the user will have to recharge it every night. If it is used much less than average, which does not make much sense for a flagship, it will last twice as long before it needs to be recharged.