Samsung Galaxy S4 Review

December 10, 2013 | Mark Goldstein |


The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a 13 megapixel smartphone that runs on the Android operating system. The Galaxy S4 has a 31mm fixed lens with an aperture of f/2.2, a 5-inch Full HD AMOLED touchscreen which boasts a resolution of 441ppi, a built-in LED flash, Wi-Fi, GPS and 3G/4G connectivity, and Full 1080p HD movies at 30fps with slow- and fast-motion options. The Samsung Galaxy S4 costs around £499 / $599 without a contract and is available in a wide range of colours.

Ease of Use

The Samsung Galaxy S4 measures 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm, which means that it can be easily stored inside a trouser pocket, and weighs a mere 130g without battery and card. It's undoubtedly a large but very slim device that will definitely get you noticed, especially in the attractive white finish of our review sample. Build quality is fine, but not class-leading, and having to remove the plastic cover off the back to insert a microSD card is more than a little disconcerting!

The Galaxy S4 has a fixed lens with a focal length the 35mm equivalent of 31mm and a maximum aperture of f/2.2. There's 13-megapixel effective resolution from the standard sized 1/2.33-inch CMOS sensor. On the back is a very impressive 5-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel Full HD touchscreen AMOLED display, and the S4 zoom runs the Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean operating system.

The plastic back cover aside, with what feels like a higher proportion of metal in the build than plastic, the Galaxy S4's sleek and stylish exterior certainly looks the part. Other than the lens, the only other features on the sparse front of the Galaxy S4 are two slots for the microphones and the LED flash unit, positioned directly below the lens.

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Front Front

Located on the top-plate is a thin power button. Hold this down for the first time and the Galaxy S4 stutters into life, taking quite a while to display a series of graphical screens, with the rear screen switches to camera mode a couple of seconds later. The startup time from Standby is thankfully much quicker at just under 2 seconds, roughly what we'd expect from a point-and-shoot camera, although no speed demon.

There's no physical shutter-release button on the Galaxy S4, replaced instead by a soft key on the touchscreen. To focus, simply tap anywhere on the screen and the AF point appears in green along with the customary confirmation 'bleep', then tap the shutter button to take the shot. A full-sized 13 megapixel image is committed to either the built-in memory (16/32/64Mb) or an optional micro-SD card in one to two seconds, which is impressive. You can even take a picture using the power of your own voice, with "capture", "shoot", "smile" and "cheese" commands all available. Voice control can also be used to zoom the lens, fire the flash, set the timer options, and change the shooting mode, amongst other settings.

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Camera On Image Displayed

The Samsung Galaxy S4 has an array of beginner and more advanced shooting modes. The subject recognizing Auto setting is point and shoot all the way, the camera getting it mostly right, although - typically - busier scenes can confuse the auto-focus and the shutter will still fire even if the image is noticeably soft, so you can occasionally come away with blurred results. There's also a range of 11 different clever scene modes, including the useful HDR and Panorama modes, and 13 creative filters which are accessed by pressing the arrow icon at the bottom of the touchscreen, useful for previewing and adding a not-too-cliched effect.

In terms of photographic features, the default camera app also allows you to choose the ISO speed (100-800), metering (centre-weighted, matrix and spot), white balance, exposure compensation, turn burst shot, face detection and anti-shake on or off, set the photo and video sizes, configure the self-timer, and set the flash to on, off or auto.

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Mode Menu Effects Menu

Pressing the Home button fires up the Galaxy S4's default screen, which displays the time and date, allows you to perform a Google Search, includes icons for the Paper Artist, Instagram, Photo Wizard, Video Editor, Camera, and Gallery apps, plus Dropbox, Play Store and a further Apps icon which accesses all the default apps and the Widgets screen.

Having the ability to connect to a wi-fi network or cellular data if using a SIM card, then edit your images and video with either the Samsung apps, Instagram or any one of hundreds of other Android apps, and then upload them to your favourite online network quickly becomes compulsive and makes the traditional process of downloading to a computer seem laborious and old-fashioned.

With the 5-inch screen swallowing up the entire backplate of the Samsung Galaxy S4, apart from the Home button, there are very few other physical controls apart from a headphone port and a volume control button. Note that the battery can be removed, but charging is still done in-camera.