Samsung Galaxy S4 full review
During Google's I/O 2013 keynote it announced it would sell a Google Edition of the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone . Here we look at the key differences between Samsung and Google's take on the handset, and which offers the better value. Read on for our comparison review of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Google Galaxy S4. Take a look at Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 review.
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Google Galaxy S4: Price and availability
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is available in the UK today, whereas Google has yet to specify a UK release date for its version of the S4. It will go on sale in the US on 26 June. See also Samsung Galaxy S4 vs BlackBerry Z10 comparison review.
The 16GB Samsung Galaxy S4 is available SIM-free on Amazon for £539, or you can get it free with a contract from around £37 per month (T-Mobile). It's also available with larger storage capacities of 32- and 64GB. Visit Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Galaxy S3 comparison review.
By comparison, the Google Edition of the Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with 16GB of storage and will sell for $649 SIM-free in the US. That's about $10 more than the Samsung version costs across the pond. See also: Group test: What's the best smartphone?
Google has yet to announce UK pricing, and these things are never simply a matter of converting dollars into pounds and adding 20 percent VAT, which would take the Google Galaxy S4 to £510.
For example, the 16GB iPhone 5 also costs $649 in the US, yet Apple charges £599 in the UK. Using the 16GB Nexus 4 as an example, which costs $349 in the US and £279 in the UK, we don't think Google will be quite so greedy.
So, the Google Galaxy S4 could cost anything between £510 and £599. We're placing our bet on £549, which is £10 more than the Samsung Galaxy S4.
Assuming the Samsung Galaxy S4's price doesn't change between now and the Google Galaxy S4's 26 June release date, this puts the two handsets on a reasonably equal footing - but only if you're happy to pay the full amount upfront and then get a SIM-only contract for your calls, texts and data. Doing things this way will work out cheaper in the long run, since £37 (minimum) per month over a period of 24 months is a whacking great £888.
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Google Galaxy S4: Design and build
The two versions of the Galaxy S4 are identical. The S4 is slightly smaller than its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S3, yet it has a larger 5in screen. It's thin and light at 7.9mm and 130g, and the rounded corners make the Galaxy S4 seem smaller than it actually is.
Samsung's Galaxy S4 is available in 'Black Mist' and 'White Frost', with more colours coming later in the year. Having seen both, we much prefer the sleek black version. The white version seems somehow larger, and the row of three sensors and front-facing camera at the top of the front panel are unsightly blemishes on what is otherwise fairly stylish handset.
The Galaxy S4 looks great, but it's not quite in the same league as the HTC One, Sony Xperia Z and iPhone 5. The rear panel is the same plasticky type as is found on the S3, although the S4 feels sturdy enough.
As with previous Galaxy S smartphones, there's a physical Home button below the screen, plus touch-sensitive Back and Menu buttons that sit either side. PC Advisor's Chris Martin noted in his review of the Samsung Galaxy S4 that these touch buttons were situated too close to the Home button, and he found them difficult to reach and too easy to accidentally press.
See what you think of the design of the Galaxy S4 in our video review of the Samsung version…
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Google Galaxy S4: Screen
Both Samsung and Google Galaxy S4 feature a 5in full-HD (1920x1080) SuperAMOLED screen. It matches the Sony Xperia Z's pixel density of 441ppi, putting it behind only the 469ppi of the HTC One. This screen is simply breathtaking for watching movies and playing games, and although the colours remain vibrant they are less excessive than they have been with previous Samsung handsets.
Samsung has apparently made some tweaks that mean this screen consumes less power than that of the Galaxy S3, which will also be carried over to the Google Edition S4. And the display works with gloves, which may prove useful if the British summer fails to materialise for another year.
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Google Galaxy S4: Hardware
The hardware inside the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Google Galaxy S4 is identical. With both phones you get a 1.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM.
The Google Galaxy S4 comes with 16GB of internal storage, while the Samsung Galaxy S4 can also have 32- or 64GB. The inclusion of a microSDXC slot for expansion by up to 64GB will make this option irrelevant for many users.
It's worth noting that the Samsung Galaxy S4 has been criticised for gobbling up well over 6GB of its 16GB storage capacity with its Android OS, TouchWiz overlay and various apps including Air View, Smart Scroll, Dual Camera, S Translator and S Health. It even featured on BBC's Watchdog for this very reason: the ultimate shame. Samsung has vowed to lessen this burden with some software tweaks, but by how much remains to be seen.
By comparison, the Google Galaxy S4 comes with none of this bloat, offered with a vanilla version of Android that displays the OS as it was designed to operate. It will therefore consume much less storage - again using the Nexus 4 as an example, that's likely to be around 3GB.
There's a 13Mp rear camera that can capture full-HD video, plus a 1.9Mp front-facing camera for video chat. Dual Shot lets you capture the view from both cameras at once, and there are plenty of other, less gimmicky camera settings and modes thrown in.
Connectivity stretches to 4G, NFC, Wi-Fi (including the latest 802.11ac), Bluetooth 4.0, MHL and GPS, but the Galaxy S4 is missing wireless charging.
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Google Galaxy S4: Performance
Given the exact same hardware inside, you might expect the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Google Galaxy S4 to offer matching performance. And indeed they might, or the Google Galaxy S4 could be slightly faster. That's because it comes with none of the preinstalled bloat of the Samsung version.
We've not had a chance to lab-test the Google version, but expect figures in line with or slightly higher than those of the Samsung Galaxy S4. And those figures are showstopping: the Samsung Galaxy S4 is the fastest smartphone we've ever seen.
In Geekbench 2 it produced a staggering 3,227 points, which is significantly higher than our previous record holder, the HTC One (2,721 points).
The Samsung Galaxy S4's performance in our GLBenchmark graphics test was similarly remarkable, able to produce smooth framerates of 41fps - another record broken.
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Google Galaxy S4: Software
The key difference between the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Google Galaxy S4 is the software. Both run the latest Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, but the Samsung version is heavily customised with its TouchWiz overlay and all manner of apps. The Google Galaxy S4, by comparison, shows Android as it was designed to operate. To read more about Jelly Bean see our full review (https://www.techadvisor.co.uk/reviews/google-android/3367078/android-41-jelly-bean-review/).
As with its Nexus devices, the Google Galaxy S4 will receive operating system updates as soon as a new version is released. Samsung can't offer that same promise, but it is one of the few hardware manufacturers that does update its Android devices, and in a reasonably timely fashion.
The Google Galaxy S4 will also differ in that it will feature an unlocked bootloader, which may appeal to developers and enthusiasts wanting to customise the handset.
If you plump for the Samsung Galaxy S4 you get the TouchWiz interface, with which users of the S3 will be familiar, and there are several extra software features, some of which you may enjoy and others that are decidedly gimmicky. These extras include:
Dual Shot: Simultaneously shoot with both the front and rear cameras.
Sound & Shot: Add sound to your still images.
Drama Shot: Take a series of photos then combine them into one, which is ideal for showing action in a single frame.
Group Play: Share music, photos and documents and play games with your friends by wirelessly connecting multiple Samsung Galaxy S4 handsets.
Story Album: Create printable themed albums for your photos of specific events.
Samsung Hub: Samsung's own content store for video, games, music and learning.
S Translator: Enter a phrase for audible or text translation from one of eight languages to English.
ChatOn: Remotely share your screen and chat with your friends.
Smart Pause: The Samsung Galaxy S4 tracks your eyes and automatically pauses movies and games when you look away from the screen.
Smart Scroll: This same eye-tracking tech is used to automatically scroll up and down web pages as you read content onscreen.
Multi Window: Display two apps side by side.
Air View/Air Gesture: You don't need to touch the screen to answer calls, change music or browse the web - just move your hand above the screen. This is ideal if you have sticky fingers or are wearing gloves, for example.
Samsung WatchOn: Suggests TV programmes based on your preferences, and lets you remotely control a TV or set-top box.
Samsung HomeSync: 1TB of cloud storage for your photos and video that enables enjoyment on a large screen.
Samsung KNOX: Security software for your smartphone.
S Health: The S4 can track your workouts, consumption and weight, offer stats on your health, and monitor your comfort level based on temperature and humidity.
Adapt Display: The Samsung Galaxy S4 uses seven automatic and four manual modes to adjust the sceen settings to suit the content.
Adapt Sound: The S4 can alter the volume and balance left and right audio based on your hearing, the sound source and your preferences.
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Google Galaxy S4: Battery life
A huge 9.8Wh battery kept the Samsung Galaxy S4 going for between one- (heavy usage) and two (light usage) days in our tests. Most of the juice was drained by the screen, rather than the software, suggesting the Google Galaxy S4 will offer similar battery performance.
Samsung Galaxy S4: Specs
- Display: 5 inch Full HD Super AMOLED (1920 x 1080) display, 441 ppi
- Processor: 1.9GHz quad-core
- OS: Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean)
- Camera: Main(Rear): 13 Mega pixel Auto Focus camera with Flash & Zero Shutter Lag, BIS
- Sub (Front): 2 Mega pixel camera, Full HD recording @30fps with Zero Shutter Lag, BIS
- Video: Codec: MPEG4, H.264, H.263, DivX, DivX3.11, VC-1, VP8, WMV7/8, Sorenson Spark, HEVC
- Recording & Playback: Full HD (1080p)
- Audio: Codec: MP3, AMR-NB/WB, AAC/AAC?/eAAC?, WMA, OGG, FLAC, AC-3, apt-X
- Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (HT80), GPS / GLONASS, NFC, Bluetooth® 4.0 (LE), IR LED (Remote Control), MHL 2.0
- Sensor: Accelerometer, RGB light, Geomagnetic, Proximity, Gyro, Barometer Temperature & Humidity, Gesture
- Memory: 16/ 32/ 64 GB User memory ? microSD slot (up to 64GB), 2GB RAM
- Dimension: 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm, 130g
- Battery: 2,600 mAh
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