It’s been one of the most anticipated handsets in a while – that explained by the world’s obsession with seeing every leak possible. And they came thick and fast, thanks to our friends in China, as the hours counted down to launch.
The Galaxy S4 arrives at a time when the competition has moved up a notch. Here’s how Samsung’s latest flagship chalks up against the other big boys in school.
Galaxy S4 vs the rest: size and weight
Big is beautiful. That’s the message we’ve been getting over the last few years as smartphone manufacturers seem to try to outdo each other on the scales. The Galaxy S2 had a decent enough footprint, the S3 was even bigger.
The S4 continues that tradition, coming in at 5.38 x 2.34 x 0.5/16-inches which makes it exactly the same, height wise, but fairly thinner by width, as its predecessor. It’s also a whole three grams lighter at 130g.
And it’s in good company. Let’s not forget the Sony Xperia Z is fairly big in the mitts at 5.47 x 2.80 x 0.31 in and weighing in at 146g, making it similar and only marginally heavier than the HTC One which is delivered at 5.41 x 2.69 x 0.37 in.
That’s not a million miles off the Nokia Lumia 920 which clocks in at 5.13 x 2.79 x 0.42 in, though the Lumia is heavy enough to give you cramp at 185g.
In fact, the only one that is out of its depth here is Apple’s offering which provides the real alternative to anyone who wants a smaller, yet premium device. The iPhone 5 is minuscule by comparison at 4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 in and with a weight of 112g.
Galaxy S4 vs the rest: screens
One of the most contentious issues when a smartphone is announced these days. Since Apple spoiled many of us with its Retina offering, we’ve all become more nitpicky than ever, because we know what can be achieved. The Galaxy S2 gave us Super AMOLED Plus and although it didn’t have a resolution you’d kill yourself for, the colours really were beautiful.
The S3 was, in some eyes, not the step forward that had been hoped for because Samsung opted for just Super AMOLED 4.8-inch panel with a density that could be marginally picked apart by a very trained eye. It also employed a Pen Tile Matrix here.
The S4 goes for a slightly larger 5-inch display (still Super AMOLED) of 4.99-inches with full HD 1920 x 1920 and a far higher pixel density of 441ppi. It’s, again, a pen-tile matrix with very high pixel density. The gap between pixels has been reduced so we’re expecting something that looks far punchier in the real world.
Competition is fierce – the iPhone 5 goes for an LED-backlit IPS LCD flavour. It’s only 4.0-inches which is great for some, yet too small for others and giving off 326 ppi.
Similarly, the Nokia Lumia 920 has a pretty great display with a slightly higher ppi of 332 but that’s split over a larger 4.5-inch display. It too is an IPS LCD flavour. The Sony Xperia Z holds its own – this has an amazing display which is TFT and an amazing 441 ppi spread over five inches, but as we explained in our review, it can appear washed out from different angles.
The one to beat here is the HTC One display panel – we’re big fans of that Super LCD3 offering with its 4.7-inch screen and 469 ppi, though, as our review explained, we’re not massively sold on it when watching video.
Galaxy S4 vs the rest: camera
The S3 was one of the best mobile cameras out there – and the S4 goes one further with a 13MP offering. Plus a 2MP front-facing snapper, which is pretty run of the mill nowadays.
This is one of the main aspects people go for when purchasing a new handset, so is a very important consideration.
Apple reckons its 8MP offering is the best camera it has ever offered, but this at a time when the numbers are creeping into the double digits, much to the humiliation of the Lumia 920 which also offers an 8MP snapper. For example, the Xperia Z is in 13.MP territory as well.
But size isn’t everything – as we noted that pictures didn’t always look great once shot. Compare that to the paltry sounding 4MP of the HTC One, but a camera that has the Ultrapixel technology, and you see that the number of pixels has barely any relevance compared to other aspects.
Galaxy S4 vs the rest: processor and memory
Of course, none of this makes any difference in the slightest if there is not enough ‘oooft’ inside to power it all. The S3 was super smooth – although we did notice it go a bit sluggish at times, before the arrival of Project Butter.
As for the S4, forget dual-core. Forget quad core. We have a staggering EIGHT CORE Exynos 1.6GHz processor here. That’s bigger than the quad-core 1.6GHz Exynos offering of the Galaxy Note 8 but is obviously of the same DNA!
2GB of ram completes the set, which is the going rate right now. That’s double the 1GB RAM you’ll find in the iPhone 5 and a real boost to the Dual-Core 1.2GHz processor it holds, but as any Apple fan will gleefully tell you, they rarely experience lag, which goes to show that the OS has just as much responsibility for smoothness.
The S4’s specs really blow away what we’ve seen in the rest of the competition – at least on paper. Sony offers us a Quad-Core 1.5GHz Krait chip and a comparable 2GB RAM which is double that of the Nokia Lumia 920’s 1GB, while the Krait processor the Finns give us is dual-core, like the iPhone.
In fact, the highest level after the S4 is the recently announced (and reviewed by us) HTC One which is quad-core 1.7 Krait and, again, has 2GB of RAM.
Galaxy S4 vs the rest: battery size
We’ve long passed the days when batteries would last all week – now, one day is the most you’ll get from a modern smartphone. The problem is when that phone doesn’t last even a full day, with tame use.
The S4 packs a fairly huge 2,600MAH pack, up from the 2,100 offering we got on the S3.
It makes the iPhone 5’s 1400MAH battery look paltry, though again, iPhone owners will tell you that they have a decent enough time, which again highlights how much the OS plays a part. Compare that to our thoughts on the HTC One a couple of days back when we struggled to make that 2300MAH battery last, and you’ll see what we mean.
As for the Lumia 920, that comes with a 2000MAH pack which we bemoaned in our review, whilst the Xperia Z puts in a stellar effort with the 2330MAH pack powering it, thanks to stamina mode. Similar to our point about the camera, it’s more than just sheer numbers that you’ll find makes a difference here.
Galaxy S4 vs the rest: OS
Did you think Smart Stay was gimmicky on the S3? Will you care about the screen scrolling to follow your eyes on the S4? If you do, you’re in for a treat because despite some claims it wouldn’t appear on the final build, it is now official that it will.
Whats more, Smart Pause will know to hold things when you look away. And Air Gestures mean you’ll be able to jump to the top of lists, skip music and flick through pictures/answer calls without even touching the screen.
The iPhone is obviously the only Apple device – so has exclusive access to the Cupertino stable of goodies as far as this rabble is concerned. Similarly, if you want a Windows device, you won’t find any other offerings in this comparison. But the other three are all Android handsets and have their own unique selling points. Sony is bigging up how the Xperia Z is both resistant to dust and water, which is great if you’re an off-roader swimmer.
Meanwhile, HTC bangs on about its Zoe photos being unique and how the blink-feed home screen will change the world. However, its IR blaster on the newly released HTC One (which we have noted works well) has been fitted on the S4 as well. That unique selling point is no longer unique.