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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hands-on: Samsung Galaxy S4 review

Samsung has finally unveiled its flagship Android phone that has been the subject of much speculation and rumour since, well, the Samsung Galaxy S3 came out. The Samsung Galaxy S4 has been launched officially during the Samsung Unpacked event in New York City and it's a doozy.
To be honest, much of the speculation rather spoilt the surprise as, yes, it does have a 5-inch full HD Super AMOLED display. And yes, it also has that marketing-friendly 1.6GHz octo-core Exynos 5 processor and 2GB of RAM, at least in the UK anyway (some regions will get a 1.9GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor instead). Of course, much has been said that it won't actually really benefit speed that much, rather power consumption and usage, but that will be tested further down the line.
The phone also looks much like the leaked devices we've seen over the past few days in videos and pictures, although not with the dotty black front and white back. Clearly those devices were mixed and matched, as there will be both black (Black Mist) and white (White Frost) devices on launch, not a mish-mash of both. What those pictures didn't really convey accurately is how similar the SGS4 is in the hand to the company's former model, the Samsung Galaxy S3. If not a little smaller, regardless of the screen size.
At 7.9mm thick, it's thinner than the Galaxy S3 and that includes an improved 2,600mAh battery. It's a promising statistic considering that one of its current rivals, the HTC One, is fairly beefy at 2,300mAh, but thicker at 9.3mm.

At 7.9mm thick, it's thinner than the Galaxy S3 and that includes an improved 2,600mAh battery. It's a promising statistic considering that one of its current rivals, the HTC One, is fairly beefy at 2,300mAh, but thicker at 9.3mm.
Corning Gorilla Glass 3 performs the same function as on the phone's older sibling and should keep the expansive surface protected from scratches. Some haters may bemoan Samsung's use of polycarbonate (plastic, essentially) for the rear, and yes, it's the only aspect that cheapens the Galaxy S4, especially when compared directly with a HTC One's aluminium unibody or the glass of the Sony Xperia Z, but we're pretty sure that the ease at which it can be unclipped to replace the battery, etc, offsets any initial disappointment.
It's also quite comfortable to hold considering the extended screen size. This is thanks to a tiny bezel on the sides and top.
The SGS4 has a new feature called Air View, which will let you hover your finger over the screen, without touching it, in order to perform specific functions, such as to increase the size of thumbnails on pictures, for example, before selecting them. It's something we've seen on the Note previously.
It has other uses too, including with a dedicated version of Flipboard, customised to make use of the feature, but they will be explained in more depth when we review the handset fully and have spent considerably more time with it. There are also some cunning gesture controls, with which you can swipe through screens using your hand without touching the phone itself, and likewise it will take a full test to discover the true benefit of that, if any.
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Another funky new feature is Smart Pause. Where the Galaxy S3 has basic eye-recognition functionality by which it keeps the screen from dimming when it detects you are still looking at it, the S4 also uses eye recognition with video. If you look away from the screen, it pauses the video clip or movie you were watching, although LG pipped Samsung to the post, announcing the very same feature for the Optimus G Pro.
Other control features with eye recognition are built in too, including Smart Scroll, where it will scroll up and down on a webpage if you tilt your hand, and will do so only if you're looking at the phone. Sadly, in the brief time we had to play with the phone - in comparison to a full test period - we could only scratch the surface of what this tech can do.


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