Samsung Galaxy S4 Active review: Uncharted waters
Ah, the great outdoors - not enough reception to put the "phone" in smartphone, but plenty of dust and water keep it out. Good thing there are IP67-certified phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active then, combining premium specs with enough durability to survive a hike or a dive.
We've become a little wary of the Galaxy S label, which Samsung flagships share with a number of almost unrelated devices, which simply piggyback on their reputation. That's not the case of the Galaxy S4 Active though, it's a proper flagship.
The 5" 1080p screen has been moved to TFT tech instead of Super AMOLED like on the regular S4, but LCD's are typically brighter, and plus LCDs are less likely to suffer water damage.
The camera situation is less clear though - Samsung downgraded it from 13MP to 8MP and while we've seen plenty of good 8MP cameras, 13MP is the current flagship standard. Everything else seems in order, however, here's the yay and nay list for the Galaxy S4 Active.
- IP67 certification - can spend up to 30 minutes in up to 1m of water
- Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE; quad-band 3G with HSPA; LTE
- 5" 16M-color 1080p TFT LCD capacitive touchscreen with Gorilla Glass 3
- Android OS v4.2.2 Jelly Bean with TouchWiz UI
- Quad-core 1.9 GHz Krait 300 CPU, Adreno 320 GPU; Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 chipset
- 2GB of RAM
- 8 MP autofocus camera with LED flash,1080p video recording @ 30fps, continuous autofocus and stereo sound
- 2 MP front-facing camera, 1080p video recording
- Dual shot and dual video recording, Drama shot, Shot and sound
- Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA
- GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS
- 16GB of built-in storage
- microSD card slot
- microUSB port with USB host and MHL 2.0
- Bluetooth v4.0
- IR port for remote control functionality
- Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
- Accelerometer and proximity sensor
- IR gesture sensor for Air gestures
- Smart screen: Smart stay, Smart pause, Smart scroll
- Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
- Ample 2,600 mAh battery with great endurance
- Smart volume and Adapt Sound features for the music player
- Camera downgraded to 8MP
- Screen is TFT, not Super AMOLED
- Thicker and heavier than regular Galaxy S4, Sony Xperia Z
- No FM radio
- Shared camera interface makes framing tricky
- No thermometer or hygroscope
Samsung is not new to rugged Androids - the Galaxy Xcover line (along with carrier-specific versions) has been around for a while, but those favored durability over specs. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is not as rugged as those phones, it is a premium package.
That includes the powerful chipset, the advanced connectivity, exclusive features, the works. Of course, it's not without competition - the Sony Xperia Z has been around for a while and it's clean, elegant design doesn't pay the rugged tax - the IP57-certified Xperia Z is a suave survivor. But anyway, if you search "quad-core, 1080p and water resistance" you'll find a very short list of options.
The internal hardware and the software of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active are almost identical to those of the regular S4, the real changes are on the outside. And as luck would have it, this is what we'll start off with on the next page.
Reviews > Samsung Galaxy S4 Active review: Uncharted waters