Samsung I9505G Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition review: Purified
Your images in SuperAMOLED-y goodness
The Gallery in Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean retains its ICS looks and functionality. The Default view of the gallery is Albums, the first of which is always the Camera album, which has a camera overlay icon too. Rather than the familiar stacks, the app uses a grid of photos, two on a line.
Besides, Album view, you also get Locations (photos are grouped based on where they were taken), Times (grouped by when they were taken), People (if the photos have tagged faces in them) and Tags (these are general tags you can add manually).
A handy option is the Make available offline feature - it lets you easily select multiple online albums and download them for offline viewing. The Gallery app supports online albums like Picasa (but not Facebook) and you can set it to sync photos only over Wi-Fi.
Getting inside an album displays all the photos in a rectangular grid, which is horizontally scrollable. When you try to scroll past the end, the photo thumbnails will tilt to remind you you're at the end.
Anyway, the single photo view is updated too - above the photo are several sharing shortcuts and a delete button, while the underlying line of small thumbnails of all other photos in the album isn't present any more.
The settings menu lets you do simple edits to a photo (rotate, crop) or go into a more capable editor with a lot more option. The editor can be accessed from a small icon from the bottom left hand-side corner and offers light adjustments (so you can bring out the shadows or the highlights), effects, color styles, red eye correction, straightening a photo, sharpening and face glow (which detects faces automatically). Most of these options have a slider that lets you fine-tune the strength of the effect.
Video player doesn't compete well
The video player is still not getting the necessary attention from Google and there's still no dedicated videos app (you have to go through the Gallery). Despite the excellent track record of supported video codecs the Galaxy S4 has, the Google Play Edition could only muster mp4 videos, while avi, mov, DivX and XviD were out of the question. We'd suggest using a player with a codec pack, like MXPlayer and enjoy videos on the great 5" Super AMOLED.
When compatible, videos played up to FullHD resolution without hiccups.
At long last, Google has implemented wirelessly sharing videos with a Wi-Fi enabled TV. The feature relies on the good ol' DLNA technology to connect and the Miracast protocol for streaming. It's another feature most customs launchers had, but is only now making its way to the platform itself.
Google Play Music streams and stores your music
Google's own music player called Play Music is on board the Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition. It went through a major UI overhaul and is now snappier and more beautiful. It features the spanking New Listen Now feature which tries to determine what you like and the sequence of your track-changing so that it can start offering you music you might like to play next.
Google Play Music also gives you the option to upload music onto the Google-branded cloud and stream it on your device via Wi-Fi or mobile data. There's also the nifty option of downloading the content onto the device if you want to have there for connection-less times.
From the Settings key you can get into the equalizer. It can be turned on and off and features several presets that along with a user defined one. If you plug in a headset, you can also play with the Bass boost and 3D effect sliders.
The Now Playing screen uses the song album art and gives you a quick shortcut to the rest of the artist's songs along with the play controls.
While the player is working, the lockscreen features the album art and track info for the current song along with simple playback controls. The notification area also lets you control the playback via an expandable notification.
Audio quality is perfectly clean
The Samsung Galaxy S4 passed our dedicated audio quality test with flying colors. The smartphone had perfectly clear output when attached to an active external amplifier, with no weak points to its performance. The only thing to frown at here is the only average volume levels.
Impressively, there's virtually no distortion when you plug in a pair of headphones. Even the stereo crosstalk which suffers in that case just about every time was barely affected. Unfortunately, the volume levels remained only average.
And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.
|Test||Frequency response||Noise level||Dynamic range||THD||IMD + Noise||Stereo crosstalk|
|Samsung Galaxy S4||+0.03, -0.08||-95.9||93.2||0.0030||0.0092||-96.4|
|Samsung Galaxy S4 (headphones attached)||+0.03, -0.08||-96.0||93.3||0.0031||0.089||-77.5|
|HTC One||+0.11, -0.20||-82.7||82.7||0.0023||0.026||-80.9|
|HTC One (headphones attached)||+0.02, -0.32||-82.4||82.3||0.0045||0.057||-68.3|
|HTC Butterfly||+0.13, -0.29||-82.5||82.3||0.0090||0.022||-80.8|
|HTC Butterfly (headphones attached)||+0.16, -0.24||-82.3||82.1||0.0094||0.042||-59.7|
|Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III||+0.03, -0.05||-90.3||90.3||0.012||0.018||-92.6|
|Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III (headphones attached)||+0.11, -0.04||-90.2||90.2||0.0092||0.090||-53.1|
Samsung Galaxy S4 frequency response
You can learn more about the whole testing process here.