The Galaxy series is Samsung’s flagship brand of smartphone, and finds itself among the most popular Android-powered devices currently on the market. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is a relatively new addition to the Galaxy line, and adds a heretofore unprecedented feature to an already impressive list of specs: it’s now waterproof.
Look and Feel
The Galaxy Active makes small concessions in thinness and weight in favor of adding protection from everyday life. The phone weighs in at around 5.4 ounces, making it slightly heavier than its predecessors. It’s also just a hair thicker, measuring 9.1mm thick as compared to the original S4, which measured in at 7.9mm. Considering the Active’s new life-proofing, these tradeoffs are likely worth making for many Android enthusiasts.
In terms of aesthetics, the Active doesn’t differ terribly from the original S4. Each end of the phone is rubberized, adding built-in shock absorption for those who want to go case-less. The phone still features a removable battery cover that some users might find a little too flimsy, but for most others it’s simply nice to have the option to change the battery, which gives the S4 series an immediate advantage over its Cupertino-designed rivals.
One of the more striking design differences between the original S4 is the raised, physical buttons instead of touch-sensitive buttons. This is in keeping with the Active’s waterproofing features; touch controls don’t work well when wet.
The phone’s waterproof capabilities are thanks to well-placed rubber gaskets in the phone’s design that resist water and dust intrusion, as well as a rubber seal over the microUSB port.
Android: Software and Processor
The S4 Active features Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean), sporting a custom user interface, just as you’d find on most high-end smartphones. This version is known as TouchWiz, and has some great new features.
Among these are Smart Screen, which uses the Active’s front-facing camera to adjust video playback and rotation according to your presence or position, and Air View, which is capable of detecting your finger as it hovers over the screen, allowing you to see image previews or momentarily enlarge sections of a webpage, all without touching the screen.
Some of these features will be unnecessary for some users, who may prefer to turn them off, if only to make small savings in battery life. For others, you may find yourself wondering how you lived so long without them.
The phone also sports a powerful quad-core 1.9GHz processor, which is the same as the original S4. There’s no question: this is a powerful and responsive smartphone.
The display on the Active is beautiful, though it makes certain compromises on the design of the original S4. The screen measure 5 inches diagonally, with a resolution of 1080p. However, because the Active features an LCD screen instead of the original AMOLED screen, its performance suffers somewhat in darker conditions; the universal backlight of the LED screen can cause blacks to become washed out and grayish. Still, the pixel density is over 440 pixels per inch, making it a remarkably vivid and crisp display overall.
The camera on the Active takes a few small steps backward from the original S4. It still has impressive specs, though: 8 megapixels with an F/2.6 lens. While the S4 has a 13-megapixel camera and a faster lens, the Active handily matches the performance of the Galaxy S3 and the iPhone 5. Its dynamic range isn’t the best, and can leave out some smaller details that the original S4 could pick up on. The Active can also take some relatively decent close-ups, but the focus may prove inconsistent for some users.
However, the Active does have some useful features to help with these issues. Turning on HDR mode will help pick up on some of the detail that might get lost in overcast conditions, while Night Mode does a great job of improving photos taken in low-light conditions. Photography enthusiasts will also be pleased to note that the Active’s flash performs admirably, providing even coverage of your subject.
- High-resolution screen
- IP67 water/dust resistance
- Powerful processor
- Excellent performance
- Full featured software
- Expandable storage
- Camera lower quality than that of the S4
- Not fully waterproof
- Removing USB port cover is inconvenient
- Slightly spongy buttons
The bottom line is that the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is a worthy addition to Samsung’s flagship smartphone line. Its performance meets or exceeds its closest rivals, but in a number of meaningful ways falls short of its namesake, the original S4.
The phone was designed first and foremost to be rugged and waterproof, and in that regard it succeeds wonderfully. The thoughtful exterior design has necessitated certain concessions in the overall performance of the phone, however. As mentioned earlier, some photography enthusiasts might prefer the camera on the original S4.
When all is said and done, however, the S4 Active is certainly among the better high-end Samsung devices, and will be a worthy purchase for most users.
- Overall: 8/10
- Performance: 9/10
- Design: 8/10
- Screen: 8/10
- Battery: 7/10
- Value: 7/10
Samsung I9295 Galaxy S4 Active Specifications
- 2013, June
- SAR US 0.55 W/kg (head) 0.75 W/kg (body)
- SAR EU 0.26 W/kg (head) 0.36 W/kg (body)
Network/Bearer and Wireless Connectivity
- LTE 4G support
- LTE Cat 3 (800 / 850 / 900 / 1800 / 2100 / 2600MHz) * Dependent on market support
- EDGE / GPRS (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900MHZ) support
- HSPA+ (850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100MHZ)
- 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, HT80 available
- Wi-Fi Direct available
- BT 4.0 (PBAP, DI, A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP, OPP, SAP, HID, PAN, MAP)
- NFC available
- DLNA, MHL 2.0 support
- KIES, KIES Air support
- Full HD TFT Technology
- 16M Colour Depth
- 5″ Size
- 1920 x 1080 Resolution
- Display Contrast ratio: 1046:1 (nominal), 2.022 (sunlight)
- 16GB Memory
- Accelerometer, Geomagnetic, Gyro, RGB light, Barometer, Proximity, Gesture available
- Urban Grey / Orange Flare / Dive Blue, Dependent on Market
- 2600mAh Standard Battery
- Up to 8 Hours Internet Usage Time (3G)
- Up to 8 Hours Internet Usage Time (LTE)
- Up to 10 Hours Internet Usage Time (Wi-Fi)
- Up to 10 Hours Video Playback Time
- Up to 83 Hours Audio Playback Time
- Up to 15 Hours Talk Time (W-CDMA)
- Up to 320 Hours Standby Time (W-CDMA)
- Up to 290 Hours Standby Time (LTE)
Services and Applications
- Samsung Apps available
- Social Hub (dependent on market)
- Music available in Samsung Hub
- Books available in Samsung Hub
- Games available in Samsung Hub
- ChatON available
- ActiveSync available
- MDM / CCX / EAS / VPN / ODE / KNOX
- Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean)
- Chipset Qualcomm APQ8064T Snapdragon 600
- CPU Quad-core 1.9 GHz Krait 300
- GPU Adreno 320
- CMOS, 2MP Megapixels Camera Resolution (Front)
- CMOS, 8MP Megapixels Camera Resolution (Rear)
- LED Flash (1EA)
- Auto Focus available
- Dimensions 139.7 x 71.3 x 9.1 mm (5.5 x 2.81 x 0.36 in)
- Weight 153 g (5.40 oz)
- 3.5mm Stereo Earjack
- USB v2.0
- MicroSD (up to 64GB)**
- Micro SIM (3FF) support
- Micro USB (5.0V, 2A)
- MHL available
- Assisted GPS / GLONASS available
Audio and Video
- Video Format: AVI, WMV, ASF, FLV, MKV, MP4, 3GP, WebM
- Full HD (1080p) Video Playback. Recording up to 30fps
- Audio Format: MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR-NB/WB, OGG, FLAC, WAV, WMA, MIDI, SP-MIDI, XMF. i-Melody
- Loudspeaker Voice 72dB / Noise 66dB / Ring 78dB
- Audio quality Noise -96.1dB / Crosstalk -96.0dB
- Camera Photo / Video
- Battery life Endurance rating 57h