Samsung Galaxy S4 review: Hands-on

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is finally here, bringing with it a 5-inch screen, Exynos OCTO processor and a 13-MP camera and a host of features
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is the latest flagship phone from Samsung and is a step-up from its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S3. Its large screen means that its size comes close to the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. It has the specs to take on Apple's iPhone 5 and could well take the Android crown, trumping the likes of the recently announced HTC One and the Sony Xperia Z.

T3 was flown out to meet the new Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean-toting Samsung Galaxy S4 at the launch event in New York City and here are our first impressions.

Samsung Galaxy S4: Size & build

Considering the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, we knew that the S4 wasn't going to be small. With dimensions of 69.8mm x 136.6mm and 7.9mm thick, it's surprisingly thinner than the S3 and feels far from big to hold.
Weighing it at 130g, it's heavier than the iPhone 5 (112g) and the featherweight Sony Xperia Z (146g) but the extra heft gives it a reassuring feel in the hand.
Exterior buttons are fairly similar to the Galaxy S3 with the on/off button on the right hand-side, volume rocker on the left, headphone jack on the top and charging port on the bottom as per the Samsung Galaxy S3. The only other exterior button is the home button on the bottom of the device, under the screen.

When it comes to materials, it's honed from plastic and has a very similar feel to the S3. It'll be available in black and white at launch.

Samsung Galaxy S4: Features

The S3 was packed with features, some more useful than others, and the Samsung Galaxy S4 is no different. As rumours suggested, the Smart Stay function has been updated to include a Smart Pause feature.
The S4 will know when you're looking at the phone and will pause a playing video if you look away and continue to play when you look back. It worked well with our brief time with the handset and seemed much more responsive than the previous iteration.

Along with Smart Pause, there's also Smart Scroll, that allows you to tilt the phone to scroll up and down webpages and left-to-right in a gallery.

Taking a few cues from the Galaxy Notes, Air View has been added to the S4 but without the need of a stylus. Hover your finger around 2cm from the screen and you'll get a preview of an email or video. 
Another gesture-based feature is Air Gesture. This somewhat pointless function allows you to wave your hand up and down to scroll content or answer a call hands-free.  It work very well during our play with the device, but we question its usefulness.

Group Play is another feature that's been loaded into the phone. It allows you to connect up to eight other S4 devices to play a game or listen to a track. We didn't get a chance to demo this, but it'll be interesting to see how it works with a game.

Samsung Galaxy S4: Screen

As with the Samsung Galaxy S3, the gigantic 5-inch screen is probably the phone's most striking feature. It trumps the HTC One (4.7 inches), iPhone 5 (4 inches) and Nokia Lumia 920 (4.5 inches).
Along with the size, the quality of the screen has been upped too. It now boasts a 440 PPI. Specs never seen before on a phone, and we have to say, it's impressive. Menus, webpages and pictures are dazzlingly bright and pin-sharp.

Samsung Galaxy S4: Camera

The camera on the S4 is what Samsung is hoping will be its trump card. The rear-facing camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with auto-focus and the capability to record 1080p video and there's also a secondary front-facing camera at 2-megapixels. It's not just the specs that are impressive, there's also some natty new features.

First-up is dual shot, which allows you to use both the front-facing and back-facing cameras simultaneously and creates a picture-in-picture image. There are various options that allow you to be creative on how the picture- in-picture appears from a postage stamp to a split screen. It also works as a video.

Other new features are Drama Shot, that stiches multiple burst shots together into one image, Cine-shot that creates a picture that's a mixture of still shots and video and finally Racer-shot that allows you to delete a moving person from a picture. Handy for those pesky photo-bombers.

Samsung Galaxy S4: Performance

Under the chassis you'll find a Exynos OCTO processor clocking in at 1.6Ghz, which makes for a pretty zippy experience when navigating the UI and switching between apps. You'll also get 2GB of RAM plus a choice of 16, 32 or 64GB onboard storage with the option of micro SD up to 64GB.

Samsung Galaxy S4: Battery

When it comes to battery, we're taking the stats Samsung quote as given as we only had a short time with the device; it's claimed that the S4 will last longer than the S3 and the specs agree with a 2,600mAH battery on board, a step-up from it's predecessor.

Samsung Galaxy S4: Verdict

There's no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a significant step-up from the S3. It's impressive that Samsung has managed to slim-down the device even though it's added a bigger screen and a host of new goodies.
As with the S3, there are some innovative new features in there, some more useful than others but there's no doubt that stalwart Galaxy and Android fans will be impressed (not to mention the odd potential iOS defector).
The Samsung Galaxy S4 was the most hotly anticipated Android phone of 2013 and based on what we've seen, it's certainly living up to the hype so far. We'll bring you a full review as soon as we can...

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