Saturday, 27 April 2013


Above: Check out the best video review you'll ever see on the Galaxy S4!


Good evening, Synapse Circuit Readers! Did you get your Galaxy S4? What? You’re undecided? You’ve been reading / watching the reviews online to help you decide? Ok, this is the definitive review... Synapse Circuit Samsung Galaxy S4 review... Let’s jump straight in... Oh, by the way... It’s funny how the S4 came out in the shops the same time Iron Man 3 went on general release! Anyway...

The S4 doesn’t so much resemble the S3 but the Galaxy Note 2; yes the S4 is the Note 2 mini with an extra sensor thrown in the mix. Oh, the bezel is thinner (the space between the screen within the body / chassis) to accommodate the 5” Full HD (1920 x 1080) Super AMOLED 441 ppi screen! The screen uses Gorilla Glass 3 which is robust to withstand knocks and scratches! Not even the HTC One uses Gorilla Glass 3! I noticed that the Gorilla Glass 3 is very fingerprint resistant! Nice going! However, the screen is quite reflective and using it in direct sunlight isn’t much fun... (See paragraph Camera).

The overall design may not look radical and not much of a departure from the S3 but it is refinement at its best! It’s an amazing feat that the S4 is thinner than the S3! As I have said the design is more of a refinement of the Galaxy Note 2. It’s a beautiful refinement! The metallic outer edge on the S4 actually looks and feels like real metal as opposed to the faux metal edge of the S3 and Note 2.

Premium plastic... I think I may be one of the few who is happy with the plastic body of premium Samsung handsets. Again, the plastic body enables durability and is less prone to scuffs, scratches and dents unlike metal. Also, the S4 doesn’t feel as slippery as the Galaxy S3 and Note 2. I found that the S4 is much better to handle – even when taking pictures / video! That’s a welcome first!

As beautiful as the HTC One is you’d probably want to put it into a protective case obscuring such beauty... Whereas the Galaxy S4 is minimalist and lends itself to a protective case; yes, Samsung have a few case accessories coming to the market soon! Watch out!

The only time I would advocate metal instead of plastic on any premium smartphone is when unbreakable screens is at the centre of the phone – even then metal still has the same durability problems. I would prefer the combination of plastic, metal and a rubberized back for the battery which should alleviate fingerprints. I have understood that the Galaxy Note 3 will feature a break-proof screen and will have metal in the design!

Because of the plastic used on the Galaxy S4 you are able to have a removable battery! The battery cover comes off with ease and therefore you are able to replace the 2600 mAh battery and add up to 64GB of microSD storage. Unlike the HTC One; you can’t replace the battery... When it’s done it’s done. You’d probably carry the charger with you wherever you go as the duration of the battery isn’t great on the One! We’ll come to the S4 battery down the line. I chose the White Frost over the Black Mist as it conceals fingerprints better.

All in all I am very happy with the Galaxy S4 design and materials used. The handset is unbelievably light! When I took it out of the box I was expecting the find the rest of the handset in a compartment below! I did chuckle to myself when it became obvious that what I am holding is it! WOW!!!!

The camera has a 13MP sensor which makes for a larger picture 4128 x 3096; as with dedicated digital cameras higher megapixels do not always result in the best picture quality as you have to factor in the quality of the lens, flash and so on. However, since the Galaxy S2 the picture quality has always been very, very good! The S4 camera does not disappoint! The quality is very close to that of a dedicated digital camera. As a journalist I could use the shots in printed or high quality digital magazines.

The camera is packed with great features that will ensure that you’ll be taking snaps on a regular basis! It’s phenomenal!

The quality of results speaks for themselves.

Again, comparing the S4 camera to the nearest rival, HTC One, the ‘Ultrapixels’ do not have an edge. If all you do is take photos for Facebook then the One 4MP camera isn’t bad at all. However, if you want to do more with your photos then the camera on the S4 is the clear winner! Basically, the camera on the One uses less megapixels but it is larger and therefore lets in more light which makes for better low light pictures. But if you want to take pictures in low lighting conditions you would use a flash! The S4 camera has a flash. The flash can be used as a light for the video in low lighting conditions! Cool! The quality of the video is outstanding! Full HD videos look great as though they have come from a camcorder! The quality is much better than those pocket camcorder devices that promises full HD footage at the cost of quality!

When taking photos you can use the Dual mode that allows you use the front and main camera simultaneously so that you can be in shot too!

You can add sound to a picture that can only be played back on other Galaxy S4 – I guess this will have you encouraging your friends to upgrade to the Galaxy S4 too!

There’s also Drama Shot which captures a sequence of events into one composition! It’s a nice feature!

Of course, there are many modes to choose from! I think many people would just use the automatic settings but if you play around with the settings you will be able to take magnificent shots! During my tests I found the screen too reflective and I had to strain to see what I was doing! That’s the only downside that I can think of.

The front facing camera is a decent 2MP one that allows you to record in full HD! Excellent!

I can’t think of any handset on the market that packs the amount of function that the Galaxy S4 has!

Air View allows you to preview contents by hovering your finger over objects such as a gallery folder full of pictures; message contents; video and so on.

Air Gesture does not allow you to touch your S4; answer calls with a wave of the hand! Browse through the picture gallery by waving right or left!

Smart Screen adds Smart Pause to Smart Stay (screen stays on as long you’re looking) and Rotation (adjusts to the orientation of sight). Smart Pause can pause a video as soon as your focus is directed away from the screen! Be aware that the Smart Screen needs adequate light to function with accuracy.

Share video, pictures, Google maps, etc with the near field communication and S Beam. I wouldn’t share large files i.e. video files as the process can take a while! Hmmm... When you want to use the NFC with other NFC enabled handsets you have to turn off S Beam otherwise the non-Samsung handset gets confused and you will not be able send any files.

DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) allows you to share what’s on the Galaxy S4 screen to a DLNA enabled device such as a television. Very nice!

The WatchOn feature will transform your device into a remote control. If you connect it to home entertainment system and the S4 can make suggestions on TV programs based on your preferences.

Get your friends together and let them enjoy your music simultaneously. Wirelessly connect multiple Samsung Galaxy S4 phones to play games and share photos and documents. Get all Samsung Galaxy S4 phones together and create a powerful sound system that enhances the sound quality and keeps the party going.

There’s so much to the S4 it will amaze you! Hopefully these fantastic extras will not confuse you – they shouldn’t! There’s a little booklet that takes you through the paces of each function! Let me highlight some of the best functions...

Using the commands ‘Answer’ and ‘Reject’ you can answer or reject an incoming call! The speaker comes on for hands free interaction and it’s the same with the Samsung ChatON application that allows free call, messaging and video calls.

You can take pictures using the commands, ‘Cheese’, ‘Smile’ ‘Capture’ and ‘Shoot’. Brilliant! I love it! There’s no need for a dedicated camera button!

Stop an alarm with ‘Stop’ or ‘Snooze’.

Control the music player with ‘Next’, ‘Previous’, ‘Pause’, ‘Play’, ‘Volume Up’ and ‘Volume Down’.

Beautiful stuff!

Recently I have modified my dietary habits and increased my physical activity! S Health promises to monitor my calorie intake, weight levels and so on! Very nice!

The sound is ok... It can be loud and tinny! The speaker is located at the back of the device like the S3 and Note 2 and it is never going to compete with the HTC One awesome stereo speaker system. But it is unlikely that you’ll be making use of the speaker in public out of consideration to others. You can download an equalizer app if need be to bring out the bass and mid-tones.

The 2600 mAh battery is an improvement over the 2100 mAh in the S3. But, as you should know by now, the battery is relative to the device and the amount of usage. This is the second day that I have used it and the battery is on 35% which is not bad considering my usage: taking photos, videos, watching video, surfing the Net and playing about with the S4 in general. The battery has improved for sure!

Samsung has dubbed the Galaxy S4 a “Life Companion” and they weren’t kidding! If you are going on holiday to a non-English speaking country then you are going to love S Translate! I used it to speak what little German I know and it came out in English!

Normally, when I review a handset I have to return it... On this occasion I am so glad that I don’t have to! The Galaxy S4 is MINE!!!!! All mine! Hahahahaha! Yes, I am mad about the Galaxy S4! I think it is the best that mobile phone technology has to offer! It is every bit a premium handset even though it is so minimalist in appearance.

The Galaxy S4 is running the latest and greatest Android version, Jelly Bean 4.2.2! The TouchWiz overlay is very responsive! Browsing the InterWeb is a great experience especially as I am on Three’s Ultrafast network connection! YouTube videos play smoothly in HD through the Three Ultrafast connection and over Wi-Fi it’s flawless!

You can also open two screens at once! It’s handy for watching video and reading email at the same time! The S4 is more like the Galaxy Note 2 as I have stated in the beginning! It seems as though Samsung takes the design from the last premium model and redefines it for the Galaxy S range, so with that logic in mind the Galaxy Note 3 is set to be a design departure that will filter down to the Galaxy S5! Observations aside I really do think that the Galaxy S4 is a handset you should definitely have!

If you intend to use it for business you will appreciate the fact that you can swap out the battery for a spare one!

If you use it purely on a everyday social level it is awesome!

The 1.9 GHz CPU and the 2GB RAM makes the thing fly!

I was considering the HTC One for a change and it fell short of my requirements.

At this very moment in time the Samsung Galaxy S4 is the best handset on the planet and I have one! Awesome!

Thank you for reading!

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