The Good Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Active has a sporty design, takes strong daylight photos, and delivers the majority of Android 4.2 features. It also has a great speakerphone.
The Bad Aqua mode is a fixed focus, the S4 Active takes low light shots, and the phone is not as durable as its name suggests. Its 8 megapixel camera has a lower resolution than the original Galaxy S4.
The Bottom Line Choose the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active for its sporty style, fast interior and underwater camera, but go for it if you’re a snobby image or looking for a really solid phone.
A lot of smartphones today can claim to be waterproof, but you have to give it upSamsung Galaxy S4 Active to convert this feature into a camera function. I think the waterproof camera is the only element that justifies the creation of this brand new S4 phone.
The underwater aqua mode of the 8 megapixel shooter works perfectly – as long as the seals last – but it is a mistake to consider the S4 Active as dustproof as a sturdy or durable phone. The interior seats are still vulnerable to the fragile back panel, and the “stiffer” design elements are largely cosmetic. You do not buy SCUBA Active Diving or Mountaineering; you buy it because you like flashy design and the highest Android features. The splash of carefree confidence that you get on beach days, hikes and poolside is all too much.
Beyond its design and hydrophilic camera, the Galaxy S4 Active rarely strays from the Galaxy S4 flagship phone in any meaningful way. Most other specs hold steady, which is why AT&T is charging the same asking price that it does for the 13-megapixel Galaxy S4: $199.99 retail with a two-year contract.
Those looking for a real draft smartphone will find that the Active name exceeds its capabilities. But if you want a more entertaining S4 experience, you’ll find it here.
Also: Check how the Active specs compare with everyone five Galaxy S4 phone line .
Up close with the sporty Samsung Galaxy S4 Active (pictures)
How active is it?
As it turns out, the S4 Active is not really a reliable phone.
Unlike your typical durable handset, there is very little extra fitting to protect the edges, and though slightly less glossy and smooth, the true grip on the Active stand. Yes, more complex, more rubbery accent pieces frame the top and bottom edges on the back of the phone, but they do not fit into the front corners and edges of the phone. Decorative screws give a spicy look but do not seem to perform any function.
The magic of fighting the elements is formed in a flap that locks into the Micro-USB socket (a reinforced headphone jack apparently needs no protection), and the rubber pad under the fragile back cover is sealed into the gaps to keep important components from accumulating particles and droplets. .
However, you’d better make darn sure that charging flap is secure, that the back cover is firmly in place, and that you’ve pressed down firmly on the AT&T logo on the back to complete the seal. Otherwise, you’ll wind up with a waterlogged phone that even a bag of rice might not be able to fix. And yes, I know this firsthand after drowning my first review unit.
Of course, few remove the back cover as much as I do, which is why most aqua mode users only want to worry about leaking the charger port.
Even after you successfully shut down your phone, keep in mind that IP67 S4 Active ratings clear it from dives to a meter below the surface – just over 3 feet – and up to 30 minutes. It’s longer and it can still work, but you start playing with fire.
All that being said, using Aqua Active mode was really fun and I would absolutely take it for a drink for a quick, casual snorkel and keep it comfortable at a pool party. I appreciate the S4 Active underwater in the camera section below, so keep reading!
Design and build
I will go on and say: I like the Galaxy S4 Active’s physical navigation buttons and flashy colors – teal, orange and okay, more buttoned gray. In fact, I would take it for the flagship design of the Galaxy S4 any day. I just want Samsung to go ahead and add a physical camera shutter button along the spine to fit all these navigation keys.
Nearby, Active – hair is higher than the original S4: 5.5 inches tall by 2.8 inches, 0.36 inches wide. Slim enough to carry in your pocket, but the bush is too tall to comfortably transport long stretch marks. At 5.4 ounces versus 4.6 it is a bit heavier than the S4.
You will see more differences when you flip the phones to see their reverse. In addition to the aforementioned rubber bumpers, the cameras and flash units are more square than the more rounded S4 mounts. The power and volume buttons are also thicker and easier to press, and the headset jack is quietly waterproofed.
Another difference you’ll see when you look at the 5-inch touchscreen is the use of the LCD panel on the S4 Active rather than the regular Samsung AMOLED display. LCD colors are less juicy and more natural in nature, but screen technology can also achieve greater brightness, a theoretical benefit to exterior types. In practice, both screens help you dim and shade the screen in bright daylight.
OS and apps
Like the Galaxy S4, Active works as an Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean operating system, equipped with Samsung’s TouchWiz proprietary interface.
For example, there are a few small flaws, such as dual shooting on the GS4 camera, and settings to turn the LED flash into a flashlight that can be turned on when the screen is off. A permanent flashlight is certainly useful for outdoor activities such as camping, but it is also convenient for many indoor scenarios.
To learn more about the features of the GS4 family, read the full Galaxy S4 review.
Aqua mode is a real Active killer, but it has a caveat. I learned about this by spending hours with the device in two different pools.
To begin with, you select Aqua mode from the camera modes list before diving in, and choose whether to turn the volume knob into a still shutter button or a video. Why? Because touch screens do not work well when immersed; I tried it just to see what would happen.
You will forget it, but it is natural, and sometimes you can even monkey with the screen control while the screen is above water. This inadvertent behavior usually caused me to inadvertently increase people or launch videos when I really wanted to take a photo. Well, just for this removal.
The quality of the underwater image has hit or miss. There is no focus in Aqua mode, so you have to adapt and adjust yourself around fixed focus. It will probably make you miss a few frames, but take enough and you will definitely get something to work with.
What makes things more frustrating is that the screen – and therefore the subject – is barely visible underwater, so there is little speculation as to where to aim active and how long to hold. Because the lens is at the top of the phone (left or right, if you hold it in landscape mode), it’s a bit more mental math until you get used to things.
Pressing the volume button for shooting is another movement you get used to and the reason the physical camera button comes in handy.
Cameras and video
Much of the concern for most bugs will be exactly how much you donate, moving from a 13MP Galaxy S4 camera to an 8MP Active build. Answer: Not really.
Prior to the release of the S4, an 8-megapixel shooter like this one downloaded sharp, colorful images taken outdoors automatically. You lose the original dual-shot GS4 capabilities that overlay the front-facing camera on the back, but it’s still a bit of a trick.
The more important point in my book is how much you care about Aqua mode to begin with, and if you’re a night photographer. There are plenty of modes to deal with on the go, night scenes and lots of other scenarios, but only automatic mode is weak in some indoor lighting situations, and usually unpleasant in low light scenarios, which is an area Samsung needs to keep working on. without requiring a change to another parameter.
Even if you have never used Aqua mode (this requires some thought), offering stills is still strong for photos, videos and self-shooting. If you love the look of the phone, I wouldn’t get one hanged in megapixels .
For more photos, compare the image quality of a smartphone in the CNET gallery with managed studio shots.
There is more good news in the S4 Active Communications department.
Audio sounded pretty good on my end when I tested the Galaxy S4 Active’s call quality on AT&T in San Francisco (GSM 850/900/1800/1900). Voices were mostly clear and volume sounded strong, when I ratcheted levels toward their upper limit.
Samsung’s typical on-screen controls give it an extra volume boost, but it also adds to the downsides. The voices were not crystal clear at all times and sounded a bit muddy with slight static at the edges; subscribers also didn’t sound as warm as on other phones. I did notice a bit of distortion from time to time, but no noise or buzz.
After all, my head tester said I came across a clear, if a little flat and distorted. My voice, he said, was particularly distorted at the peak of the volume, but he noted that otherwise I sounded very loud and natural without a background nebula. It evaluates the quality of B + or A- calls.
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Sample Call QualityListen now:
The Active Loudspeaker was another interesting story. The voices were loud at my end and it was convenient to listen. I didn’t hear any echoes, though it sounded clearer and clearer, perhaps more expressive than a voice over a standard earphone. Definitely, the quality of the processing was good, just different. I could talk comfortably.
For the most part, the sound communication was successful on the part of my tester as well, although milder symbology made it difficult to distinguish certain words. Example: When I said, “Your voice sounds processed,” my tester heard “Your voice sounds softer.” However, on the whole, my tester said that I sounded a little more clearly through the speaker, and this distortion seemed to dissipate.
Performance: Speed, processor, battery life
AT&T’s 4G LTE has been cutting it up in San Francisco, so I wasn’t surprised to see speeds in the double digits. There was a bit of a range, though, when I tested speeds using the diagnostic Speedtest.net app, with highs of 34Mbps down and 47 Mbps up in downtown San Francisco, and lows of 3.5Mbps down and about the same up.
In real life, websites load quickly, applications are installed in a short time, and in general, the data worked smoothly enough that I rarely thought about it. The same goes for the internal performance of the smartphone.
Like the original Galaxy S4, this Active runs on a 1.9 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 chipset, one of the fastest currently available for mobile phones. In fact, Eric Franklin led the S4 drop game graphics against other premium phones .
I did two diagnostic tests on S4 Active. Its Quadrant has a 12,364 average of five benchmarks compared to 12,194 for the HTC One. The Linpack multi-level score averaged 620 MFLOPS out of five tests compared to the 697 MFLOPS HTC One. This is not surprising; both phones use the same processor.
|Samsung Galaxy S4 Active (AT&T)|
|Download CNET mobile app (3.7MB)||13.3 seconds|
|Load up CNET mobile app||5.7 seconds|
|CNET mobile site load||5 seconds|
|CNET desktop site load||10 seconds|
|Boot time to lock screen||30.8 seconds|
|Camera boot time||2.4 seconds|
|Camera, shot-to-shot time||2 seconds, with auto-focus; also continuous mode|
The S4 Active comes with 16GB of internal storage, which translates to about 11GB available to you. In addition, there is a microSD card slot that can hold up to 64GB in external storage. You will get 2GB of RAM.
Battery life is estimated at 17 hours of talk time and about 13 days of standby time on a S4 Active 2600 mAh battery. Anecdotally, the battery operated throughout the day with fairly regular use, winning over nighttime charge. We will conduct deeper battery tests and update this with the results.
FCC tests measured a digital SAR of 0.61 watts per kilogram.
Who should buy it
One of five The Galaxy S4, Active variants are for sale for people who lead an active lifestyle, but I think it’s suitable for anyone. Who never bangs on a glass of water or gets cleaned from time to time in a dusty parking lot?
I also find that the physical design is compelling in itself: it has more personality than the available but, after all, the usual Galaxy S4.
Buy S4 Active if you:
-Are an AT&T customer
-Likes flashy design
– Be a phone with Galaxy S4 features
– Moderately on the street
-He wants a strong camera, but does not need top-of-the-line
Skip it if you:
-Aren’t an AT&T customer
– Requires a reliable phone that can withstand heat and long drops
-View a higher resolution camera