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Is the Galaxy S4 Active Better than the Original? Comparing the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S4 Active

July 14, 2013 - Written By Alexander Maxham

The Galaxy S4 Active is now in hand for review, which I’m working and should be available soon. We thought we’d take some time out of working on the review, and do a quick comparison between the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S4 Active since we do have both here. The Galaxy S4 launched in April (was announced in March) and has been available for a few months now. Last month, in London Samsung formally announced a few more members to the Galaxy S4 family. Which included the Galaxy S4 Mini, Galaxy S4 Zoom and the Galaxy S4 Active. So far, only the Galaxy S4 Active is available here in the States.

In this comparison, we’ll be taking a look at the displays, build quality, specs, performance and much more. So let’s dive right in and get this thing started.

Specs

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You can see the specs for the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S4 Active above. They are relatively the same as far as specs go. The only real difference is the Active has a LCD display and an 8MP camera instead of an AMOLED and a 13MP camera. Which is probably to keep the pricing down on the Galaxy S4 Active. What’s interesting is they are the same price on contract. So who would buy the Galaxy S4 from AT&T when the Galaxy S4 Active is right next to it?

Display

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As we showed you in the specs portion of this post, the Galaxy S4 Active sports a 1080p LCD display, compared to the 1080p AMOLED on the Galaxy S4. Now personally, I’m not a huge fan of the AMOLED displays. I am actually quite pleased by the LCD display on the Galaxy S4 Active. In the video at the end of the post you can see the two of them side by side (as well as in the image above). It might be hard to tell in the picture, but AMOLED makes the blacks, blacker, and the Touchwiz Blue colors are a bit brighter. But on the LCD display the whites are brighter and even whiter. So whether LCD or AMOLED is better? Well that’s all up to personal opinion. Both displays are pretty amazing, especially when I look back at my 720p IPS+ display on my Nexus 4. It makes me a little sad inside.

Design and Build Quality

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We’ve heard reports of Samsung being “worried” about their build quality. Well the Galaxy S4 Active feels much more premium. I’m also liking the three physical buttons instead of the one. Just having the physical home button made it look like a copycat of the iPhone. Even though we all know the Galaxy S4 knocks the iPhone out of the water. Despite the Galaxy S4 Active being waterproof and dust proof, the battery is still removable. But I don’t think there are any extended batteries available that would keep it waterproof. The Galaxy S4 Active I believe is still made of plastic, but it’s much more “premium” plastic, at least it feels like it. And on the back you’ve got the rubber pieces at the top and bottom, which look weird, since it’s two different colors, but it looks much different than the Galaxy S4 and every other Samsung device launched in the past year.

Performance

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I haven’t had the Galaxy S4 Active long, but it’s running the same processor as the Galaxy S4. It definitely seems to not have the occasional lag issue the Galaxy S4 had. On a side note, since the last OTA from Verizon, the Galaxy S4 hasn’t lagged at all for me. The Galaxy S4 Active is plenty powerful and probably powerful enough to do anything you want to do on a phone. It even works under water, not many other phones can do that.

Camera

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Galaxy S4 Active on the Left, Galaxy S4 on the Right

Let’s check out the differences between an 8MP and a 13MP camera. The 8MP camera on the Galaxy S4 Active sits at a 4:3 aspect ratio, just as the 13MP camera on the Galaxy S4 does. You can see the differences between the two, above.As you can see the Galaxy S4 Active looks a bit more natural, but as far as the quality goes, it’s pretty hard to tell the difference. Both pictures were taken with the flash on. We’ll have a better look at the camera in the full review.

Video

Final Thoughts

The Galaxy S4 Active is still rather “new” to me, so I’ll be putting it through its paces over the next week or so. So far I’m really liking it over the Galaxy S4. Not just the build quality, but the LCD display and even the color. I never really liked white phones, but the blue on the Galaxy S4 Active looks really nice. Don’t forget there’s an orange one out there somewhere too. So if you have a choice between the two devices, I would recommend the Galaxy S4 Active at this point. Since it is waterproof. Just be sure the battery cover is sealed before you drop it in the toilet or the pool.