galaxy-s4-active

Review: Samsung Galaxy S4 Active – The Phone You Can Go Swimming with ‘Just Because’

July 21, 2013 - Written By Alexander Maxham

There’s no doubt about it, the Galaxy S4 is a popular phone a huge success for Samsung. Even if some of us don’t particularly like the build quality or the fact that it looks similar to the Galaxy S3. A major reason why Samsung is so popular now is their marketing strategy. Last year, Samsung made the Galaxy S3 Mini to go along with the Galaxy S3 to accommodate those that like smaller phones. Well this year they took that a step farther. Not only is there the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S4 Mini, but there is also the Galaxy S4 Zoom and the Galaxy S4 Active. Today, we’re taking a look at the Galaxy S4 Active, which is their waterproof and dust proof device. Right now it’s only available on AT&T here in the US, and it appears to be an exclusive, unfortunately. The specs on the Galaxy S4 Active are a bit different from the Galaxy S4 so we’ll run through those real quick.

  • 5-inch 1920×1080 resolution LCD display
  • Snapdragon 600 processor clocked at 1.9GHz
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 8MP camera on the back, 2MP on the front
  • Android 4.2.2
  • 2600mAh battery
  • Waterproof and dustproof

Display

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The display on the Galaxy S4 Active is definitely better (in my opinion) than on the Galaxy S4. It’s a full HD LCD display instead of a full HD AMOLED display. If you take a look at my comparison post from last week, you’ll notice the differences, even though it’s subtle on camera. The display is pretty awesome to use, I definitely liked watching videos on this display. Not that it was bad on the Galaxy S4, its just better in my opinion with the Active and the LCD display.

Performance

The Galaxy S4 Active has the same chipset as the Galaxy S4, and it seems to lag less. Now don’t ask me how that’s possible. But it is worth noting that after receiving the latest OTA for the Verizon Galaxy S4, the device hasn’t lagged at all for me. The Galaxy S4 Active was able to withstand just about everything I threw at it. The Snapdragon 600 processor has continued to impress me, now I’m just waiting to see how great the Snapdragon 800 and the Exynos 5 Octa can perform.

Build Quality & Design

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I mentioned this briefly already, but I’m definitely a fan of the build quality and design of the Galaxy S4 Active. It is different than the build quality on the Galaxy S4 and it feels less cheap. It actually feels less slippery as well. I’m also a bigger fan of the 3 physical buttons instead of the one with two capacitive buttons. I also like the colors on this phone, it’s definitely one that you don’t see everyday.

Battery Life

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The battery life on the Galaxy S4 Active was about the same as the Galaxy S4. Considering the battery is the same size and the specs are relatively the same, that didn’t surprise me too much. As you can see in the image above I was getting on average, almost 2 days of battery life. Keep in mind that is on WiFi and not LTE, like the Galaxy S4 review was done on. So it’s relatively good battery life, but we always want better.

Benchmarks

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 For our benchmarks, we use Vellamo to test the Javascript and the HTML5 capabilities of the device. Which you can see the results of that benchmark above. Then we use Basemark X to test the GPU, which is shown below. The Galaxy S4 Active scored pretty well in both benchmarks, which wasn’t surprising at all.

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Software

The software is exactly the same as the software on the Galaxy S4, so I won’t do a full review on that. You can check out the Galaxy S4 review for more on that. There are some added features like the underwater mode for the camera. Other than that the software is still Android 4.2.2 and Touchwiz Nature UX. You get all your standard S Health, S Voice, S Translate and everything else that’s on the Galaxy S4.

On a side note, with it being waterproof you need to be sure that the battery cover is on there securely. If not you’ll run into some problems which I did when I first received the device. The camera will look very terrible. So always make sure the cover is on tight so water cannot seep in. Of course, you should keep that in mind for every phone even ones that aren’t waterproof.

Camera

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The Camera is pretty much the same as the Galaxy S4. You have the Beauty Face, Continuous Shot, Best face, Sound & Shot, and Night modes. I’ve found that the camera takes pretty nice shots, about as great as the Galaxy S4. Which you can also see that in my comparison article from last week as well. You can check out a few samples above and below of the camera and see how great or not so great the camera is in your opinion.

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The Good

  • Display: I really love this display. I just can’t say it enough. I really wish the Galaxy S4 came with this same screen. 
  • Battery Life: The battery life on this one is very nice. I can actually get through a full day with this phone and not worry about it dying. That’s something I can’t do on many other phones out there.
  • Waterproof: This is always a good thing, because as you know stuff happens. We drop our phone in the toilet, or in the pool or spill coffee on it. Now that doesn’t mean you have to throw your phone into a bag of rice, just wipe it off. It’s pretty damn cool.

The Bad

  • Exclusive to AT&T: There is really only one real thing I can find wrong with the Galaxy S4 Active, and that is it’s only available on AT&T. C’mon Samsung, you put your Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 2, and Galaxy S4 on all the major carriers. You couldn’t do it with the Galaxy S4 Active? 
  • 8MP Camera: Not really a bad thing, but if you want a 13MP camera, then you’re going to have to go with the Galaxy S4 as the Active only has a 8MP shooter. Not that it’s a bad shooter though.

Final Thoughts

My final thoughts? If you’re on AT&T, buy this phone. If you’re thinking of getting the Galaxy S4 and you’re on AT&T, buy the Galaxy S4 Active. It’s a great phone, and I might even go as far as to say it’s better than the Galaxy S4. I really enjoyed my time with this phone and really wish I could keep it longer. I’m really going to miss it, going back to my Nexus 4. Some people might like the AMOLED display better but personally, I love the LCD display and would choose this one over the Galaxy S4 anyday. Now if Samsung could just put the Active on every carrier instead of just AT&T. Hopefully the Galaxy S4 Zoom will hit a different carrier soon. That’s another variant that I’m definitely interested in.