Samsung Galaxy S4 Active vs Samsung Galaxy S4

Vs Paul Briden 15:09, 5 Aug 2013

What's the difference between the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active?

One of the main side-effects of Samsung’s rapid brand expansion, which now includes a wide variety of devices under the ‘Galaxy S4’ moniker, is a hefty dollop of consumer confusion. What is the difference between the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S4 Active apart from the sporty suffix and bright colour schemes?

Samsung Galaxy S4: Key specs and features

A particular strong point of the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a component you’ll spend the majority of your time staring at – the display. It’s a 5-inch Super AMOLED panel with a Full HD 1920x1080 pixel resolution, chalking up a pixel density of 440 pixels-per-inch (ppi) for some incredibly sharp visual clarity. As is often the case with Samsung’s high-end Super AMOLED setups, colour and brightness are suitably robust and contrast is also strong. There’s virtually nothing to fault the image quality here.

At time of writing the only storage variant available in the UK is the 16GB version, but this still provides plenty of space for apps, games and multimedia, plus, for those who really love to carry vast music catalogues there’s also a microSD slot for cards up to 64GB.

Being a flagship phone there’s plenty to shout about when it comes to performance. Samsung has managed to optimise the now-thoroughbred Android platform (version 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, in this case) very well to its TouchWiz UI and it all works flawlessly on the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core chip. The processor is clocked at 1.9GHz with an Adreno 320 graphics processing unit (GPU) and 2GB of RAM, ensuring everything is smooth and seamless whether you’re running high-end games or flipping between apps on the multitasking carousel.

Samsung has made a fuss over the Galaxy S4’s ‘value added’ features which combine specific bits of software and hardware to do things you may not find on rival devices. While some may rate such features more highly than others, there’s no denying Samsung is offering a fairly unique set of phone interactions here.

These include things like Air View and Air Gesture, which allow you to activate certain shortcuts and interface elements without even touching the screen – you simply hover your finger over it. Smart Stay, Smart Pause and Smart Scroll also allow interactions simply by detecting where your eyes are looking at – Smart Stay means the display won’t power off as long as you’re looking at it while Smart Scroll lets you pan up and down webpages with your eye movement. Group Play lets you wirelessly link your phone up to other compatible Samsung Galaxy models to turn the handsets into a stereo or surround sound system when playing music.

Samsung’s S Health app is included and you can use it to monitor your exercise and diet.

Additional features are also associated specifically with the camera. The Galaxy S4’s camera setup is a 13-megapixel back-illuminated sensor (BSI) with LED flash, digital stabilisation, autofocus, face and smile detection, HDR, 1080p video and panoramic mode. It also supports voice commands. The front-facing secondary is rated at 2-megapixels.

The most prominent bonus features is dual-shot, which lets you capture images or video footage simultaneously with both the primary and secondary cameras, with the idea that you can still be included in the photo or video. As with the older Samsung Galaxy S3, the Galaxy S4 features good digital stabilisation, simultaneous video and image capture and a multishot mode. Multishot capabilities are further enhanced with Drama Shot, which lets you capture a series of images as a ‘motion capture’ photo. There’s also Sound and Shot to add audio to still pictures.

The Galaxy S4 is equipped with a 2,600mAh removable battery pack which should provide about a day’s use on a single charge, but handily you can also carry spares. Connectivity includes microUSB, 4G LTE, HSPA+ 3G, microSIM, Wi-Fi (Direct, Hotspot), DLNA, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS, MHL TV-Out and an infrared blaster allowing TV control.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active: Key specs and features

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active’s display sports the same 5-inch scale and Full HD resolution as the vanilla Galaxy S4 (1920x1080 pixels at 441ppi) but this time it’s TFT LCD technology rather than Super AMOLED. It’s just as sharp, bright and colourful as its stable-mate but you may find contrast isn’t as punchy and blacks aren’t going to be quite as deep.

A key component of the ‘Active’ label is the Galaxy S4 Active’s rugged properties – it’s IP67 certified meaning it’s water and dust resistant and can be submerged in water up to a depth of one metre. As well as being safely submergible in the wet stuff, the Galaxy S4 Active can also be used to capture images and video via the camera while underwater and it even has a dedicated ‘Aqua’ shooting mode. The touchscreen cannot be operated, but Samsung has made all the control buttons along the bottom of the display physical keys (rather than capacitive, as with the regular Galaxy S4) and various camera controls can be operated using these buttons.

The camera itself isn’t quite as highly rated as the vanilla Galaxy S4’s, clocking in at 8-megapixels. It’s still a BSI sensor with an LED flash, 1080p video, HDR, voice activation, face and smile detection and simultaneous video and still image capture. The front-facing secondary is a 2-megapixel setup with 1080p video.

In terms of performance, software and processor hardware, the Galaxy S4 Active uses the same combination of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core chip and Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with TouchWiz as the regular Galaxy S4. The processor is also still clocked at 1.9GHz with an Adreno 320 GPU and 2GB of RAM, so there should be no compromise on smoothness and fluidity in operation.

Onboard storage is still 16GB and you still have microSD capability for cards up to 64GB, while connectivity includes 4G LTE, HSPA+ 3G, microSIM, microUSB, Wi-Fi (Direct, Hotspot), DLNA, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS, MHL TV-Out and an infrared port. The battery pack is the same 2,600mAh unit found in the regular Galaxy S4 and is still removable.

Direct spec comparison: Shootout

Device Samsung Galaxy S4
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
Dimensions 136.6x69.8x7.9mm, 130g 139.7x71.3x9.1mm, 153g 
Display 5-inch Super AMOLED,1920x1080 pixels,440ppi 5-inch TFT LCD, 1920x1080 pixels, 440ppi
Camera 13-megapixel,LED flash,1080p video 8-megapixel,1080p video, Aqua mode
Storage 16GB/32GB/64GB,microSD up to 64GB (Only 16GB in UK currently) 16GB,microSD up to 64GB
Processor, RAM, Graphics 1.9GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600,2GB RAM, Adreno 320 GPU 1.9GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600,2GB RAM,Adreno 320 GPU
Operating System, Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
UI TouchWiz TouchWiz
Connectivity microUSB,Bluetooth,NFC,Wi-Fi,Wi-Fi Direct,Wi-Fi Hotspot,DLNA,4G,GPS,MHL,Infrared microUSB,Bluetooth,NFC,Wi-Fi,Wi-Fi Direct,Wi-Fi Hotspot,DLNA,4G,GPS,MHL,Infrared,IP67 certified water resistance
Battery 2,600mAh 2,600mAh

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