Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S4
1 Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S4
Samsung launched its flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone to much pomp and spectacle last night at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Often, such over-the-top theatrics could mask a lack of substance underneath. But that's not the case with the Galaxy S4. We went hands-on with the S4 at the New York event, and came away impressed with the innovative and well-integrated software and hardware enhancements that will keep Samsung well-ahead of its competition.
The first thing to note about the S4 is that it's practically identical in footprint and weight to its predecessor, and yet it's thinner and crams a slightly larger display into that space than on the S3. The S4 measures 13.5 by 7cm (5.38 by 2.74 in), just 1mm (0.04 in) narrower than the S3 - and a notable 11mm (0.43 in) narrower than the Galaxy Note II. The S4 is also very marginally lighter than the S3.
Overall, the phone felt comfortable to handle. Where the Samsung Galaxy Note II is nigh impossible to balance in one hand for typing, not so with the S4. It's weight and dimensions make it light enough to hold in one hand without any noticeable impact, yet large enough to get a satisfying display of text and photos.
The phone's design is a little more squared off around the sides than the S3, but it still felt good in our hands. The back remains a polycarbonate plastic material, but it felt more sturdy than the predecessor, with a slight textured patterning that gave the phone a moderately classier look.
One very noticeable dfference is the larger screen size on the S4. The phone's Super AMOLED screen measures a comfortable 5.0 inches, a satisfying 0.2-inch bump over the S3. The resolution is better, too: 1920-by-1080 pixels, and 441 pixels per inch, a notable step up over the Galaxy S3's Super AMOLED 1280-by-720 pixels and 306 ppi. We could see a distinct difference in the image quality between the two: The S4 looked sharper and crisper to our eyes, on text as well as images. But the distinctions were less clear when compared with the larger Galaxy Note II.
The new model uses a PenTile AMOLED display, the same type as on the S3 before it. A PenTile display arranges the display's subpixels as red, green, blue, green, an arrangement that helps counter the fact that blue subpixels often degrade faster on AMOLED displays. It also accounts for the display not appearing as crisp as an RGB display, such as the one found on the Galaxy Note II.
Indeed, we saw this when viewing a photo on the new S4 compared with the Note II. We noticed some minor differences in color and sharpness on our own photo. The Note II's image appeared slightly sharper, but the S4 had more balanced skin tones.
With the new Adapt display mode enabled, the differences were even more pronounced. This adaptive display setting automatically adjusts the contrast and brightness of the display depending upon the content you're viewing, optimizing based on whether you're watching a video, looking at an image, or reading a Web page or book, for example. On the S4, the Adapt display feature is more universally applied than on the Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet. In the Note 8.0's reading mode that mode is strictly optimized for reading apps and also adjusts for color temperature.
Ultimately, further testing will be necessary under controlled conditions and with the final, shipping S4 to determine how the different settings impact how images look on the display. Among the other display options now available are Dynamic, Standard, Professional Photo (Adobe RGB), and Movie.
User interface and software
Gesture navigation first gained mainstream traction with Microsoft's Xbox Kinect. Then gestures moved into televisions and then to PCs, for example Sony's Vaio E-series. Through it all, we've heard talk about integrating gestures into smartphones and tablets - and now that becomes a reality in the Galaxy S4.
We tested the gesture navigation in the Gallery app, where we navigated images simply with the forward or backwards swipe of a hand. In practice, we found the sensors a bit too sensitive, requiring precision and proximity to work smoothly. More often than not it felt like there was lag, or our swipe wasn't registered. Perhaps that will still be tweaked in time for the U.S. launch coming later in April. Ultimately, as nifty as this feature may seem, Samsung's going to have to offer up some training to walk folks through which apps support gestures, and what those gestures are (for example, you can also swipe in the browser to change among open Web pages, and swipe to answer an incoming call, neither of which we tested).
The Smart Scroll feature lets you scroll through content such as webpages by tilting the phone slightly into the corresponding direction. We did not get a chance to test feature yet but it seemed to work well in the Samsung demo. Smart Pause, meanwhile, detects if you've taken your face away from the screen during playback, and if so, it pauses the action for you. Nifty in its implementation, and its function.
Also new is Air View, a feature that first was announced on this spring's Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet. There, Air View lets you use the tablet's S Pen to hover over information in a supported app, gaining a shortcut to paying or getting further information. For example, in Flipboard, you could hold the pen over a category and get a preview of the headlines. On the S4, which also comes with Flipboard, you can now use your finger to do these actions. You can also use your finger to draw directly on the screen using an included app like S Memo, just as you'd use the S Pen on the Note II. For both actions, we found our fingers less precise than using the S Pen on the Galaxy Note 8.0; but, our fingers got the job done without the albatross of a pen.
The S4 phone actually borrows heavily from software elements found in the Note 8.0 tablet, which was only just introduced in February, and will be available in Q2 2013. Multi-window provides a scrollable list of supported apps (apps like email, gallery, Gmail, Internet browser, maps, messaging, S Memo, Talk, and YouTube). Long hold the back button to see the fly-out menu, then tap and drag one app, then the second app. You could technically choose to have three things going at the same time, if you were to overlay the popup player as well.
Entirely unique to the S4 phone are the array of features around health and fitness. We liked how the apps for these features were integrated, taking advantage of the new ensors built-into the phone - including ones for temperature and humidity.
In general, we liked many of the tweaks to the software, and many of the included apps - be they for health tracking or TV viewing or scanning business cards. On the whole, these enhancements collectively appealed; the real proof, however, will lie in how well these features all work with a device in the real world.
|Waffles with fruits by Coolinarka|
from Food photography (desserts)
|Vestrahorn Frozen Reflection by Will B Milner|
from Ice cold
We got our hands on the first zoom lens available for Fujifim's new digital medium format system. Check out the samples
As summer really gets going over here in the Northern hemisphere, the team at Imaging Resource has put together a list of the best cameras for backpacking.
The Ukrainian Parliament banned statues of Lenin in 2015. Two years later, the monuments no longer adorn public buildings or stand watch over town squares, but they're still there.
If you had to choose one camera to bring along for the ultimate West coast road trip, what would it be? DPR's Sam Spencer choose the X100F. Read more
The a9 boasts impressive capability. As more examples of it in practice pour in, Sony's claims hold up. Watch the a9 track and maintain focus on a rapidly approaching basketball.
Last week, more than a million tonnes of Californian coastline slid into the ocean, taking part of Highway 1 with it. Check out the remodeling in photos taken before and after the landslide.
Even after eighteen months of reviewing the latest, greatest, shiniest and must-buy-me-est new gear, DPReview staffer Carey Rose has continued to use older DSLR cameras for his freelance work. But now, that might be changing. Read more
Sony is the world's leading mirrorless camera brand but remains third for ILCs overall, it's said in a presentation to investors. A focus on high value cameras and lenses should boost operating income, it says. Read more
It's nicknamed the 'Cycloptic Mustard Monster,' and is a 3D printed medium format camera. Read more
The new NanGuang LED lights are battery powered and come with accessories including filters and diffusers.
Have you been telling yourself, "Hey, I really need one of those 8K displays?" A video about Dell's new 8K monitor shows you what to expect. Is it really that much better?
Tamara Lackey, a Nikon ambassador USA and pro shooter, discusses embracing self-consciousness as a means of connecting with subjects.
There's a new Spiderman movie coming out and the poster been generating a lot of online chatter. Mostly about how it looks like the creation of a fevered teenager that just discovered Photoshop.
An honest defense of the system's merits, with photos as proof.
Copyright disputes are no fun at all. 'Binded' is a new startup that aims to simplify the process of registering - and enforcing - copyright for photographers. Read more
Not everyone wants to pay a premium for a long zoom camera. Thankfully, there are many reasonably priced cameras available, though they won't offer the same image quality as enthusiast models. In this updated roundup we look at big zoom cameras with more consumer-friendly price tags. Read more
Think Tank Photo has updated two of its popular bag lines with improvements to functionality. Read more
We’ve all seen Bob Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo, but there's another.
The sample footage looks good.
It will automatically pick the best camera settings depending on shooting conditions. It even promises enhanced functionality for your camera, like exposure and focus stacking. It already supports many cameras from Canon, Fuji, Nikon and Sony. Read more
As if $13,950 wasn’t enough to pay for a special edition lens, the Leica Store in San Francisco is offering a prototype of said lens for $24,995. Read more
Make those old photos disappear without deleting them forever.
Firmware updates enable 10 fps shooting with adapted A-mount lenses, and faster startup times and better compatibility for 20 fps shooting when using native lenses on the a9.
Fujifilm has released firmware updates for its camera models X-T2, X-Pro2, GFX 50s, X-T20, X100F and X-T1 and updates to three of its software products.
A 22 year-old Romanian photographer uses his DJI Phantom 4 drone to capture unique perspectives of the city where he now lives.
What's it like to ride the waves with champion surfer Kelly Slater? This VR video from Teton Gravity Research gives you a taste.
When Nikon released the full-frame D3 in 2007, it changed the professional photography industry. In this week's Throwback Thursday, Barney remembers a legend. Read more
The new stuff should have better red hues, improved sensitivity and finer grain - but don't worry - will still shift blues to green, greens to purple and yellows to pink.
Ricoh has introduced a new rugged compact camera with a 16MP CMOS sensor, 28-140mm lens, 2.7" LCD and built-in LED macro lights. Read more
This compact drone can shoot HD video using a 2-axis stabilized 12MP camera. Read more