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Samsung Galaxy S4 Family: Galaxy S4, S4 Active, S4 Mini & S4 Zoom Compared

grand master

 

 

Samsung has just added three new devices to the Galaxy S4 family: the Galaxy S4 Active, the Galaxy S4 Mini and the Galaxy S4 Zoom. The new devices are aimed at people who spend time outdoors, people who want a more portable smartphone and people who place a high value on photography.

 

The New Galaxy S4 Family

 

Galaxy S4 Family.jpgBack in April, Samsung released the Galaxy S4. Featuring a full HD display and new features such as ‘Dual Shot’ camera functionality, the Galaxy S4 was Samsung’s next-generation smartphone. Two months on, Samsung have just released three new devices which join the Galaxy S4 family. The new devices are:

 

  • Galaxy S4 Active. A rugged version of the Galaxy S4. The S4 Active is designed for people who spend a lot of time outdoors. As such, it’s waterproof and dustproof (the Active is IP67-certified).

  • Galaxy S4 Mini. A smaller and more portable version of the Galaxy S4. The S4 Mini shares many of the software features from the original Galaxy S4. However, it packs a slower processor and has a smaller and lower resolution display. The screen size has been reduced from 5-inches to 4.3-inches and the resolution has been reduced from full HD to quarter HD.

  • Galaxy S4 Family Front.jpgGalaxy S4 Zoom. A modified version of the Galaxy S4 Mini. Contains improved photography features. The S4 Zoom features a 16 megapixel sensor with a 10x optical zoom lens. It also has xenon flash capabilities and optical image stabilisation. This should ensure top-of-the-range photo quality.

Across the Galaxy S4 family, there are various differences between the individual devices. These differences range from everything on the outside of the device (e.g. the display & form factor) to everything inside the device (the processor and the camera for instance).

 

In this article, we take an in-depth look at the Galaxy S4 family. We’ll look at how the four devices compare in a range of categories such as the design and form factor, display, internal specifications and camera quality.

 

Design & Form Factor

 

One thing that’s common across all of the Galaxy S4 devices is their design language. Regardless of which Galaxy S4 device you choose to buy, it’ll undoubtedly look like and feel like a Samsung device. You won’t find a hardware keyboard anywhere in the Galaxy S4 family: all of the devices are fully-touchscreen operated. Nor will you find Samsung using premium materials such as metal to house their devices: all of the Galaxy S4 devices are constructed with a plastic case. This has some benefits in allowing for the back cover to be removed and hence the battery or memory card to be changed. However, it also means the Galaxy S4 and its sibling products don’t feel quite as premium as aluminium-backed devices from the likes of HTC and Apple (e.g. the HTC One and the iPhone 5).

 

Taking a closer look at the four devices, there are a number of design differences.

 

Galaxy S4 Active Colours.jpgThe Galaxy S4 Active (pictured right) stands out as it’s constructed with extra protection against dust and water ingress. Designed for people who spend a lot of time outdoors, the Galaxy S4 Active has received IP67 certification. Like the Xperia Z from Sony which has also received the same certification, IP67 means the device can be used underwater for up to 30 minutes at a time (maximum depths of 1m). In order to achieve its IP67 rating, the S4 Active has undergone a couple of design changes. Primarily, it’s been beefed up to be a little bulkier and a bit heavier. This makes the device slightly less portable. However, many people might be willing to accept the trade-off for a sturdier and firmer construction. There’s also a small design change on the front of the device: the menu and back button are accessed through hardware keys rather than through capacitive ones. Whilst this makes the design less clean, the hardware buttons should last longer in outdoor conditions.

 

The Galaxy S4 Zoom also stands out for having a form factor that’s radically different from the rest of the family. As the Zoom packs a camera with a 10x optical zoom lens, it’s by far the heaviest and thickest member of the Galaxy S4 family. The device has a thickness of 15.4mm: it’s almost twice as thick as the original Galaxy S4. It’s also considerably bulkier: at 208g its 60% heavier than the S4. The bulkiness of the S4 Zoom is a major downside – it means the device is probably suitable only for people with a heavy interest in photography.

 

 

Galaxy S4

Galaxy S4.jpg 

Galaxy S4 Active

 Galaxy S4 Active - Front.jpg

Galaxy S4 Mini

 Galaxy S4 Mini - Front.jpg

Galaxy S4 Zoom

 Galaxy S4 Zoom Front.jpg

Height

136.6mm

139.7mm

124.6mm

125.5mm

Width

69.8mm

71.3mm

61.3mm

63.5mm

Thickness

7.9mm

9.1mm

8.9mm

15.4mm

Weight

130g

153g

107g

208g

Rugged

No

Yes, IP67-certified

No

No

Colours

Black Mist
White Frost

Urban Grey
Dive Blue

Orange Flare

Black Mist
White Frost

Black Mist
White Frost

 

Winner: Galaxy S4.
For most people, the Galaxy S4 will have the optimum form factor. At 7.9mm and 130g, it’s suitably slim and suitably light for day-to-day use. For some people, the Galaxy S4 Active will also be an attractive option. Although there’s some additional weight and some extra bulk, it could be worth the trade-off for the peace of mind that your phone’s protected against water damage.

 

Display

 

Galaxy S4 Display.jpgThe Galaxy S4 has one of the best displays available on a smartphone today. Measuring 5-inches along the diagonal, the display has a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels (full HD). The pixels are packed together with a density of 441 pixels per inch. This means text and images look incredibly sharp on the display. As with the iPhone’s Retina display (326ppi), the eye will struggle to resolve individual pixels on the display. Only the HTC One has a display with an even higher pixel density (468ppi).

 

With the Galaxy S4 Active, Samsung has made a key change in the display technology. Although the size, resolution and pixel density of the display remain exactly the same, Galaxy S4 Active uses an LCD display rather than an organic LED display. This offers some benefits such as a brighter display (improved outdoor visibility), more realistic colours and reduced battery consumption. The downsides are smaller viewing angles, reduced contrast ratios and less eye-popping images. Whilst the jury is still out on whether LCD displays or organic LED displays are better, the general consensus is that organic LED displays are more visually impressive. This has made them an essential feature for many Samsung fans.

 

With the Galaxy S4 Mini and the Galaxy S4 Zoom, Samsung has shrunk the size of the display to 4.3-inches. The screen resolution has also been reduced to 960x540 pixels (qHD). Compared to the original Galaxy S4, there’s been a four-fold reduction in screen resolution. The pixel density drops to 256 pixels per inch. Whilst it’s still a decent display, it’s far short of the eye-popping display on the original Galaxy S4.

 

 

Galaxy S4

Galaxy S4.jpg

Galaxy S4 Active

 Galaxy S4 Active - Front.jpg

Galaxy S4 Mini

Galaxy S4 Mini - Front.jpg 

Galaxy S4 Zoom

Galaxy S4 Zoom Front.jpg 

Display Size

5.0-inches

5.0-inches

4.3-inches

4.3-inches

Resolution

1920x1080 pixels

1920x1080 pixels

960x540 pixels

960x540 pixels

Technology

Organic LED

LCD

Organic LED

Organic LED

Pixel Density

441 pixels per inch

441 pixels per inch

256 pixels per inch

256 pixels per inch

Subpixel Arrangement

PenTile (2 subpixels per pixel)

RGB (3 subpixels per pixel)

RGB (3 subpixels per pixel)

RGB (3 subpixels per pixel)

 

Winner: Galaxy S4.
A narrow win for the Galaxy S4. The S4 Active is close behind in second place. Both the S4 and the S4 Active have incredibly high-resolution screens. With a full HD resolution and a pixel density of 441 pixels per inch, images and text look sharp on both displays. The Galaxy S4 narrowly beats the S4 Active due to its use of an organic LED display. This offers better contrast and more saturated colours that pop out from the display. It’s worth noting that the display on the S4 Mini and the S4 Zoom has just one-quarter of the resolution of the display on the S4 and the S4 Active. This is a major downgrade.

 

Processor & Internals

 

Looking inside each of the four devices, the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S4 Active are clearly the high-end devices in the S4 family. Both of them feature a high-end processor that’s quad-core and clocked at 1.9GHz. Both of the devices also feature 2GB of RAM.

 

The Galaxy S4 Mini and the Galaxy S4 Zoom have slightly downgraded processors. The S4 Mini has a 1.7GHz dual-core processor whereas the S4 Zoom has a 1.5GHz dual-core processor. Both devices feature 1.5GB of RAM.

 

 

Galaxy S4

Galaxy S4.jpg

Galaxy S4 Active

 Galaxy S4 Active - Front.jpg

Galaxy S4 Mini

 Galaxy S4 Mini - Front.jpg

Galaxy S4 Zoom

 Galaxy S4 Zoom Front.jpg

Processor

1.9GHz quad-core

1.9GHz quad-core

1.7GHz dual-core

1.5GHz dual-core

Processor Type

Snapdragon 600

Snapdragon 600

Snapdragon 400

Exynos 4210

RAM

2GB

2GB

1.5GB

1.5GB

 

Winner: Galaxy S4 & Galaxy S4 Active.
If you’re looking for high-end performance, you’ll get it from the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S4 Active. Both devices feature an identical quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM. Whilst the S4 Mini and the S4 Zoom have slightly slower processors, they’re also pushing far fewer pixels on the display. This should help them out and will reduce the real-world difference in performance.

 

Camera

 

S4 Zoom Mirror.jpgIn terms of photo quality, the S4 Zoom (pictured) is the clear run-away winner. It features the largest sensor amongst all of the devices in the Galaxy S4 family. Spanning an area of 28.2 mm2, the large sensor means the S4 Zoom can collect much more light than your typical cameraphone could. Particularly in dark surroundings, this can make a huge difference. Photos taken on an overcast day or indoors should look much clearer, crisper and less noisy.

 

The S4 Zoom also boosts low-light photography by packing a xenon flash bulb. Compared to an LED flash, a xenon flash is around one thousand times brighter. This means you can illuminate subjects that are further away. A xenon-powered flash is also much faster. It lasts for just 1ms compared to 100ms for an LED flash. Because a xenon flash is much faster, it allows you to “freeze” the action within a photograph.

 

Other features on the S4 Zoom include a 10x optical zoom lens (great for taking photos of distant objects) and optical image stabilisation (to reduce camera shake and blurring).

 

Looking beyond the S4 Zoom, the remaining devices in the S4 family still have great photography features. Between them, there’s little to say. The Galaxy S4 has a 13 megapixel sensor whereas the S4 Active and S4 Mini have an 8 megapixel sensor. This is largely meaningless: eight megapixels is already enough for a good quality A4-sized print. Unless you’re planning to print your photos at an incredibly large size, there’s almost no practical benefit in going beyond 8 megapixels.

 

All of the devices in the Galaxy S4 range have Dual Camera and Sound & Shot functionality. See our review of the Galaxy S4 for more information.

 

 

Galaxy S4

Galaxy S4.jpg

Galaxy S4 Active

 Galaxy S4 Active - Front.jpg

Galaxy S4 Mini

Galaxy S4 Mini - Front.jpg 

Galaxy S4 Zoom

 Galaxy S4 Zoom Front.jpg

Resolution

13 megapixels

8 megapixels

8 megapixels

16 megapixels

Sensor Size

16.5mm2

16.5mm2

16.5mm2

28.2 mm2

Flash

LED Flash

LED Flash

LED Flash

Xenon Flash

Zoom

Digital Zoom

Digital Zoom

Digital Zoom

10x Optical Zoom

Optical Image Stabilisation

No

No

No

Yes

 

Winner: Galaxy S4 Zoom.
With features such as 10x optical zoom, a large sensor, xenon flash capabilities and optical image stabilisation, the Galaxy S4 Zoom is the clear winner if you’re looking for high-quality photographs. However, there are some major trade-offs to be made in choosing the S4 Zoom. The main ones are the size and the weight of the device. Unless you’re taking photos on an incredibly regular basis, the extra camera features are unlikely to be worth the weight.

 

Jelly Bean.jpgOperating System

 

All four devices are running on a modified version of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. This is the mobile operating system from Google. On top of the basic Android experience, Samsung has added the TouchWiz user interface. This has a variety of custom software features such as Multi-Window (the ability to run two apps side-by-side), Smart Stay (the screen stays on whilst you’re looking at it) and S Health (a suite of health monitoring applications).

 

 

Galaxy S4

Galaxy S4.jpg

Galaxy S4 Active

 Galaxy S4 Active - Front.jpg

Galaxy S4 Mini

 Galaxy S4 Mini - Front.jpg

Galaxy S4 Zoom

 Galaxy S4 Zoom Front.jpg

Operating System

Android 4.2 Jelly Bean

Android 4.2 Jelly Bean

Android 4.2 Jelly Bean

Android 4.2 Jelly Bean

 

Winner: Tie.
There’s little in it - all four devices are running the exact same version of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. If we had to call a winner for this round, we’d narrowly give it to the original S4. As it’s the most popular device from the four, it’s the most likely to receive future software updates first.

 

Storage

 

Samsung provides 16GB of internal storage on the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S4 Active. Over the past month, Samsung has come in for criticism from the BBC’s Watchdog programme. This was because the Galaxy S4 contained just 9.2GB of user-accessible storage (Samsung’s pre-loaded software took up the other 6.8GB). With the Galaxy S4 Active, Samsung has boosted the user-accessible storage area to 11.2GB. Both devices support micro-SD cards of up to 64GB.

 

The Galaxy S4 Zoom and Galaxy S4 Mini have 8GB of internal storage. Of that 8GB, a total of 5GB is available to the user for their own applications, photos, videos and music files. Both devices support additional storage through micro-SD cards of up to 64GB.

 

 

Galaxy S4

Galaxy S4.jpg

Galaxy S4 Active

Galaxy S4 Active - Front.jpg 

Galaxy S4 Mini

 Galaxy S4 Mini - Front.jpg

Galaxy S4 Zoom

 Galaxy S4 Zoom Front.jpg

Internal Storage

16GB

16GB

8GB

8GB

User Available Storage

9.2GB

11.2GB

5GB

5GB

MicroSD Expansion

Up to 64GB

Up to 64GB

Up to 64GB

Up to 64GB

Cloud Storage

50GB Dropbox

50GB Dropbox

50GB Dropbox

50GB Dropbox

 

Winner: Galaxy S4 Active.
A narrow win for the Galaxy S4 Active: it has the largest amount of user-available storage. In reality, this isn’t a big deal as all of the devices allow you to add an additional 64GB of storage via the micro-SD card slot.

 

Battery Life

 

Both the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S4 Active have a 2,600mAh battery. Whilst real-world usage times are yet to be published, LCD displays typically use less power under normal viewing conditions.

 

 

Galaxy S4

Galaxy S4.jpg

Galaxy S4 Active

 Galaxy S4 Active - Front.jpg

Galaxy S4 Mini

 Galaxy S4 Mini - Front.jpg

Galaxy S4 Zoom

 Galaxy S4 Zoom Front.jpg

Battery

2,600mAh (removable)

2,600mAh (removable)

1,900mAh (removable)

2,330mAh (removable)

 

Price

 

As of July 1st, all four devices are available in the UK. Being the two high-end devices, you’ll typically need to pay a bit more for the original S4 and for the S4 Active. The S4 Mini is the cheapest of the four devices. It’s available for around £390 SIM-free.

 

 

Galaxy S4

Galaxy S4.jpg

Galaxy S4 Active

Galaxy S4 Active - Front.jpg 

Galaxy S4 Mini

Galaxy S4 Mini - Front.jpg 

Galaxy S4 Zoom

 Galaxy S4 Zoom Front.jpg

Price

Approx. £450

Approx. £490

Approx. £390

Approx. £430

 

All four devices can be purchased SIM free. You can save substantial amounts of money by buying the device upfront and using with one of our giffgaff goodybags.

 

Conclusions

 

In this article, we’ve taken a look at the Galaxy S4 family. There are now four devices that bear the Galaxy S4 name: the original S4, the S4 Active, the S4 Mini and the S4 Zoom.

 

For most people, the Galaxy S4 will probably remain as the device of choice. It has a sleek design, an impressive display and high-powered specifications to match. Whilst the 13 megapixel camera doesn’t have optical zoom capabilities, it still gives good picture quality in the majority of cases.

 

For people who spend a lot of time outdoors, the S4 Active has many benefits over the original S4. It’s waterproof, dustproof and features an LCD display which gives better outdoor visibility. The main compromises are in extra bulk and extra weight. However, many people would gladly accept this trade-off for the peace of mind of having a waterproof phone. The S4 Active will cost you an additional £40.

 

For someone who’s looking for a more portable device, the S4 Mini is the device Samsung wants you to buy. That said, it’s worth noting that many of the specifications differ between the S4 Mini and the original S4. The screen is four times lower resolution, the processor is only dual-core and the internal storage has been sliced to just 8GB. The S4 Mini should be considered as a mid-range device rather than as a smaller version of the S4. With the SIM-free price coming in at almost £400, it’s arguably better to pay a little bit more and to go for the real thing.

 

For fans of photography, the S4 Zoom has arguably the best camera on any smartphone. With features such as 10x optical zoom and xenon flash, you’ll get much better photos than you will on any other smartphone. The problem is that there are a large number of trade-offs: the S4 Zoom is far thicker and much heavier than its siblings. It also has an unimpressive display. Unless you really need the camera capabilities provided by the S4 Zoom, you’d probably be better off with the original Galaxy S4.

 

Your Thoughts…

 

In this article, we’ve looked at the devices in the Galaxy S4 family. What do you think of the S4 Active, the S4 Mini and the S4 Zoom? Are you tempted by any of Samsung’s new devices? Which version of the S4 is your personal favourite? We’d love to hear your thoughts… please drop us a comment below and let us know what you think!

 

Ken Lo writes about mobile technology and the mobile industry at Ken's Tech Tips.

7 Comments
ace of spades
Fantastic review, detailed and informative. Thanks! As to which one - I would probably go for the Zoom myself as I'm a bit of a photography buff so it would save me from having to take my compact camera with me as well as my phone. But I may wait for the S5 Zoom to get a better all round package.
pupil

Wow, great review. Everything you need to know about the Galaxy S4 family. Thanks.

veteran

Not enough to make me upgrade from the S3.

Thanks for the blog.Smiley Happy

seer

definitely the Active is the best in my opinion

i'm not into physical buttons, i dont like the Samsung design in general

 

but out of them, if given the choice, i'd pick the Active

nice but nothing new tbh
enigma

Thanks for the blog, still think the S4 (original) is the best from the family, but nice to see it all reviewed...I think the Active S4 will be useful to a lot of people too. Not so sure about the Zoom though? Most avid photographers will stick to a "proper" camera (more advanced optics and functions), whilst the rest of us are probably fine with the S4 as a camera when we're out and about. Smiley Tongue

enigma
Fantastic reviews of the Samsung S4 range, well done @kenlo.