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Samsung Galaxy S4 deep-dive review: A real-world evaluation

JR Raphael | April 30, 2013
Some things in this world need no introduction. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is not one of those things.

I found voice quality on the Galaxy S4 unit I tested -- a Sprint-connected model -- to be A-OK: I could hear people loud and clear, and those with whom I spoke said my voice was easy to hear and no more annoying than usual.

The Galaxy S4 does support near-field communication (NFC) for contact-free payments and data exchanges. Despite some initial reports to the contrary, however, the phone does not provide native support for wireless charging; Samsung says a special back plate will be sold separately that can add such functionality to the phone, but the company is not providing any specific release date or price for that accessory as of now.

Cameras

Want megapixels? The GS4's got 'em: The phone's rear camera has a whopping 13 megapixels -- but as we've seen with the HTC One, more megapixels doesn't necessarily mean more quality.

The good news for the Galaxy S4 is that its camera is capable of capturing some great-looking images. The GS4's photos aren't always completely true to life in coloring, but in most lighting conditions, they're sharp-looking and well-suited for sharing or physical printing. To my eye, HTC seems to have a slight edge in overall quality, but the GS4 generally holds its own and maintains a close race.

The exception is photos taken in low-light environments: The Galaxy S4, unlike the One, struggles to capture much of anything in very dim conditions. The difference between the two phones in that regard is immense.

(You don't have to take my word for it: Click over to my Galaxy S4 vs. HTC One camera gallery to see side-by-side samples and compare for yourself.)

The high megapixel value means the GS4's images are large -- up to 4128 x 3096 pixels in size. Those dimensions allow you to zoom in closely to images; they also open the door to larger physical prints (the One's photos, in my experience, started showing subtle quality loss around the 8 x 10 mark when printed). On the downside, larger dimensions mean files take up more storage space and will take longer to transfer to cloud backup services or social networks.

Samsung's Galaxy S4 Camera app is easy to use and packed with features -- some of them interesting and some just plain silly. One mode allows you to create animated GIFs from photos, for instance, while another lets you take a series of photos and then pick the best face from each individual person in your group to get a final image in which everyone is smiling. Both options work surprisingly well, though it takes a little practice to get good at them.

 

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