Samsung Galaxy S4 Active


The Korean manufacturer has given us a phone that, with its generous covering of rubber, really can take the rough with the smooth – and you can even take it for a swim and take pictures underwater as well

Ever wanted a Samsung Galaxy S4, but were worried about damaging it? How about a waterproof and dustproof version? That’s the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a great phone but its flimsy plastic case may lead you to believe it won’t withstand day-to-day abuse. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is an S4 in a tough body.

There are few similarities between the Active and the S4. Sure there’s a large touchscreen and three buttons below, but the capacitive touch buttons are hardware buttons –
which is good if you hope to control the phone underwater.

Top and bottom are two rubber bumpers protecting the phone from shocks such as being dropped. It does look industrial strength with its metal bolts, but may not survive too many falls onto concrete.

The biggest difference between the Active and the S4 is the Active’s generous use of rubber, covering all the ports such as the Micro USB socket.

Remove the rubber cap from the Micro USB port and the phone will warn you thanks to some sensors inside the phone’s chassis, as this will affect its water resistance. The 3.5mm headphone jack remains exposed and has probably been waterproofed inside.

The Active’s innards are the same as the Galaxy S, with the powerful 1.9GHz quad-core processor.

You can tell the Active is powerful as there is no lag on the screen and 3D gaming on games such as N.O.V.A 3 run at around 30 frames per second.

With power comes compromise. The 2,600mAh battery just isn’t big enough to get a full day’s use out of the device. You are likely to run out of juice after around six hours of consistent playtime which is two hours less than Samsung’s quoted time of eight hours.

If you’re used to bright beautiful displays on Samsung devices, you won’t be disappointed by the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active. The five-inch display has a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. This is full HD, so watching video on the device is a feast for the eyes.

The LCD TFT (thin film transistor) screen is not as bright as the AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) display on the S4. TFT displays also lack rich blacks such as you’ll find on the Nokia Lumia 1020 handset, with its ClearBlack technology.

We didn’t have too many complaints with the display. But it just didn’t feel as immersive as the Galaxy S4’s screen.

The Galaxy S4 Active features a slightly lower resolution sensor capable of eight-megapixel images, compared with the 13 megapixels of the Galaxy S4.

The megapixel race is not a deal-breaker. There are other variables to take into account such as lens quality and sensor size.

The Galaxy S4 Active’s camera has these bases covered – the image quality is astounding, with colours looking true to life, although the images it took were a little dark.

It didn’t capture the same level of detail as some beefier cameras, or its S4 brother, but it was still an acceptable camera.

Samsung intends the Active to be used for underwater photos as well. However, you won’t be able to operate the touchscreen underwater, and will need to switch to Aqua mode before you dive in, which enables you to control the device’s cameras using the volume buttons.

Full article in Mobile News issue 551 (November 4, 2013).

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  1. Unfortunately the S4 Active is treated by Samsung as the poor younger brother of the S4. With updates coming out some 2 month+ after the updates for the regular product. Really not worth producing a fancy product if you’re not prepared to support it properly 🙁