Samsung Galaxy S 4 Google Play edition Review

July 11, 2013
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If you planned on picking up the Nexus 4 this summer but hesitated when you heard about Samsung's entry in to the newly minted "Google Play edition" lineup, you must have been thrown for a real loop when HTC brought the One on too. Here we've got not just one of the top hero machines on the market ready for "Nexus" glory, but two. Why would you choose one over the other? Let's have a peek.

Hardware

With the Samsung Galaxy S 4 you've got the newest and the sharpest in Samsung's efforts, bringing on a 5-inch 1080 x 1920 pixel Super AMOLED display with 441 PPI above a single physical home button and two capacitive buttons, one "back" button and the other a "menu" button. This device is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor, same as the USA-bound carrier editions as well as the HTC One.

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Up front you've also got a pane of Corning's Gorilla Glass 3 while the full dimensions of the machine ring in at 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm (5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 in). The device weighs in at 130 g (4.59 oz) and brings a 2 megapixel camera on its front as well as a 13 megapixel camera on its back.

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All of this machines sensors remain in place, the full extend of this units abilities changing with the Google Play edition sitting squarely in the software arena. This includes the device's built-in IR-blaster which, if you're sticking with stock Android from Google, has no current functionality.

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This leads us to believe there will be some changes to the way Google includes infrared abilities built-in to Android with the next edition of the software - but we shall see! Also up top and down below you've got microphone holes, allowing this device some sound reduction on the go.

Software

The software here is all Google's. This means you're no longer working with Samsung's full wave of TouchWiz abilities. This includes everything you see in our original Samsung Galaxy S 4 Review with basically no exceptions.

You will be able to work with Samsung Flip Covers, on the other hand, as said functionality is hardware-based. Just as the HTC One has that single little integration of a hardware feature inside the software, so to speak, with Beats Audio in its settings, so too do you see the Flip Cover bringing up the same "peekaboo" effect as the original.

Outside that you're all about the "Nexus" experience, Android Jelly Bean top to bottom. This device will also be updated with Google's software - from what we understand - just as often as the rest of the Nexus devices carried by the company. Or at least as often as the HTC One Google Play edition, anyway.

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Camera

With the Samsung Galaxy S 4 the company ushered in the Galaxy Camera age of smart devices. While the unique way at looking at the camera through the Samsung Galaxy Camera did seem excellent on its own, it wasn't exactly expected that the UI would be continued on the rest of the Galaxy smartphone line. But there it is.

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Here with the Google Play edition of the Galaxy S 4, you've got Google's vision instead. Here you're put in the same arena as the HTC One Google Play edition and the Nexus 4, using the same suite of features and abilities between you and your final photos and videos.

The hardware that sits inside your Samsung Galaxy S 4, on the other hand, provides a whole different set of ups and downs compared to this hardware's brethren. The Nexus 4 works with an 8-megapixel camera, so you've got a smaller image in the end - not sharper in either case, just smaller. With the HTC One, you've got an UltraPixel camera on your hands - and yes, that's hardware.

So here's the final result - and if you're looking for a definitive answer on which machine takes the best photos, you'll have the closest thing to an answer you can get here without comparing them pixel-for-pixel: while the Samsung Galaxy S 4 with Samsung's UI has a bevy of photo-taking features that one-up Google's vanilla Android, the HTC One's auto mode - with or without Sense - simply takes clearer snaps more often.

If you own one or the other, on the other hand, you'll not be dissatisfied with the result. These devices are meant to be high-quality cameras as much as they are to be communications machines - they all do their job extremely well.

Wrap-up

Here you'll find one of the two most powerful Google-carried Android phones on the market. While the HTC One works with the same processor under the hood, you've got a slightly larger display here (with slightly less densely-packed pixels as a result) and a much more plastic build. If the Nexus 4 is all about glass (back and front), and the HTC One is metal, the Samsung Galaxy S 4 Google Play edition is plastic.

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You'll find this machine working just as well as the HTC One Google Play edition as far as software goes, and not one machine or the other has really pulled ahead as far as daily usage goes. It's really a matter of personal preference. And the need for a $649 USD device when the Nexus 4 still rings in at $299. Of course the HTC One Google Play edition will cost you a 50 dollar bill less than the GS4, but who's counting?


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  • zak

    Actually, the IR Blaster does work in the Google Edition S4.

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