make money with your web site

Samsung Galaxy S4 In-Depth Review

After months of speculation, the Samsung Galaxy S4 has finally been unveiled at an event in New York. With a larger screen, faster processor and range of new features, it's the company's new flagship smartphone.

As such, it's got more power and more up-to-date features than the iPhone 5 and pre-empts the upcoming iPhone 5S. We had people present at the launch to give us the lowdown on the phone and help us find out if it matches up to the hype. 

The first thing to note is that the Galaxy S4 looks similar to the Samsung Galaxy S3, and builds on that phone's looks. The Galaxy S4 is a little bigger, thanks to its 4.99in screen, but not as much as you might think: at 136.6x69.8x7.9mm, it's roughly as wide as the S3, but around 5mm longer, and around 1mm slimmer.

The result is the Galaxy S4 feels good in the hand and every bit as comfortable to hold as the S3. It's certainly not us unwieldy as the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

There are a few notable changes between the phones' designs, including a metallic banding running around the edge of the Galaxy S4. Clearly, Samsung felt the need not to mess too much with a winning formula, but we would have personally loved to have seen an aluminium chassis, as on the HTC One, rather than the plastic used here.

The 4.99in Super AMOLED display is gorgeous. It has a Full HD, 1,920x1,080 resolution with a high pixel density of 441ppi. While that's certainly impressive, the HTC One has the same resolution but a smaller screen, so a higher pixel density of 468ppi and the Sony Xperia Z has the same size screen and resolution, so has a matching 441ppi. What's important is that on all three phones everything looks pin-sharp and there's no danger of spotting individual pixels.

It’s worth noting that you can't directly compare the Galaxy S4 to LCD-based Full HD handsets, such as the HTC One. This is because Samsung continues to use a Super AMOLED display with a PenTile pixel arrangement. Simply put, this means there are only two coloured sub-pixels per pixel instead of three. The reduced colour resolution is made up for by the excellent contrast and blacks that AMOLED provides (as well as lower power usage), but it’s a matter of taste which screen type you prefer. When we saw the phone we found its screen bright and colourful, but we'll save a full opinion for when we can do a proper side-by-side comparison.

As expected, the screen can be operated just by hovering your finger over it, giving rise to two new features. Air View lets you hover over content, such as an email or photo, to preview it without having to open it. Air Gesture lets you change tracks, scroll through a web page or answer a call with a wave of your hand. We haven't had chance to try the system out yet, but this should make fine-control of the touchscreen operating system that little bit easier.
Gorilla Glass 3 helps make the phone durable, although we'd still recommend a screen protector or case if you're going to keep your phone in a pocket with sharp items, such as keys.

The phones at the event were kitted out with Exynos octo-core processors running at 1.6GHz. It's not strictly an eight-core phone, though, as it uses ARM's big.LITTLE architecture. The eight cores are divided in two, with four high-power, complex cores to do the heavy lifting and four smaller, power-efficient cores for more mundane tasks. The S4's architecture is designed so that the phone can switch seamlessly between the different types of core.

However, at the launch Samsung confirmed that the UK version of the phone will have a measly four cores. The good news is that the UK S4's Snapdragon 600 chipset will run at a faster 1.9GHz, which will hopefully go some way to making up for the cores shortfall.

The Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean OS certainly felt fast on the phone and web browsing was similarly as slick. We can't imagine that things will get worse with the UK version of the phone, but we'll have to save final judgement until we get our hands on a production model.

The battery on the S4 is an impressive 2,600mAh. That's around 500mAh bigger than the S3's battery and bigger than the vast majority of batteries used in smartphones today. With such a big battery it shouldn't have any problems providing all-day power.

The camera has been upgraded to a 13-megapixel model. It has a Backside-illuminated (BSI) sensor for better low-light sensitivity, although there's also a flash for when it's really dark. We took a few test shots in the dark demo hall and they looked fine on-screen, but actual quality tests need to wait until we have a test handset.

At the front is a 2-megapixel BSI camera. While it can be used for video calling, it can also be used with Samsung's Dual Camera mode, which lets you superimpose a shot from the front camera on the footage from the rear camera. In practice, this means that you can have your floating head, bordered by a postage-stamp frame imposed on the picture taken by the main camera. It feels a little gimmicky.

The front camera also serves a purpose in controlling the phone with Smart Pause. This technology knows when you're looking at the screen so it can, for example, pause a video when you turn your head and look away. As soon as you look back, the video continues. It's a neat way of using the cameras for more than just still images and video.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 will be available in versions with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB of storage, although it's expandable by up to 64GB via the microSD card slot. Prices for the models haven't been announced yet, but it may well work out much better value to buy the 16B or 32GB models, then upgrade storage as and when you need it.

Samsung has said that the Galaxy S4 will get security tracking built in. This works in a similar way to Find My iPhone, letting you track a stolen handset online.

However, while Apple's implementation can be wiped out by resetting the phone, Samsung has got something more secure up its sleeves. By partnering with Absolute, which makes the Computrace laptop-tracking software, Samsung has got firmware persistence technology built into the Galaxy S4. In other words, the tracking software sits in main firmware and so it can survive a full hardware reset.

Security tracking is part of the Knox security suite, which is designed to make the platform more secure. It's aimed at business users, where it will also provide a business and personal side of the phone, so that you only have to carry one device. The work mode can be locked down and managed by your company, while the personal side is yours to do with as you will; importantly, both sides are completely independent.

We're in the process of finding out if the security tracking feature will be available to consumers, or if it will only be available to business users.

As well as what comes with the phone, Samsung is also pushing the phone's lifestyle aspect with a selection of Galaxy S4 accessories. These range from health accessories that can monitor how active you are and your weight and heart rate, to a gamepad that you clip the phone into. There's also a wireless charging dock, so you can charge your phone simply by laying it on the charging pad.

You'll still have to wait a while to get your hands on the phone; Samsung's official release date for the Galaxy S4 is 26th April, and this assumes there are no manufacturing problems, such as HTC is fighting with its HTC One. Official pre-orders for the phone are now open, as of 28th March.

Best 802.11ac Routers to Choose From

The latest 802.11ac standard is the latest and arguably the most anticipated Wi-Fi standard, thanks to its much faster speeds. Since it was first showcased more than a year ago, there's been an influx of new routers that support the new Wi-Fi standard.

There's a different side to this development, however: we can't enjoy the new 802.11ac standard the way we do 802.11n just yet. That's because as Wi-Fi standards go, in order to have 802.11ac Wi-Fi connections, in addition to a supported router, you'll also need hardware clients, such as laptops, tablets, or smartphones, that support this standard, and currently there are very few clients that have built-in 802.11ac support. However, Windows computer owners can quickly add 802.11ac to their systems via a USB adapter, such as the TEW-805UB from Trendnet. Mac users can rest assured that 802.11ac will soon be supported.

However, everyone can benefit from a good 802.11ac router, and that's because they all support Wireless-N. Basically, 802.11ac routers are N900 or N600 routers with support for 802.11ac on the 5GHz band. 

Here are the top 802.11ac routers on the market. These are the first routers from their respective vendors, so it's possible that better 802.11ac routers could be on the way.

Trendnet TEW-812DRU

The good: The Trendnet TEW-812DRU AC1750 Dual Band Wireless Router offers excellent Wi-Fi performance and ease of use at a low cost.

The bad: There's no wall-mounting option and the router's USB plugged-in storage performance is slow.

The bottom line: The Trendnet TEW-812DRU is the most affordable 802.11ac-enabled router on the market, and it offers excellent performance.

The Trendnet TEW-812DRU is by far the most affordable 802.11ac-enabled router on the market. At $150, it's in fact cheaper than many N900 Wireless-N routers. And the low price doesn't mean low performance. In my testing it's among the top three fastest routers on the market; it also offered a very stable Wi-Fi signal.

Its only drawbacks are the slow USB storage speed, when working with an external hard drive plugged into its USB port, and the lack of wall-mounting options.

Netgear R6300

The good: The NetGear R6300 WiFi Router supports 802.11ac and offers superb performance. It comes with a nice mobile-app-enabled Web interface that's easy to use.

The bad: The Netgear R6300 WiFi Router is bulky. Its mobile app only works within the local network and the performance of its network storage and 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band could be better.

The bottom line: The Netgear R6300 WiFi Router is for a high-standards, low-ego type of user: it's not something you can show off aesthetically, but a powerhouse for a robust, fast home network, both for now and tomorrow.

The Netgear R6300 router is the first 802.11ac router I've seen that offered close to what the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard is supposed to be. In my testing, it proved to be the fastest Wi-Fi router by far, when coupled with another 802.11ac client (which, by the way, was another R6300 configured to work as a media bridge). The router, however, works with all existing Wi-Fi devices on the market, offering up 450Mbps Wireless-N on each of its two frequency bands.

Asus RT-AC66U

The good: The Asus RT-AC66U 802.11ac Dual-Band Wireless-AC1750 Gigabit Router offers great performance on the 5GHz frequency band, and lots of features for homes and businesses.

The bad: The Asus RT-AC66U runs rather hot, and is relatively expensive.

The bottom line: The Asus RT-AC66U is an excellent router and is currently one of the best options among those that support the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard.

The Asus RT-AC66U is basically the N900 RT-N66U with support for 802.11ac. It has almost exactly the same features as the previous model. One of its novelties is the fact that it can work as a VPN server, making it an excellent choice for business users. Also, it's capable of hosting a cloud storage service when coupled with an external hard drive. You can also use a USB cellular modem with its USB port as a backup Internet connection if your DSL (or cable) goes down, or when you're out and about.

Buffalo AirStation AC1300 / N900 Gigabit Dual Band Wireless Router WZR-D1800H

The good: The Buffalo AirStation AC1300 / N900 Gigabit Dual Band Wireless Router WZR-D1800H supports 802.11ac and all previous Wi-Fi standards. It's very fast on the 5GHz band and is comparatively affordable.

The bad: The router's 802.11ac speed, while very fast, isn't close to what the new standard is supposed to offer. Its 2.4GHz band Wireless-N performance could use some improvement, and the support for USB external hard drives is limited and buggy.

The bottom line: The Buffalo AirStation AC1300 / N900 Gigabit Dual Band Wireless Router WZR-D1800H offers great value by adding support for 802.11ac on top of a high-end N900 router without increasing the price. However, the router doesn't have enough appeal for those who just need simple, low-budget wireless home networking.

What a crazy name, you might think, but the Buffalo has a good reason for the lengthy name: it was the very first 802.11ac router on the market. The vendor probably wanted to make sure that users would be aware of its new features.

Like the Netgear R6300, it supports Wi-Fi clients that use any previous Wi-Fi standard, be it 802.11n/g/a or /b, offering dual-band Wireless-N, with each band being able to provide up to 450Mbps of bandwidth. So even without any 802.11ac clients at home, you can still enjoy its performance, just as you would a Wireless-N router.

D-Link DIR-865L

The good: The D-Link DIR-865L Wireless AC 1750 Dual Band Cloud Router offers good performance on the 5Ghz band and can be easily managed via the Internet, using a browser or mobile device.

The bad: The DIR-865L's performance on the 2.4Ghz band and its network storage feature could be better. The router's cloud-based features are limited and fragmented.

The bottom line: The D-Link DIR-865L Wireless AC 1750 Dual Band Cloud Router makes a decent investment thanks to its cloud-based features, support for 802.11ac, and good performance on the 5Ghz band.

The D-Link DIR-865L is the first 802.11ac router from D-Link, and it supports the company's new cloud approach: you can manage the router via the Mydlink portal, using a Web browser or mobile app. Other than that, it's a decent router that offers excellent performance on the 5GHz band (with 802.11ac clients or Wireless-N clients). On the 2.4GHz band, however, its performance could use some improvement.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...