Review Samsung Galaxy S4 Active GT-I9295 Smartphone

Daniel Schmidt (translated by Ariana Brodsky), 08/21/2013

Refined water lover. Samsung slips a 5-inch TFT screen with Full HD resolution into a metal frame and fills the remaining space with all the good inner components from their flagship Galaxy S4. Then they IP certify it -- and voilà, the new outdoor smartphone. A superior quality S4? Can it be true?

For the original German review, see here.

Just this past April, Samsung’s most recent outdoor smartphone, the Galaxy Xcover 2, came under our scrutiny. Now the S4 family also has an outdoor member, and unlike the Xcover 2, this is no mid-class device. Instead it closely resembles the Samsung flagship at least when it comes to its inner workings. The Korean company only altered the case, cameras and display. In contrast to the Xcover 2, whose performance muscles are a little underdeveloped, the S4 Active boasts of a Snapdragon 600 processor. The 5-inch Full HD panel rounds off the smartphone’s upper class profile.

With such extravagant equipment, the Sony Xperia Z suddenly has competition. The upper class phone’s outdoor compatibility was a unique selling point. How the Active does in comparison to its Japanese counterpart is a question for our review to answer.

Case

The display is protected by Gorilla Glass.
The display is protected by Gorilla Glass.
The metal frame lends stability to the device.
The metal frame lends stability to the device.

At 139.7 x 71.3 x 9.1 millimeters (~5.5 x 2.81 x 0.36 inches) and 151 grams (~0.33 pounds), the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is somewhat larger and heavier than the GT-I9505 (137 x 70 x 7.9 mm; 130 g, ~5.39 x 2.76 x 0.31 inches; ~0.29 lbs). The metal frame that encases the device bears most of the responsibility for the heavier weight. It also makes the smartphone seem especially high quality. The S4 Active also proves to be very resistant to twisting and hardly makes any crackling sounds when pressure is applied. It appears not only more solid, but also more refined than the S4. The battery lid is made of plastic, and the device only has black rubber around the top and bottom. The device is available in three colors: urban gray, dive blue and orange flare.

The display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 2. Three physical keys are located below the touchscreen. The Sony Xperia Z has no such input options. Since a touchscreen doesn’t work when the panel is wet, the S4 Active still gives the user access to some basic functions in watery circumstances. Samsung also goes above and beyond in terms of the IP certification and certifies their device according to the IP67 standard. That means the device should be dustproof and waterproof in case of short submersion. Sony’s smartphone, however, is only certified according to the IP55 and IP57 standards. That is to say, the device isn’t entirely dustproof, rather, “Ingress of dust is not entirely prevented, but … must not enter in sufficient quantity to interfere with the satisfactory operation of the equipment” (Wikipedia). The Sony device fulfills the same specification against submersion and also offers protection against water jets from any direction.

Careful in saltwater! (Photo: Samsung)
Careful in saltwater! (Photo: Samsung)

In real life, the Galaxy S4 Active proves to be well protected. We dunked the device both in a glass of water and in a pond (see video). The smartphone took both in its stride. Unfortunately, the 3.5 mm jack can’t be plugged up, and water collected under the back cover around the camera and speaker. If you get the device wet, it’s a good idea to open the back cover and dry it well. Also, Samsung’s advertisement in which the S4 Active is in use in the ocean is misleading. The user manual advises you not to use the smartphone in saltwater. It’s unclear as to whether that would invalidate the warranty.

Connectivity

The phone’s connectivity options are identical to its brother’s, the GT-I9505. Here you’ll find almost everything your heart could desire. Even the newest WLAN standard ac is supported. Mid-class outdoor devices, like the Xcover 2, definitely can’t keep up here. Sony's flagship lags behind here as well -- the Japanese company doesn’t offer features like Air View, WLAN ac or a high-sensitivity display.

The S4 Active has 16 GB of storage -- 11.2 GB remains available after the first start up. Anyone who doesn’t consider that enough can expand the storage space by up to 64 GB via the micro SD card slot. The multi-function connection on the bottom of the smartphone serves to load the battery, transfer data over micro USB and display images externally via an MHL adapter (available for purchase).

Top: Infrared, microphone, audio
Top: Infrared, microphone, audio
Bottom: microphone, multi-function connectiion
Bottom: microphone, multi-function connectiion
Left: Volume rocker
Left: Volume rocker
Right: Power
Right: Power

Software

Out of the factory, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active comes with the up-to-date Android 4.2.2. Samsung superimposes their obligatory TouchWiz interface over the Google operating system, leaving the interface feeling clean and well-engineered. In terms of its operating interface, the device feels like a clone of the Galaxy S4.

App GPS Test
App GPS Test

Communication & GPS 

In this discipline, the S4 Active outclasses the Sony Xperia Z. The WLAN module supports the IEEE-802.11 standards a/b/g/n/ac and transmits in the frequency ranges of 2.4 and 5.0 GHz. The reception range is excellent. Even 40 meters from the router we could still load webpages without a problem. The Xperia Z, however, can only handle the 2.4 GHz standards b/g/n.

In terms of mobile communication standards, the Samsung smartphone supports GRPS (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), HSPA+ (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz) and LTE (800, 850, 900, 1800, 2100, 2600 MHz). Especially in the case of the LTE modem, the supported frequency ranges are much broader than those covered by the Active’s competitors from Japan. Additionally, the device offers Bluetooth and NFC.

Our review device has both a GPS and a GLONASS receiver at its command.  Even indoors, the phone positions us with the help of navigation satellites very well. The connection is established within less than 30 seconds. Outdoors, the device finds its position much more quickly and accurately.

Telephone Function and Voice Quality

The telephone app is no different from that of the Galaxy S4. The app feels clean and easy to use.

In the area of voice quality, the reception is especially appealing and high quality. It was always easy to understand our conversation partner, both over a speaker or directly on the cell phone. After some short pauses in our conversation, we discovered that over a headset the first syllable spoken is consistently cut off. The person on the other side of the connection could also understand us well, though the voice quality doesn’t match that of the GT-I9505 or a Lumia 925. Even when we held the smartphone directly to our ear, our voice was accompanied by a little noise. Overall though, the S4 Active does a good enough job here.

Cameras & Multimedia

The main camera has a resolution of up to 8 megapixels (3264x2448 pixels). The display reaches its maximum resolution at an aspect ratio of 4:3. In 16:9 format the maximum is 3264x1836 pixels. The light sensitivity stretches from ISO 50 up to 800 at an aperture of f/2.6. There is a digital image stabilizer.

In the daylight, the snapshot quality is quite respectable. Compared to the competition, the images just lack a little bit of sharpness. The colors appear consistent across the spectrum. This all changes in low light. The snapshots look somewhat washed out, and there is a considerable amount of image noise. Low light photography isn’t one of the S4 Active’s fortés. The LED flash doesn’t help at all. Our test device can’t hold a candle to the Nokia Lumia 925’s camera performance.

The Active records videos in 1080p (1920x1080 pixels) with 30 fps. The results are quite respectable, but the image stabilizer leaves something to be desired. Quick movements pose a significant problem for the lens.

Things look different underwater. When the underwater mode is activated pictures taken on land are a little overexposed, but the setting makes it possible to take completely viable pictures in the water. Even in the murky pond (see the video further down) details are clearly recognizable. One interesting feature: In the camera app, the volume rocker can be set to act as the zoom or the trigger button. Since the touchscreen doesn’t work in water, this feature allows the user to ready the camera and snap photos.

The webcam has a resolution of 2 MP (1600x1200 pixels) and records decent video in good lighting situations. The quality is good enough for video chats.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
Apple iPhone 5
Apple iPhone 5
Apple iPhone 5
Apple iPhone 5
Apple iPhone 5
Apple iPhone 5
Nokia Lumia 920
Nokia Lumia 920
Nokia Lumia 920
Nokia Lumia 920
Nokia Lumia 920
Nokia Lumia 920
Google Nexus 4
Google Nexus 4
Google Nexus 4
Google Nexus 4
Google Nexus 4
Google Nexus 4
Reference: Sony Alpha 57
Reference: Sony Alpha 57
Reference: Sony Alpha 57
Reference: Sony Alpha 57
Reference: Sony Alpha 57
Reference: Sony Alpha 57


Accessories

The packaging includes very little in the way of accessories, as usual. Besides a headset, USB cable and a 10 watt charger, you’ll also find a quick-start guide and a warranty booklet. The power supply doesn't have a test seal.

To date, the available accessories are few. Samsung only offers an additional protective cover made of plastic and universal smartphone accessories. Further useful gimmicks are available through third parties.

Warranty

Samsung offers a 24-month warranty against material and manufacturing flaws. The accessories, including the rechargeable battery, are under a six month warranty. Cases of damage must be handled through the merchant from whom the product was purchased.

Input Devices & Operation

App Multitouch Test
App Multitouch Test

The capacitive touchscreen recognizes up to ten fingers simultaneously. It works reliably and with precision. This is necessary, as Samsung’s embedded keyboard layout has very small keys in portrait format. It’s surprisingly easy to hit the right keys and as a result typing mistakes are rare. Samsung uses the space available on the 5-inch diagonal Full HD display well, leaving enough room to lay out an extra row for numbers over the QWERTY [QWERTZ] keyboard. This is an excellent feature, since it saves you the trouble of having to switch back and forth.

The high sensitivity touchscreen we’re familiar with from the Galaxy S4 functions a little choppily. While thin gloves don’t pose a problem for the screen, it doesn’t register input from thick gloves at all. The Lumia 920 and 925 do considerably better here.

The speech and handwriting input options offered by the Active’s big brother are available here too and function quite well.

In portrait format the keys are small, but still easy to hit accurately.
In portrait format the keys are small, but still easy to hit accurately.
In landscape format the keyboard takes up a lot of space.
In landscape format the keyboard takes up a lot of space.


Display

Like the Sony Xperia Z, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active has a 5.0-inch TFT panel with a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels. This equates to an aspect ratio of 16:9 and a pixel density of 441 PPI. So far, Full HD panels are available almost exclusively in higher priced smartphones, like the HTC One, the Galaxy S4 or the HTC Butterfly. Exceptions, like the iOcean X7 from China, are still quite rare here.

Both the Samsung and Sony devices reach a good average brightness. Our review device has a luminosity of 423 cd/m²; at 428 cd/m², the Sony smartphone is minimally brighter. With a 96% consistency in brightness across the display, the S4 Active’s brightness is nearly perfectly even, though at 88% the Xperia Z’s value is also good. It unfortunately can’t be taken for granted that a smartphone’s display doesn’t have areas where the brightness accumulates, so the fact that Samsung’s smartphone is completely free of this flaw is exceptional.

 

427
cd/m²
433
cd/m²
420
cd/m²
433
cd/m²
419
cd/m²
420
cd/m²
420
cd/m²
422
cd/m²
417
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 433 cd/m²
Average: 423.4 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 96 %
Center on Battery: 419 cd/m²
Black: 0.55 cd/m²
Contrast: 762:1

The S4 Active isn’t going to gain any fame for its contrast (762:1) nor for its black value (0.55 cd/m²). In these areas the TFT lags significantly behind the competition. The numbers achieved by the S4's Super AMOLED (∞:1; 0.0 cd/m²) are unreachable for the Samsung Active, but the HTC One's SLCD3 (2117:1; 0.23 cd/m²) and the iPhone 5's Retina Display are also substantially better here. Only Sony's TFT panel (464:1; 0.95 cd/m²) delivers less appealing results. Our review device’s black could be a little deeper and looks more like a dark coal color, but in practice it’s not all that bothersome.

Unlike the GT-I9505, the Active doesn’t have four different display modes; it only has three. The “Professional Photo” mode, which is supposed to cover an especially large portion of the AdobeRGB color space, is missing here. Still, fresh out of the factory the S4 Active’s panel is well-calibrated. The DeltaE values under the individual modes do vary, but there aren’t any severe color deviations under any of them. White is the only color that deviates noticeably from the optimal value; in all three modes its DeltaE deviation measures at 8 or higher, and it has a slight green cast.

Color accuracy: Dynamic mode (target color space sRGB)
Color accuracy: Dynamic mode (target color space sRGB)
Color accuracy: Standard mode (target color space sRGB)
Color accuracy: Standard mode (target color space sRGB)
Color saturation: Dynamic mode (target color space sRGB)
Color saturation: Dynamic mode (target color space sRGB)
Color saturation: Standard mode (target color space sRGB)
Color saturation: Standard mode (target color space sRGB)
Color Checker: Video mode (target color space sRGB)
Color Checker: Video mode (target color space sRGB)
Color Checker: Dynamic mode (target color space sRGB)
Color Checker: Dynamic mode (target color space sRGB)
Color Checker: Standard mode (target color space sRGB)
Color Checker: Standard mode (target color space sRGB)
Color Checker: Video mode (target color space sRGB)
Color Checker: Video mode (target color space sRGB)
Grayscale: Video mode (target color space sRGB)
Grayscale: Video mode (target color space sRGB)
Grayscale: Dynamic mode (target color space sRGB)
Grayscale: Dynamic mode (target color space sRGB)
Grayscale: Standard mode (target color space sRGB)
Grayscale: Standard mode (target color space sRGB)
Grayscale: Video mode (target color space sRGB)
Grayscale: Video mode (target color space sRGB)

The display’s high brightness level compensates for its moderate contrast and glossy screen. Display content is still visible under direct sunlight, though not without some straining. In the shadows things look better. Without light directly hitting the screen, viewing the display content is no problem.

Despite reflections, the display is easily visible in the shadows.
Despite reflections, the display is easily visible in the shadows.
Things get harder in the sun.
Things get harder in the sun.
The display content is easy to see in water too.
The display content is easy to see in water too.

In terms of viewing angle stability, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active had a surprise in store. Even at extreme viewing angles of 100° or more, the image remains stable. The display content doesn’t fade (in contrast to the Xperia Z), nor did we observe any changes in color. Great performance for a TFT display; Sony could take a leaf out of Samsung’s book here.

Viewing angle: Above the Sony Xperia Z, below the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active.
Viewing angle: Above the Sony Xperia Z, below the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active.

Performance

Throttling: 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme
Throttling: 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme

With the Snapdragon 600 from Qualcomm, the S4 Active has a current high-end SoC at its command. The quad-core processor is a further development on the Snapdragon S4 Pro (found in the Xperia Z). Each core normally has a clock frequency of up to 1.7 GHz. However, as in their Galaxy S4, Samsung relies on a high frequency variant that clocks at 1.87 GHz. An Adreno 320 GPU is the appointed graphics unit. The system also has 2 GB of working memory and 16 GB of flash storage. Here too, the Active seems to lack nothing bestowed on its big brother.

But due to the Active’s different case architecture, the SoC's passive cooling doesn’t work quite as well as it does in the GT-I9505. As a result of the high heat development, throttling occurs to preserve the hardware from overheating. The performance values take an especially hard hit after a long period under load.

3DMark (2013)
1280x720 Ice Storm Standard Score (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
9150 Points ∼6%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
7388 Points ∼5% -19%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
11344 Points ∼8% +24%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
10752 Points ∼7% +18%
Apple iPhone 5
SGX543MP3, A6, 32 GB SSD
5721 Points ∼4% -37%
1280x720 Ice Storm Standard Graphics (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
9417 Points ∼1%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
8859 Points ∼1% -6%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
11395 Points ∼2% +21%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
11192 Points ∼1% +19%
1280x720 Ice Storm Standard Physics (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
8325 Points ∼15%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
4672 Points ∼9% -44%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
11170 Points ∼21% +34%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
9451 Points ∼17% +14%
1920x1080 Ice Storm Extreme Score (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
5547 Points ∼5%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
6003 Points ∼5% +8%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
6806 Points ∼6% +23%
1920x1080 Ice Storm Extreme Graphics (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
5123 Points ∼2%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
5551 Points ∼2% +8%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
6110 Points ∼2% +19%
1920x1080 Ice Storm Extreme Physics (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
7806 Points ∼16%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
8397 Points ∼18% +8%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
11318 Points ∼24% +45%
GFXBench (DX / GLBenchmark) 2.7
1920x1080 T-Rex HD Offscreen C24Z16 (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
8.3 fps ∼1%
Sony Xperia Z
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB SSD
13 fps ∼2% +57%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
13 fps ∼2% +57%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
15 fps ∼2% +81%
Apple iPhone 5
SGX543MP3, A6, 32 GB SSD
6.7 fps ∼1% -19%
T-Rex HD Onscreen C24Z16 (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
9.8 fps ∼16%
Sony Xperia Z
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB SSD
14 fps ∼23% +43%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
12 fps ∼20% +22%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
15 fps ∼25% +53%
Apple iPhone 5
SGX543MP3, A6, 32 GB SSD
13.6 fps ∼23% +39%
GLBenchmark 2.5
Egypt HD Fixed Time (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
19 fps ∼32%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
29 fps ∼48% +53%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
34 fps ∼57% +79%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
31 fps ∼52% +63%
Apple iPhone 5
SGX543MP3, A6, 32 GB SSD
34 fps ∼57% +79%
1920x1080 Egypt HD Offscreen Fixed Time (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
16 fps ∼3%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
32 fps ∼6% +100%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
35 fps ∼6% +119%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
30 fps ∼5% +88%
Apple iPhone 5
SGX543MP3, A6, 32 GB SSD
22 fps ∼4% +38%
AnTuTu Benchmark v3
Total Score (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
19607 Points ∼55%
Sony Xperia Z
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB SSD
14244 Points ∼40% -27%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
21017 Points ∼59% +7%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
23181 Points ∼65% +18%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
23500 Points ∼66% +20%
CPU (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
7721 Points ∼50%
Sony Xperia Z
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB SSD
6086 Points ∼40% -21%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
8541 Points ∼56% +11%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
10827 Points ∼70% +40%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
11232 Points ∼73% +45%
GPU (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
7308 Points ∼76%
Sony Xperia Z
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB SSD
5474 Points ∼57% -25%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
8042 Points ∼83% +10%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
7589 Points ∼79% +4%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
7300 Points ∼76% 0%
RAM (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
3672 Points ∼54%
Sony Xperia Z
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB SSD
1913 Points ∼28% -48%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
3529 Points ∼51% -4%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
3845 Points ∼56% +5%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
4063 Points ∼59% +11%
I/O (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
906 Points ∼98%
Sony Xperia Z
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB SSD
771 Points ∼84% -15%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
905 Points ∼98% 0%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
920 Points ∼100% +2%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
905 Points ∼98% 0%

The smartphone's browser performance is very good. In most benchmarks, Samsung’s outdoor fireball does even better than their own flagship. It’s also often better than the iPhone 5 or the Lumia 925. But this isn’t simply the result of the high performance SoC -- it also has a lot to do with the browser used on the Active (Google Chrome 28).

Browsermark - --- (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
1643 points ∼23%
Sony Xperia Z
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB SSD
1773 points ∼25% +8%
Nokia Lumia 925
Adreno 225, S4 Plus MSM8960, 16 GB iNAND Flash
1721 points ∼24% +5%
Apple iPhone 5
SGX543MP3, A6, 32 GB SSD
2383 points ∼33% +45%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
2502 points ∼35% +52%
Octane V1 - Total Score (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
2519 Points ∼12%
Sony Xperia Z
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB SSD
1214 Points ∼6% -52%
Nokia Lumia 925
Adreno 225, S4 Plus MSM8960, 16 GB iNAND Flash
593 Points ∼3% -76%
Apple iPhone 5
SGX543MP3, A6, 32 GB SSD
1663 Points ∼8% -34%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
2290 Points ∼11% -9%
Peacekeeper - --- (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
611 Points ∼10%
Sony Xperia Z
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB SSD
388 Points ∼6% -36%
Nokia Lumia 925
Adreno 225, S4 Plus MSM8960, 16 GB iNAND Flash
335 Points ∼5% -45%
Apple iPhone 5
SGX543MP3, A6, 32 GB SSD
863 Points ∼14% +41%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
555 Points ∼9% -9%

The integrated storage is quick and on par with all the other top-class smartphones. Additionally, you can expand the storage by up to 64 GB using a micro SDXC card.

AndroBench 3
Sequential Read 256KB (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
90.32 MB/s ∼54%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
46.3 MB/s ∼28% -49%
Sony Xperia Z
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB SSD
48.79 MB/s ∼29% -46%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
58.75 MB/s ∼35% -35%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
75.1 MB/s ∼45% -17%
Sequential Write 256KB (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
15.33 MB/s ∼27%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
12.03 MB/s ∼21% -22%
Sony Xperia Z
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB SSD
14.49 MB/s ∼25% -5%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
16.37 MB/s ∼28% +7%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
13.11 MB/s ∼23% -14%
Random Read 4KB (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
12.35 MB/s ∼59%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
9.57 MB/s ∼46% -23%
Sony Xperia Z
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB SSD
12.84 MB/s ∼61% +4%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
11.83 MB/s ∼56% -4%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
12.28 MB/s ∼59% -1%
Random Write 4KB (sort by value)
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
1.11 MB/s ∼38%
HTC Butterfly
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB iNAND Flash
0.56 MB/s ∼19% -50%
Sony Xperia Z
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB SSD
1.15 MB/s ∼39% +4%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
1.19 MB/s ∼41% +7%
Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 16 GB iNAND Flash
1.13 MB/s ∼39% +2%

Games

Despite its throttling under load, the Adreno 320 graphics unit offers enough gaming power for current games. Even 3D applications like Iron Man 3, which demand a lot of processing power, play fluidly on the Active. Classics like Fruit Ninja are no problem for our review device.

The position and acceleration sensors certainly don’t put a damper on the fun -- they add to what the good touchscreen has to offer.

Epic Citadel High Performance
Epic Citadel High Performance
Epic Citadel High Quality
Epic Citadel High Quality
Epic Citadel Ultra High Quality
Epic Citadel Ultra High Quality

Emissions

Temperature

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active’s surface temperature lies at a maximum of 33.9 °C (93.02 °F) in idle mode. At that temperature, the smartphone doesn’t get too warm and remains considerably cooler than the Sony Xperia Z (36.7 °C; 98.06 °F). The Xcover 2, which is weaker in terms of performance, doesn’t reach anywhere near these temperatures (28.8 °C; 83.84 °F).

Under load, the numbers rise as expected. The test device reaches temperatures of up to 44.3 °C (111.74 °F), which is probably the result of heat generated near the SoC. In reality, this number isn’t disconcerting. But if you play a game that demands a lot of performance and then pick up a phone call the temperatures may very well startle you, as we measured the highest values around the earpiece.

 32.6 °C30.7 °C28.4 °C 
 33.9 °C30.8 °C28.8 °C 
 33.3 °C30.9 °C28.9 °C 
Maximum: 33.9 °C
Average: 30.9 °C
28.0 °C29.9 °C31.0 °C
28.3 °C30.2 °C31.5 °C
28.4 °C30.2 °C31.5 °C
Maximum: 31.5 °C
Average: 29.9 °C
Power Supply (max.)  31.0 °C | Room Temperature 22.5 °C | Voltcraft IR-350

Speaker

Unlike the Galaxy S4, the Active’s sound quality leaves something to be desired. Even high tones aren’t reproduced cleanly. As soon as the volume exceeds 50%, you start to hear soft distortions. Middle tones buzz a little, and bass tones are practically non-existent. At full volume the sound is alarming and leaves you keen to shut it off.

The sound is considerably nicer over the headset Samsung includes in the packaging. It doesn’t offer a feast for the ears either, but bass tones are full and high notes are clear, so the accessory is sufficient for listening to a little music or watching the occasional movie.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

As expected, the S4 Active’s energy consumption is higher than that of the GT-I9505. The TFT display is likely primarily responsible for this, since it needs more energy than the Galaxy S4’s SAMOLED. Still, the device’s power consumption rates are reasonable. In idle mode the smartphone needs between 0.7 and 1.8 watts (S4: 0.4-1.2 watts).

Under load, the Active’s energy consumption rises to 6.5 watts. The GT-I9505 needs a maximum of 5.1 watts, and at 6.6 watts, the Xperia Z is on par with our review device. The power supply (10 watts) is sufficiently sized. Turned off, the Active doesn’t use any power.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.0 / 0.2 Watt
Idle 0.7 / 1.2 / 1.8 Watt
Load 3.9 / 6.5 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Life

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active has the same battery as the Galaxy S4 (9.88 Wh, 2600 mAh), but it consumes a little more energy. It follows then, that our review device’s battery life must be proportionately shorter.

Under load, which we simulate with the Stability Test app, the Active reaches a somewhat shorter runtime than its big brother (3:50 hours) and cuts out after 3 hours and 39 minutes.

In our WLAN test, we simulate a more practically relevant web surfing scenario. We set the panel brightness to 150 cd/m², and a script loads a new website every 40 seconds. Here the outdoor fireball holds out a little more than 7 hours, which is almost 2 hours less than the Galaxy S4 (8:53 hours) and the Xperia Z (8:50 hours).

With these figures, the Active’s battery life is middle-of-the-road. The HTC One runs over 10 hours in the practically relevant WLAN test, setting itself apart here. However, the Active’s battery can be switched out for a charged unit. With normal use, the battery should easily last through the day.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
12h 05min
WiFi Surfing
7h 02min
Load (maximum brightness)
3h 39min

Verdict

In Review: Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
In Review: Samsung Galaxy S4 Active

With the Galaxy S4 Active, Samsung puts a device on the market that’s intended to steal the Sony Xperia Z's thunder by combining the performance capabilities of the S4 family with an IP certification. Our test device remained tightly sealed in our glass of water and through our trip in the pond. But the exposed 3.5 mm jack and the water that collected under the lid tarnished our impression a little. So the GT-I9295 is a water lover, but a water lover that needs to be well dried after its aqueous adventurous. Also, Samsung limits the smartphone to use in freshwater. Sony’s smartphone doesn’t have this limitation. It’s also more tightly sealed and certified against jet water.

It’s exciting though, that Samsung integrates almost all the current communication technology into their refined outdoor smartphone and combines it with a powerful SoC. Unfortunately it throttles after a long period under load, but even then it retains enough performance reserves, and we never got the impression that the device hit its limits. The TFT screen proved to be a pleasant surprise, particularly in the area of viewing angle stability.

We can warmly recommend the Galaxy S4 Active to anyone who likes to be outdoors a lot. You’ll get a robust smartphone with up-to-date technology. If you’re more often out at sea, we recommend the Xperia Z.

Test device courtesy of ...

Comment this article:

In Review: Samsung Galaxy S4 Active GT-I9295. Courtesy of:
In Review: Samsung Galaxy S4 Active GT-I9295. Courtesy of:

Specifications

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295

:: Processor
:: Memory
2.048 MB, 32-bit Dual-Channel LPDDR3
:: Graphics adapter
:: Display
5.0 inch 16:9, 1920x1080 pixel, Capacitive, TFT, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
16 GB iNAND Flash, 16 GB , 10.8 GB free
:: Connections
1 USB 2.0, Card Reader: Micro-SD up to 64 GB, Sensors: Acceleration sensor, Geomagnetic, Gyro, RGB light, Barometer, Proximity sensor, Gestures, NFC, MHL 2.0, AGPS, GLONASS, 8 MP (3.264 x 2.448 pixels) camera
:: Networking
802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (a b g n ac), 4.0 Bluetooth, EDGE/GPRS (850/900/1800/1900 MHz), HSPA+ (850/900/1900/2100 MHz), LTE (800/850/900/1800/2100/2600 MHz)
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 9.1 x 139.7 x 71.3
:: Weight
0.151 kg Power Supply: 0.059 kg
:: Battery
9.88 Wh Lithium-Ion, 2600 mAh, 3.8 volts
Talk time 2G (according to manufacturer): 900 h, Talk time 3G (according to manufacturer): 480 h, Standby 2G (according to manufacturer): 19200 h
:: Price
649 Euro
:: Operating System
Android 4.2
:: Additional features
Webcam: 2 MP (1.600 x 1.200 Pixel), Speakers: Speaker on the backside, 10 watt power supply (5 volts, 2 amperes), USB cable, Headset, Samsung Apps, Samsung Hub, Samsung Link, WatchON, S Voice, S Translator, Text and picture scanner, S Memo, S Health, Story Album, 24 Months Warranty

 

The TFT Panel has a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels.
The TFT Panel has a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels.
The S4 Active has an IP67 certification.
The S4 Active has an IP67 certification.
From left to right: Notification light, light sensor, proximity and gesture sensor, front camera
From left to right: Notification light, light sensor, proximity and gesture sensor, front camera
The Android keys are physical keys.
The Android keys are physical keys.
The 8 MP camera has an LED flash.
The 8 MP camera has an LED flash.
The backside is made of plastic with a honeycomb pattern.
The backside is made of plastic with a honeycomb pattern.
Thanks to the notch, the battery lid is easy to open.
Thanks to the notch, the battery lid is easy to open.
The battery provides 2600 mAh.
The battery provides 2600 mAh.
The seal in the battery lid.
The seal in the battery lid.
You need a micro SIM card to use the telephone function.
You need a micro SIM card to use the telephone function.
Using micro SDXC cards, the storage can be expanded by up to 64 GB.
Using micro SDXC cards, the storage can be expanded by up to 64 GB.
The keys have a nice click-point.
The keys have a nice click-point.
The volume rocker can be used for various functions in camera mode.
The volume rocker can be used for various functions in camera mode.
The multi-function connection supports MHL 2.0.
The multi-function connection supports MHL 2.0.
WLAN ac is also on board.
WLAN ac is also on board.
The speaker is horrible at high volume.
The speaker is horrible at high volume.
Many apps are preinstalled.
Many apps are preinstalled.
16 GB of flash storage is integrated into the smartphone.
16 GB of flash storage is integrated into the smartphone.
AndEBench
AndEBench
Browsermark 2.0
Browsermark 2.0
Sunspider 0.9.1
Sunspider 0.9.1
Sunspider 1.0
Sunspider 1.0
Peacekeeper
Peacekeeper
Mozilla Kraken
Mozilla Kraken
Vellamo
Vellamo
Quadrant
Quadrant
Smartbench 2011 wouldn't run.
Smartbench 2011 wouldn't run.
Smartbench 2012
Smartbench 2012
PassMark
PassMark
AndroBench
AndroBench

Similar Devices

Devices from a different Manufacturer and/or with a different CPU

» BlackBerry Z30 Smartphone Review
Snapdragon MSM8960T
» Review HTC Droid DNA (Butterfly) Smartphone
Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064A

Devices with the same GPU

» Review Yota Devices Yotaphone Smartphone
Snapdragon MSM8960T, 4.3", 0.146 kg
» Review ZTE Grand Memo LTE Smartphone
Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064A, 5.7", 0.197 kg
» Review HTC One Max Smartphone
Snapdragon 600 APQ8064T, 5.9", 0.22 kg
» Review LG G Pad 8.3 Tablet
Snapdragon 600 APQ8064T, 8.3", 0.338 kg
» Review LG Optimus G Pro E986 Smartphone
Snapdragon 600 APQ8064T, 5.5", 0.172 kg

Links

Price Comparison

Pro

+IP certification
+TFT with stable image from many angles
+Full HD
+Excellent connectivity options
+Well thought-through controls under water
 

Cons

-Throttling SoC when under load for an extended period
-Speaker is spine-chilling at high volume
-Middle-of-the-road battery life

Shortcut

What we like

The camera takes decent pictures underwater. Also, the metal frame gives the smartphone a high-quality feel.

What we'd like to see

A cover for the headphone jack would have been great. The battery lid's seal should have stretched to the camera and speaker.

What surprises us

The TFT panel's viewing angle stability is excellent. You can't tell the difference between it and an IPS panel.

The competition

Real outdoor competition is currently just the Sony Xperia Z and maybe the HTC Butterfly, as it does have an IPX5 certification.

Rating

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I9295
08/07/2013 v3
Daniel Schmidt

Chassis
83%
Keyboard
60%
Pointing Device
90%
Connectivity
45%
Weight
100%
Battery
94%
Display
88%
Games Performance
42%
Application Performance
64%
Temperature
83%
Noise
100%
Add Points
80%
Average
77%
87%
Smartphone *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Review Samsung Galaxy S4 Active GT-I9295 Smartphone
Author: Daniel Schmidt, 2013-08-21 (Update: 2013-08-22)