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Samsung Galaxy S4 vs HTC One vs Nexus 4 vs Xperia Z

s4 lying down

We pitch the new Samsung Galaxy S4 against the best Android devices currently on the market. Will it help Samsung maintain its position as the leading Android manufacturer?

Design

Dimensions
Samsung Galaxy S4: 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm

HTC One: 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 mm
Nexus 4: 133.9 x 68.7 x 9.1 mm
Sony Xperia Z: 139 x 71 x 7.9 mm
Weight
Samsung Galaxy S4: 130g
HTC One: 143g
Nexus 4: 139g
Sony Xperia Z: 146g

 

The Galaxy S4 has the smallest volume and is the lightest, despite having a five-inch screen. However like previous Galaxy devices it is predominantly a plastic phone, while the HTC One’s aluminium build has a truly premium feel expected of a flagship device.

Winner: HTC One

The HTC One is the most beautifully designed phone we’ve seen, and sits some way ahead of the rest of the field.

 

Specs

Processor
Samsung Galaxy S4: Exynos Octo-core 1.9GHz
HTC One: Snapdragon 1.7GHz Quad-core
Nexus 4: Snapdragon Quad-core 1.5GHz
Sony Xperia Z: Snapdragon 1.5GHz Quad-core
RAM
Samsung Galaxy S4: 2GB
HTC One: 2GB

Nexus 4: 2GB
Sony Xperia Z: 2GB

 

The Galaxy S4, like the HTC One and Xperia Z, packs a full HD display. Like the Z it is five-inches in size, so has a slightly lower pixel density than the 4.7-inch HTC One. The S4 is powered by an octo-core processor, who’s speed will vary based on the market. The idea behind this is that four-cores are dedicated to power-hungry tasks and four-cores handle the basic low-power functions – it should make the performance faster and smoother while also being more power efficient.

The S4 is the only one of the four devices with a replaceable battery. The S4 and the Xperia Z have microSD card slots. Other key features include a minimum of 16GB storage (comparable to the others), and 4G connectivity – something that is missing on the Nexus 4.

Winner: Galaxy S4

Specs are less relevant than they were in the past, but nonetheless the S4 does enough to keep the spec enthusiasts happy.

 

Screen

Screen
Samsung Galaxy S4: 5 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels, 441ppi
HTC One: 4.7 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels, 468ppi

Nexus 4: 4.7 inches, 768 x 1280 pixels, 318ppi
Sony Xperia Z: 5 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels, 441ppi

 

The AMOLED display on the S4 should put it ahead of the otherwise similarly specced Xperia Z, which we found to disappoint with blacks and contrast. The screen however uses a pentile subpixel arrangement which on lower res displays can create a pixelated effect, although on a screen with a pixel density of 441ppi is unlikely to be an issue. The 720p display on the Nexus is still impressive but now very much last generation for a flagship phone. One additional thing to note about the S4 is that it can be used with gloves.

Winner: HTC One

HTC has led the way in display technology for a while, and with the highest pixel density looks the best again here.

 

Software

Software details
Samsung Galaxy S4: Android 4.2.2
HTC One: Android 4.1.2 with Sense 5
Nexus 4: Android 4.2.2
Sony Xperia Z: Android 4.1.2

 

The Nexus always wins a software comparison against any Android device because it is the only one that is guaranteed to get the latest updates as soon as they are released. HTC and Sony have stripped back their skins to make them more subtle and consistent with the underlying Android OS. Samsung on the other hand is continuing to push software as a way of differentiating its products from the rest. Most of the core Android apps have Samsung-branded ‘S’ alternatives, while there are many unique features ranging from live language translation to eye-tracking and touch-free control.

Winner: Nexus 4

The S4 is very much built around Samsung’s software, but the promise of early OS updates is what puts the Nexus ahead.

 

Camera

Camera
Samsung Galaxy S4: 13MP
HTC One: 4MP
Nexus 4: 8MP
Sony Xperia Z: 13.1MP

 

Samsung has not copied HTC’s approach of having fewer – but larger – pixels as a way of improving low light shooting. Instead it has matched Sony in the move to 13 megapixels. Instead the S4 adds some interesting features, including a dual-camera mode that enables you to shoot with both front and rear cameras simultaneously, an improved multishot mode that can shoot a staggering 100 images in four seconds, and an eraser function that can remove unwanted people from the background of your photos.

As always though, the real test of a camera will be in the quality of the shots it takes. We’d put the One just ahead of the Z at the moment, and will need to wait for the S4 to be released before we can see how it compares.

Winner: Tie – S4, One, Xperia Z

To soon to tell, so we’re calling this a three-way tie between Samsung, Sony and HTC.

 

Verdict

The Galaxy S4 is a fairly conservative update – closer to an S3s than something more revolutionary. As a result a basic spec and features comparison puts it well in line with the best of the competition rather than fully clear of it in the way we’ve seen in the past. HTC, Sony and co may be breathing a sigh of relief, then, but it’s Samsung that has all the momentum at the moment and the S4 looks like it has more than enough to keep that going for another year.

Check back soon for our full review of the Samsung Galaxy S4.

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