Samsung Galaxy S4 Active: The mobe for CHUCK NORRIS TYPES
Padded up for prang protection and dips in the drink
Doing the pools
The waterproofing of the Active has been achieved without two of the major compromises that Sony forced on the Xperia Z. Firstly, the 3.5mm audio jack doesn’t have a stopper so you can just plug your headphones in as you would with any other handset. Secondly, the back panel is removable, meaning you can swap out the battery.
The 2MP webcam and sensors around the screen
Obviously to avoid bricking your phone in the briny you need to make sure the plastic back panel is clamped firmly in place and that the silicon plug for the micro USB port is pushed in all the way in, but as pre-submergence checks go those are the minimum you are ever going to get away with. The tether for the micro USB plug feels durable and I can’t see it breaking unless given some serious abuse.
Samsung has recognised that touchscreens go a bit loopy when in contact with water so the Active offers you the option of using the volume keys to activate the camera when you’re underwater. There’s even an ‘aqua’ setting that apparently optimises the camera software for underwater photography and video recording. The results are nothing to write home about, as I discovered while taking snaps of a small model elephant in my bath, but at least you can take a picture or two while cavorting in the pool or jacuzzi.
Ready to snap underwater life, or - ahem - a toy elephant in a Mancunian bath
Incidentally, the Active uses the 8MP camera from the Galaxy S3 rather than the S4’s 13MP shooter. To my eyes the differences in the end results were negligible so it’s not a difference you need worry about. The 2MP webcam is the same as the S4’s.
Inside the Active you’ll find exactly the same Quad-core 1.9GHz Krait-class Qualcomm Snapdragon 300 chip with 2GB of RAM and an Adreno 320 GPU as the one used in the S4. So performance is nigh on identical or, to put it another way, very good. There’s also the same 16GB of storage of which the system snaffles 4.1GB. If you need more storage there’s a Micro SD card slot that can be accessed without removing the battery.
Almost as fast as the regular S4, faster than the Sony Xperia Z
The two handsets’ software and feature lists are similarly identical so you get LTE connectivity, an NFC pick-up, infra-red transmitter, Bluetooth 4.0, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and a Micro USB port port that supports MHL and USB-on-the-Go hosting plus the whole TouchWiz enchilada. Samsung’s fine video and music players are also present and correct while the single loudspeaker is rather impressive. No problems to report when it came to signal reception or call quality with everything working tickety-boo.
The Reg Verdict
As a smartphone, the S4 Active is every bit as impressive a performer as the S4 proper, but the dust and waterproofing are handy additional features especially as they have been achieved without plugging up the audio jack or locking the battery in place. The LCD screen does nothing for battery life but it is brighter than the S4’s OLED panel and offers more natural colour reproduction. It’s also worth keeping in mind that if you’re buying your handset unlocked, the Active seems to be about £40 cheaper than the S4. ®
Thanks to Clove for the loan of our review handset.