Samsung Galaxy S4 Active review

Like the normal S4 - but much more satisfying

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active review
The tough cookie of the smartphone world

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The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is pretty much a run of the mill Galaxy S4 with a slightly chunkier, water resistant body and for that we applaud it as it delivers a great user experience.

Sure the camera and the screen aren't quite up to the S4's quality, but if you're willing to make those seemingly small sacrifices then you'll more than likely thoroughly enjoy the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active.

However if you're looking to spend top dollar on a smartphone why accept second best when you can have the fully fledged Galaxy S4 for the same price? We wonder if water resistance really is a big enough pull to make the S4 Active a worthwhile alternative.

We liked

There is a lot to like about the Galaxy S4 Active, with the water and dust proof case making the handset far more hardy than a lot of the top end devices currently on the market.

If you like the look of the Galaxy S4 but fear for its safety in your overly active lifestyle then the S4 Active will be an seriously attractive option - and we can certainly recommend it in this case.

The only other handset which can match the rugged credentials of the S4 Active is the Sony Xperia Z, although being covered in glass front and back makes it feel far more fragile.

While the 5-inch display may not sport the Super AMOLED technology of the S4, the full HD resolution still makes for an excellent visual experience which is only really bettered by its namesake and the HTC One.

Some may find Samsung's TouchWiz interface overly oppressive, but for the most part its much improved on past versions and runs smoothly of the S4 Active.

The addition of a wide variety of quick settings, versatile lockscreen and some great native apps such as the music player make it a winner in our book.

We disliked

We have to say we were disappointed with the battery life on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, as it fails to live up to its brother's billing and also falls behind the likes of the HTC One, Nokia Lumia 925 and Xperia Z.

Generally the S4 Active will just about see out a whole days usage, but as soon as you start doing some intensive gaming or a mega email session the battery starts suffering - mainly due to that whopping 5-inch display.

That 5-inch screen means the Galaxy S4 Active isn't exactly the smallest handset on the market and add into the mix the extra girth from the dust and water resistance and you may find yourself struggling with one handed use.

We certainly found two hands were usually required when it came to typing, and the large physical keys require more pressure than you'll be used to on other, touch based handsets.

While for the most part the Galaxy S4 Active provided a fast and fluid user experience, it was slightly slower in a couple of areas such as mapping and the pop up play transition. This odd considering it has the same power as the normal Galaxy S4. Not a huge issue, but something worth mentioning.


The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active finds itself a little in no mans land, and it's a difficult one for us to recommend outright.

If you're in the market for a super powerful smartphone which you can take on extreme activities, swimming and in the bath then sure the Galaxy S4 Active is the best around, but that's a pretty limited market.

When it comes to the best high-end smartphone around there are a number which trump the S4 Active in terms of style, portability and features and if you're shelling out a lot of money surely you want the best?

So if you're in the market for a top end smartphone then we'd say it's worth taking a look at the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, Sony Xperia Z and even the Nokia Lumia 925 or iPhone 5, but if you fancy something a little different then you won't be disappointed with the Galaxy S4 Active.

And hey, chuck it in a bucket of water and your mates will be seriously impressed (honest).

John McCann
Global Managing Editor

John joined TechRadar over a decade ago as Staff Writer for Phones, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He's interviewed CEOs from some of the world's biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and has appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. Originally specializing in phones, tablets and wearables, John is now TechRadar's resident automotive expert, reviewing the latest and greatest EVs and PHEVs on the market. John also looks after the day-to-day running of the site.