Samsung’s galaxy of S4 smartphones

Galaxy_S4_phonesIf you’ve been coveting Samsung’s latest flagship then you might be interested to know that it comes in several varieties. The original may well be the best – here’s our Samsung Galaxy S4 review – but before you pull the trigger on it, let’s take a look at the alternative options.

The Mini

The Galaxy S4 Mini is a scaled down version of the full S4. It is cheaper (around £390 SIM-free), but it is also less powerful (1.7GHz dual-core instead of 1.9GHz quad-core), and quite a bit smaller (the clue’s in the name). Some people definitely find the S4 more than a handful, so, if you’re taken with the features, but you don’t feel the need for cutting edge speed, and you want to be able to text one-handed, the Mini could be your best bet.

The Zoom

The Galaxy S4 Zoom is a powerful, compact camera that also happens to be a phone. It’s a bit like the Mini, with scaled-down specs compared to the S4. There’s a slower, dual-core processor, and a smaller 4.3-inch display. The big difference is that the camera is a whopping 16-megapixel affair with 10x optical zoom, and a Xenon flash. It’s not just for photographers either, it has OIS (optical image stabilization) built-in, so you don’t need a steady hand to capture a great shot, and the Smart Mode will choose optimal settings for you based on the conditions. There are other extras like Photo Suggest which offers inspiration in the form of photos other people have taken and tips on getting the best photos at different locations. It looks more like a camera than a phone and that chunky lens makes it heavy. If you want one SIM-free then you’ll be paying around £450.

The Active

The Galaxy S4 Active has an IP67 rating, which basically means it is extra tough. It also means that you can use it to take underwater photographs and there’s an Aqua Mode to help you do just that. Before you imagine going deep sea diving with it, we have to point out it is waterproof up to one meter for up to 30 minutes. The specs are almost identical to the original S4, except that the main camera has dropped down to an 8-megapixel rating. It is also a bit chunkier. If you’re outdoors a lot then the fact it is waterproof is probably a fair trade off. Price wise it looks like it will be around the same as the original at £550 without a contract.

Galaxy S4 Google Edition

It’s not yet clear whether the Google edition of the Galaxy S4 will make it to the UK. In terms of hardware it is exactly the same as the original S4, but the software is very different because it runs stock Android. That basically means all the Samsung software and the TouchWiz user interface is not there, so you get pure Android as Google intended.

The S4 is a very powerful smartphone, but the main selling points that Samsung pushed were all software related. There were certainly some complaints about bloatware and the lack of available storage on the 16GB version was blamed on the abundance of Samsung apps and services. You can get a SIM-free version of the S4 for around £550 and we’d expect the Google edition to be a similar price, if it comes to these shores.

What’s the best S4?

In terms of raw power and features the original S4 is the best. If you’re not interested in Samsung’s software then the Google edition would save you from having to work through the rooting process.

The Mini is obviously just a smaller, cheaper version. It will be ideal for people with smaller hands or tighter budgets.

The appeal of the Zoom is questionable. If you need a powerful compact camera then you’d be better served by buying one separately, especially since the rest of the hardware of the S4 Zoom is seriously scaled back compared to the original S4. Like many combo devices it looks like an unhappy compromise.

Of all the alternatives, the Active looks like the best. The drop from 13MP to 8MP for the camera won’t bother most people; you can still capture great shots with an 8MP camera. If you want your smartphone to be a little tougher and waterproof then the extra size and weight probably won’t put you off either.

Are you tempted by any of these S4 variants? Which one would you pick?

About Simon Hill

Simon is an experienced tech writer with a background in games development. He has been covering the world of mobile technology for several years now and writes for a variety of popular websites.
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    Thanks, Simon. This post was very well written and it also contains a lot of useful facts.