Samsung Galaxy S4 vs HTC One (video)

April 24, 2013
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The clash of the titans! The hottest smartphones of the moment, and probably the two best Android smartphones ever made, meet today in what’s possibly the most exciting Versus article of 2013. But before we dive in, let’s properly introduce our two combatants.

A quick look around the tech blogosphere tells us that the Samsung Galaxy S4 is the Android smartphone that gathered the most hype on its announcement date. Obviously, a very good sign for the South Korean manufacturer, as the predecessor of the S4, the Galaxy S3, is the best-selling Android smartphone of all time.

With Samsung’s marketing muscle behind it and a huge base of loyal fans, the Galaxy S4 shapes up to be a hit. If you’re looking for a full review of the Galaxy S4, Joshua Vergara has got you covered with his extensive analysis. The bottom line is that Samsung improved on the Galaxy S3 in all areas with this new iteration, while also adding some very interesting software features.

In the other corner, Taiwanese manufacturer HTC has a lot of hope in the commercial success of the HTC One, regarded as the last chance for a turnaround for the ailing company.

Unlike Samsung, HTC decided to think outside the box with the One, equipping it with several unique features. For a full review of the HTC One, make sure to check out Kristofer Wouk’s article.

But what are the main advantages of the HTC One when pitted against the Samsung Galaxy S4? Where is the Galaxy S4 shinning when compared to the One? Join us for a full comparison. For a hands-on video of the Samsung Galaxy S4 versus the HTC One, jump to the bottom of this article.

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Display

The Samsung Galaxy S4 uses a 5-inch Super AMOLED panel that runs at full HD (1920 by 1080 pixels) resolution, with a 441 ppi pixel density. Contrast rates and brightness are both excellent with the Samsung Galaxy S4, although the inaccurate color reproduction remains the main flaw of the Super AMOLED panels. Some learn to live with and love the ultra vivid colors that such a panel produces, while others swear by the more true-to-nature colors of LCD screens.

It’s also worth noting that, although Samsung used a PenTile subpixel arrangement matrix on the Samsung Galaxy S4, you cannot notice any pixelation with the naked eye.

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The HTC One uses a 4.7-inch Super LCD3 display, one that also works at full HD resolution, but this time at a density of 469 ppi, thanks to the slightly smaller screen. The great contrast and brightness levels are matched by the accurate color reproduction to provide an amazing viewing experience.

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Verdict: If you want a more compact display with accurate colors, go for the HTC One. If you prefer deep blacks and richer colors, go for the Samsung Galaxy S4.

Design and build quality

Design-wise, the Galaxy S4 is mostly similar to its predecessor, with its rounded corners and the same button layout (a hardware home button flanked by two capacitive buttons). The only major differences are the introduction of a chromed frame surrounding the sides and the new mesh finish that replaces the old glaze finish.

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The Samsung Galaxy S4 features a polycarbonate (plastic) removable back cover, meaning that it doesn’t feel as premium as other high-end Android smartphones, like the One, the Xperia Z, or the Nexus 4. On the upside, the Galaxy S4 is the most compact 5-inch Android smartphone out there, measuring 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm (5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 in) and weighs just 130 g (4.59 oz).

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The HTC One features an aluminum unibody with slightly rounded corners, and bezels that are larger than the average, and definitely larger than those of the Samsung Galaxy S4. The power button rests at the top, while the usual three navigational buttons have been replaced with just two capacitive buttons: one for home and one for back.

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One (ahem) feature that’s unique to the HTC One (thus far, at least) is BoomSound, a pair of stereo speakers placed on the sides of the screen when in landscape mode (the “normal” mode for gaming and watching video). Thanks to BoomSound, the One produces significantly more decibels than any other Android smartphone that we recently tested.

Given that the HTC One has a smaller display, you would expect it to be a smaller smartphone than the Galaxy S4, but that’s not the case here. The HTC One measures 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 mm (5.41 x 2.69 x 0.37 in) and weighs 143 g (5.04 oz).

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Verdict: The HTC One has better build quality, but the Samsung Galaxy S4 has a superior screen-to-body ratio.

Internal hardware

CPU, GPU and RAM

The HTC One comes with a Snapdragon 600 SoC, that pairs a 1.7 GHz quad-core Krait processor with an Adreno 320 GPU, alongside 2GB of RAM. According to all benchmark tests, the Snapdragon 600 is a blazing fast platform. However, if raw processing power is what you’re looking for, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is the way to go.

The North American version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC as well, but this time the quad-core Krait 300 processor is clocked at 1.9 GHz. As a result, the North American version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 is slightly faster than the HTC One.

With the international version of the Galaxy S4, things change a bit in favor of Samsung, as the Exynos 5 Octa SoC (Quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A15 & quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7, PowerVR SGX 544MP3 GPU) seems to be the fastest chip that’s currently available on the market.

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Storage

The HTC One comes with two internal storage options: 32 GB or 64 GB, but lacks the option to expand that storage via a microSD card, so you better think about how much space you actually need before making a purchase.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is available with 16 GB / 32 GB / 64 GB of internal storage space, and can accept microSD cards of up to 64 GB in size.

Cameras

The Samsung Galaxy S4 uses a 13MP primary camera that does a great job if there’s enough light to work with. The HTC One’s 4MP Ultrapixel camera does a very good job at taking photos in low-light conditions, and a decent job in properly lit mediums. Both cameras should suffice for your basic point-and-shoot needs.

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Battery

In the battery department, the Samsung Galaxy S4 clearly outperforms the HTC One: a 2600 mAh removable battery on the Galaxy S4 versus a 2300 mAh fixed battery on the One.

Verdict: The Galaxy S4 comes with a microSD card slot and a larger removable battery, while also being slightly faster than the HTC One.

Android and software features

The Samsung Galaxy S4 runs on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, with a new version of Samsung’s TouchWiz UI overlaid on top.

The design of TouchWiz is often criticized, but in all fairness Samsung did manage to add a lot of extra functionality to Android. Besides the Smart Functions that were introduced on the Galaxy S3, the Galaxy S4 gains several new software functions, such as Air Gesture, Air View, S Health, Smart Scroll, Smart Pause and Knox Security. The Samsung camera app also comes with a few interesting features such as Eraser or Drama Mode.

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The HTC One runs on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, with a new version of Sense on top. The design is refined and subtle, but if you’re looking for extra functionality, the only exciting feature is BlinkFeed, a Flipboard-like stream of news and social updates that resides on your home screen.

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Verdict: If you’re looking for many tweaks and features that improve the Android experience, you’ll love the Samsung Galaxy S4. If you’re looking for a fresh design, take the HTC One for a spin.

Hands-on video

Conclusion

There’s so much to love about these two smartphones that picking a clear winner is impossible without being subjective. One way to decide who wins the HTC One vs Samsung Galaxy S4 battle is to ask yourself this:

Do you want a compact 5-inch smartphone with the fastest internal hardware around, a microSD card slot, and a removable battery? Go for the Samsung Galaxy S4!

Are color accuracy, great design and a premium build more important for you? Go for the HTC One!

What do you guys think? Which one is better and why: the Samsung Galaxy S4 or the HTC One?

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Joshua Vergara contributed to this review.

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