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Galaxy S4 Active vs regular S4 - what's the difference?

Everything you need to know about the recently announced Samsung Galaxy S4 in one place. Find out what makes it different from the regular S4, for better or for worse.

Published onJune 5, 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active 1
Quick, how many variations of the record-breaking Samsung Galaxy S4 can you name off the top of your head? At least one, I hope. Today, Samsung announced the latest variant of this particular handset meant for use in the great outdoors. Called the Galaxy S4 Active, it’s a rugged phone in every sense of the word. And yet it’s also every bit the high-end model that the original Galaxy S4 is. What exactly is the difference between the Galaxy S4 Active and the regular one? Read on to find out.

It starts with one

One thing you’ll immediately notice about the Galaxy S4 Active is that instead of having just one hardware button on the front below the touchscreen display, it has three — a Back button, a Menu button, and a Home button. And overall, its body is a little less rounder than the original, almost as if to physically demonstrate the fact that it belongs in the rugged phone category.

Samsung decided to leave some of the regular S4 hardware buttons and hardware features in place, like the power button, volume rocker, speaker grill, and front-facing camera. But if you take a look at the back, you’ll find that there has been a slight redesign. This is all to make it worthy of being called tough and IP67-certified.

What it means to be Active

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
Unlike the regular S4, the Galaxy S4 Active boasts IP67 certification. This means that it is dust-proof and should survive being dipped for up to 30 minutes under water that is up to 1m in depth. Its physical attributes make it a little larger (it measures 9.1mm thick; the regular S4 is 7.9mm thick) and little heavier than the original (the regular S4 is 21g lighter). But fortunately, these physical changes aren’t all bad.

The display

Samsung’s official press release states that the Galaxy S4 is equipped with a 5-inch Full HD TFT LCD screen. That is not the same type of screen found on the regular S4; it’s better in some ways, but worse in others.

Compared with the regular Galaxy S4’s Super AMOLED screen, the TFT LCD panel on the Galaxy S4 Active is worse when it comes to viewing angles and contrast ratio. Samsung must have chosen it for the sake of longevity, since AMOLED panels are known to be prone to degradation over long-term use.

It’s also worth noting that the screens of these two phones also differ in terms of actual size and pixel density. The regular S4 screen has always been said to measure 4.99-inches with a pixel density of 441 ppi. Meanwhile, the one on the Galaxy S4 Active is said to be a 5-inch panel with a pixel density of 443 ppi. Either Samsung did a bit of rounding off with the screen size and pixel density or the Galaxy S4 Active does indeed have a slightly bigger screen and handful of pixels more than the regular one.

The camera

GS4 Active camera
The camera in the Galaxy S4 Active is not as good as the one on the regular S4. For one thing, it only has an 8-megapixel sensor, which is essentially a downgrade from the 13MP one on the original. But at least it still comes with an accompanying LED flash (that can be turned into a tiny flashlight). And not only that, but it also has a unique new feature called Aqua Mode. It’s basically a special camera setting that allows users to take better pictures and videos underwater.

The software, the storage, and the rest

The regular Galaxy S4 is filled to the brim with features that are supposed to enhance the user experience. As such, a large part of the internal storage goes to “system apps” which leave only about 9GB available for users to save their stuff on.

The Galaxy S4 Active, on the other hand, forgoes some of these extra software perks. As a result, it saves space, and is said to offer approximately 11.25GB of user-available memory.

GS4 Active screen
Despite all of the above-mentioned differences, both the regular S4 and Galaxy S4 Active are still part of the same Android-powered family. Each phone has its strengths, but in the end, they’re two of a kind, like brothers or perhaps even friends who have different interests but somehow manage to find a common ground.

Did I miss anything? Tell us what you think of the Galaxy S4 Active by posting a comment below.

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