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Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review

Verdict

A cracking phone and camera combination; not the best of both worlds, but a fantastic bargain

Review Date: 10 Aug 2013

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: Free, on a £25.00 per month, 24 months contract.

Buy it now for: £187
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

Camera connectivity has been improving steadily in recent times, but none can match the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom. Developing the concept introduced with Samsung's first connected Android camera, the Samsung Galaxy Camera, this hybrid boasts not only cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity, but also the capabilities of a full-blown smartphone to its 16-megapixel snapper.

In fact, viewed from the rear, it looks exactly like a Samsung Galaxy S4, with its white, diamond-textured surround, chrome-effect trim, earpiece grille at the top and 4.3in touchscreen beneath.

There's the familiar home button at the bottom, flanked by touch-sensitive context menu and back keys. When you turn it on, it behaves precisely as you'd expect one of Samsung's Galaxy smartphones to, complete with the TouchWiz Android overlay and clever enhancements such as Smart Stay, pop-up video and split screen apps.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

The display is excellent. It employs Super AMOLED technology, so blacks are inky and colours are rich and zesty. The resolution isn't the highest we've seen on a smartphone this size, at 540 x 960, but you still have to look pretty hard to see the pixels. And it's a responsive device, whether you're using it to browse the web, make social network updates or play games.

Its dual-core 1.5GHz Cortex-A9 processor delivers a time of 1,019ms in the SunSpider benchmark, which isn't half bad, and, generally, even demanding 3D games such as Asphalt 7: Heat are smooth and playable.

As for other specifications, it's mostly up to scratch. There's 1.5GB RAM, Bluetooth 4, dual-band Wi-Fi, 4G connectivity and a front-facing, 1.9-megapixel camera for videoconferencing. There's a replaceable 2,330mAh battery, but stamina is a touch below average with 50% remaining after our 24-hour test. We're also none too keen on the rather stingy 8GB of storage, but the microSDXC slot makes amends here, allowing you to add up to 64GB extra.

Snap happy?

Flip it over, and it no longer resembles any kind of phone, with a hand grip on the right-hand side, a proper xenon flash and focus-assist lamp, plus a lens housing that protrudes a good centimetre from the housing of the phone/camera. That lens housing plays host to an f/3.3 10x zoom, delivering a focal range of 24mm to 240mm (35mm equivalent).

There's more, too: on the bottom edge, you'll find a proper tripod socket and that microSDXC slot, with a user-replaceable battery and SIM card located under a narrow flap running along the edge of the camera grip.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

As a camera, the S4 Zoom relies heavily on touchscreen operation. Control dials pop in from the right-hand side, which allow the adjustment of everything from scene presets to ISO, aperture and shutter in the camera's manual mode.

To reduce touchscreen fatigue, Samsung has also added a ring around the lens housing, which can be tweaked to zoom in and out of a scene, or used as a means of accessing the camera's quick settings mode.

Give it a spin when you're using an app or browsing the web, and a selection of modes appears on the screen in the form of a circular dial – choose one, then press and hold the shutter button and the device launches directly into the camera app.

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User comments

"The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is a unique device. No other smartphone delivers a camera with as much flexibility and all-round quality, and no other camera offers such all-encompassing connectivity."

What about the Nokia 808 or the 1020? Or even the 925 or the 928?

By JamesD29 on 12 Aug 2013

I'm not 100% sure but I believe the S4 is the only one of all those that has a proper optical zoom.
The others I think have digital zooms.

By ajf350d on 12 Aug 2013

That is true ajf350d, but at 41 megapixels the Lumia 1020 enables you to crop heavily into the picture and still end up with a 8MP image, so effectively giving you an optical zoom (albeit not a 41MP optical zoom).

It' also a whole lot less bulky than this Samsung.

By Grunthos on 13 Aug 2013

What's the point...

Seriously, what is the point of this? Who is realistically going to walk around looking a complete tool with what looks like a camera glued to their ear?

By valeofyork on 13 Aug 2013

Nokia's first gaming phone looked pretty stupid too. Didn't stop people from buying them.

By JamesD29 on 13 Aug 2013

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