final rating

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Criteria Comments Rating
  • Reception and call quality The earpiece volume is loud and clear. I have not suffered any dropped calls yet and signal quality has been excellent in my area. great!
  • Display The display is vivid and clear. Text is easy to read and colors are natural and beautiful. The auto-dim feature sometimes goes a little too dim, but reasonable. great!
  • Battery life Thin and lightweight. I use sports tracking apps. Working all day and tracking a 15 mile mountain bike ride and normal use, I still had 40% battery remaining. great!
  • Camera I've yet to see a smartphone camera take great low-light photos, but with that said they are still good. Well lit photos and videos are fantastic. good
  • Ease of use Use it out of the box or dig deep and customize into all the awesome features Samsung adds (like holding the volume up button to enable the led light). great!
  • Design and form factor My wife has the standard S4. I prefer the Active's design and ruggedness, and it still looks sleek and stylish, without having to worry about dust/water, etc. great!
  • Portability (size / weight) I love the weight! It's not heavy but feels very high quality and rests in the hand nicely. A five inch screen is perfect for me and still fits in the pocket. great!
  • Media support I just ordered my 32GB class 10 micro SD card for $25. Can't beat that flexibility and price! great!
  • Durability I would have preferred a little more ruggedness, even with more bulk and weight. It feels a little fragile without a case but safe from elements. Don't drop it! good
  • Ecosystem (apps, accessories, etc.) ANDROID! Enough said. great!
Detailed review
The Galaxy S4 Active accomplished what it sought out to do, to be a rugged version of the S4. I love mountain biking and work outdoors in extreme dust and suffer a few months a year of monsoons in the southwest, so the S4 Active was an obvious choice for me. I would love a high-end smartphone without the need for a protective case, but unfortunately the Active still seems fragile enough to want to get a case for it... I'm willing to bet it wouldn't survive many drops on a hard surface before the screen shattered, but I'm not going to test that out! The camera shoots beautiful pictures and video and the shooting modes are quite cool and actually useful rather than gimmicks. Being able to snap shots at (or in) the pool and other places one wouldn't typically be comfortable carrying their phones, is very cool. Over the recent years I've owned a range of iPhone's, Nexus, and Galaxy models, and the S4 Active is my favorite by far. If I'd change anything it would be to make it even more rugged, mostly protecting impact of a drop on a hard surface.