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printed November 1, 2014
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Review: Samsung Galaxy S 4 for Verizon Wireless

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Screen

To call the Galaxy S 4's display impressive is an understatement. The screen measures 5-inches across the diagonal and includes 1920 x 1080 pixels. Though the HTC One (which has a 4.7-inch display and the same resolution) beats the GS4 in terms of pixel density, the GS4 beats the HTC One handily in brightness and viewing angles. There's absolutely no brightness drop-off when the GS4 is tilted to the side, and colors remain accurate no matter what angle from which the GS4 is viewed. These statements do not apply to the HTC One, which sees a big brightness reduction and a slight bluing effect when tilted. Samsung's OLED display is a fantastic screen, no doubt, though colors are a bit oversaturated (which is typical from Samsung displays). Pictures, movies, web sites, and other content look flat-out amazing on the screen.

Signal

The GS4 performed quite well on Verizon's network during my review period. I tested it throughout northern New Jersey and was pleased with the results. For starters, the GS4 remained firmly attached to Verizon's LTE 4G network while I tested it. It didn't drop to EVDO once. That meant mobile broadband speeds were nearly always zippy, with things slowing down in only places with the weakest signal. Even then, the GS4 performend on par with other Verizon devices tested in the same area. I saw incredible download speeds as high as 44 Mbps and upload speeds breached 14.7 Mbps. In terms of making calls, the GS4 got the job done with ease. It connected calls quickly and never dropped nor missed any. In sum, the GS4 performed excellently on Verizon's network.

Sound

All versions of the GS4 have produced voice calls of superb quality, and the Verizon variant is no exception. Calls were crystal clear and have a pleasant, warm tone to them. Beyond the clarity, the GS4's earpiece is capable of pumping out some serious sound. When the volume is all the way up, you're at risk of damaging your hearing; most calls can be heard easily when the volume is set to half way. If you're daring, or need as much sound as possible to come from the earpiece, enable the "Extra Volume" tool in the settings. It produces enough noise so that calls can be heard quite clearly even if you hold the phone several feet away from your ear. As noted in our reviews of the AT&T and Sprint versions of the GS4, the phone has noise cancellation technology built in. This feature cuts the background clutter on your end of the call, so the person with whom you're speaking hears a nice, clean signal and no noise. I can attest that this feature works as advertised.

As far as the speakerphone is concerned, calls coming through the GS4's speaker were just as clear as those coming from the earpiece. They were also extremely loud. The speakerphone works well in environments such as a noisy car, busy office, or raucous party. It can be heard in all but the noisiest environments.

Ringers and alert tones, which are the same nature-inspired, drippy-drops as on the GS3, can be heard in most environments. The GS4 can be set to boost the ringer volume when it senses the device is in a pocket, a feature that works well. I thought the vibrate alert was OK, but could have been better. I missed a few text messages when the phone was in my pocket because I couldn't feel the GS4's vibrations.

Battery

The Verizon GS4 surprised me by achieving significantly better battery life than either the Sprint or AT&T versions. When I say significant, I mean that it lasted about 4 to 6 hours longer per day on average. As far as I can tell, the Verizon variant was better at sipping power when in standby mode. Rather than last from 7AM to 11PM like the AT&T and Sprint models, the Verizon version was still going at 2AM or later. It easily lasted until the end of the day even when used heavily to shoot pictures, or record video. It's easy to say that the Verizon GS4 performs quite well as far as battery life is concerned. As with all modern devices, mileage will vary a bit user-to-user.

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