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Samsung Galaxy S4 Active: Rugged and ready for adventure

Armando Rodriguez | Sept. 2, 2013
If Indiana Jones used a smartphone, this would probably be it.

samsung galaxy s4

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is a ruggedized version of the the company's current flagship Android phone, the Galaxy S4. Where the S4 is a fine fit for cubicle drones and people who spend most of their time indoors, the Active is for those who crave a little more excitement in their lives—thrill seekers and adventurers. It's the phone for people who want a high-end handset but don't want it to get in the way of their active lifestyle.

Dashing and durable

While the Active is slightly larger and thicker than the standard S4, the two phones don't look all that different from one another: Both feature 5-inch 1080p displays and a similar shape, but the Active has physical navigation buttons and feels weightier in your hand. Even with its added girth, the Active is comfortable to hold and you shouldn't have any trouble getting it in or out of your pocket.

The phone is mostly constructed out of polycarbonate—a fancy word for plastic—but it doesn't feel as plasticky as previous Samsung handsets. The top and bottom corners of the Active have a rubbery coating that makes it more resilient if it's dropped, and the phone as a whole doesn't seem as fragile as the S4. The physical navigation buttons are a little spongy, but they don't feel loose and they seem like they can withstand some abuse.

Much like the Sony Xperia Z, the Active is certified water-resistant in up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. The Micro-USB port on the Active has a small flap that you need to cover before taking the phone for a dip, but it's pretty flimsy and seems like it'd be way too easy to damage through regular use. If you prefer land to sea, the Active is resistant to dust and the phone's Gorilla Glass 2 display is slightly harder to scuff than screens on most other smartphones.

The Active has a removable battery and MicroSD card slot, and accessing them is fairly straightforward: You just pop the back casing off as you would on any other smartphone, no special tools required. Replacing the back cover is simple too, but you should take special care to make sure the waterproof seal is in place if you plan on using the phone around water. A sticker on the back of the phone tells you how to securely snap on the back cover; you can remove it once you feel you've gotten the hang of the operation.

Under the hood

The Active packs some impressive specs inside its water-resistant shell: A 1.9GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor gives the phone the power it needs to run pretty much any app or game you'd find in the Google Play Store, and the 2GB of RAM comes in handy when you're running lots of apps at the same time. The phone has next to no lag, even when you are installing multiple applications at once, and games like Riptide GP 2 play beautifully on the Active's large display.

 

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