The Galaxy S 4 Active (right) is a Galaxy S 4 (left) variant we can actually recommend.
Ostensibly, Samsung has one brand name for all of its Android-powered smartphones: Galaxy. As the company finds more success, that brand has branched out into several sub-brands. There's the "S" line (usually reserved for flagship smartphones), the "Tab" line (for mid-end tablets), and the "Note" line (which applies to stylus-equipped phones and tablets). As Samsung produces more and more devices for more and more niches, some of these sub-brands are even beginning to branch off into their own sub-brands. This is where the Galaxy S 4 Active comes in.
The Active is one of several offshoots of the Galaxy S 4, which was released back in the spring. Each of these S 4 variants gives up some of the S 4's high-end features in favor of serving a particular niche—the Galaxy S 4 Mini is slower but smaller and lighter, for example, while the S 4 Zoom integrates a point-and-shoot camera with optical zoom. The Active's claim to fame is that it's both sturdier than the standard S 4, and it's also water- and dust-proof. But unlike the other off-shoots, it actually retains most of the features that make the standard S 4 a high-end smartphone. Our review will let you know what the two phones share, where they're different, and which one you should pick if you're in the market for a new handset.
What's the same?
Specs at a glance: Samsung Galaxy S 4 Active
1920×1080 4.99" (441 PPI) TFT LCD
Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with TouchWiz skin
Quad-core 1.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600
Qualcomm Adreno 320
16GB, expandable via microSD
802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, LTE bands 2, 4, 5 and 17, UMTS 850/1900/2100MHz, GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900MHz
Unlike the other S 4 variants, the internal specs of the S 4 active actually match the standard S 4, so it benchmarks just like its less-active cousin. It's got the same 1.9GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC, the same 2GB of RAM, and the same Adreno 320 GPU to drive a screen with the same 1080p resolution (though the screen itself is a bit different, as we'll discuss in a moment).