On many key hardware specs, the Galaxy S 4 shines. But the plastic body felt a bit insubstantial to me...If you’re a nut for lists of new features, love Samsung or crave an even bigger display, the Galaxy S 4 may be for you. It’s a good phone, just not a great one.
In the end, the Galaxy S4 is a good choice for people at opposite ends of the technical spectrum: gadget hounds who love to customize at one end, and (thanks to Easy Mode) the easily overwhelmed at the other.
For everyone else, the S4 may be buggy in spots and laden with not-quite-there features. But the basics are excellent; this phone is still a fast, bright, handsome pocket rocket. It easily earns its place as a successor to the Galaxy S3 and a rival to the iPhone.
AnandTech's Brian Klug only published part one of his review but suggests if you're used to the Galaxy family of phones you'll enjoy the S4:
Long story short, SGS4 is packed full of absolutely the latest and greatest everything on basically every axis possible...Compared to any previous Galaxy S device, the SGS4 is a clear step forward in all of the right areas. If you're a happy owner of a Samsung Galaxy S/S2/S3, you'll likely be a happy owner of a Galaxy S 4.
It's when you compare the Galaxy S 4 to its chief technical competitor, the HTC One, that the discussion becomes more complicated.
Business Insider's Steve Kovach said the S4 was a great phone and if you don't mind plastic you'll be happy going with Samsung. But he also alluded to the fact that something's missing:
In many respects, [the Galaxy S4] does live up to all that hype and is definitely one of the best phones you can buy today. But it's still falls short of its chief rivals, the iPhone 5 and HTC One, at least from a design standpoint.
I don't need more cores, more gigahertz, or more software features that ostensibly help me use my phone more easily. I need a phone that feels good in my hand, looks good on my desk, does everything I expect it to, and gives me no reason to think it won't last the life of my two-year contract.
The Galaxy S4 is fast and impressive, but it's also noisy and complex. That's why, when my contract is up in June, I'll probably be casting my lot with HTC instead of Samsung.
Engadget's Brad Molen thought the Galaxy S4's design quality was only a modest improvement over the Galaxy S3:
The design doesn't feel fresh, especially not next to the HTC One, but we can't deny that it's an improvement over the GS 3.
If you're considering a move from an older Samsung device, the GS 4 is absolutely the handset you want... But when we compare it to the eye-catching look and feel of the [HTC] One, we can't help but think of one word to describe Samsung's particular flagship entry: predictable.
Gizmodo's Brent Rose wasn't initially impressed by the GS4, but after getting to know it better he thinks its one of the best phones you can buy:
The S4 is far from a bad phone. In fact, were it not for the HTC One, it would be the best Android phone you can buy. And one can't help but think that had Samsung poured all of its innovation into maximizing the practical user experience—instead of highly ignorable gimmicks—it might have taken the crown.
Ars Technica's Florence Ion thought the S4 was a solid phone and was one of the only reviewers that didn't compare the S4 to the HTC One:
Samsung may be attempting to achieve for the Android-using public what Apple did with the iPhone. It's going to make it easy to use for anyone who wants to use the Android platform, and it's also going to include all of the features any person would ever want to use on a smartphone to attract those newcomers.
[The Galaxy S 4] is an extremely solid phone...It feels great to hold, it's comfortable to use throughout the day, and it takes much better photos than its predecessor. Samsung definitely has another hit on its hands.