What’s the difference between the Samsung Galaxy S4 and S4 Zoom?

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom vs Galaxy S4 – what’s the difference?

In

this comparison we take a look at the differences to the very popular successor to the Samsung Galaxy S3, the S4 and put it head to head with the S4 Zoom.

Jump to: Processor, RAM, Memory, Display, Connectivity, Camera, Battery, Size & Weight, Price, Software, Conclusion.

The factors that affect your final decision will of course be personal to your needs, wants and desires but we reveal those features both in terms of hardware and software that make the S4 and the S4 Zoom different.  It would be all to easy to think that the S4 Zoom is an upgraded S4, but it is not that simple. Read on to find out more.

Main differences at a glance:

  • Processor – The S4 has a quad-core processor compared to the dual-core on the S4 Zoom
  • RAM – The S4 has more RAM than the S4 Zoom
  • Memory – The Zoom has 8GB less memory out of the box
  • Display – The S4’s 4.99” is replaced with a 4.3” screen on the S4 Zoom
  • 4G – No 4G on the S4 Zoom, unlike the S4
  • Camera – The S4 Zooms camera is 16 megapixels compared to the 13 on the S4, but there are many more features over and above this.
  • Battery – The S4 trumps the Zoom with a bigger battery, but that need not mean better battery life
  • Size & weight – The S4 Zoom is thicker and heavier than the rival S4
  • Software – The S4 Zoom has a different iteration of TouchWiz

Whilst on the face of it, the S4 may look like the better of the 2 units, depending on your needs, it may not be quite such a clear cut win for the S4. We cover each difference in more detail below.

Please note – Different models/variants of the each are released globally and would impact your decision.  This comparison is based on the Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505 and the S4 Zoom SM-101 which are the most popular within the UK market.

If you want to watch this comparison, rather than read, head to the bottom of the post.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom vs Galaxy S4 Video

Processor

One of the most controversial differences between the 2 devices, the S4 has a 1.9GHz quad-core processor compared to the 1.5GHz dual-core on the S4 Zoom.

Day to day usage for the ‘average’ user will not really result in much difference in overall performance.  However for more demanding users who rely on multi-taking and perhaps enjoy the occasional intense action game play then there will be a noticeable difference in the performance, responsiveness and overall experience.

During our testing we found no noticeable issue with the dual-core processor and that is partly because modern processing chips are extremely efficient and handle very intelligently what processes they need to complete.  Few users really maximise the power of the quad-core processors.

Dual-core processors at the time of writing are far more common than quad-core.

RAM

The decrease in processing power brought with it a reduction in the amount of RAM on the S4 Zoom, but marginal the difference is.  There is just .5GB (500MB) between the two.

The S4 has 2GB and the S4 Zoom has 1.5GB.  Very much linked to the processor through our testing and comparison we were hard pushed to really find the Zoom struggling with this lesser memory, but it is possible that with no app management you could find slow downs in performance.  This is easily rectified by closing a few un-used apps.

Memory

Either device will have less memory than is actually advertised due to the operating system actually being installed on this memory.

The S4 has 16GB, of which approximately only 9GB is available out of the box.  The S4 Zoom however has 8GB of internal memory, of which around 5GB is available for use.

Thus in comparison, the S4 Zoom actually seems to fair better as a greater proportion is available to you, the user.  Having said this some sacrifices are made in the software, but they may not be a deal breaker for you.

With either device, there is a microSD memory card slot that supports up to 64GB, so you should have plenty of space for media.

Display

Another sticking point here is the screen size.  The S4 boast a 4.99” full HD Super AMOLED display whilst the S4 Zoom has a 4.3” Super AMOLED display.

The resolutions are 1920 x 1080 and 960 x 540 respectively.

Depending on which side of the fence you sit on there are advantages and disadvantages here.  The primary being the S4 display gives much better image quality and would allow for much better playback of content had it been attached to the S4 Zoom’s lens.

However the smaller display on the S4 Zoom serves to keep the actual size of the device down to give practicality and portability, not to mention some savings on battery drain.

The clarity of the Zoom’s screen is good enough for the vast majority of things you will be doing with it and only when you compare it side by side with the S4 do you really notice the difference.  It is a disappointment, but one that serves to make the Zoom more usable.

4G connectivity

When purchasing the latest technology it is important to know that you are future proofed.  With the S4 you are, as this has 4G connectivity, the Zoom on the other hand does not.

It is a bit of a shame, but it does have HSPA+.

At the time of writing few networks offer 4G so the importance of this may not be so great.

Both devices do have WiFi, Bluetooth & NFC as alternative means of sharing.

Camera

Starting with the front facing cameras, the S4 boast a 2 megapixel camera whilst the S4 Zoom has a 1.9 megapixel.  No real difference between the 2 in terms of final image results. The S4 can record in full 1080p whilst the Zoom shoots video at 720p. Whilst there is some difference here, for the majority of instances in which you will require the front camera, 720p would be fine.  However if it is a matter of principle then then the S4 tops it.  There is also a burst mode option on the S4 that isn’t available on the S4 Zoom.

OK so now to the part where the Zoom comes into its own.

The Zoom has a 16 megapixel camera with Xenon flash whilst the S4 has a 13 megapixel with LED flash.

Image quality and colour representation can often be a personal decision, but we did feel that the S4 Zoom took an overall better picture, not just because the sensor was bigger.

The flash also came into its own in night/dusk scenes, leaving the image feeling more natural than harsh as can be the case with the S4 flash in some instances.

You would avoid where possible to use the digital zoom on the S4 as it is quite frankly dire.  The S4 Zoom on the other hand has a 10x optical zoom which is a relative pleasure to use in comparison.

The Zoom can be controlled via an on screen + and – button, which offers a smoother zoom in my opinion.  You do also have the option of the physical dial around the lens which can be controlled.  With a bit of getting used to you can control this just a smoothly as the on screen buttons.  I did find it a bit fiddly when holding the device and trying to avoid a finger straying in front of the lens. The other thing to note here is that the Zoom on both goes up in increments. The S4 goes up to 4x digital zoom; 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, etc but the S4 Zoom whilst it has 10x optical zoom goes up in greater intervals, 1.2, 1.4, 1.6, 1.8, 2.2, 3.1 etc.

Below are samples from both camera.  The first shots are from the S4 with no zoom and then 4x digital zoom. These are then followed by the S4 Zoom with no zoom and then 10x optical zoom (click on each to enlarge).

Both devices record in full 1080p HD at 30 frames per second and the results were very good. You do still retain the full 10x optical zoom when recording on the S4 Zoom.

The Zoom has a dedicated camera shutter button and camera style grip built into the device for convenient one handed holding of the device. The S4 does not have a dedicated shutter button, although you can configure the like of the volume buttons to be one.  Both have on screen shutter and video recording buttons.

The Zoom has a tripod mount and lanyard attachment too, features the S4 does not have. These are of course particularly handy if you are serious about photography and want to capture some better photos.

Both devices have a range of pre-configured shooting modes for simple get going, point and shoot style photography. However the Zoom does too have an expert mode allowing for a whole range of settings (ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture) to be changed manually, much like a dedicated camera or SLR.

One other small but convenient option that is on both devices is the ability to speak to the camera to tell it to do something. On the S4 if you say ‘shoot’ it will take the picture for you, allowing you to have greater grip and control of the camera to capture a good shot.  The S4 Zoom has this but also a greater array of vocal instructions which silly as it may sound allows you to not even hold the camera if at a distance or hold it more steady with 2 hands.

Screenshot_2013-07-24-11-22-12

Battery

There is not much between them in battery life.  The S4 has a 2600mAh, whilst the S4 Zoom has 2330mAh.

Now with a 4.99” screen the S4 is known for eating through the battery so the Zoom could possibly win here because of the smaller and less power hungry display.

However the Zoom has that camera on it and if you are going to be using this regularly (which I suspect you will be) then the screen power savings are redundant because of the zoom, higher quality flash and general desire to be used more.

There is no average usage time that would be fair to apply to either as every users usage is different, but like any smartphone you can expect to need to charge it at the end of the day.

Good news on both accounts here is that both are removable batteries so a spare could be charging independently should you need it to.

Built into the software too is a power saving menu which could be a lifesaver if battery power is running short when away from mains power.

Size & Weight

As you will have gathered by now, there is not much competition when it comes to this, the S4 is slimmer and lighter.

The S4 weighs in at 130g compared to the 208g of the Zoom.

In terms of measurements, 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm for the S4 and the Zoom, 125.5 x 63.5 x 15.4 mm.

For a better representation, see the photos below.

Whilst the S4 is slimmer and lighter the bulk of the Galaxy S4 Zoom makes it feel more robust and the additional bulk brings advantages like a camera grip, shutter button.  For some, the S4 can feel a little too big in the hand.

The Zoom will be the bulkier in the pocket, but the lanyard strap will potentially assist with hand carrying.

The Zoom does not sit neatly on a desktop, the zoom is a prop if you want it in landscape mode.


Price

 

At the time of writing the S4 is priced at £440 + VAT (£528 including) against the £369+ VAT (£443 including) of the Zoom.

That makes for up to £85 difference between the two.

It is very difficult to judge whether one offers better value or not because this is going to be based on your own conclusion of the above.  The S4 does have some obvious advantages, and £85 spread over the average life of ownership (24 months) is not too much extra to pay.

If we quickly compare the costs of purchasing a phone and camera separately, the S4 Mini (closest equivalent) comes in at £377 and a camera around £130.  Thus you are looking at in excess of £500 for 2 components where as the S4 Zoom comes in at over £60 cheaper.

Software

It is important to note that whilst both devices carry the S4 branding the software whilst on the whole very similar, does contain some important differences.

Over and above the mentioned camera software differences, the other come in around some of the heavily advertised features of the S4, like Smart Pause etc.  Most of these are cut out on the Zoom and this is where the size of the OS install is reduced.

Missing from the S4 Zoom are:

  • Palm Motion for screen capture and mute/pausing of music
  • All air gestures – Quick glance, air jump, air browse, air move and air call accept
  • Smart pause and smart scroll
  • Voice control for alarm and ChatOn

Now these may not be deal breakers as some do not function quite how Samsung would lead you to believe but none the less they may have some affect on your decision.

Screenshot_2013-07-24-11-21-33Screenshot_2012-01-04-19-13-38Screenshot_2012-01-04-19-13-32

On the other hand the S4 Zoom has ‘Open Camera’ setting which will allow you to have the camera lens open as soon as you turn the device on, much like a normal compact camera.

Another addition is Photo Suggest app which on the S4 Zoom as the name suggests uses your location to help advise you where to take photos based on what others have done.

One other small frustration on the S4 series is that the home screen does not orient in landscape mode. This can be overcome with different launcher’s but it should not be necessary.  Things like messaging, settings and many more orient this way.  However with the likes of the Zoom which encourage landscape usage having the home screens orient this way would be extremely useful.

Conclusion

Deciding between the S4 and the S4 Zoom is much like choosing between a VW Golf and a VW Golf GTI, they fundamentally do the same job but there are few things that make one or the other stand out for practicality or coolness over the other.

The S4 as a rounded smartphone solution has a great deal to offer.  The S4 Zoom certainly falls behind in the likes of the display quality and processing power, however unless you are an ardent power user then these are likely to make a real difference to you as the zoom is by far more than acceptable.

The small software differences are really unlikely to make a great deal of difference, but the physical size may ultimately do so.

The Zoom is bulky and heavy and isn’t something you are likely to want to carry with you all the time unless you tend to use a headset, or really do like mobile photography.

One other small consideration is the range of accessories, the S4 is already well served by official and 3rd party solutions.  The unique product of the Zoom is unlikely to receive such attention and due to design differences cradles and car kits will need to be general or devices specific and many ‘galaxy’ compatible accessories will not work.

With either device you get a good amount of features for the money.

Find out more about the Samsung Galaxy S4 HERE.

Find out more about the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom HERE

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About Jon

Constantly challenging opinions and looking for new opportunities, Jon develops the product ranges and business activities and very much strives to maintaining growth and taking Clove in to the future.

Never knowing when to stop, he spends too much time in the office! He's very organised; writes lists, reports, spreadsheets, you name it, he's on to it!! When he does relax, however, he can be found driving his pride and joy (his Range Rover Sport), walking his Dog, down the pub or at a local restaurant. He does too like the finer things in life and often lives beyond his means, only the best hotels will do.

Comments

  1. Amazing review.. was really wondering what the difference is and contemplating on which to buy (one with a better camera or one with better features)..thanks for making the decision easier :-)

  2. Great review

  3. good job… I love your review

  4. Awesome review, makes it much easier for a layman to understand.

  5. should really compare the zoom to s4 mini as that would be a better comparison to make

  6. Wicked review covers everything but I still cant decide I have the s4 already got offered the zoom on upgrade was told its better phone and on a 4g plan….help !!

    • Josh Bethell says:

      Hi Nicola, it depends on how much you like taking pictures. The camera on the Zoom is one of the best you can get for Android phones.
      In raw phone specifications, the standard S4 is actually ‘better’, although for most people’s use, the differences are quite small

  7. The non-zoom photos show the S4 zoom doesn’t have a great lens. Look at the difference in the white dormer on the house to the right of the telephone pole. You can see there’s “blueing” or light bleed from the wall of the dormer into the roof tiles. The regular S4 picture is actually clearer, even when blown up to be the same size.

    That means the only time the Zoom is better than the S4 is when you’re actually using the zoom. Huh….

    If you’re zooming all the time with your phone, the Zoom may be for you, but I won’t be buying one. I’ll use Google’s Picasa on my computer.

    Thanks for the great review.

  8. abang kotaro says:

    a very helpful review. thanks a lot

  9. i lost my s4 recently, now planning to buy zoom! thank you!

    • Ive got the s4 and went and got the zoom on upgrade yes wicked little phone good features on camera etc downsides which are making keep the s4 is size its small and chunky the screen is alot smaller and in all things arent as fast

  10. do you know how to do screenshots on s4 zoom? it would be really helpful if u can explain.. thanks!

    • Josh Bethell says:

      I don’t have an S4 Zoom on hand to test but I think it should be power & volume down buttons held together

  11. i bought s4zoom and it was too good

  12. nice review, i like to know if the gaming and graphics are the same with that of s4zoom to s4 itself. Thanks

    • Josh Bethell says:

      Hi Collins, the standard S4 would be better.
      S4: 1.9 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor with Adreno 320 GPU & 2 GB RAM.
      S4 Zoom: 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor with Adreno 225 GPU & 1.5 GB RAM.
      The Zoom can still play very good games but the standard S4 has a clear edge

  13. a very helpful review. thanks a lot.

  14. I’m deciding to purchase another Mobile Phone.
    This review is best/unbiased technical review I’ve ever read product wise.
    Other reviewers have
    a lot to learn from this one.
    Pete (Perth Western Australia)

    • Josh Bethell says:

      Hi Pete thanks for the kind words. This is actually one of our ‘comparison’ pieces rather than a full review.
      We do post full reviews but prefer the comparisons as we get to put two similar devices side by side and talk about them in detail.
      If you liked this then search around the blog for similar pieces; the keyword ‘comparison’ should help you.
      We’ll be updating the look of the blog next year to make this kind of content easier to find :)

  15. Great Comparison , non other have give in such detail and made understand to common man…! Good job Jon

  16. Is it just me or the S4 (unzoomed) image looks ‘better’ than the S4 Zoom? It certainly has less chromatic aberration and in general sharper image, though that may be because S4 applied stronger sharpening filter.

    • Josh Bethell says:

      Hi Andy, you’re right there, the Zoom’s image does appear a little washed out in comparison.
      I’m not sure about the settings used on these although I’m pretty sure Jon tends to leave the handsets on automatic.
      It wouldn’t surprise me if Samsung compromised somewhat on the S4 Zoom’s sensor and software compared to the standard S4 in order to cost in the zoom lens, considering the retail prices at launch were almost the same

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