Samsung Galaxy S4 vs BlackBerry Z10 comparison review

BlackBerry Z10 vs Samsung Galaxy S4

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a great smartphone - a faster, bigger, slimmer, lighter version of the ultra-successful Samsung Galaxy S3 - the Android phone that went before. But how does the Galaxy S4 shape up when compared to the best BlackBerry phone: the BlackBerry Z10. We compared the two phones to find out. Updated 17 May 2013

See also: Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom release date, price and specs in the UK.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Design

The Galaxy S4 looks similar to the Galaxy S3 in design: it's pretty different to the BlackBerry Z10, which from the front at least looks like a squarer iPhone 5. The Galaxy S4 is rounded and pebble-like, the BlackBerry Z10 a thin-and-stylish rectangular slab of black. The Galaxy S4 is mostly plastic with a removable cover, while the Z10's front is almost all black, but it also has a thin plastic removable cover.

With a 5in screen and measuring 69.8x136.6mm the Galaxy S4 is a pretty big smartphone. It is wafer thin at 7.9mm and at 130g light too. By contrast the Z10 measures a smaller 66x130mm and is a not quite as slim 9.2mm. It's nice and light at 135g and fits snugly in your hand.

The Z10 is BlackBerry's first fully touchscreen smartphone - it has no physical keys or buttons for navigation. It is clean, simple and stylish; with straight edges and rounded corners.

The Z10's rear cover is slightly rounded at the edges making it more forgiving and comfortable in the hand than the iPhone. The rubbery texture made up of tiny dimples is very similar to that of the Nexus 7. When you take off the rear cover it feels thin and bendy, but robust.

The BlackBerry Z10 has a slightly less premium feel than some current smartphones in part because of its removable plastic back cover - given the Galaxy S4's similar plastic build this is no criticism. Use either phone for a while and you'll see that there are sound reasons for this. The Z10 and S4 are both workhorse smartphones, designed to travel everywhere and fulfil a variety of work and play functions without breaking. They are both designed and built beautifully - for me the S4 takes it because it is more striking, and bigger, whilst also being thin and light. But if you want a discreet and slick handset, you won't dislike the BlackBerry Z10.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Screen

The Galaxy S4 has a 5in display with a Full HD resolution of 1080x1920, giving it a whopping pixel density of 441ppi. At 4.2in the screen on the BlackBerry Z10 is quite small when you compare it to Galaxy S4. But the size isn't a problem; it's big enough to comfortably browse the web, use apps and watch video content.

The screen size coupled with the resolution of 768x1280 used to give the BlackBerry Z10 the highest pixel density of any phone we'd reviewed, but the Samsung Galaxy S4 beats it (as does the Sony Xperia Z and the HTC One). At 355ppi the BlackBerry Z10 beats the Nokia Lumia 920, iPhone 5, HTC Windows Phone 8X and Sony Xperia S, however. Both the Galaxy S4 and the BlackBerry Z10 have sharp screens.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 display uses SuperAMOLED technology and Gorilla Glass 3.

It's hard to find fault with the BlackBerry Z10's screen. At 355ppi it's not really a surprise that text and images look crisp and clear. Colours are vibrant, contrast is good and there's plenty of brightness should you need it. Our main concern is how quickly the display gets dirty with finger print marks, there's clearly no kind of oleophobic coating on the Z10.

The 5in Full HD screen on the Galaxy S4 is really impressive, however. The SuperAMOLED technology means colours are vibrant but not over the top like previous models. Samsung says it consumes less power than the Galaxy S3's display which we hope is true. Like some of Nokia's Lumia smartphones, the Galaxy S4 display can be used with regular gloves.

Again it's a close-run thing, but we have to tip our hat to the S4. The BlackBerry Z10 has a great screen, but the S4 just tips it.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Processor

There's no faulting the Galaxy S4's hardware which rivals devices like the HTC One and Sony Xperia Z. It's a shame that the UK model comes with a 1.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor instead of the Exynos octa-core chip. Nevertheless, the Galaxy S4 is no slouch of a phone. With a whopping 2GB of RAM the Galaxy S4 blasted through our benchmarks.

It breezed its way to being a new record holder in both Geekbench 2 and GLBenchmark with results of 3227 and 41fps. The former is significantly more than the HTC One's 2721 previous record and almost twice that of the Galaxy S3.

The Galaxy S4 couldn't quite manage a treble win but still gave us an impressive time of 1092ms in the SunSpider test. The iPhone 5 remains the best phone in this area at 903ms.

BlackBerry has opted for a 1.5GHz dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM for the Z10's engine room. The dual-core chip might sound mid-range since most top end smartphones have a quad-core processor, but with the BlackBerry 10 OS we don't see this as a problem. The BlackBerry 10 operating system is nippy and shows no signs of lag in use on the Z10. Indeed its Geekbench 2 score of 1725 puts it in the upper echelons of current smartphones, even if it does mean the Xperia Z is marginally faster of the two.

Browsing the web is particularly speedy, as BlackBerry said it would be. The relatively slow result of 1710ms in the SunSpider JavaScript test is slightly faster than the Xperia Z, and doesn't anyway reflect the browser's performance in our tests. It wasn't flawless, but it wasn't far off.

Because of the relative lack of third-party software for BlackBerry phones we can't run our GLBenchmark graphics test on the Z10, but don't let that put you off. It's a fast phone - not quite as fast as the Samsung Galaxy S4, but it's not far off. See also: BlackBerry 10 review - BlackBerry 10 features, performance and gripes.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Storage

The Samsung Galaxy S4 comes in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models. It has a microSD card slot that takes 64GB cards as standard.

The BlackBerry Z10 is a bit limited on the storage front with only 16GB models. There is a microSD card for up to 64GB cards, though. Unfortunately, before you even go downloading some apps, adding music and taking some snaps, a total of 4GB, a quarter of the storage, is already used up by the BlackBerry 10 operating system. Not ideal.

NEXT PAGE: Galaxy S4 vs BlackBerry Z10 cameras, software and battery >> CLICK HERE >>

We continue our Samsung Galaxy S4 vs BlackBerry Z10 smartphone comparison review with a look at their respective cameras, software and battery life.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Cameras

The Galaxy S4 has a 13Mp rear facing camera and a 1.9Mp front facing camera and both images and video footage from each was very impressive with excellent levels of details, good exposure and colour saturation on the default 9.6Mp (16:9) setting.

The Galaxy S4 camera app comes with a number of different modes beyond the likes of burst mode. The main talked about mode is Dual Shot which lets you take a photo with both cameras at once meaning the user is also in the photo, albeit in a small thumbnail. We find this a bit of a gimmick but other modes seem genuinely good.

Sound and Shot takes photo and also records some audio to go with it while Drama mode takes multiple photos and combines them into one – great for capturing moving objects. There are other more regular modes like panorama, night and HDR. In general they work well, but the more complicated ones take a bit of practice before you get the desired results.

The Z10's main camera is 8Mp with an LED flash, BSI (back side illumination), a dedicated ISP (image signal processor) and a F2.2 lens. The rear camera can record video in up to Full HD 1080p quality.

Photos are okay for a high-end smartphjone, but nothing more. You can select anywhere on the touchscreen to focus and then take a picture. The Z10 has a mind of its own with this method but fortunately you can use either volume button to operate the shutter. You can find sample images in our BlackBerry Z10 review.

The main show off feature of the Z10's camera is Time Shift. By taking numerous snaps in one go, you can adjust the whole image or individual elements like someone's face. It's a nice feature but don't be fooled into thinking it's new; the Nokia Lumia smartphones have a similar thing called Smart Shoot.

We like the editing software built in to BlackBerry 10 which allows you comprehensively edit and tweak your pictures. You can crop, rotate, adjust settings like white balance and add Instagram-style filters and borders.

We tested out the front-facing 2Mp camera by having a video chat in BBM Video (a new feature of BlackBerry 10). The camera shoots video in 720p quality and we thought it looked pretty good.

These are two great smartphone cameras - not likely to replace your DSLR, but excellent compact cameras for everyday photography.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Software

Samsung Galaxy S4Samsung Galaxy S4The Samsung Galaxy S4 runs a modified version of Google's Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2. The Galaxy S4 with TouchWiz comes with exclusive software features. With an up-to-date version of Jelly Bean there are expandable notifications and importantly Google Now. There is, of course, access to the Google Play Store for apps, books, magazines, films and music, as well as Samsung's own app and media stores. This is an area very much down to personal opinion, but if you have never used a Samsung Android phone it is worth trying before you buy.

The BlackBerry Z10 is the first device to run BlackBerry 10 - the company's all-new operating system. For a more detailed look at BlackBerry's new operating system take a look at our BlackBerry 10 review - 'BlackBerry 10 features, performance and gripes'. Depending on your previous experience, you may wish to: using BlackBerry 10 can be a bit baffling. It's worth perservering, however, as in a short time the swiping navigation starts to make sense.

BlackBerry 10 has a main home screen which is blank until you launch an app. Start using apps and open apps are shown in small windows, most recent first. We would have like a way to rearrange the windows or pin favourites so they don't move off the screen. Tapping an app opens it and swiping upwards from the bottom of the screen navigates back to the home screen. Apps remain running unless you actively close them. An app menu sits to the right of the main home screen only a swipe away. Swiping from the top of the screen brings up phone settings or options.

The BlackBerry Hub sits to the left of the main home screen. This is an all-in-one inbox and notification centre for all your accounts. Swiping from the bottom of the screen minimises what you have open and shows you notifications on the left. You can then choose whether to open the Hub by swiping to the right, swipe back down to return you your app or go straight up to head to the home screen.

Another big feature of BlackBerry 10 is the keyboard. The more you use it the better it can predict which words you need to construct your sentence. Suggested words are spread across the keyboard and choosing one involves flicking it upwards with a satisfying swipe. It's good, but different, like much of BlackBerry 10.

What is different but not so good is BlackBerry World. The BlackBerry app store has tens of thousands of apps, games, music and movies on offer, while magazines are available from the BlackBerry Newsstand. Indeed the Z10 has apps such as Facebook and Twitter pre-installed, but there are many big names missing from BlackBerry World that can be found in the Apple App Store and Google Play. Amazon Kindle, Skype, National Rail and Whatsapp are just a few.

BlackBerry says many of the top names are 'committed' to getting apps on to the store. We'll see. Because of Android's greater popularity, the Galaxy S4 shades this section.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Battery

With a battery about a quarter larger than the Galaxy S3 and a display which uses less power despite packing more pixels, we would expect the Galaxy S4 to offer decent battery life.
So far we found the whopping 9.8Wh (2600mAh) battery hasn't lasted quite as well as we thought. During the space of a working day we lost 65 percent of the juice, albeit with a fairly heavy usage pattern.

When not being used so heavily, the Galaxy S4 holds it charge well when in standby so lighter users can expect a couple days use from the phone. We got through 24 hours and lost just over half of the battery, the screen sucked up most of the power.  

The BlackBerry Z10 has a removable battery pack with a capacity of 6.7Wh (1800mAh), lower than most. BlackBerry says it will last up to 13 days on standby and 10 hours talk time.

We got about what we expected from the Z10 which was no more than a day of battery life. It's a shame that it's a smartphone that you'll have to charge every night, many of the top smartphones last a couple of days. We were hoping it might be an area where BlackBerry could offer something more.

The Galaxy S4 has the better battery, but it is difficult to be too critical of the Z10's cell.

BlackBerry Z10

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs BlackBerry Z10: The bottom line

Suffice to say that both of these phones offer high-end features and good performance. The Galaxy S4 is more of an all-round entertainer, with its bigger better screen and access to the Google Play app and media stores. On the other hand the BlackBerry Z10 is built for business, offering enterprise level tools and security on the server side, and a great email and messaging hub.

BlackBerry Z10: Specs

  • BlackBerry 10 OS
  • 4.2in (768x1280)
  • 1.5GHz dual-core processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB storage
  • microSD up to 64GB
  • 8Mp rear camera (1080p video)
  • 2Mp front camera (720p video)
  • dual-band Wi-Fi
  • 4G LTE
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • NFC
  • Micro HDMI
  • micro USB
  • 66x130x9.2mm
  • 135g
  • BlackBerry 10 OS
  • 4.2in (768x1280)
  • 1.5GHz dual-core processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB storage
  • microSD up to 64GB
  • 8Mp rear camera (1080p video)
  • 2Mp front camera (720p video)
  • dual-band Wi-Fi
  • 4G LTE
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • NFC
  • Micro HDMI
  • micro USB
  • 66x130x9.2mm
  • 135g

OUR VERDICT

We're not going to make any definitive judgments because we haven't yet spent enough time with the Samsung Galaxy S4. Suffice to say that both of these phones offer high-end features and good performance. The Galaxy S4 is more of an all-round entertainer, with its bigger better screen and access to the Google Play app and media stores. On the other hand the BlackBerry Z10 is built for business, offering enterprise level tools and security on the server side, and a great email and messaging hub.

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