Hardware

Samsung Galaxy S4 teardown reveals redesigned interior, easier-to-fix phone

Bill Detwiler cracks open the Samsung Galaxy S4, explores the redesigned interior and shows you why it's easier to repair than previous Galaxy phones.

With its 1080p screen, 13-megapixel camera, and quad-core processor, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is packed with impressive hardware. And as I'll show you, it has a redesigned interior and is easier to disassemble than its predecessors.

Despite its larger screen and new internals, the Galaxy S4 is nearly identical to last year's S3 model in size, shape and external design. The new phone has a 5-inch display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080p at 441ppi. Our AT&T version had a 1.9GHz Snapdragon 600 processor from Qualcomm, 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM, 16GB of built-in storage, a microSD card slot, a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, 2-megapixel front-facing camera, NFC support, and even an IR blaster so you can use it as a TV remote.

A variant without LTE is available with Samsung's own 1.6GHz eight-core Exynos 5 Octa processor. And buyers in South Korea, the phone maker's home country, will even be able to get an LTE version with a 1.8GHz version of the Exynos 5 Octa processor.

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Samsung Galaxy S4

And not only does the new Galaxy have some of the most impressive specs among Android handsets, it's one of the easiest to disassemble and repair.

Cracking Open observations
  • Easy to crack open: Thanks to a user-replaceable battery, the back cover pops off with just a fingernail. After removing a few Phillips screws, you can pop the internal circuit board cover off with a thin plastic tool, metal blade, or the aforementioned nail. And voila, you're inside the phone.
  • Redesigned interior: Compared to the Galaxy S3, Samsung redesigned the interior of the S4. The main system board is located at the top of the handset instead of the bottom. The battery compartment has been shifted down. And instead of a single board that runs the length of the phone, the S4 has a main board and a daughter board.

  • More discrete internal components: I criticized Samsung for joining several of the Galaxy S3's internal components with a single ribbon cable and glueing that cable to the front panel assembly. Because of this construction method, if one part broke you had to replace all the attached parts. The S4 does have a few component clusters, but they are smaller and more localized--no long ribbon cables.
  • Fused front panel and display: As is common with modern smartphones, the Galaxy S4's front panel and actual display are fused together. If one breaks, you'll likely need to replace both.
  • Replacing front panel/display assembly: And you'll need to remove all the other internal components in the process.

Bottom line

Having cracked open the original Galaxy S, S II, S III, and now the S4, I'm impressed by the hardware improvements and design refinements Samsung has made with each new model. The S4 is a worthy addition to the Galaxy line, and it's one of the easiest phones to disassemble that I've worked on in a long time.

For more information on the Galaxy S4, including real-world tests and pricing information, check out Jessica Dolcourt's full CNET review.

Internal hardware

Our AT&T Galaxy S4 test unit has the following hardware:

  • Samsung K3QF2F200E-XGCB 2GB LPDDR3 RAM
  • 1.9 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 APQ8064T quad-core processor (mounted under the RAM chip)
  • Qualcomm MDM9215M 4G GSM/UMTS/LTE modem
  • Unidentified TAIWAN MBG965H 1311 BKU ARM E1
  • Qualcomm PM8917 power management IC
  • Toshiba THGBM5G7A4JBA4W 16GB eMMC (storage chip)
  • 3757G2 D214C5 (According to iFixit and Chipworks, this chip is a Broadcom BCM4335 Single-Chip 5G WiFi 802.11ac MAC/Baseband/Radio, which also houses a Skyworks SKY85303-11 2.4 GHz, 256 QAM WLAN/Bluetooth Front-End Module.)
  • Atmel UC128L5-U
  • Skyworks 77619 multiband multimode power amplifier module for quad-band GSM/EDGE
  • RF Micro Devices RF7307 linear power amplifier for LTE/UMTS/CDMA
  • Unidentified SWC GNF09
  • Skyworks 77737 Power Amplifier Module for LTE Bands 12/17 (698-716 MHz)
  • Unidentified R5C0B W3406
  • Qualcomm WTR1605L 7-band 4G LTE chip
  • Silicon Image SiI8240 MHL 2.0 transmitter with HDMI input
  • Broadcom BCM20794 NFC controller
  • Qualcomm PM8821 power management IC
  • Maxim Integrated MAX77803
  • Synaptics S5000B touch controller

Cracking open Samsung's Galaxy smartphones

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

3 comments
Lee711
Lee711

Good review Bill !  

Samsung clearly has the edge on hardware design. I'm one of the loyal customer since Galaxy note 1. 

One thing that keeps on annoying me is the fact that they always come with power button that easily pushed off accidentally within our pocket or in the bags.  I don't realize that the phone already switched off !!

 If you know how to inform this to Samsung's designers somewhere there, I believe a lot of their customers will be glad with that tiny improvement. Maybe a non protruding power button that use finger nail to push it..

awolf
awolf

I hope the S4 is not as bad a gas hog as the S3 ...also there needs to be a better way of controlling the programs that want to run all the time, its insane!

microbins
microbins

Article states "an 18-megapixel rear-facing camera .." I believe it is a 13 megapixel rear-facing camera

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