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Samsung Galaxy S4 teardown: Redesigned interior, easy to crack open

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

Now playing: Watch this: Cracking Open the Samsung Galaxy S4

With its 1080p screen, 13-megapixel camera, and quad-core processor, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is packed with impressive hardware. On this episode of Cracking Open, I explore the phone's redesigned interior and show you why it is easier to disassemble and repair than its predecessors.

Samsung Galaxy S4
Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Full TechRepublic teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Google Samsung Galaxy S4

Despite its larger screen and new internals, the Galaxy S4 is nearly identical to last year's Galaxy S3 model in size, shape, and external design. The new phone has a 5-inch display with a resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels at 441ppi. Our AT&T version has 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, a 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.

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

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.

Samsung Galaxy S4 teardown
Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Cracking Open observations

  • Easy to crack open: Because the battery is user-replaceable, the back cover can be popped 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 with 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 running the length of the phone, the S4 has a main board and a daughter board.

Samsung Galaxy S4
Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

  • More discrete internal components: I criticized Samsung for joining several of the Galaxy S3's internal components with a single ribbon cable and gluing 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.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Motherboard
Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Bottom line
Having cracked open the original Galaxy S, S2, S3, 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.

(A more detailed version of this story was first published on TechRepublic's Cracking Open.)

Update 3/7/2013 10:28 AM EST: Corrected a reference to the rear-facing camera that incorrectly read "18-megapixels" instead of "13-megapixel".