The wraps have come off the Samsung Galaxy S4 at a very crowded launch event in New York. We were there to hear the news first-hand, and also had a chance to get our mitts on Samsung’s latest and greatest smartphone. Here are our first impressions, and watch this space for a full review in the days to come.

First off, the Galaxy is visually different than the Galaxy S3, but not by too much. The big change on the outside is that the display has gone from 4.8 inches to 5 inches. While the screen is larger, the actual phone is still around the same dimensions as the GS3 but Samsung has used the space more efficiently by reducing the width of the bezels on the left and right of the display.

The Galaxy 4 is in the middle, brother Galaxy Note II to the left and sister Galaxy S3 to the right.

The GS4’s outer casing still uses the same plastic materials as the GS3, but the edges are more squared off, and it generally feels more robust. There are two colours available- white frost and black mist, so it seems that the pebble blue of the GS3 has been dropped. Both colours are attractive, and each includes a subtle pattern, lending an air of quality. The phone is also quite thin at just 6.9mm compared to the GS3’s 8.6mm.

The GS4 at the top is slightly slimmer than the GS3 shown at the bottom. Also notice the squarer edging.

In terms of the screen quality, the GS4’s is at the cutting edge, and is just great to look at. It’s another Super AMOLED screen, like the G3, but this one is Full HD, meaning a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, and has an incredible 441 pixels per inch density. What this translates into is an bright, pin-sharp, highly detailed and easy to view display. Also, when compared to the Note II and Galaxy S3, the GS4’s screen was noticeably brighter and the colours seemed more vibrant.

The GS4 has some impressive hardware beneath its smooth outer shell. Beating at its heart is the mighty 1.6MHz Exynos 5 OCTA  8-core processor, or depending on the region, a 1.9MHz quad-core Snapdragon CPU. The 8-core CPU is the first of its kind on a smartphone, and, while we haven’t had a chance to compare the OCTA chip with other phones, 8 cores will certainly provide a very capable foundation for running many different processes, tasks and apps at once.

Other hardware features include WiFi 802.11 a/b/n connectivity, NFC, Bluetooth 4, and super-fast LTE is on-board too, which will work on Australian 4G networks.

When it comes to taking photos, the GS4 weighs in with a new 13 megapixel camera that offers an incredible amount of photo detail for a smartphone. There’s also a 2 megapixel camera on the front. The phone also supports 1080p video recording.

Can you tell the GS4 from the Note II and GS3 - hint, it's on the right.

And with the ability to shoot such massive photos, the GS4 needs plenty of memory. There are choices of 16, 32 and 64GB of RAM, and if you need more, it supports up to 64GB of MicroSD memory. The GS4 also comes equipped with 2GB of on-board RAM.

With a big screen, fast processor and LTE support, battery life is certainly important. While we weren’t able to test the battery life yet, the GS4 does come with a larger 2600 mAh battery, which, while not as big as the Note II’s 3100 mAh, is more than the GS3’s 2100 mAh capacity and should ensure at least a day’s battery life under heavy use.

Handy features

Apart from the hardware, Samsung has put a lot of effort into the software side of the phone, to help ‘make life more fulfilling’. For example, you can use the Air Gesture feature to browse web pages, look through photos, advance a music track or even answer a call, without touching the phone. All you do is wave your hand above the phone in a swiping motion. This is great for ‘hands-free or hands-full’ times when you might have dirty or wet hands, be wearing gloves or when the phone is in a hands free cradle and you are driving.

The GS4 has a Hover feature like that in the Note II, only you don’t need a stylus for it to work. Now, you just hover your finger over the screen to evoke a particular bit of information. For example, you can hover your finger above an email list to read a short blurb of the email itself. You can use Hover to magnify text, select speed dial contacts, get calendar details or with customised apps such as Filpboard, you’ll be able to see a preview of upcoming articles.