Final Words

With each new iteration of Android smartphone we get closer to the perfect device. Samsung took some pretty big steps toward that ideal ‘droid but regressed in others.

The move to Super AMOLED is key. With Super AMOLED the Epic 4G improves outdoor usability significantly. It’s a large enough jump to make the Nexus One’s display feel old. While Apple can tout the benefits of higher resolution, contrast is very important on these devices - especially for content consumption. I would have liked to have a brighter display on the Epic 4G, but the contrast ratio is great.

Samsung got the performance of the Epic 4G right. The OS feels snappy and relatively smooth. There are still some hiccups but its 1GHz Hummingbird SoC does a better job than anything else I’ve seen running Android. I suspect that after we get Gingerbread and dual-core Cortex A9 SoCs that these little performance quibbles will be a thing of the past. Unfortunately that doesn’t help those trying to make a decision today.

Build quality could use some work but that’s probably more of a function of the sliding mechanism on the phone than anything else. The physical keyboard is nice for those who want it, but that’s really a personal preference. I applaud Samsung for shipping Swype enabled by default on the Epic 4G. Not only does Swype offer a unique take on text input, but its virtual keyboard is the best I’ve used on Android to date.

On the software side, Samsung’s TouchWiz is one of the most polished custom Android UIs I’ve seen. Everything from the app launcher down to the dialer is well done. Samsung does take the simplicity a little too far in some areas (e.g. not showing battery percentage, only the visualization), but overall it’s nice. You don’t get as much of the PC-feel as you do on other Android phones, which again boils down to personal preference.

I love how Samsung integrated turning off Bluetooth/WiFi/4G/GPS into the notifications pulldown menu, and some of Samsung’s widgets are nice (e.g. task manager). However, the seven home screens are overwhelming and counterproductive in my opinion.

For all the praise I shower on the Epic 4G, it has two real problems: battery life and GPS reception. They are both pretty simple to explain: the Epic 4G won’t last longer than 4 hours of use, and it has a hard time pinpointing your location via GPS. There’s nothing more to it.

What does four hours of use translate to? I’d say less than a day’s worth of use taking into account idle time. If you pick your phone up at 8AM and use it periodically throughout the day, I’d expect it to be dead by 5PM. Quite possibly sooner.

The GPS issue makes the Epic 4G a pain to use as a navigational device. If you use Google Maps a lot for calculating directions, prepare for a frustrating experience with the Epic.

We’re closer and Samsung did very well, but we’re not quite perfect.

GPS Issues
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  • dk99 - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Why is it so easy to see the pixels on the epic's screen? It seems annoying.

    Look at the first picture on the display page on Anand's article.

    http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/gadgets/Samsun...
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    The camera/lighting plus running the screen at full brightness exaggerates pixel pitch a bit but remember this device has the same resolution as the Nexus One but with a larger screen.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • dk99 - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    I had a chance to check out an Epic 4g at the local sprint store and compared it to the Evo screen. The pixels were more easily seen on the Epic and it did bother me, but I guess it may not bother others as much.

    Here is a picture from another review site demonstrating the pixels:
    http://www.mobilecrunch.com/wp-content/uploads/201...

    Anand, Thank you for a great website.
    Reply
  • Aigoo - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Pentile RGBG
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PenTile_matrix_family

    :(
    Reply
  • pvdw - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    You mention the problem with jerkiness on Android phones, but I find my Desire is wonderfully smooth. It's almost exactly the same hardware as the Incredible, but with better build quality, and I've found no SMS scrolling problems.

    My Desire is unbranded, so there's no junk from operators like Sprint, etc. installed. Maybe this makes a difference?

    And I manage to easily get a days worth of business use out of it - remote access, phone calls, web, etc. 30 hrs on lighter use.

    I sure would love to have a better gpu, like the Galaxy S, and, more importantly, a screen that I can see in daylight without squinting.
    Reply
  • joncat - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    I wouldn't say that the SGX 540 is a waste of hardware today. While there are nowhere near the amount of 3d games that IOS has, there are several high quality titles that run great on the galaxy s. Need for Speed Shift and the Sims 3 HD by EA, NOVA, Sandstorm, Assasin's Creed, Hero of Sparta, Asphalt5, to name a few by Gameloft all run great at native resolution, which can't be said for phones like the EVO and Incredible that run on the Snapdragon SOC. Reply
  • Mumrik - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    I absolutely love that we're back to using Quake 3 as a GPU performance benchmark.
    It stuck around for a long ass time in the first place and now it's back :-D
    Reply
  • Mumrik - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Anand, is there a reason you don't test standby battery life?
    It's a pretty essential number...

    Even if it prevents you from getting the review up fast, you could always just post the review and add the data later after averaging out 2-3 tests.
    Reply
  • SomeAudioGuy - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Ok, so I've had an Epic 4G for about three weeks now. Battery life is completely on par for any other smartphone in this segment.
    I did switch my background to a darker one (the tent with star trails), but other than that I've done very little to mod the device. I don't even use ATK or juicedefender, and I use the built in auto backlight setting to manage brightness. I did not use any 4G today.

    I pulled the phone off my charger at 7am, it's 4pm now. I streamed two hours of Pandora, made one 30 minute phone call and three 5 minute phone calls. Took three pictures and uploaded them to twitpic, have been using Tuiteur, facebook, and checking email on 4 different gmail accounts (with background sync enabled). Spent five minutes yelping a spot for lunch. Played about 15 minutes worth of games (GalCon Flight Control, and Simple Dice), helped debug a wireless router (which required about 20 minutes of wi-fi use), and just spent the last 5 minutes looking up geocaches in my area.

    My battery is at 35%.

    I would term my use as "moderate".

    There's absolutely nothing wrong with the battery life on the Epic 4G. Nothing at all for a phone this powerful and with a screen this large.

    GPS is a pain, but I find if I turn off GPS throughout the day, and turn it back on before I start an app that requires GPS, i get locks fast enough, and I'm usually down to about 3 meters accurate.

    Maybe it's just the signal in Anand's area, but I've gotten better battery life with both EVO and Epic, and even though we TECHNICALLY don't get 4G in LA, when you find pockets of 4G access we're currently getting 4+Mbps down.

    Lastly if you're going to review a keyboard slider phone, maybe give the phone to someone who isn't quite so lit on iPhones, and likes to use a hardware keyboard? Just a thought? Exactly TWO sentences are spent on what is quite possibly one of the best keyboards on the market today. No small feat considering this is NOT an HTC phone. No mention of the dedicated number row (who really likes pushing a function key)? No comparison to any other hardware keyboards? Really? Nothing?
    Reply
  • Dane74 - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    not ot call BS, on your GPS findings butt eh are out of wahck with all the testing using testing applicaitons. There are several serious problems with Epics GPS. And actually a number of them show up becasue of switching the GPS off. Go to XDA, or androidforums and you will see discussions.
    '
    Your 3 meters accurate is Epic fooling you since it has already been shown the Epic is cooking those numbers..

    Look at the pictures published by anantech, or others. Pictures of side by side comparisons showing nubmer of satellites used by the Epic show the serious problem.
    Reply

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