We often use terms like “budget friendly”, “mid level” or even “entry level” to describe devices that tend to be “light on the wallet” and Samsung’s Transform Ultra is no exception, however, this little device is packing a little more under the hood than your average little smart phone might have to offer. With features like a front facing camera and a 1 GHz Snapdragon CPU under the hood, we’d say the device is teetering towards the high end of the budget friendly spectrum. The Samusng Transform Ultra on Sprint is an excellent device for those looking to enter the smartphone arena with some high-end specs but not wanting to empty their savings account to be there. The handset is a follow up to the original Transform only this bad boy comes in a thinner and lighter form factor and tosses in a mobile hotspot feature unlike other devices in its class. In addition, under the hood you’ll find a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 MSM8655 chip set offering fast processing speeds accompanied with Android version 2.3 Gingerbread for its flavor of the OS. Furthermore, the device offers a slide out qwerty compact keyboard reminiscent of the Sprint Epic 4G only wrapped in a package with a 3.5-inch HVGA (320 x 480) TFT display. Originally debuting for Boost Mobile, the device is now available on Sprints network as of Nov 13th for a mere $79.99 after a $50 mail in rebate. Hit the break to check out the rest of the review and don’t forget to let us know what you think of the device in the comments below.
The Samsung Transform Ultra comes in much thinner form factor than its predecessor, the original Transform. With some slightly added curves and light weight housing, you can barely feel the weight of it in your hand, much like most of Samsung’s handsets. The device is covered in a cool metallic accent giving it a much more contemporary look and feel from that of a standard budget friendly smartphone. The backside of the device comes in a cross styled diamond shaped textured pattern which looks cool, but keep in mind that in some instances it made for a slippery device. So be sure that you have a decent grip on the device so as not to drop your investment. As mentioned in the intro, the Transform Ultra comes with an HVGA (320 x 480) TFT display which responded superbly to the touch and rendered swiping with ease, offering smooth transitioning from screen to screen. Another feature setting this device apart from the rest is its VGA front facing camera for video chatting (using qik) with your friends and family. Not too many “budget friendly” devices can tout that feature. The backside of the device houses a 3.2 megapixel camera with a single LED flash offering some slightly less than par photos which we kind of expected. On the front side, the device offers four physical hardware buttons (menu, home, back and search) which take its design que from the Droid Charge’s hardware buttons. Slide the device up and now you’re sporting a four row qwerty keyboard for simple typing. As to my personal opinion of the keyboard and its keys, there was some difficulties typing on it due to the lack of raised buttons. The layout is very flat and even though the keys provide decent tactile feedback it was still difficult to type on. And only being a four row keyboard means hitting that shift/alt button more often to snag those secondary keys. However, that being said, if you’re the “must have a physical keyboard” type, we don’t think you’ll object to the keyboard as much as we did. In addition, you can still revert to the stock Gingerbread keyboard if you need to. Finally, with slim angles all around giving the impression of “thinner” where it might not otherwise be, we’ve got to say, we’re loving it. Topped off with metal/chrome finishes around the devices exterior, overall the device gets a two thumbs up for us in the design dept. It’s not easy to pull off a good looking qwerty slider these days and it looks like Samsung has pulled it off gracefully with the Transform Ultra.
The device touts a 7 hour max talk time (420 minutes) but we’re not sure of the standby time. However, I can vouch while on standby the battery took forever to drain. With a whopping 1500 mAh Li-ion battery, like most mid-level devices, it stood the test of time. With Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on, making several calls on it throughout the day to test call quality, checking emails often, and some decent web surfing, the battery easily got a day and a half before truly requiring a re-charge. Overall, it seemed like the 1500 mAh size battery was a great choice for the small device and battery life shouldn’t really be an issue here for you. That being said, we were unable to test the device’s hotspot functionality so keep that in mind if you plan on using it in that manner. That will definitely take a toll on your battery life.
Call Quality & Speaker Phone:
Though there was a slight “muffle” sound when using the speaker phone, sounds rendered loudly from the backside speaker. I think this is mostly due to how the speaker is housed behind the casing, subsequently causing the muffled sound. However, it was easy to make out what was being said and shouldn’t be a deal breaker for anyone who uses their speaker phone often, such as myself. And though Sprint’s service isn’t abundant in my neck of the woods, we did manage to muster up a bar or two most of the time. Just enough to make decent quality calls without any interruption. Speaking on the device was nice as it’s extremely light weight if not using a Bluetooth headset, and call quality was crisp and clear sounding.
Performance for this little guy was extremely impressive thanks to its 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU. Unlike most budget friendly smartphones offering half the processing speeds, Samsung opted to spend a majority of their efforts in the performance dept. Scrolling on the device is extremely smooth with zero lag the entire time of testing this device. With pretty much stock Android on board, the device is as snappy as they come. Web sites rendered slightly at half speed however mostly because of the lack of Sprint service in my area (Eastern Pennsylvania), forcing me to keep the device on WiFi most of the time when using data. In addition, now would be a good time to note that the device runs on Sprint’s 3G network, there are no Wimax radios on board only 1xEV-DO rev A. Other than that, navigating on the handset was a breeze and pleasant, being hiccup and choppy free. I was able to watch YouTube videos, Netflix and several flash videos on the device without an issue.
As we mentioned in the intro, the device is sporting Android Gingerbread 2.3.4 and like most other Samsung products, this device is TouchWiz free. With the exception of some minor applications like Sprint ID, Sprint Zone and Sprint Wallet (Google Wallet), this device is carrier bloatware free.
Camera & Camcorder
Unfortunately, every Superman has its Kryptonite and for the Transform Ultra, the camera and picture quality is certainly its Kryptonite. And that’s putting it nicely. We found it extremely difficult to render any decent shots on the device and we’re not sure if that’s due to its poor sensors or not. For most users, a 3 meg camera should suffice. However, we caution anyone wanting to purchase this device for its camera quality as it’s just not there. If you want to snap some quick shots under natural good lightning, it will do the job for you, but don’t expect the typical Samsung quality photos found on other devices anytime soon. As far as camera software goes, you’ll find Android’s standard stock camera UI on board and not Samsung’s. Video quality was similarly disappointing and definitely required decent lighting before attempting to shoot those special family moments.
Quick Likes –
The Samsung Transform Ultra is light weight Gingerbread device with a sleek and metallic design offering a front facing VGA camera and a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU, a four row qwerty and a Sprint mobile hotspot feature. In addition, it comes with the nice and easy price tag of $79.99 after a $50 MIR on a 2 yr contract (contract free on Boost Mobile)
Quick Dislikes –
Check out some of the comparisons below to better get an idea of the size of the device. We compared it to an HTC MyTouch 3G slide on T-Mobile and for size comparison stood it along side and on top of a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus.