The Galaxy S line of phones needs no introduction as the Android 2.1 device has been making a lot of waves in the smartphone community. Every review you read on the Galaxy S phones (Like the Captivate & Vibrant) praise the 4in Super AMOLED display and the 1GHz Hummingbird CPU. So how could it get much better?
Well this epic edition (see what I did there?) of the Galaxy S is no different. It packs in all the same hardware of the previous Galaxy S phones:
- 1GHz Hummingbird CPU
- 800×480 Super AMOLED Display
- 5MP Camera w/ 720p video capabilities
Obviously Sprint didn’t think that was good enough for them, so they went ahead and specified a truly “epic” version of the Galaxy S and added:
- 4G connectivity (which makes it the 2nd 4G phone besides the HTC EVO)
- Slide-out physical keyboard
- Front-facing, VGA camera
- LED camera flash
- and finally a status LED
So now that you’re up-to-speed on the hardware differences, let’s look at what comes in the box:
You get a “Get Started” booklet, a “Basics Guide” which isn’t very basic at roughly 180 pages long, a bag to send your old phone back to Sprint for recycling, some Important Sprint info and a sheet telling you to register your Galaxy S device. As for the bundled accessories, it’s standard Galaxy S fare:
You’ve got your microSD to SD adapter, miniUSB to USB cable, AC to USB adapter and a set of surprisingly good earbuds with some replacement buds. For more pictures of the Epic 4G itself and what comes in the box, be sure to check out our Sprint Epic 4G unboxing & first impressions. But enough of the boring stuff, let’s watch the video review to see this phone in action:
So let’s get to the things that can’t be shown in the video, mainly how the flash impacts the low-light picture quality.
The following pictures were taken in my basement with the only light source being two basement windows. So let’s get started, the first picture was taken with no flash and the camera in regular mode:
Now for the second picture, let’s turn the LED flash on and see what kind of difference it makes:
Obviously quite the improvement. However just to experiment, let’s turn the flash off and change the scene on the phone from normal to night:
So obviously night mode allows a lot more light to the sensor. However, you need to have the camera extremely stable or else you’ll be treated to Mr. Blurrycam.
For general high-light (out door) performance of the Galaxy S camera, you can check out the results here from our testing of the AT&T Captivate.
Now how about that front facing VGA camera? I tried to shoot regular video with the VGA camera but there was no option to do so, but here you can see the difference between a VGA picture and the 5MP one:
And now the 5MP photo:
Just a slight difference isn’t there? Obviously the VGA camera is meant for video chatting purposes and it does a decent job of that, just don’t expect much beyond that.
As for the keyboard on the phone, I have no complaints what-so-ever.
The keys are spaced nicely and make a satisfying “click” when you press them. What may be surprising to you is how much weight the keyboard doesn’t add. The Epic 4G really doesn’t weigh much more than it’s keyboard-less brethren, which will be relieving for many.
If you’re into gaming on your Android phone, then you will welcome the physical keyboard on the Epic. As we all know action games on a touchscreen device just aren’t that great, so this keyboard with its easy to press keys and directional pad will be loved by Android gamers everywhere.
Some people however have pointed out that it’s odd to require the function key to be pressed to access some of the symbol keys. (Namely the @) I however have absolutely no problem with this, as I have to do the exact same thing on my full-size PC keyboard. Why should I expect the QWERTY keyboard on my phone to be any different? All in all, you’ll enjoy typing on this keyboard.
9/1/10 update: I also just stumbled upon this little feature, the keyboard actually supports shortcut keys to launch apps. I’m not talking two or three, 36 are supported!
Another unique-to-Epic 4G feature has to do with TouchWiz 3.0. I showed this in the video, but on the other Galaxy S devices, when you rotate them into landscape mode, TouchWiz 3.0 (and all the shortcuts on your screen) stay in portrait mode. However on the Epic 4G, when you rotate the phone into landscape and slide out the keyboard, everything orientates the right way:
I’m really not sure why none of the other Galaxy S devices support this.
Another thing I’m not sure of, is why the other carriers chose to omit the Program Monitor widget:
The Program Monitor widget is great because it allows you to view the currently running programs:
And once you tap on the widget, it allows you to end one, or end them all:
Since this was filed under Samsung Widgets, you’ve gotta wonder why the other carriers wouldn’t want this functionality on their respective device.
However, Sprint did do a little omitting of their own. One widget that both the Captivate and Vibrant have (that the Epic 4G doesn’t) is the Daily Briefing widget (screenshot taken from my Vibrant). The Daily Briefing widget is great for those quick glances to see the what the current weather is, check our your stock and check out the news.
I wouldn’t let the omission of any of these widgets bother you though as it’s only a matter of time before somebody rips them out and offers them up to all to use.
The only other thing I should touch on would be the included bloatware, err I mean apps on the device:
- Amazon MP3 store
- Asphalt 5 demo ($6.99 to buy)
- Sprint Nascar
- Sprint Football
- Sprint Navigation
- Sprint TV
- Sprint Zone
- ThinkFree Office
- Qik video chat
All in all, not to many apps are stuffed onto the Epic as there are only two pages of applications to scroll through.
What’s a review without benchmarks? Everybody likes “bench racing” their devices, so that’s the purpose of these benchmarks. All of the devices in these benchmarks were running Android 2.1 except for the Xperia X10 which runs 1.6 and the Nexus One which runs 2.2.
Obviously the Nexus One with Android 2.2 runs away with this test. If you do a little snooping around the web you’ll find that pre-Froyo, the N1 was getting scores in the low-60’s. So to say that Froyo has a few performance increases is an understatement. I can’t wait to redo these tests once the Galaxy S and Droid X officially get Android 2.2.
BenchmarkPi calculates Pi, so it’s all about CPU power, plain and simple:
There’s a few interesting things to note here. One, the HTC Aria has a 600MHz CPU and it beat out the Xperia X10 which has a 1GHz Snapdragon. Chalk that up to the differences between Android 1.6 and Android 2.1. Moving on past the Samsung Intercept you have the Galaxy S (aka Epic 4G) and the Droid X, these two phones both sport different CPUs, but run at 1GHz and they’re essentially neck and neck. Once again however the benefits of Android 2.2 can’t be ignored.
Next up is Linpack. The Linpack Score relies heavily on CPU performance and how it handles some of the interactions with the Dalvik VM in Android:
It really is sad how badly Android 1.6 cripples the 1GHz Snapdragon, barely beating the 600MHz CPU in the HTC Aria. Once again the 1GHz CPUs in the Epic 4G and Droid X are neck and neck, with the Froyo-sporting N1 taking the cake. One anomaly that I can’t figure out is the Samsung Intercept results. Having such a low MFLOPS result should result in a lot more than 1.85 seconds. I re-ran the test multiple times and continued to get this result, so I’m not sure what’s going on there.
Neocore is an OpenGL-ES 1.1 graphics performance benchmark for Android devices. It shows off some of the techniques that are possible on accelerated platforms such as 1-pass light maps and bump mapping.
Here we can see the Galaxy S flexing its GPU muscles. Even though this benchmark is made by Qualcomm (who makes the 1GHz CPUs in the Xperia and Nexus One) the 1GHz Hummingbird in the Galaxy S line of phones just screams. Any sort of graphical content just gets chewed up and spit out by the Galaxy S phones. The lowly Samsung Intercept couldn’t even run this benchmark, quite possibly due to it’s oddball resolution. As for the Xperia X10, it performs on par with the other Snapdragon phone here, the N1. Finally the HTC Aria held its own here due to the lower resolution of its screen in comparison to the other devices with larger screens.
The next benchmark in our tests is fps2d. Fps2D, like Neocore, is an app to measure Android’s frames per second performance. However, Fps2D, as the name implies, tests 2D performance rather than the 3D performance that Neocore tests.
Poor, poor, Xperia. Hopefully once you get updated to 2.1 you’ll be able to play with the big boys, in the mean time your hardware is squandered. The HTC Aria does fantastic at this test since it has the lower-resolution screen. The other phones are essentially neck and neck with each other.
Last but not least, we have the all-encompassing Quadrant benchmark. Quadrant is a CPU, I/O and 3D graphics benchmark.
Here again we see the N1 with Froyo take the win with the Galaxy S and Droid X left fighting for third and second place. As with the rest of the benchmarks, the X10 is crippled by Android 1.6 and is almost surpassed by the wee HTC Aria. Again, once the Droid X and Galaxy S line of phones receive Android 2.2 officially, it’s going to be very interesting to revisit these benchmarks to see how the scores change.
So that’s it, that’s the Sprint Samsung Epic 4G. Sprint made the Galaxy S phone that the other carriers should have. With it’s 4G abilities, LED flash and physical keyboard, this Galaxy S is worth of its “Epic” title. So now for the big question, “Should I buy the Sprint Epic 4G?” Well that answer is a big, fat yes.
This is definitely the best Galaxy S phone that I’ve put my hands on and I really don’t have anything bad to say about it. My biggest gripe with the previous phones was the lack of a LED flash and the Epic has it. Samsung has also said (and I can confirm) that the GPS issue that plagues the Captivate and Vibrant is absent on the Epic 4G. So let’s get to the pros & cons:
- Super AMOLED screen is still the best I’ve seen
- GPU is a powerhouse
- 1GHz Hummingbird CPU will only get faster once Android 2.2 lands
- Camera (now has a flash!)
- Physical keyboard is great to type on
- 4G baby! (if you live in a 4G area, sadly I don’t)
- Price, it’ll be $249 with a 2yr Sprint contract (I’d bet on Amazon Wireless having it cheaper within a month or two)
- Thickness (it’s got a keyboard, so naturally it’ll be fatter)
Review by Scott Young