AT&T Samsung Epix SGH-i907

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INTRODUCTION

    We’ve been waiting for the Samsung Epix (which is the US version of the SGH-i780) for about a year now. Thought to be the successor to the BlackJack II, the Epix brings a package that rivals that of the Palm Treo Pro, so it’s no wonder that many are now deciding between the two of them for their next device. There’s a lot we like about the Epix, and a lot we don’t. Read on and we’ll help to make things more clear for you!

WHAT’S HOT

    Let’s do a rundown of specs. The Samsung Epix is running on Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional. It’s using a Marvell PXA310 CPU clocking in at 624MHz, and includes 128MB of RAM (~110MB accessible) and 256MB of ROM (~150MB accessible). The touchscreen is 2.5" and has a resolution of 320×320, making for a pixel density of 181ppi (compared to 285ppi on the Touch Diamond/Pro and 164ppi on the iPhone). It’s a quadband (850/900/1800/1900) GSM device with triband (850/1900/2100) UMTS, plus HSDPA. It has aGPS, WiFi (b & g), Bluetooth 2.0, a proprietary jack for audio, charging and syncing, and microSD expansion, plus an optical cursor like the Samsung Omnia. The camera on the back is 1.9MP and it comes without a flash. Powering the entire unit is a large 1800mAh battery. For even more specs, check out PDAdb.net.

(all images link to larger versions)

In hand, the Epix looks and feels like a BlackJack II, but is a bit thicker.

    If you have your eye on the Epix, then you’re probably also considering the Palm Treo Pro. We’ll have some comparison shots of the two later in the review, but for now, we can see that the Epix (in purple) is slightly thinner, but also a bit taller, than the Treo Pro.

Device
Size (inches)
Weight (grams | ounces)
4.44" x 2.47" x 0.52"

132 | 4.65
4.44" x 2.27" x 0.63"

156 | 5.61
4.74" x 2.63" x 0.43"

157 | 5.53
4.33" x 2.09" x 0.59"

117 | 4.12
4.66" x 2.48" x 0.47"

130 | 4.58
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.64" x 2.36" x 0.48"

129 | 4.55
3.96" x 2.34" x 0.67"

133 | 4.76
4.68" x 2.44" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.58" x 2.42" x 0.47"

120 | 4.20
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.65"

178 | 6.28
3.92" x 2.41" x 0.60"

137 | 4.83
4.24" x 2.09" x 0.53"

117 | 4.12
4.17" x 2.00" x 0.85"

151 | 5.34
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.57" x 1.70" x 0.64"

140 | 4.94
4.88" x 2.44" x 0.53"

130 | 4.56
4.21" x 2.20" x 0.55"

120 | 4.20
4.53" x 2.47" x 0.47"

146 | 5.15
4.63" x 2.19" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.35" x 2.07" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.56" x 2.41" x 0.51"

125 | 4.41
4.44" x 2.36" x 0.55"

133 | 4.69
4.01" x 1.98" x 0.55"

124 | 4.37
8.28" x 4.67" x 1.08"

640 | 22.5
4.48" x 2.52" x 0.59"

154 | 5.43
4.17" x 2.38" x 0.68"

147 | 5.18
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.71"

165 | 5.82
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.41" x 2.28" x 0.73"

140 | 4.94
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.45"

110 | 3.88
4.56" x 2.36" x 0.70"
200 | 7.05
4.30" x 2.40" x 0.60"
120 | 4.23
4.20" x 2.30" x 0.60"
136 | 4.79
3.70" x 2.30" x 0.60"
126 | 4.44
4.48" x 2.39" x 0.51"
116 | 4.09
4.60" x 2.60" x 0.50"

134 | 4.70

4.10" x 2.10" x 0.60"
150 | 5.30
4.40" x 2.32" x 0.75"
190 | 6.70

WHAT’S IN THE BOX



Here is the unboxing video for the Epix.

This is the box for the Epix – it’s quite small.

    Accessories were scant. Included with the device is software and manuals, USB sync cable, 3.5mm headphone jack converter, and wall charger. No case, screen protector, extra stylus, or even headphones.

THE DEVICE

The screen of the Epix is flush. Compared to the Treo Pro, the Epix has much sharper lines. The Epix is painted in a glossy gray metallic paint.

    The optical joystick is fantastic and allows for precise on-screen control of the mouse pointer. Because the Epix also has hardware soft keys, your thumb doesn’t move much from a small area to control most aspects of the device. You really don’t have to reach up to touch the screen in most situations.

    And here is a close up of the optical joystick and keyboard. The buttons on the keyboard are pretty large and have nice-sized spaces between them. That said, the keys are a bit firm compared to the Motorola Q9h and Treo Pro. You can program many of the keys here to quickly launch programs. More on that later.

On the top of the device we have the speaker, plus a multi-colored LED for system notifications. There is no way to control the colors of the LED.

On the right side, we have two plastic flaps covering the

external

microSD slot (nice!) and the proprietary syncing/charging/audio port.

Flipping over to the top, we see the stylus on the right. Weird placement.

Speaking of the stylus, here it is – a triple collapsible stylus. It feels cheap, but I found myself using the stylus not too often because of the optical mouse.

Flipping to the other side we find the power/standby button, and a predominant volume rocker.

And on the bottom, we find the microphone.

On the back, we see the 1.9MP camera, self portrait mirror, and dual speakers. Missing is a flash for the camera.

Taking off the easy-to-remove backing, we find the large 1800mAh battery and SIM card slot.

Here’s a shot of the keyboard backlighting. The Epix doesn’t have a light sensor to regulate when the keyboard backlight comes on.

COMPARISONS

Here we have a shot comparing (from left to right) the HTC Touch Pro, AT&T BlackJack II, Samsung Epix, Palm Treo Pro, and Apple iPhone.

Here are the devices again, stacked in the reverse order.

With the Palm Treo Pro, you get a nicer-looking device, but you also get a much smaller keyboard and a screen that could be better.

In this picture, we can see that the Palm Treo Pro’s screen isn’t as lively as that of the Samsung Epix. For a closer comparison between these two devices, check out this post that just went up.

Flip over to the next page where we’ll cover all of the software included on the Epix.

This is Samsung-made Today screen included on the Epix. It’s nicer looking than the default, but it doesn’t show weather, stocks, or next appointment.

If you click over to the next view by clicking the blue icon, you get favorite people.

One more over, and you can access settings.

And in the last tab, we can enter favorite programs.

Here’s the Start menu.

Inside we find a full suite of Office 2007 apps. Nice.

Going into the programs list, we find a lot of AT&T trialware.

The included instant messenger is great, and lets you access the major services.

You actually get a few extra games…but all of them are trialware and java-based, meaning some aren’t optimized for Windows Mobile.

Pac-Man worked well, but being a trial, you can’t advance too many levels without paying.

There’s a really cool app called MusicID included on the Epix, though again, it’s trialware. It will "listen" to music, and tell you the name of the song and the artist. See this video demonstration for more.

Going into Applications, we have some more java-based trialware.

Photo Slides is a cool application that lets you put together a bunch of pictures to make a slideshow on your device.

The RSS reader is basic, but it works well.

Going down the list, we see My Stuff (which is just a file explorer program) and organizer. The other things here…Opera 9.5, Google Maps, and Spb Benchmark, I have added. The Epix only has Pocket Internet Explorer for the web.

And here we are in the Organizer folder…

…which contains a useful converter.

PHONE

Like the Palm Treo Pro, you can begin dialing the name of the person you want to call from the Today screen, and the phone will search through contacts.

Here is call history, which has not been skinned.

Note the large size of the menus, which is good.

And this is what it looks like when you’re on a call. Regarding call quality, I found the Samsung Epix to perform well. The speakerphone was solid.

Click on to the next page as we cover Settings and talk about picture quality on the Samsung Epix.

Let’s take a look in settings.

We can assign a program to launch quickly by holding down the FN key on the keyboard and pressing a letter.

You can also configure the one-tap button launchers that reside on the bottom of the keyboard like Camera and Messaging.

The Epix tries to do haptic feedback by giving off a little vibration each time you tap the screen. You can turn this off – which is what I did, since it’s a waste of battery life.

The Epix is one of the few AT&T devices that can do live one-way streaming video through Video Share. This is different than two-way live video like they have in Europe.

You can use the Theme wizard to change the color and background of Windows Mobile.

Here we are with everything red.

Here are the settings for the Today screen. As you can see, I have Samsung Today checked off, which is that iconic-based Today screen that you saw earlier on this page.

This is the "Today Plus" Today screen plugin, which isn’t particularly good looking. But at least with this one, you can see the next appointment on the screen.

The Epix has a full version of MS Voice Command.

You can modify the wake-up behavior here. I like to set it to Power button only, to avoid accidentally turning on the device.

Here we are in the next tab, System.

Here is the option that allows you to specify when the keyboard backlighting turns on.

And here is the setting for the screen brightness. Sadly, there is no "auto."

Here are the settings for the on screen mouse cursor. You can turn off the mouse altogether, or have it work as a traditional D-Pad. You can change the speed, plus the timeout (meaning, when the mouse disappears).

The Omnia also has the optical mouse, but does not have this choice of cursors. I like the duck =D.

Taking a peep at program memory after closing all application, we find that there is a solid 70MB available.

In the Connections tab, we have a lot of advanced networking choices for the business user.

Like the Touch Diamond and Touch Pro, you can specify what happens when you connect the device to your computer…

…with the choices listed above.

And finally, here is the Wireless Manager, which has not been skinned.



Take a look at this video that shows some features that I’ve written about so far in this review.

CAMERA

The Camera application is great – it’s fast, easy to use, and finger-friendly.

You have control over things such as white balance, size, effect, timing, and so on.

And you can access these options through the top icons, so that you don’t have to dig through menus.

Here is an indoor shot. The color was accurate, and the foreground was well in focus.

Here is a macro shot, which came out great.

And here is an outdoor shot. Although the color is a bit lackluster, everything is clear.

Click on to the next page as we wrap up the review with a note on performance, battery life, and talk about all the Pros and Cons of the device.

BENCHMARKS

   Spb Benchmark from has been used for the
following benchmark comparisons with the Samsung Epix.

    The Epix is a solid performer. Not once did I have to soft reset (which is good, considering that the Epix lacks a soft reset hole!). The CPU is speedy, which allows for quick operation, smooth multimedia playback, and a high level of stability.

BATTERY
    The battery on the Samsung Epix is huge – 1800mAh, which is one of the biggest batteries out there. That said, my expectations were high, and they were just about met. With heavy use of data, GPS, and many calls, the Epix will get through 1-1.5 days. With moderate use, you’ll last about 2 days, and with light use, expect 3-4 days. That’s above average for a smartphone of this caliber.

BUGS AND WISHES

    The Epix is bug free as far as I can tell. Not once did I have to hard or soft reset the device in my testing – everything just worked. That’s good.

    But, there are a lot of problems here. Let’s start with software. Samsung: it’s not enough to take Windows Mobile, add some trialware, and call it a day. It’s just not. Where is the flick scrolling? Where is the better browser? How about some software to help make my device more interesting that

doesn’t

require a subscription?

    The optical mouse is great, but there is a problem with it. Say you’re typing in a text field and you want to reposition the cursor two spaces to the right. You move your finger over to the D-Pad to tap over to the right twice, but oh wait, the D-Pad isn’t a D-Pad, it’s a mouse (unless you have it set to D-Pad in the settings). So, you have to position the mouse carefully and click. Perhaps this could be solved by disabling the mouse just in text fields.

    Hum – where is the soft reset hole? Well…there is no soft reset hole. To soft reset, you have to take out the battery, or press and hold the power button. I’ve never seen a WinMo device without this.

    Samsung could really help squeeze more battery life out of the Epix if they had included a light sensor to regulate screen brightness and the keyboard backlight. Having a light sensor also helps with outdoor visibility, which already isn’t great on the Epix.

    It’s strange – although the Epix is thinner than Treo Pro, it sure doesn’t

feel

thinner. I think that’s because the edges are squared off, whereas the Treo Pro has rounded edges.

    And then there are the smaller issues – no better browser, no case/extra stylus/headphones/screen protector included, a proprietary connector for everything, no FM radio, and no flash on the camera.

PURCHASING

    If you’re on AT&T, you can get the Epix for $199.99 with a two year agreement. The full price is $449.99.




PROS


  • Terrific one-handed usability


  • Great performance


  • Above average battery life


  • Optical cursor works great


  • Solid photo quality


  • Easy dialing from the Today screen


  • Many programmable soft keys


  • Includes MS Voice Command


  • External microSD slot


  • WiFi/aGPS/HSDPA

CONS


  • No compelling software additions


  • Optical mouse can cause problems (see Wishes above)


  • Where is the soft reset hole??


  • Contains a lot of java-based trialware


  • No ambient light sensor


  • Feels thick


  • No better browser included


  • Proprietary jack for audio/charging/syncing


  • No FM radio


  • No case/screen protector/extra stylus/headphones


  • No flash on the camera

Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    I really like this phone. With a bit of customization and added software, it can be a true winner. It’s a great combination of touchscreen versaility and one-handed usability that a device like the Palm Treo Pro just doesn’t have. If you’re on AT&T and are looking for your next WinMo phone, this is a great choice – but expect to spend some time and perhaps money filling in the missing blanks that Samsung left.

P.S. We just posted our comparison video with the Samsung Epix and Palm Treo Pro.

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About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.