Samsung Vibrant Review

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You’ve already seen the unlocked European version and the AT&T Captivate versions of Samsung’s Galaxy S smartphone platform. The Galaxy S phones boast a speedy processor, a large Super AMOLED screen, and a lot of tweaks made to Android to make the device more interesting. Read on for our full review of the T-Mobile Samsung Vibrant!

BOX CONTENTS


Here’s the unboxing for the Samsung Vibrant. The device even includes a 2Gb MicroSD card preinstalled and preloaded with Avatar.

HARDWARE

The Samsung Vibrant is running with a Samsung Hummingbird CPU running at 1GHz (see more on the Hummingbird) on top of Android 2.1, although you can expect an update to Android 2.2 later in 2010. It has 16GB of built-in storage, plus it has microSD expansion with a 2Gb card included. The capacitive display uses Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology and is 4.0″ and WVGA resolution (that’s 800×480). In terms of wireless radios, the Vibrant is fully equipped: WiFi (with N), UMTS with HSDPA, Bluetooth 3.0, and GPS (assisted). For imaging, the rear camera (which has no flash) takes stills at 5MP and video at 720p. For audio and video out, there is a 3.5mm jack, and for syncing and charging, we have microUSB. The battery is 1500mAh. For even more specs, check out PDAdb.net.

ScreenOutdoors AZL1185

The Vibrant has a 4″ screen that’s larger than the iPhone 4 and Nexus One, but smaller than the Droid X and HD2. It uses Super AMOLED screen technology (a Samsung exclusive) which means that outdoor visibility is pretty good, and the color reproduction is better than what you’ll find on a standard AMOLED display.

buttons AZL1183

The four capacitive buttons on the front, since they are flat, are difficult to feel for. Also, sometimes the backlighting doesn’t turn on in time in a dark environment, leaving you to hit the wrong button. Occasionaly they’re unresponsive as well. I miss having hardware call send/end buttons since now you have to turn the device screen on and navigate to the phone dialer in order to end a call. The number of steps you have to perform in order to hang-up has increased dramatically.

left AZL1196

On the left side of the device we have the volume rocker.

right AZL1175

On the right side of the device we have the power/standby button. If you’re coming from the iPhone or an HTC device, this side placement will take some getting used to. Most other smartphones have the power/standby button on the top, but the side placement is much nicer since it’s very easy to reach with your index finger while holding the phone with your left hand.

Top AZL1180

On the top we have the 3.5mm headphone jack, which will also work with the video output. To the right of the 3.5mm jack is a microUSB port hidden next to a very sturdy sliding door.

back AZL1190

Flipping over to the rear you see some Galaxy S branding on the polka dot patterned plastic battery cover. The speaker vent is above that, while the 5MP camera lens is towards the top of the device.

Here’s a video of the Vibrant screen as compared to the T-Mobile HD2 and Zune HD.

SOFTWARE

You’ve already seen most of the new Samsung customizations and interface changes in our

unlocked European Galaxy S review and the ATT Captivate review. This video goes over all of the added customizations and software bundles that T-Mobile has added to the Vibrant. The top 4 additions T-Mobile is promoting in their bundle are Kindle, The Sims 3, MobiTV, and the full “Avatar” movie. You also get some nice T-Mobile software for accessing help forums and monitoring your account usage. Of course, you also get the great Visual Voicemail application.

Another cool addition to the Samsung Galaxy S phones is a desktop software package called Samsung Kies. It includes some unique features that might be very useful. For example, it can print or archive your text messages from your phone, set up internet connection tethering, convert videos to an appropriate format for your phone, and sync Calendar/Contacts with Outlook.

CAMERA

The HD video camera (which records in 720p 1280×720) on the Vibrant records crisp audio, but the video quality is sub-par.  Another problem with the camera on the Vibrant is that it lacks a flash, so low light videos come out dim and noisey even when using night mode. You’ll also notice there’s a large amount of lag between taking a photo, seeing a photo, and being able to take another photo. The T-Mobile HTC HD2 is much faster in this regard.

For still photography, the Vibrant can take photos at 5MP. Here are a few photo samples at full resolution: outdoor low light landscape, outdoor bright light landscape. As you can see, the low light outdoor photo, even with night mode turned on is unusable. The bright light photo is decent, but lacks sharpness and contrast. I’ve noticed variations in exposure when trying to take photos too. I think this is because it does not adjust its exposure values quickly enough. Sometimes I get extremely over exposed images, while other times I’ll get underexposed images.

PERFORMANCE

From a technical standpoint, the Hummingbird platform of the Vibrant should be significantly faster than the Snapdragon found on other devices. In daily use, there’s nothing noticably different. For the most part, the applications and interface are very responsive, but I’ve noticed slow-downs after a first boot, while using the camera, and while playing back Avatar. Skipping through a long movie like Avatar, it sometimes takes a few seconds to jump to the selected time code. Doing the same task on the HTC HD2 with CorePlayer seems to be quicker. Sometimes after a fresh reboot, while the device is doing its media scanning, things like panning between home screens becomes unresponsive, and I’ve even seen a “waiting” icon when trying to load the icons in the application tray. After the initial on-boot scanning is finished it becomes responsive again however.

BATTERY LIFE

The Vibrant’s battery life seems sufficiently average to me. With some significant video, photo, and email usage the battery should be gone within a half a day. With light use, push Exchange, Gmail, and IMAP email checking every 1 hour, the battery should last a whole day.

PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY

You can buy the Vibrant from T-Mobile for $199 with a two year contract.

PROS

+ Super AMOLED display is gorgeous and is usable outdoors

+ Thin and light

+ Great performance

+ Includes “Avatar” movie & 2Gb MicroSD

+ Includes exclusive Sims 3 game

+ Many keyboard input methods

+ Blatant iPhone clone

CONS

– Blatant iPhone clone

– Poor camera

– Doesn’t come with TV-Out cable

– No front-facing camera

– Capacitive buttons

– Sync software is horribly buggy

CONCLUSION

The Samsung Vibrant is the latest T-Mobile Android phone and certainly will be the best for a few weeks or so. It’s fast, has a stunning display and it’s very thin and light. Samsung has also made a lot of enhancements to Android to make it more customizable and easier to navigate. It’s also the most blatant iPhone clone we’ve seen so far. The hardware, the software UI all scream iPhone clone. For some of you, this may be a positive while for others it may be a negative (which is why it’s listed as both a pro and con).

The Vibrant’s biggest weakness is the camera, and so if photos and videos are important to you, a better choice would be the T-Mobile HTC HD2. The Vibrant also lacks a lot of very useful bundled software like Blockbuster movie rentals, Barnes & Noble (it includes Kindle instead), Instant Messaging, and T-Mobile’s mobile backup. It doesn’t come with a decent Facebook application either and the native one that you can download from the Android Market doesn’t support uploading videos or already-captured photos.

On numerous occasions I still see network errors in the Android Market, and application crashes even without installing any 3rd party apps. The capacitive buttons are a pain too. Sometimes they don’t respond. Sometimes the haptic feedback doesn’t respond either, so you may have to touch the area repeatedly to get the button to work.

Overall, the Vibrant is a well-rounded Android smartphone that we can recommend if you’re looking for something very iPhone-like, but without having to be an AT&T subscriber.

I give the Samsung Vibrant a 4/5.

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they first appeared on the market in 2002.Read more about Adam Lein!