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Samsung Captivate Review

DT Recommended Product

Highs

  • Bright, colorful, glossy 4-inch AMOLED screen
  • Google Android OS v2.1
  • 5-megapixel camera, 720p HD video recorder
  • 16GB built-in memory
  • Light, sleek, uncluttered exterior

Rating

Our Score 7.5
User Score 7.0

Lows

  • Touch controls backlighting out-of-sync with screen
  • No camera flash
  • No front-facing camera
  • Confusing lock switch in camera mode
  • Slower Web surfing than iPhone
Samsung’s iPhone-challenging Galaxy S Captivate offers a larger screen and blissful freedom from antenna issues, but has its own headaches, too.

Sound Quality

Call quality is above average, similar to the iPhone, so you’ll neither gain nor lose anything in conversation quality between the two.

Phone Functionality

Samsung has changed the app menu from the usual vertical slide-up to an iPhone-like, four-by-four grid of icons arrayed across a series of swipable horizontal screens. On the Captivate, apps can’t be re-arranged from their automatic alphabetical ordering.

The Captivate’s white-on-black Contacts app is a throwback to monochrome screens, but actually makes info easier to read, especially in a dark environment. The haptic touch dial pad has large, white-on-gray, easy-to-read alphanumeric keys.

Similarly, the well-spaced Captivate white-on-black haptic-touch keyboard is possibly the best of the Android phones thus far.

Web

In New York, AT&T’s 3G network has vastly improved, but the Captivate lags behind the iPhone in loading Web pages. The iPhone loaded Mobile-optimized pages nearly twice as fast as the Captivate – around three to four seconds on iPhone versus four to six seconds on the Captivate. Apple’s phone holds a three-to-five second advantage for non-optimized pages – the New York Daily News page, for instance, took 17 seconds on the iPhone, and 21 seconds on the Captivate.

Camera

Here’s where the iPhone shines and Captivate, well, doesn’t. Both phones have 5-megapixel imagers, but Captivate images look slightly bleached compared to the iPhone’s crisp, colorful snaps. The iPhone’s biggest photographic advantage is a flash, which the Captivate shockingly lacks.

Samsung Captivate Sample PhotoNot surprisingly, the iPhone also captures slightly superior video with less grain on indoor footage. But the Captivate’s 30-fps video capture is still far above average, compared to other recent superphones with lower frame rate video capture, such as the Sprint EVO and the Droid X.

Then there’s the side multifunction button. In almost all other apps, you hit this key and the phone shuts off. But in camera and video record mode, it locks the screen and all the buttons, a status indicated by a tiny, barely perceptible on-screen padlock icon. We’re not sure why this camera lock is necessary. With no immediate and obvious status indication, it frequently delayed snapping candid shots. Its location on the Captivate’s spine also suggests it is a shutter release key, further confusing matters.

Battery Life

Technically, the Captivate is rated at nearly six hours of talk time and 300 hours of standby. In real-world use, there wasn’t a day of normal calling, Web surfing and picture-taking usage in which our test model dipped below 50-percent capacity. That gives it capacity similar to the iPhone 4, which is rated at seven hours of talk.

Conclusion

If you’re an active social networker and video watcher, the Captivate probably makes a better choice than the iPhone 4, especially if you’re concerned with iPhone’s antenna issues. If you’re more concerned with speedy Web surfing, image and video capture, and video chatting, the iPhone 4 is the only choice. All other things being as equal as they can be (including the $199 price tag), the iPhone 4 is still the AT&T superphone champion, with performance superior in head-to-head comparisons with similar functions on the Captivate. But the margins are narrow enough not to make Captivate an uncomfortable non-Apple choice.

Highs:

  • Bright, colorful, glossy 4-inch AMOLED screen
  • Google Android OS v2.1
  • 5-megapixel camera, 720p HD video recorder
  • 16GB built-in memory
  • Light, sleek, uncluttered exterior

Lows:

  • Touch controls backlighting out-of-sync with screen
  • No camera flash
  • No front-facing camera
  • Confusing lock switch in camera mode
  • Slower Web surfing than iPhone

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