Like the EVO, the Epic shines as a multimedia player, given Android’s less-than-iOS ability to organize files. For instance, instead of logically placing side-loaded videos into the Galaxy folder, they’re buried instead within the phone’s My Files folder. Samsung’s Media Hub store isn’t open yet, but the Epic includes Sprint TV and YouTube.
As with other Galaxy models, the Epic’s AMOLED screen only amplifies the low-resolution inadequacies of these network-carried content. Higher resolution content pops off the screen like a little HDTV display.
Conversations are crystal clear with plenty of volume, although the volume toggle on the Epic’s left perimeter is difficult to distinguish by feel. There’s a speaker mounted on the bottom of the back, which means you won’t be able to place the Epic bottom-down on a table for speakerphone or video-watching, perhaps accentuating the lack of the EVO’s kickstand.
The Epic’s slide-out QWERTY keyboard feels spring loaded and snaps out easily. It’s a wide keyboard, with square black keys on a black background with rows arranged in checkerboard (rather than staggered) style. While keys are flat and, therefore, hard to distinguish by feel, they are well-spaced so accidental adjacent tapping is reduced.
Unlike Motorola’s Droid phones, the Epic includes a handy dedicated number row. Unfortunately – and a bit inexplicably – it lacks a dedicated @ key on both the physical and touch keypads, replaced on the slide-out QWERTY keyboard by the infrequently used emoticon key.
Most annoying is an issue Epic shares with the other Galaxy S phones: Backlighting on the four touch navigation keys beneath the screen – menu, home, back and search – is not synchronized with the screen. This means the backlighting goes off, even if the screen is on. That’s not so unusual, but without the backlighting, the controls become invisible in artificial light (in sunshine they’re a barely distinguishable light grey). You have to tap the general area of where you think the control is, which merely activates the backlighting if you hit the board in the right spot. If you hit it wrong, you might hit a control you don’t intend. It’s an unnecessary, frustrating and annoying little glitch that ought to be fixed in a software update that keeps the backlighting on with the screen.
Even in 3G territory, the Epic loads Web pages in a snap. Mobile-optimized sites and pages such as CNN, The New York Times and ESPN all load in a swift two to four seconds. The advantage of 4G will come in loading non-optimized pages and, of course, for mobile hot-spotting. Non-optimized pages, depending on graphical content, can take up to 20 seconds or more to load. This is becoming less of an issue, however, as more and more major sites create mobile-optimized versions.
As noted above, just because the EVO sports an 8-megapixel imager and the Epic “only” 5 megapixels, doesn’t automatically mean the EVO has a better camera. But it does, barely, on outdoor shots. Sunshine shots from the Epic are a bit darker than on the EVO, although easily corrected in photo-editing software programs. Indoors, however, the Epic’s photos are smooth – if you can keep the phone still enough to get a clear shot, a huge caveat – compared to the EVO’s grainy results (both include an LED flash).
The Epic captures 720p HD video at a slightly higher bitrate than the EVO, but with similar amount of edge fuzziness.
Like the stupid navigation-backlight-syncing issue, the Epic suffers from another problem common to all Galaxy S phones. In camera mode, the power button, locks the screen and all the buttons, a status indicated by a tiny, barely perceptible on-screen padlock icon. With no immediate and obvious locked-status indication, it frequently delays snapping candid shots, or exiting the camera function.
Where and how you use the phone – 3G or 4G – will greatly impact battery life. In 3G territory, the Epic lasted nearly two days of normal on-and-off usage before falling into critical recharge territory. The EVO is rated for six hours of talk time, so we presume the Epic, with its similar 1500mAH battery, will provide around the same.
Even if you don’t or won’t have 4G service, the Epic is a flexible, light, fun and easy-to-use superphone. The Epic might be a value match for the EVO, thanks to its super-bright super AMOLED screen, slide-out keyboard and pre-installed 16GB microSD card, and even taking into account its minor operational annoyances and comparative specification failings in camera MP and hotspot connectivity. But given you can buy a 16GB microsSD card for around $25, the Epic isn’t worth an extra $50 unless you absolutely need a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. So far, the Epic is one of the best phones on the market today.
- Bright, colorful, glossy 4-inch AMOLED screen
- 4G connectivity with mobile hotspot
- 5 MP camera/720p HD video recorder
- 16 GB pre-installed memory
- Lightweight for its size
- Touch controls backlighting out-of-sync with screen
- Screen dims in sunshine
- Lock/hold switch in camera mode
- Occasional processor lag
- $50 more than EVO