Samsung Fascinate Review

Samsung’s Galaxy S Fascinate holds its own alongside the popular Droid X, leaving room for both superphones on the nation’s largest wireless carrier.
Samsung’s Galaxy S Fascinate holds its own alongside the popular Droid X, leaving room for both superphones on the nation’s largest wireless carrier.
Samsung’s Galaxy S Fascinate holds its own alongside the popular Droid X, leaving room for both superphones on the nation’s largest wireless carrier.

Highs

  • Bright, colorful, glossy 4-inch AMOLED screen
  • Excellent battery life
  • 5-megapixel camera/720p HD video recorder
  • 16GB microSD card pre-installed
  • Lightweight; uncluttered exterior

Lows

  • Touch controls backlighting out-of-sync with screen
  • Inconsistent network connectivity
  • No front-facing camera
  • Lock/hold switch in camera mode
  • Only 2GB built-in memory

samsung fascinate reviewIntroduction

If Apple plans on getting the iPhone to Verizon, it had better hurry up, because the competition in the superphone category is heating up. The Droid X already provides daunting competition, but now Verizon has added another Android heavyweight, the final Samsung Galaxy S model, the Fascinate. Both black slab touchscreen superphones tell a similar technical tale-of-the-tape, and your choice will be based on what attributes appeal more to you.

Features and Design

All Samsung’s Galaxy S models feel ridiculously light, but the mostly plastic Fascinate, along with the T-Mobile’s Vibrant, at 4.16 ounces, are the lightest of the family. By comparison, the larger, mostly metal Droid X weighs nearly an ounce and a half more at 5.47 ounces, and its heft screams quality and security. For shirt pockets, however, the Droid X’s extra ounce-plus could mean the difference between unsightly sag and no sag.

Both black slab superphones offer a similar set of superphone attributes: a high-megapixel camera (8 megapixels for the Droid X, 5 megapixels on the Fascinate) with flash; HD video recording; a 1GHz processor, Android 2.1 (upgradable to 2.2), and Wi-Fi and mobile 3G-to-Wi-Fi hot spot capability for up to five simultaneous users.

The Droid X has a bigger screen – 4.3 inches vs. 4 – but that extra 0.3 is mostly in length, which means a line or two more of text while Web browsing and e-book reading.

But the Fascinate’s super-bright Super AMOLED cuts through blinding direct sunlight as if it wasn’t there; Droid X’s screen does a brave job, but bleaches out miserably outdoors by comparison. AMOLED screens also require less power, and the savings become obvious if you forget to plug in your phone every night.

One major point of differentiation between the two is memory: both include a pre-installed 16 GB microSD card, but Fascinate has just 2 GB built-in vs. Droid X’s built-in 8 GB, which means you get a total of 24 GB out-of-the-box with Droid X vs. 18 GB for Fascinate for the same $200.

samsung fascinate reviewMultimedia Features

Colors really pop on the Fascinate’s AMOLED screen, but the Droid X’s longer screen provides slightly more video space, especially if you watch a film that maintains a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Brightness trumps a few millimeters of extra screen space, but not by much since the difference is noticeable only in side-by-side comparisons. In other words, the Droid X’s display is near-great compared to the Fascinate’s spectacular screen.

If you can get a YouTube video to load (see Web section), you have to drill through the menu to switch to the high-quality version; on the Droid X, high quality is right on the main screen – admittedly, a minor quibble.

Sound Quality

Neither phone offers enough volume to overcome Manhattan street noise. In quieter environs, voices were clear and crisp at both ends of the conversation, so either will satisfy for actual chatting.

Phone Functionality

The Fascinate’s keyboard has no dedicated @ key – it’s on the second SYM keyboard –which sounds piddling, but becomes annoying when every time you want to write out an e-mail address, you have to search out the SYM key and shift to a second keyboard screen to complete it. Even if you access addresses from your contact list, adding the @ key boils down the choices.

Our annoyance with the unsynced touch control backlights on the Galaxy S phones (see our review of the Galaxy S Vibrant and Captivate) carries over to the Fascinate as well.

Because the Droid X has physical buttons, pushing any of them will wake up the sleeping phone. With touch controls, the Fascinate can only be awoken only by pressing the side power switch.

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