Samsung Infuse 4G Review

The Samsung Infuse 4G is a great phone at a reasonable price if you're looking for an Android phone with a big screen.
The Samsung Infuse 4G is a great phone at a reasonable price if you're looking for an Android phone with a big screen.
The Samsung Infuse 4G is a great phone at a reasonable price if you're looking for an Android phone with a big screen.

Highs

  • Big 4.5-inch screen
  • Bright screen
  • Thinnest phone on the market
  • 16GB of storage

Lows

  • Low screen resolution for its size
  • Plastic shell
  • HSPA+ speeds can’t compete with LTE
  • TouchWiz interface has some quirks
  • Weak, poorly placed speaker

You can accuse Samsung of a lot of things, but it knows how to keep up with trends. The electronics maker just took the wraps off the Infuse 4G on May 5, and as of May 15, it’s officially available on AT&T. This isn’t just another Android phone, though. At 4.5 inches diagonally, the Infuse has a larger screen than almost any phone on the market and Samsung also claims it is thinner than the iPhone 4, making it the leanest phone in the United States. Couple that with 1080p video recording and the ability to install apps outside of the Android Market and we’ve got ourselves a hot ticket. But do the details match the headlines?

Features and design

Samsung’s Infuse is big. It’s 4.5-inch screen is noticeably larger than all of the 4.0 and 4.3-inch smartphones hitting the market and at 5.2 inches tall by 2.8 inches wide, it will be positively too large for some users. This is a phone for people with big hands and ambitious plans. Perhaps more ambitious than some of us. Though we enjoy the extra screen space, once in a while the extra real estate was a tad burdensome.

Samsung Infuse 4G comparisonLeft to right: Samsung Infuse 4G, Samsung Droid Charge, Samsung Focus, Motorola Droid

Luckily, as Samsung boasts, the Infuse is extremely thin. Other than a slight protrusion at the bottom for the speaker and antenna (we presume), the back of the unit is pretty flat. Even the camera sits flush with the back panel. We can’t help but admire the durable Gorilla Glass screen as well.

After admiring (or despising) its size and thinness, the next thing you’ll notice about the Infuse 4G is how light it is. Samsung has stuck with an all-plastic shell for the Infuse. The metallic slate finish is overly shiny and attracts fingerprints, making the Infuse feel a bit too light and too cheap, but the textured grip on the back helps class the phone up a little.

Here’s a rundown of all the ports and doo-dads adorning the phone. It has a power button on the right that’s very easy to push, a stereo audio jack up top, a volume rocker on the left side, a micro USB port on the bottom center, and a micro SD card slot under the SIM card, nestled right up to the battery, both of which are under the back panel. The front and rear cameras are nicely placed. Our only complaint is that the Infuse has but one anemic little speaker on the back, right on the bulge. While we don’t expect much out of smartphone speakers, this one is especially weak because of its placement. It sits atop the bulge on the bottom back of the unit, in a place easily blocked by hands or anything the phone happens to be lying on. The speaker tends to go completely quiet if you block it with a finger as well.

Samsung Infuse 4G side

Specs

Where would all us geeks be without the specifications? On the specs front, Samsung generally disappoints, but only when compared to the flagship dual-core phones hitting shelves. The phone runs on a 1.2GHz ARM Cortex A8 Hummingbird processor, has an 8-megapixel rear camera that can take 1080p video (most competitors are stuck at 720p) with an LED flash, has a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and is the first AT&T phone that can reach theoretical download speeds of 21Mbps (more on that below). It runs on Android 2.2 with Samsung’s TouchWiz 3.0 UX built onto it.

The storage situation on the Infuse is a bit odd. The device has 2GB of internal phone storage, but also has a 16GB SD card built into it. On top of that, it also has a 2GB removable micro SD card. Getting our computers to recognize the device and its 3 drives properly took some time. Samsung does let you choose which drive you’d like to mount, but the process is a bit confusing the first time you run through it. In any case, the Infuse has a lot of storage by today’s standards.

Samsung Infuse 4G displayScreen

The size of the Infuse 4G screen is going to turn some off, but may be the main reason why some people buy the phone. Since it is a focus, we feel the need to point out that while the Super AMOLED Plus screen is incredibly bright, the low resolution of the phone does not scale well to 4.5 inches. Those who have used high-res displays will notice pixelation on the 480 x 800 display. The bold, saturated colors tend to give menus less depth than on competing devices, even the Samsung Droid Charge, which technically has the same screen, just .2 inches smaller. We’re not precisely sure why this is, and can only trace it to the increased size of the screen. Still, movies and pictures look gorgeous on the screen. Samsung packs the Infuse with some movie trailers that will be the highlight reel for showing off to friends.

Samsung TouchWiz interface

We’re a bit sad that Samsung is still shipping devices with Android 2.2 (Froyo) since Google released 2.3 (Gingerbread) in December, but it isn’t the only company doing this. An upgrade to 2.3 has been promised sometime in the coming months.

Samsung’s TouchWiz 3.0 overlay is not as all-encompassing as HTC Sense, but it has some good features. In particular, we like the way it has built-in toggles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, mute, and screen rotation, all on the pull-down notifications bar. Another new feature lets you pinch to see all seven homescreens at once (a nod to Sense).

On the widget front, the schedule and memo widget is nice, as is Samsung’s built-in app management software, but the social and friend widgets just aren’t there yet. We’re also puzzled why Samsung removed the standard Android clock and put a “double clock” in its place. There is literally no way to have a clock widget unless you want two clock widgets, stacked on top of one another. Did we miss a broad trend here? Either way, we now know the weather in New York City and Detroit, MI. Delightful.

Design-wise, we have mixed feelings about TouchWiz. We don’t mind the iPhone-like square icons and bottom tray, but some of the color choices for menus (brown, gray) look kind of ugly or bland. We can see why Apple is suing Samsung, but we don’t think Steve Jobs has much to worry about. TouchWiz 3.0 still can’t hold a candle to iOS.

Apps and web

Like most Android phones these days, the Infuse comes preloaded with a number of apps that cannot be removed, whether you like them or not. We don’t mind companies loading apps in the phone, but why lock them in there? The Infuse comes with some great games like Angry Birds, but what if we feel like moving on to Angry Birds Rio?

AT&T Navigator, AT&T Code Scanner, AT&T FamilyMap, AllShare, Facebook, Live TV, Media Hub, myAT&T, Quickoffice, My Files, Mini Diary, Memo, Task Manager, Ypmobile, and Write & Go all come preloaded. Some of these, like Memo and Task Manager, are fairly helpful. Others are less exciting. All of the basic Google apps like Gmail, YouTube, Talk, Places, Navigation, and Latitude are included as well. As always, you can find anything you’re missing on the Android Market. However, the Infuse is also capable of downloading off-market apps, after turning it on in application settings. In other words, those who would like to get the Amazon Appstore can now freely do so.

Web speeds are faster than 3G, but still disappointing when compared to actual 4G services like Verizon. We got 2.5Mbps to 3.0Mbps on the download and about 1.5Mbps on the up in New York City. On the Samsung Droid Charge, Verizon’s LTE network is clocking about 10Mbps down and 3Mbps up in New York. Also, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that a larger screen is always a good thing for Web browsing.

Samsung Infuse 4G cameraCamera

The Infuse is packed with an 8-megapixel rear camera and 1.3-megapixel front camera. Both compare well to what’s out there. We like Samsung’s camera software, which lets you tap on the screen to choose an item to focus on. It also has a few fun modes for action shots, panoramas, smile shots, or pictures where you’d like to insert your friend later. The still camera also did fairly well in low-light conditions thanks to the bright LED flash. We also got decent audio and motion from the video camera, which can record at up to 1080p (full HD).

Phone

You know, it’s strange. These devices are phones, but we sometimes forget how important calls quality is in the grand scheme of things. We haven’t made a large number of calls on the Infuse, but reception in New York is pretty good and calls sound as good as they ever do.

Battery life

While you shouldn’t expect stellar battery life out of the Infuse, it seems to compare well to most Android devices. Unless you’re playing games or watching movies constantly, you should be able to get through a day without a charge. This is one benefit the device has over the 4G Samsung Droid Charge. Without a battery-sucking LTE network to report to, the Infuse manages its juice reasonably well, especially considering its bright Super AMOLED Plus screen.

Conclusion

At $199.99 the Samsung Infuse 4G is a great phone at a reasonable price. While its large size will turn some off, we generally enjoy having a bit more screen space to type and browse on. The hardware isn’t up to the dual-core standards of some flagship phones, nor does AT&T’s network support 4G speeds that are anywhere near as fast as Verizon, but the Infuse is pretty snappy, and didn’t hiccup on us too often. We’re not huge fans of the completely plastic shell of most Samsung phones, but the light weight and extremely thin profile help justify the lack of metal, to a degree. Overall, if you’re looking for a good Android phone with a big screen, this may be your guy.

Highs:

  • Big 4.5-inch screen
  • Bright screen
  • Thinnest phone on the market
  • 16GB of storage

Lows:

  • Low screen resolution for its size
  • Plastic shell
  • HSPA+ speeds can’t compete with LTE
  • TouchWiz interface has some quirks
  • Weak, poorly placed speaker
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