Every now and then, a phone comes along that completely changes the landscape of technology. Whether it's because of a unique design or groundbreaking software, sometimes a new phone can really blow our minds.
The Samsung ATIV Odyssey is not that phone. It's not the antithesis of that either, though, because it's not a terrible phone. Instead, what we have here is a mid-tier Windows Phone 8 offering from Samsung, exclusive to Verizon Wireless customers, that is middle-of-the-road in ways that extend beyond its specs or price point.
Build and Design
After checking out the Odyssey at this year's CES, we declared its design to be uninspired and unfortunately, our stance hasn't wavered after spending some more time with it. I cannot stress how unremarkable this phone's design is. There's nothing bad about the design, per se, it's just very plain.
Rather than going in one direction or the other -- think the sexy, minimalist designs of the Apple iPhone or the new BlackBerry Z10 versus the colorful, ostentatious designs of just about all other Windows Phones -- Samsung settled for a very middle-of-the-road approach. The Odyssey is relatively small, has round corners and slightly rounded edges, and is complimented by a faux-metallic trim and backing. No bright colors here, just silver and black.
It also feels a little on the cheap side, between how light it is (4.4 ounces) and the fact that if you do so much as tap the back, you can actually feel the tiny haptic feedback motor shake. It makes it feel like the phone is almost hollow.
The device feels comfortable enough in the hand thanks to how compact it is and the speaker grill lining the bottom of the phone's back is a nice touch, but otherwise the Odyssey has a design that doesn't take any risks. Heck, it doesn't even play it safe by emulating designs that have already been deemed successful. Instead, it eschews aesthetic appeal or uniqueness for what can be considered, at best, practicality. It's the station wagon of smartphones.
The display of the Odyssey is, in a word, rough. The 800 x 480 resolution is unimpressive and it's painfully easy to see individual pixels on the screen, making everything look rough instead of clear and sharp. The contrast and colors don't look impressive either, at least not in comparison to that of Nokia's handsets (a feat due, in large part, to the company's ClearBlack display technology).
The only satisfactory element of the Odyssey's screen is its brightness. The Super AMOLED display looks good on the highest setting and fights glare quite well. On the whole, though, prepare to be disappointed by the Odyssey's display, as it's possibly the weakest aspect of the entire device.
Other Buttons & Ports
The Odyssey has a comfortable, traditional set up for its buttons and ports. The power/standby switch is on the right side with the dedicated camera button located further down the same edge. The volume rocker is located on the left side along with a covered microSD card slot, a design choice that we found particularly appealing. All of the other Windows Phone 8 devices that feature microSD card slots have them located behind the phone's back panel and/or battery, which is a hassle to get to, so the external slot is a welcome change.
Besides the 3.5mm headphone jack up top and a micro USB port for charging on the bottom edge, that's it for the ports. As for the cameras, the phone's front-facing, 1.2-megpixel shooter is located in the upper left-hand corner above the display, while the 5-megapixel camera is centered towards the top of the phone's back.
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