- Good display
- Better design than Samsung's last WP8 device
- Respectable performance
- Awful, awful Sprint service
- Battery life unimpressive
Quick TakeAn otherwise good phone in its own right, the Sprint-exclusive Samsung ATIV S Neo is handicapped by its carrier's networks.
Sprint has taken its time, but it’s finally getting on board with Windows Phone 8 nearly a year after the OS made its debut. For its entry into the platform, the carrier is releasing two phones: the HTC 8XT and the Samsung ATIV S Neo.
Samsung didn’t exactly set the world on fire with its last Windows Phone 8 outing, the ATIV Odyssey, which was about as boring and forgettable as phones come. So can it do better this time around with the Sprint-exclusive ATIV S Neo? Let’s find out.
Right of the bat, the ATIV S Neo does better than the ATIV Odyssey in the design department. While there are undoubtedly many similarities between the two phones’ designs, the ATIV S Neo benefits from a larger screen that stretches out the length of the phone, giving it a more slender, svelte look than the squat build of the ATIV Odyssey. And at 0.36 inches thick with a reasonably thin bezel, it’s rather compact despite the large screen.
That said, some complaints still remain, including the low-quality plastic build of the frame, a criticism with which Samsung is not entirely unfamiliar. Unlike the solid, quality build found in Nokia or HTC’s Windows Phone 8 offerings, the ATIV Odyssey is cheap and light. Some may enjoy that it only weighs in at 5.08 ounces, but it feels to cheap to us.
While the reflective chrome trim and the dark blue casing is also here on the ATIV S Neo, the unique speaker grill that was found on the lower back of the ATIV Odyssey is no longer present. It’s an unfortunate omission, both because that was one of the few design elements we enjoyed about the ATIV Odyssey and because the alternative is a smaller speaker located up top near the rear-facing camera.
The display of the ATIV S Neo is among the roomiest we’ve seen on a Windows Phone 8 device, measuring at 4.7 inches. Unfortunately, Windows Phone 8 as it stands now does not support full HD resolutions, so its resolution is 1280 x 720, resulting in a pixel density of roughly 308 ppi. To be honest though, that may be all the pixels the phone needs, because the display of the ATIV S Neo is very sharp.
Colors look good as well, which is important given the colorful scheme of Windows Phone 8. Everything pops and is a touch oversaturated, which is just how we like it. At its max setting, the display is also extremely bright and is easily visible even when outdoors in direct sunlight.
Not everything is perfect with the ATIV S Neo’s display, however, as there is a funny glitch with it that occurred with a rather alarming frequency. On numerous occasions, the screen would display everything slightly off-center, so a sliver of what should have been seen on the right was instead wrapped around on the left. It was very jarring and noticeable and could only be fixed with a reboot.
One of our favorite parts of Samsung Windows Phone 8 devices is the physical home key that’s located directly beneath the display. It’s both aesthetically pleasing and practical, as it cuts down on the number of accidental button presses users would experience with a capacitive home key. That said, the other two navigation buttons, back and search, are still capacitive, but they are beautifully backlit with a soft blue hue.
As for the other keys, the volume rocker is located on the upper left side, while the power/standby button and the dedicated camera key are both on the right. There’s also a headphone jack on the top edge and a micro USB port on the bottom, and that’s it for the outside. The microSD card slot, while available, is located underneath the back plate — which can be pried off easily — along with the battery and SIM card slot.