- Excellent screen
- Comfortable, ergonomic slide-out keyboard
- Fast performance in day-to-day operations
- Camera LED flash is extremely bright
- Device generates a bit of heat in longer sessions
- Speaker phone quality suffers at higher volume levels
The Samsung Epic 4G is an almost perfect execution of a high-end mobile device.
The Samsung Epic 4G is the Sprint edition of Samsung’s popular and high-end Galaxy S. Aside from the Super AMOLED screen and 1 GHz processor shared with its Captivate (AT&T) and Vibrant (T-Mobile USA) siblings, the Epic 4G adds a slide-out QWERTY keyboard and access to Sprint’s WiMAX network.
This model costs $250 with a two-year contract.
As with any smartphone, the device is a lot more than its specs. But does the Epic 4G live up to its name and the promise of ultra-fast mobile connectivity? Read on to find out.
BUILD & DESIGN
From a design standpoint, the Epic 4G walks proudly on the line between executive-friendly and fashion-conscious. Boasting a 4.3-inch screen that repels fingerprints excellently, it is only its size which keeps it from being a most ideally designed device.
The Galaxy S lineup is notable first and foremost for the inclusion of the Super AMOLED touchscreen display. It dominates the front side of the Epic 4G, yet blends into the device so well that you don’t notice it when the screen is off. It is a very clean approach to the design that allows the brightness of the 4-inch WVGA (800×480) screen to shine excellently.
Compared to the other Galaxy S models, the Epic 4G is most similar to the Captivate in that the default colors are cooler and pop a bit more towards the red/blue end of the spectrum. It really shines well, and the default fonts do it justice. It isn’t as crisp as the display found on the iPhone 4 — what is? — but it holds its own quite well.
In playing games and watching videos, I noticed that the screen seemed a bit faster to refresh than its siblings. Also, I didn’t run into any issues where taps were missed when scrolling or using the on-screen keyboard.
This is a very well done screen. Some might find it a bit dim, but a simple adjustment to the default brightness levels and you will be hard-pressed to find something better.
One of the key differentiators for the Epic 4G is the addition of a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. This adds to the width and thickness, but once you get used to the placement of the keys and the slight roundness to the entire keyboard, you’ll quickly find yourself using this over the on-screen keyboard even for short messages.
Another aspect that impressed me was that this keyboard did not seem designed as an after-thought. For example, the Samsung Intercept, even though you have a keyboard, you still need to slide your right hand up the device to use the menu, home, back and search keys. This isn’t the case with the Epic 4G. Not only are these buttons present, but you get a full five (5) rows of keys and function buttons to play with. Outside of the placement of the backspace key (next to the ‘L’ and too small) every key sits in an optimal position to almost type without looking.
If you don’t want to use the keyboard, Swype is used as the default on-screen keyboard option. With Swype you simply trace your finger over the letters to compose words. This works very well, and recognition of words was much better than my experiences with the other Galaxy S models.
Simply put, you can see in the design and use of the keyboard where some of the price premium over the other Galaxy S models comes in.
Other Buttons and Controls
Following what seems to be a consistent design ethos for Samsung’s Android OS devices, the four function buttons located under the screen disappear when not active. Unlike experiences with the Intercept and Captivate, there were no instances where the buttons didn’t activate on an initial press, unless the device was locked.
The power/lock button is on the top-right side, and is finally flanked by a proper camera button. The camera button protrudes a bit more than the volume rocker (left side) but is otherwise easy to use for both activating the camera application (press and hold for a few seconds) and taking shots.
The rear of the Epic 4G is literally the entire battery cover with cutouts for the five (5) megapixel digital camera and the LED flash. I am a bit worried about the quality of the glass/plastic used for the cover as it could get those pocket scratches. But, given the width of the Epic 4G, many users might opt for a case which keeps this a non-issue.
Overall, the Epic 4G feels built to last a very long time. There’s no creak, and very little movement caused by the slider mechanism for the keyboard. Even with the keyboard extended, you don’t get the feeling that the weight of the device has shifted any. It isn’t the lightest of devices (5.5 oz), but it doesn’t cause much hand fatigue with my experiences. A least from a design perspective, the Epic 4G is a class leader.