All the Samsung Galaxy S series devices are top-of-the-line in terms of hardware and performance, and the Epic 4G is no exception. It runs Google Android OS 2.1 on Samsung’s new 1 GHz Hummingbird processor.
And while it doesn’t have the 16 GB of internal memory that the other Galaxy S variants have — the Epic 4G goes the route of including a 16 GB microSDHC card instead — the nearly 500 MB of available memory (after boot) ensures that not only will you have space to expand for media and applications, but things will remain pretty speedy.
I can recall only a few instances where the Epic 4G slowed down or stalled in regular operation. In all cases it was for about 10-15 seconds and then things returned to normal. In Charlotte, there’s patchy WiMAX coverage and I did notice some hiccups in operation when it was bouncing from 4G to 3G (not the reverse). Otherwise, everything about operating the Epic 4G ran smoothly.
With the other Galaxy S models I’ve reviewed, I noted that heat was a reoccurring issue. This didn’t seem to be the case with the Epic 4G. That’s not to say that it stay cold always in operation, but the heat felt more normal, generating only from where the battery was, and not at a noticeably intense temperature.
As noted above, Charlotte (NC, USA) has patchy WiMAX coverage. That didn’t stop the Epic 4G from being a quality call machine. I dropped a call one time (on a highway passing from a 4G to a 3G area) but otherwise this smartphone was stubborn about holding onto a signal.
Voice calls in 3G areas were a touch clearer than in 4G regions, but calls seemed to be a bit sharper in 4G areas. The deploying of WiMAX is ongoing, and so network effects might the blame here. Asking some users who have (or have returned) the HTC EVO 4G in this area cite a similar issue.
Listening to calls via the speakerphone was not a pleasant experience. From about the 60% volume range on up, the speaker sounded fuzzy and chopped. I also got some reports of echoing and feedback when the volume was up that high. This meant that I needed to turn the volume down and move closer to the device, which kind of defeats the purpose of a speakerphone.
The Epic 4G has seven homescreens which can be customized with widgets, shortcuts, or themes to your liking. Out of the box, only four of the screens have some kind of widget on them – one of these is devoted to the Sprint content which is included on the device.
As with other Android devices, there’s the main bar at the bottom of the screen which contacts four icons – Phone, Contacts, Messaging, and Applications. These appear on all of the homescreens and are not customizable.
The contents of the Messaging screen is described in the Communications section of this review.
The Applications screen is one of the cleanest implementations that I’ve witnessed on all Android devices. There are only two pages of apps by default, and all of them seem worth it. There are the usual Gmail, Calendar, Maps, Notes, Gallery, Voicemail, and YouTube apps; but, also some nice additions such as ThinkFree Office, Qik, Asphalt 5 (game), Facebook, and the Samsung Media Hub.
The Android Market is available for downloading additional applications. And similar to many devices today, there’s a carrier-branded tab featuring top picks by Sprint. Some of these are free, but none listed cost more than $5 USD.
With the Epic 4G, I never felt as if I had to wait to get anything done. The device is snappy enough to just turn on and go. And for this reviewer, the lack of so many applications was a pleasant sight as it kind of made living with the device less of a chore.
Naturally, this smartphone offers email and text messaging.
It’s Messaging screen combines SMS and MMS into one. and supports has threaded conversations and support for several media file types.
I was very impressed seeing the microphone on the Messaging app. This allows you to do speech-to-text for composing and sending text messages — this works across the entire device, actually. I normally don’t text and drive, but being able to hit the microphone to speak an SMS message definitely made a difference in the type of attention SMS takes away from driving. I don’t advise using this feature often while driving, but to know its there with very accurate voice recognition without training is the occasional time saver.
Managing contacts is done through the Contacts application. Here, the Epic 4G pulls information from your Google Address book (which might include both those persons you’ve saved there and those persons you’ve messaged with any Google products). You can merge up to five contacts, which is helpful. Unfortunately, that merging doesn’t reflect back on the Google service, so if you ever need to replace your device, you will need to redo the contact merging. Contact cards include address and contact information, and can be linked to various social networking services such as Twitter, and even linked to media such as photos and music.
Not everything about the Epic 4G is focused on communication. The web browser, GPS/mapping services, music player, and camera all combine to make this a suitable device for fun tasks as well. Just be aware, depending on how much connectivity you are using, you might find yourself either looking for a charger quickly or turning off some wireless features to conserve power.
The web browser is the stock WebKit-based one from Google, but the Hummingbird processor seems to have a positive effect on the experience.
The bigger influence on browsing with this Samsung model is the type of connection you are using. In order of impressions of web browsing speed: 3G (nice), Wi-Fi (very nice), WiMAX (wow). Suffice to say, there’s nothing casual about browsing over 4G. It is extremely fast, though you start to notice that battery meter drop a bit and make quick decisions to get economical with battery life.
Generally speaking, the browser does well on all but the most script- or media-heavy of sites — similar to the other Galaxy S models here. It is also during longer browsing sessions where you’d notice the device heating up.
A similar heating-up effect happens when using Google Maps for an extended time. But again, performance and usability don’t suffer. 4G connectivity again makes a difference here, as does the ability to do voice searches and hear voice-led directions. Google Maps includes the Buzz, Latitude, and Layers features, which add some social and interactive elements to using the Epic 4G. Because the screen is as large as it is, getting your bearings is very easy. Also, the Epic 4G doesn’t suffer some of the GPS issues reported with other Galaxy S models, so no worries on location or directions being off.
It is unfortunate that the Epic 4G doesn’t have the larger amount of internal memory in addition to the 16 GB microSDHC. I needed to turn the device off and remove the rear cover in order to put in my 8 GB microSDHC card that I have pre-loaded with music and videos. However, it was not a long wait after turning the Epic 4G on. All of my content was scanned in under 5 min. and I was off listening.
This is less of an issue if you don’t already have a memory card pre-loaded with content. Then you just need to hook the EVO 4G to your PC over the USB cable and transfer your songs and videos.
When listening to music through the single rear speaker, sound was great until about the 60% volume mark. At that point sound quality began to deteriorate. It seemed to only be in some sound ranges, which leads me to believe that it might simply be some tuning in the software that could correct this.
This smartphone from Samsung has a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera, and a lower-resolution front-facing one.
I was pleased to find a camera button on the Epic 4G, as its Galaxy S siblings don’t have one. And while the photo quality was comparable to the experiences with the other Galaxy S models — the quick shutter speed is nice, but there’s a learning curve to controls.
You can still click on an area of the screen to white balance/focus on that item, and this generally results in a solid photo. People with smaller hands might not do this often, as the screen’s large size and the amount of tuning that can be done before getting a picture requires you to put your hands in an uncomfortable position.
The Epic 4G has one of the brightest LED flashes that I’ve seen on any mobile camera. At night, it could be a street light for how intense that it is. On the auto setting, I was met with washed out reds and whites nearly every time that it would go off. Any kind of balancing/focusing that you do before hitting the shutter button goes away when the flash activates — it’s entirely too bright.
As mentioned earlier in the review, the Epic 4G was reviewed in an area where WiMAX service is still being rolled out. This made for some excellent opportunities to test the 1500 mAh battery.
In normal 3G areas, and on light days, the Epic 4G responded similar to any modern smartphone. With a few hours of browsing, some social networking, and a few hours of calls, I needed to charge the device by the time my head hit the pillow (usage was from 7 am to 11:30 pm).
I spent 2 days in 4G areas and did two experiments. In the first, I simply wanted to see the rate at which the battery fell. Starting at 100%, leaving the device mostly unused, it dropped 25% in four hours. The second experiment had the Epic 4G serve as a wireless hotspot for my iPad. In this scenario it last 2.5 hours before the low battery warning (starting a tick under 90%). There’s no doubt the WiMAX has a major effect on battery life.
There was also a noticeable, just not as intense, drop in a Wi-Fi browsing session. The Epic 4G dropped 25% after two hours of browsing and being used by multiple people. This is in-line with other mobile devices.