capsule review

Samsung Transform: An Average Mid-Level Android Phone

At a Glance
  • Samsung Transform

    PCWorld Rating

    First time Android users will appreciate the Transform’s, but experienced users should save their money for a more powerful phone

At first glance, the Samsung Transform on ($150 after new two-year contract from Sprint) looks like the Samsung Epic 4G's younger brother (also on Sprint). Both phones sport a slide-out keyboard and a front-facing camera. But once you actually hold and use the phone, you'll immediately notice the differences in specs, performance and design.

Slider Design

Despite the similar design to Epic 4G, the Transform's build quality is clunky and feels plasticky. The sliding mechanism however, is solid and the QWERTY keyboard was easy to pop out and use.

The keyboard's keys felt cheap and flat and trying to drum out longer text messages grew increasingly annoying with every typo. I often found myself just using the virtual keyboard in landscape mode rather than the hardware keyboard.

The Samsung Transform sports a 3.5-inch 320-by-480-pixel capacitive LCD screen, and at times, it looked a bit dim and blurry. On a sunny day, I could barely see the screen outdoors, even after messing with several brightness settings. The glare from the sunlight made it hard to see what I was doing on the device. Under the screen you find four soft keys (Menu, Home, Back, and Search), and at the top of the device find a standard 3.5-mm audio jack and a microUSB port behind a sliding door. On the left spine of the phone is a volume rocker and on the right you have the power button, a dedicated voice command key, and a camera button. There is a microSD card slot, but like many other Android phones you have to remove the back covering to get to it.

Performance and Software

Being a lower-end Android phone, the Samsung Transform is powered by an 800 MHz processor with 201MB of onboard memory (Sprint and Samsung graciously includes a 2GB microSD card). For the most part the phone performed well; the only time I noticed any sluggishness was when running several applications at once or when flipping through the different screens. The capacitive touchscreen had problems registering my input at times. Even though I preferred the on-screen keyboard over the physical one, the device would start to lag if I typed too fast. Something I liked about the Transform was that it runs stock Android 2.1 (Eclair) with a few minor tweaks that benefit the device.

The biggest tweak is the inclusion of Sprint ID. When you first set up the device, you are prompted to download a Sprint ID pack containing several applications such as Sprint TV, Telenav GPS Navigator, and NASCAR Sprint Cup. At the time I lacked network coverage and couldn't continue with the rest of the setup. A minor quirk, but this is something to be aware of should you try to setup the phone in an area with poor reception. After initial setup, you are free to browse through several different Sprint IDs. Each ID contains several apps, wallpapers, and ringtones that follow the theme of the ID and you can switch your ID at anytime. For instance, I installed the "Entertainment" ID and my wallpaper and home screen were changed to make my phone more media-friendly.

Sprint ID was developed to help new Android users discover the best applications in each category, but in practice it falls short mainly due to the pitiful internal storage and long download times. Over Sprint's EV-DO Rev.A network, IDs, apps, and Web pages took a considerable time to load.

Call quality was uneven. My contacts said that I sounded muffled and far away while others said I sounded like I was underwater. There also doesn't appear to be any noise cancellation as everyone I called was able to make out what was going on in the background.

Battery life was surprisingly good. After a full day of taking pictures, watching YouTube videos, making calls, and downloading apps, I still had around 60% battery life left. I was able to go almost 2 days before the battery ran out. However, as with most smartphones you will most likely want to charge the phone every night.

Multimedia

The phone sports a 3.2-megapixel camera with a flash as well as a front-facing 0.3-megapixel VGA camera. The rear camera took some reasonably decent shots when the area was well lit. In lower light settings the flash tended to blow out the image, causing a hazy distortion. If you plan on taking pictures, try not to do it after dark. The pictures I took from the front facing camera had a strange greenish tint to them.

Videos shot with the camcorder was decent as well. The playback was a little choppy but not so bad as to being unbearable and audio picked up nicely as well. Strangely enough you are not

given the option to record video using the front facing camera.

I was excited to try out video calling on the Transform but was unable to due to lack of software. The Qik video application, unlike for the Evo 4G and the MyTouch 4G, didn't have a specialized version made exclusively for the Transform. The standard Qik app didn't pick up the front facing camera either, rendering it's use to basically taking self portraits (with a greenish tint).

Although the phone uses the stock Android media player, sound quality was good enough that you could use the phone as an MP3 player.

Bottom Line

The Samsung Transform is a good entry level phone for new Android users who aren't ready to give up physical buttons just yet. If you're looking for something more powerful, however, you'll want to skip the Transform and move on to the HTC EVO 4G or the Epic 4G. The sluggish download speeds and small internal memory will annoy heavy app users to no end. The phone is scheduled to receive 2.2 update (Froyo) later this year which will hopefully solve its storage issue and make the phone faster overall.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    First time Android users will appreciate the Transform’s, but experienced users should save their money for a more powerful phone

    Pros

    • Runs stock Android 2.1
    • Sprint ID useful for new smartphone owners

    Cons

    • Unusable front-facing camera
    • Limited storage
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