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Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Hands-on with the Samsung Droid Charge on Verizon 4G LTE

20

September

droidcharge_marquee_bullet2.pngAt first glance, it doesn't seem like the Samsung Droid Charge will live up to it's description as being the "Slimmest 4G LTE Smartphone on Verizon's lightning fast network." It has kind of a clunky look to it, which is likely due to the flare at the bottom. Looks can be deceiving though, and when you pick it up the weight and feel defy it's appearance. The Charge is a very light and comfortable phone.

Equipped with a 1GHz Hummingbird processor, a 4.3-inch 480 x 800-pixel Super AMOLED Plus touch screen display and 4G LTE network speed, the Charge isn't one of the phones you talk about until you've tried it. It's lightness makes it feel a little less substantial than some of the other 4G phones but it certainly isn't due to build quality. It's just more of a plastic feel. Here's one cool thing though...it has real, physical buttons on the home screen. You won't find real buttons on the front of too many smartphones theses days and that's a shame, because although they're considered old-fashioned by many there is a certain comfort in knowing when the button you're pushing has actually been pushed.

screen_shot_2011-09-20_at_5.18.09_pm.pngThe Charge ships with Android 2.2 Froyo (why not Gingerbread?) and handled normal tasks with flying colors. Because it lacks a dual-core processor it's not going to set or break any benchmarks but it's no dog either, and it felt very peppy throughout my tests. The display is very impressive with excellent brightness, sharpness and contrast. Once you start using phones with these large displays you wonder how you got by with a paltry 3.5 or 4-inches. This is especially true for so many of the phones that are designed to be the center of your daily multimedia world. That's the intent of the Charge and it's equipped with the Samsung Media Hub for access to hit movies, TV shows and video games.

The speaker was really a surprise because it's capable of cranking out volume beyond anything I've heard on a smartphone or tablet. The sound wasn't just loud but it also had good quality. I was running it at half volume and that was quite enough! Audio call quality was good too, coming and going.

1485960452.pngIn WiFi hotspot mode the Charge did extremely well and connected with some fast speeds on Verizon's 4g LTE network. I did tests on the Speedtest.net site using my MacBook Pro connected to the Charge via WiFi and some results are below, showing a top download speed of 16 megabits a second and top upload speed averaging around 5 megabits. I tested an HTC Thunderbolt a few weeks back, the trumpeted 4G LTE King, and the Charge performed much better in WiFi hotspot mode.

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There's no question where the Charge got it's name because it can hold one, a charge that is, longer than any phone I've tested. The 1600mAh battery is rated for usage times up to 11 hours with a standby of up to 280 hours. I ran it in hotspot mode for more than two hours and the battery was showing about 25 percent of use. Try that with an HTC Thunderbolt or most any other hotspot-capable smartphone and you'll be hunting for power much sooner.

dog_charge.jpgThe cameras are pretty standard fare on the Charge, with a combination 8-megapixel still and 720p HD rear-facing video camera plus a front-facing camera of unknown resolution, primarily for video conferencing. Multiple shot and editing modes are included and seem mostly gimmicky, but basic camera operations are excellent for both the video and still camera. Still photos were of very good quality with good color and sharpness throughout tonal ranges (see sample photo of of welcome sign). Video clips looked equally as good with the exception of low-light clips, which looked grainy.

The Charge is equipped with 512MB memory and also includes 32GB of additional storage on an installed microSD card. That should be plenty for all your apps, music, videos and other files.

This was my first experience with a Droid phone and I enjoyed the animated "Droid" startup experience the first time I booted the phone. After that it was more irritation than entertainment. A couple of times when in standby mode the Charge called out "Droid" with that powerful speaker and it made me wonder how many people had been embarrassed in meetings by the robotic-themed alert system. Luckily those features can be turned off in settings.

Overall I found the Samsung Droid Charge to be a solid phone and a contender for your 4G LTE consideration. On Verizon's network it performed very well and the battery life is fantastic. At a current price of $299.99 it's $50 more than the HTC Thunderbolt and the same price as the new Droid Bionic by Motorola. But if you're comparing features I would compare the two Droid phones and spend the extra $50 because you'll likely end up with a better 4G LTE experience.

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 5:42pm]

    

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