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printed September 30, 2014
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Review: Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G for T-Mobile

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The Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G shoots for the middle of the smartphone market. It doesn't have the largest screen, the neatest features, or the flagship appeal that some of Samsung's devices have, but it manages to find a niche all its own.

The Blaze is the most BlackBerry-esque smartphone I've seen come from any company other than RIM. From either side, or from the back, it looks identical to RIM's larger Bold-branded smartphones. I assure you, the Blaze 4G is no BlackBerry, but dang if it doesn't look like one. It's mostly black, with some shiny charcoal tones tossed in to break things up a bit.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Thanks in part to the Blaze's four-inch display, the overall footprint of the device is significantly smaller than, say, the Galaxy Note or Galaxy Nexus. It's a comfortable, average size that makes it easy to grab and hold onto. It has a dense and solid feel to it that gives it presence and authority when gripped.

The materials are plastics and glass and are of good quality. Nothing about the Blaze feels cheap or hastily designed. The battery cover has a great tactile feel thanks to its soft-touch texture. The smooth front surface and the grippy back surface make for a pleasing juxtaposition.

As with most Android smartphones, the front of the Blaze is all display. The T-Mobile and Samsung logos (above and below the display, respectively) are shiny, reflective and about the only things you can see on the front of the phone when the display is off. The normal Android controls are placed along the bottom edge in capacitive form. I found them easy to use, and I liked the amount of haptic feedback they produce when pressed.

The volume toggle is on the left edge of the phone. It's easy to find, but I wish it had physical markings (whether it be a nub, or ridges, or whatever) that made it easier to tell which toggle you're pressing. Instead, it's a smooth piece of plastic. It offers plenty of travel and feedback, but the noise it makes is a bit too "clacky" for me.

As is typical for a Samsung device, the lock button is on the right edge. This button is not the best. It is too flush with the side of the phone, making it difficult to find. Worse, this is one of those buttons that needs to be pressed too deeply into the handset. Bottom line: it's too much work for such a vital button.

The microSD card slot is buried in the side, too, just below the power/lock button. It is covered by a little hatch that isn't much effort to remove. The microUSB port is tucked on the bottom edge of the Blaze, and the 3.5mm headset jack on the top edge. The battery cover comes off with little effort. The SIM card is accessible without removing the battery, which is a pleasant surprise.

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