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printed December 21, 2014
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Review: Samsung Galaxy S Lightray 4G for MetroPCS

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Music

The Lightray uses the Google Play Music media player and store. It has a richer feature set than the older stock player and lets you stream music that you've stored on Google's servers directly to the phone.

The Lightray also ships with the Rhapsody music service on board, which lets you stream music to the device for a monthly fee.

Music playback (no matter what app I used) sounded very good in my favorite headphones.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Video

The Lightray has the stock Android video player, Google Play Movie Store, and YouTube player on board out of the box. I found that the Lightray handled side-loaded content (movies that I placed on the microSD card) just fine.

Dyle TV

The Lightray's most distinguishing feature is of course Dyle TV. Dyle TV is live mobile television service that is available in 41 MetroPCS markets. It can capture major network television broadcasts in real-time. New York City is one such market, where I was able to test the Lightray's Dyle mobile TV powers.

Dyle TV uses ATSC-M/H technology, which is based on the ATSC standard -- or over-the-air broadcast HDTV. The same TV stations will broadcast the same content from the same antenna towers that serve your local market.

I live on the far western edge of the metropolitan New York City area, about 35 miles due west of Manhattan. Despite this distance, I was able to pick up Dyle TV signals for half the channels available in my market. NBC and FOX came to life on the screen, but qubo and Telemundo (Spanish-language channels) did not. When I moved to areas closer to NYC (i.e., closer to where the signals are being broadcast), the other two channels became available.

The user interface for the Dyle TV service is a bit clunky, and resembles the mobile TV service offered by AT&T and T-Mobile USA (powered by MobiTV). There's a simple guide that tells you which channels are available in your market, as well as what programs are available to watch. With four channels in total, there's not much to sort through, and the app is excruciatingly slow. It takes a solid 60 to 90 seconds to launch, and then any action within the app itself takes up to 30 seconds to enact. I found myself grinding my teeth.

How's the quality of the service? Really mixed. First, it doesn't come close to offering HD resolution, nor does it even match the 480 x 800 resolution of the Lightray's display. In fact, the quality is rather crummy and probably less than what you'd expect to see on a 1970s era television set. We're talking huge pixels, choppy performance, freezing video, out-of-sync audio, and so on.

I noticed a slight improvement (fewer freezes, somewhat better resolution) when in direct line-of-site with the Empire State Building, which is where NBC broadcasts its signal in New York City. But the service never looked good, and it certainly never offered the performance and quality I'd want from a device that costs $460. YouTube, conversely, outperforms Dyle TV by a mile.

The service is supposed to offer up to 70 live channels across the country at some point, but the nation's largest market only has access to four at the moment. There's been no word from MetroPCS on when the service will expand, though it expects to eventually cover half the U.S. population with Dyle TV service.

I expect most services to take a bit of time to find their footing, but based on my experience with Dyle TV on the Lightray, there's no way I'd recommend this service to anyone but the most die-hard live television (sports) fans.

Dyle TV's one killer feature? Since the content is already being broadcast by the television networks, it's free to watch and use.

 

Dyle TV

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

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