Review: Samsung Galaxy Exhibit for T-Mobile
The Galaxy Exhibit is a compact Android smartphone from Samsung for T-Mobile. The Exhibit aims for the entry-level segment and manages to find its own niche in T-Mobile's lineup.
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Is It Your Type
The Samsung Galaxy Exhibit is a device for the budget-minded shopper who is perhaps looking at his or her first smartphone and doesn't require all of the latest features.
The Galaxy Exhibit is a compact smartphone that manages to maintain its own personality in the face of its larger and more-capable brothers, such as the Galaxy S4. It fits right in with Samsung's conservative design language and looks like many of the mid-range smartphones Samsung brought to the market in 2010 and 2011.
The Exhibit is covered in a mix of materials and colors that give the phone its own look. The display is surrounded by an attractive blue panel that is framed with a chrome-colored rim. The chrome coloring wraps around the side edges and defines the Exhibit 's shape. The device has an oval shape that's smooth and clean. Samsung used just the right touches here and there to give the Exhibit an elegant and refined look, while still keeping it somewhat simple and usable.
Thanks to a soft-touch finish on the battery cover and gently curved sides, the Exhibit is comfortable to hold and use. It is a narrow device, unlike many of today's flagship phones, and fits easily in the palm of your hand. It is a bit thicker than I'd like it to be, but overall it is small enough that it won't be troublesome to stick into a pocket, etc. The weight is also quite good. If anything, it is too light.
The small(er) display is swimming in a sea of blue bezel. If I didn't like the look of the bezel, I'd complain more about how small the screen is (3.8 inches). The lone physical button is a home key, which is placed just below the screen. It has an oval shape to it and is very easy to find with your thumb. The action is quite good. There are capacitive buttons on either side of the home button. In typical Samsung fashion,the menu button is on the left and and the back button is on the right. They didn't give me any trouble. The earpiece is covered by a chrome-colored grille, which offers a nice finishing touch to the front surface.
Controls and ports are found on all four edges of the Exhibit . The volume toggle is on the left. It has an excellent profile and very good travel and feedback, both directions worked well. The slot for memory cards is also on the left. It's covered by a small hatch. That hatch worked fine and was easy to remove/replace. The screen lock/power button is placed high along the right edge of the phone. It does not have a good profile; I often had trouble finding it. The travel and feedback could also be much better. The stereo headphone jack is on the top and the micro-USB port is on the bottom.
The battery cover forms about 90% of the Exhibit 's rear surface. The soft-touch finish lends it a nice grippy texture that I found pleasing. It's easy to remove. Both the battery and SIM card can be removed. The Exhibit uses a large SIM card, not one of the micro or nano ones used by most of today's high-end devices.
In all, the Exhibit hides its budget build well. It has been firmly assembled and most of the hardware features work as well as they look.
The Exhibit has a 3.8-inch LCD screen with 800 x 480 pixels. It doesn't hold a candle to the larger screens of devices such as the Galaxy S4 or Note 2, but it isn't meant to. The screen is one of the reasons the Exhibit is so inexpensive. The smaller screen size does makes up for the lack of pixels a bit. Individual pixels can only be spied if the Exhibit is held several inches from your eyes. Otherwise, on-screen elements such as text and icons look smooth and free of rough edges. The screen is plenty bright when viewed head-on, but viewing angles aren't great.
The Exhibit did well on T-Mobile's network. It was consistent at connecting to T-Mobile's HSPA+ network no matter where I took it in the NJ/NYC area. I connected phone calls on the first dial, and the Exhibit didn't drop any calls even when in weak coverage areas. The Exhibit is limited to HSPA+ and doesn't support T-Mobile's LTE network. On HSPA+, data speeds were so-so at best, with a peak download of just 9.8 Mbps and an average closer to 6 Mbps.
The Exhibit is a fine voice phone. Calls were free of static or other interference, and voices had a pleasing tone to them. It helps that the earpiece also produces good volumes. It's not extra-killer loud, but it is loud enough that you'll be able to hear calls in noisy coffee shops or walking city streets. The speakerphone sounded a bit more garbled in my tests and it didn't offer quite the same tone that the earpiece did. The volume was decent, though, especially if the "Extra Volume" feature is turned on. Outgoing sound was good; those with whom I spoke said they could hear me clearly. Ringers and alerts were loud and clear, and the vibrate alert did an excellent job of getting my attention.
The Exhibit has a 1,500 mAh battery and it provides plenty of power to keep the device active throughout a full day. The smaller, low-res screen and low-power processor help keep power requirements down, and the Exhibit 's battery was well suited to the device's needs. The Exhibit had no trouble maintaining a charge from sunup to sundown, despite heavy use. Charging it each night will be more than sufficient for most users.
The Exhibit runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with Samsung's TouchWiz user interface sitting on top. It has the older version of TouchWiz, not the feature-rich version found on Samsung's top-of-the-line devices.
The lock screen can be configured with a handful of shortcuts that play nicely with a security code. You can also choose to have two different clock faces and live weather on the lock screen. There are five home screen panels activated by default, but those can be deleted or added to at whim. TouchWiz and the installed apps offer a wealth of widgets that can be used to populate the various home screen panels.
The main app menu is fairly flexible. The default view is of a four by five grid of apps all arranged alphabetically. Apps can be rearranged in any order you wish, as well as viewed in list form, or dropped into folders. The notification tray includes toggles for the different radios on the device, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. Unlike the GS4, these toggles can't be customized and there are only 10. The notification tray also provides access to the brightness setting, full settings menu, and of course all your alerts.
The settings menu is more or less the stock version carried over from Android 4.1 itself. All of the settings are listed on a single page that you scroll up and down.
Novice users might want to consider using the "Easy Mode" home screen setup, which makes icons and text bigger, simplifies the menu screens, and cleans up all the clutter. The downside is that you lose access to cool and helpful features such as widgets.
In terms of performance, I am a bit worried. The Exhibit has a dual-core 1GHz processor that often felt like it was struggling. Screen transitions were often stuttery and apps would hang or crash when attempting to exit them. Further, the screen would fail to recognize when it had been touched from time to time, and would all of a sudden act on a series of presses at once, vaulting you into some crazy part of the menu you had no intention of visiting.
Calls and Contact
The phone app has more or less the stock version of the Android dialer. It's got a software dialpad, with tabs that run across the top for accessing the call history and contact groupings.
The Exhibit has an incredible array of options for the phone app. They are buried in the phone's settings tool. For example, you can turn on/off noise cancellation (which improves outbound sound), as well as dial in your own preferences for volume, clarity, and warmth.
The contacts app behaves similarly to the stock Android People app. Features I liked include the different widgets for controlling and connecting with your contacts. For example, you can set a direct access shortcut on the home screen that includes the contact's most recent social network status update. There are also two different home screen widgets that collect your favorite contacts in one place on the home screen.
As expected, the Exhibit offers the stock Gmail, email, SMS/MMS, Hangouts, Google+, and Google+ Messenger apps. Together with their associated widgets, they make an impressive arsenal for reaching out to and connecting with your friends, family, and colleagues. On the social networking front, the native Twitter and Facebook apps are pre-loaded.
The Exhibit comes with all the requisite Google Play apps for purchasing and consuming music, movies, books, and magazines. The stock music and video players are also on board, and do a fine job of playing back any content you might have sideloaded onto the Exhibit yourself. The stock YouTube app is of course installed.
The Exhibit comes with Samsung's Media Hub. The Media Hub is an alternative place through which to purchase and/or rent movies, television shows, and music. It works fine, but requires a Samsung user account. It's also not the more recent version of the Media Hub that's on Samsung's high-end phones. It is the older version of the Hub. That's actually good news in terms of usability, which I think is worse on the newer version.
The Exhibit has a T-Mobile-branded Music Hub app, too, and Slacker is pre-installed if that's the way you like to get your music streaming on.
Last, the Exhibit comes with T-Mobile's Live TV service. This $10-per-month feature lets you stream live and pre-recorded television content over the network. The selection includes programming from stations such as EPSN, Disney, and Nickelodeon. The performance of the app was mixed over T-Mobile's HSPA+ network.
The Exhibit includes a 5-megapixel shooter. The phone does not have a dedicated camera button, but the camera can be launched via the lock screen shortcut.
The layout of the camera controls is typical for a Samsung smartphone. There is a control strip down each side of the screen. The settings strip - which is fully customizable - offers access to features such as the flash, exposure controls, scenes, shooting modes, and so on.
Once you've spent a moment familiarizing yourself with the controls, the camera is a breeze to use. You can choose to use touch-to-focus if there is something in particular you want to be in focus. The one caveat is that the camera app is slow to load, and somewhat slow to focus and take shots.
The images I captured with the Exhibit were decent for a 5-megapixel camera. On a sunny afternoon, I was able to get some great shots of some neighborhood kids playing in the pool. For the most part, images were sharp, colorful, and well exposed. The Exhibit certainly captures its share of photos worth sharing via your favorite social networks, though there were definitely some misfires along the way. For example, some pictures were completely out of focus, and others had inaccurate white balance.
Video also looks great. The Exhibit records at a maximum resolution of 720p HD, and the results were often clean and pleasing. Focus, exposure, and white balance were almost always accurate, and the video was free of distortions or odd movement that I've seen in other phones.
The Exhibit's gallery application is the stock Jelly Bean gallery app. The basic view includes a mish-mash of photos from all your accounts in one huge grid. Using the tools at the top of the page, you can shift the view to specific folders or collections of photos (camera roll, Google+, Flickr, etc).
The Exhibit has the same photo-editing features that most Android 4.1 smartphones do. Images can be cropped and rotated easily, as well as straightened, corrected for color/exposure problems, and red-eye. The gallery app lets users share images quickly and easily via dozens of avenues.
The Exhibit comes with a typical mix of Google, Samsung, and T-Mobile apps. You can't delete most of the pre-installed apps, but you can at least hide those you don't use. Either way, there's plenty of on-board storage for your own apps. The Samsung App Hub is available if you want to see which apps Samsung recommends for the Galaxy Exhibit.
The Exhibit's Bluetooth radio worked flawlessly. It paired and connected with every device I have sitting on my desk. Phone calls sounded good when routed through a headset, as did music when played back through stereo headphones.
The Exhibit ships with the standard Android browser and Google's Chrome browser. Both browsers are highly capable of rendering attractive web sites. Chrome offers a few more features than the stock browser, but as far as how web pages look, they are on even footing. The Exhibit worked well enough on T-Mobile's cellular network. On HSPA+, loading web sites was sometimes quick and sometimes slow.
There's a white digital clock on the lock screen. It is big enough to be seen at an arm's length, but the style of the lock screen clock cannot be adjusted. There are a multitude of clock widgets available for the home screen panels, though.
The Exhibit has Google Maps and TeleNav's Scout for navigation. The GPS radio worked really well. It pinpointed me quickly, though accuracy varied between 25 and about 50 feet. I didn't have any trouble routing directions between points, though, with either application. Google Maps is a bit more feature rich for navigation, and Scout does a really good job of showing you what's nearby (such as gas stations or restaurants). Scout is free to use.
The Samsung Galaxy Exhibit is a fine little phone, though it isn't without a few faults. The hardware is mostly pleasant, and it gets the job done in an almost-stylish package. I wish the screen were bigger, but part of keeping the Exhibit's price low is the smaller display. The Exhibit's radio performance was solid on T-Mobile's network. Call quality was quite good, though data speeds were slower than what some might prefer. Battery life was excellent.
The software features if the Exhibit definitely feel behind the times now that Samsung has moved on to a newer version of TouchWiz, but that will likely only be apparent to people such as phone reviewers. The user interface offers plenty of customization features and other tools, though it felt sluggish at times, especially in the camera app.
I'd only recommend the Samsung Galaxy Exhibit to first-time smartphone users. Experienced smartphone owners will find it limiting and lacking in advanced features.
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