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printed July 23, 2014
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Review: NEC Terrain for AT&T

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Screen

The screen is one of the Terrain's major drawbacks. It measures 3.1 inches across the diagonal and offers 640 x 480 pixels. The resolution is fine for a screen this small, and the on-screen elements such as icons and test are sharp and clear. The display is also plenty bright, and can be easily read when under a full screen. The problem is the size. Everything on the screen looks and feels squished. The icons, buttons, and controls have all been shrunken in order to fit onto the screen, and this affects usability. I found many of the buttons -- especially the Android controls at the bottom of the screen -- difficult to use accurately. Further, because everything is so small, web sites and emails are hard to read.

Signal

The Terrain did well connecting to AT&T's network. As I carried it about Northern New Jersey, it latched onto the HSPA+ network and transitioned to LTE seamlessly when it was available. The device never lost the signal entirely, even in areas with known poor coverage. One time it took two attempts to patch a call through, but every other time it connected on the first try. It never dropped a call. The Terrain was always able to load web sites, but speeds were appreciably quicker on LTE when compared to HSPA+.

Sound

Phone calls sounded pretty good on the Terrain. Voices sounded decent in the earpiece and I didn't notice any intrusive interference. I would have liked a bit more warmth, but the semi-robotic tone wasn't abrasive. As far as volume goes, the Terrain is good, but not great. I was easily able to hear calls while walking around a crowded and noisy mall, but I was forced to step outside a bustling coffee shop in order to properly hold a conversation. The speakerphone is also good, but not great. It works very well in an office, or car, but not so well outdoors. Enclosed spaces that have a table on which you can put the Terrain are best. There's no way you'll be able to hear calls over the speakerphone on an active worksite with machinery running. Ringtones and alerts are quite loud, and the vibrate alert is jarringly powerful.

Battery

The Terrain's 1900 mAh battery provides ample power to last through a full working day. It easily held a charge between 7AM and 11PM, and had a bit of power to spare come the end of the day. I was never able to exhaust the battery completely, even on days I used the device heavily to access social networks and email. Like most modern smartphones, it will need to be charged overnight, but owners shouldn't have to worry about losing power before they're ready to call it a day. Lastly, the Terrain includes a feature called Eco Mode, which can be used to reduce power consumption. It can be used to set thresholds to turn off some of the wireless radios, as well as alter screen brightness and time-out settings.

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