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printed November 24, 2014
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Review: Samsung Propel

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Is It Your Type? Body The Three S's  

Screen

One of Propel's major problems is its low-tech screen. It's wide enough – 2.2 inches diagonal, but more square than oblong, but offers virtually no off-angle viewing; images and video are polarized and/or solarized if tilted just a bit off-angle. The screen also doesn't reflect sunlight well; it bleaches nearly completely in direct sunlight, which makes accurate picture composing outdoors challenging.

In darker conditions, the screen is bright and big enough, but at just 220 x 176 pixels (about half the pixels of other 2-inch screens), videos such as those streamed from AT&T Wireless' CV service look as if there's a mesh screen laid over them. YouTube videos look a little better, but there's still more of a screen effect than usual.

Signal

Call connections were robust. We experienced only one dropped call during our tests, and there's no way to know whether that was Propel's fault or the fault of the other phone/service.

Propel runs around 15-20 seconds behind iPhone in retaining/re-acquiring AT&T's 3G signal when going into/emerging from dead zones such as tunnels and basements.

Sound

Voices lean toward the muddy side and are tinny and hollow. The earpiece produces enough volume to mostly overcome these deficiencies. But Propel ranks below average in sound quality.

Speakerphone

Propel's rear speaker produces a thin sound, especially noticeable on music. It pumps out more volume than an earpiece but not as much as other phones with separate speakers.

Even though the speaker is on the rear of the phone, it borders the top and its bulky grill allows plenty of sound to escape when the phone is lying on its back. In fact, music actually sounds a little fuller with the speaker facing down, possibly from the sound reflecting off the table or desk top.

Battery

Propel's battery is rated at 5 hours talk time, which is a bit above average, but we consistently got a half hour more talk time than rated. The phone is rated at 10.4 days standby, which is a hair below average. If you're planning on a weekend trip filled with chatting and/or music listening, definitely bring the charger.

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