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printed November 23, 2014
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Review: Samsung Epic 4G

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Screen

Holy cow. The first time I turned on the Epic 4G, my jaw dropped. The Super AMOLED screen puts almost everything else to shame. The iPhone 4 has better pixel density, so you might see some faint jagged edges or a slight screen door effect on the Epic 4G. But the color and contrast on the Samsung Epic are beyond compare. Blacks are dark and inky and colors pop off the screen. The iPhone 4 looks like a magazine. The Epic 4G looks like fireworks. Outside, the Super AMOLED, which is supposed to be improved over regular AMOLED in its outdoor performance, delivered on its promise. On a bright, sunny day, it looked better than any other phone I have on hand.

Sound

Sound quality on the Samsung Epic 4G was very good, but not perfect. Voices sounded clear, but clipped a bit on the high and low end, giving them a somewhat lifeless quality. It was never a serious problem, and conversations were trouble free, but I’ve heard better recently, especially on the Motorola Droid 2. Ringtones sounded great, but the volume was not blisteringly loud like I prefer. I could usually hear the phone across my house or buried in a backpack, but not always. This also affected the speakerphone. Sound quality on speakerphone calls was great, but volume could have been improved. The phone’s vibration alert should also be much stronger; it was difficult to feel in a stuffed pocket.

Signal

The Samsung Epic 4G did a fine job connecting to Sprint’s EV-DO rev. A network. On the fast 3G network, my calls always went through with no trouble, and data connections were fast and reliable. It also did a nice job finding the 4G WiMAX network, even though coverage is spotty in my area. In side by side tests with the HTC Evo 4G, the two phones always found signal in the same spots.

4G connection speeds were impressive, but in my tests with the speedtest.net app, the Epic 4G always lagged behind the Evo 4G, sometimes considerably. When the Evo 4G registered 6 Mbps downloads, the Epic 4G was in the high 3 Mbps range. However, Sprint has always disputed the test results from speedtest.net in measuring their 4G service, and in real world tests, the Epic 4G had no trouble keeping up while loading large Web pages or downloading huge apps from the App Market.

Once I turned on the 4G radio, I expected the phone to continuously search for a network connection, but this did not happen. My home office is in a small dead spot, but two blocks away I get great WiMax reception. When I fired up the 4G at home and then left to find a signal, the phone would never grab onto the service. I always had to turn the radio off and on again to establish a connection. This means as you move around, you’ll often be stuck on the 3G network even when 4G signal is available, unless you fiddle the settings constantly, or Samsung fixes this issue.

I had some trouble with Wi-Fi on this phone. Occasionally, the connection would simply stop working, and I had to turn the radio off and then on again to reestablish the link.


Battery

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Battery life on the Samsung Epic 4G was pretty good. It wasn’t the longest lasting battery I’ve used, but the Epic 4G beat the Evo 4G handily in side-by-side tests. Without the 4G radio turned on, but with Wi-Fi active, I had no trouble getting a full day’s use out of the Epic 4G. It would be best to think of 4G on this phone as a luxury. When the phone is actively connected to a 4G network, the battery drains very quickly, within a few hours.

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