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printed September 22, 2014
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Review: Motorola Photon 4G

Form Basics Extras Wrap-Up Comments  13  

Is It Your Type? Body The Three S's  

Screen

The Photon 4G packs a 4.3-inch LCD touch screen with qHD (540 x 960 pixels) resolution. It looks fantastic. Colors are rich, on-screen elements such as icons and graphics are smooth, and it looks razor sharp. Motorola did an excellent job with this display. As with most touch phones, using it outside under strong sunlight becomes a bit problematic, but not impossible. It may not be quite as dazzling as Samsung's Super AMOLED Plus displays, but it’s the next best thing.

Signal

The Photon 4G is by far the best 3G phone I've ever tested on Sprint's network. In my home, most Sprint devices rate 2 bars of coverage. The Photon 4G had 5 when I was sitting in my office. I took the Photon 4G all over northern New Jersey, and it was a strong performer everywhere it went. The phone never lost Sprint's network entirely, and managed to stay connected even when deep within the recesses of some large buildings in the middle of a city. Even when it showed just one bar, phone calls still went through, and data sessions were acceptable.

As for the Photon 4G's WiMax radio, it performed exceptionally well. I tested it in several cities across New Jersey that have access to Sprint's WiMax network, and found the Photon 4G connected easily to the WiMax network and offered speedy web service via 4G. The Photon 4G was also very good at hand-offs between Sprint's CDMA 3G and WiMax 4G networks, with but the briefest pause in browsing. In all, I'd rate this the best WiMax device (and probably best 3G device, too) in Sprint's arsenal.

Sound

Call quality with the Photon 4G was outstanding. Not only were calls free of noise, static, or other problems, but the earpiece is capable of skull-rattling volumes. The clarity and volume of calls make the Photon 4G a great voice phone, and mean it can be used almost anywhere without fear of missing part of the conversation. The speakerphone was also quite loud, and calls were just as clear when pushed through the loud speaker. Ringers and alert tones could be set to absurdly high levels. With the Photon 4G sitting in my office upstairs, I could hear it ringing when I stepped out my front door to get the mail. The vibrate alert was a little weak, though.

Battery

Sprint's WiMax phones to date have been poor performers when it comes to battery life. With the Photon 4G, I found that mixed use of 3G and 4G is possible without draining the battery in mere hours. In fact, I got the Photon 4G to last an entire day, with about 9 hours in 3G-only territory, and the remaining 15 hours spent in 4G territory. Bottom line: You're not going to have a dead battery at 3PM or 4PM unless you use the mobile hotspot feature. Most days, you'll make it from 7AM to Midnight with no problem.

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