Review: Motorola Triumph
Motorola's Triumph for Virgin Mobile brings a big screen and other big features to the contract-averse. Just because this phone is for pre-paid customers doesn't mean it takes any short cuts. Here's what Phone Scoop has to say in this full review.
Motorola delivers a (mostly) solid smartphone to Sprint's Virgin Mobile pre-paid brand in the Triumph. It manages to strike a good balance between capabilities and cost. For $299 you can own it outright and only have to fork over $35 per month in service fees. What's not to like?
From a distance, it would be easy to mistake the Triumph for a Droid X. It has the same large, rectangular footprint and somewhat plain styling. Wrapped in stealthy matte-black plastic, the Triumph could make a black hole look bright. It is wide and blocky, and just barely manages to come in under 1cm thick at 9.9mm. The angled edges help decrease the Triumph's footprint in your pocket just enough so that it doesn't feel like carrying around a bar of gold.
The Triumph is a bit on the weighty side and feels dense enough so that it might do some damage it if were to be hurled at a window or your ex (but please don't throw it at anyone.) The build quality is excellent, and the Triumph feels like it belongs anywhere but in a pre-paid carrier's lineup.
The display devours the lion's share of the front fascia of the Triumph. The typical Android controls take the form of capacitive buttons below the display. They worked with no problem.
The power/lock button is on the left edge. This is an awkward spot as far as I am concerned; I would prefer it on the top of the phone. Worse, the button is really small. Thankfully it has good travel and feedback. The volume toggle is on the right edge of the phone, also near the top. It, too, is a bit on the small side. Travel and feedback of the toggle is complete mush, and feels like flattening a french fry on a table with your finger.
The top houses the 3.5mm headset jack, which is right where I like it to be. The microUSB port and (surprise!) microHDMI port are both on the bottom edge of the phone. The HDMI port makes it easier to display content on devices such as HDTVs.
The battery cover slides off with a bit of downward pressure, providing access to the battery and memory card slot. The microSD card can be removed without taking the battery out, which is always a plus.
Overall, the Triumph may have looks on the plain side, but the hardware covers the basics without taking any shortcuts.
The Triumph is rocking a 4.1-inch piece of glass with 800 x 480 pixels. This is a pretty common resolution for today's Android devices. Stuffing that many pixels into the 4.1-inch display (as opposed to 4.3-inches) means the pixel density is very good and on-screen elements appear smooth. Colors are bright and vivid and manage to avoid looking washed out. The display does just fine indoors, but under bright sunlight, it’s harder to read.
The Triumph runs on Sprint's CDMA EVDO 3G network. As such, the Triumph fared only so-so in my neck of the woods. Most times I used the Triumph in and near my home, it held onto only 1 bar of signal coverage. It lost Sprint's network entirely in my basement, and in the NJ vault (the local super market). While Sprint service isn't great near my home, this is worse-than-normal behavior. I was able to take the Triumph on a road trip over the weekend to other parts of NJ and performance improved. When the Triumph had a connection to the network, it was able to make/receive calls no problem. When it showed 0 bars, it could neither make nor receive calls. Data wouldn't work either. The Triumph managed to drop a handful of calls. The Triumph often fell back to Sprint's slower 1x data network, too.
The quality of the calls I was able to make and maintain was good, but definitely shy of great. Most calls were free of static and/or noise, but more than a handful were crappy, with drop-outs, crackling, and hissing. Earpiece volume was not quite loud enough. I was able to hear phone calls at home no problem, but near the TV, or in a car, it was very hard to hear conversations. In a loud bar or coffee shop? Forget it; step outside if you want to talk. The speakerphone was acceptable for use in quiet rooms, but wouldn't do in a noisy office or with a TV on. The speakerphone quality was rather shabby, too. Ringers and alert tones were plenty loud, and the vibrate alert was just fine.
The Triumph does about as well as any other Android handset when it comes to battery life. It manages to eke out an entire day with no problems, but doesn't get much more than that. With heavy use, I was able to kill off a battery entirely between 7AM and 11PM (which is what I define as a standard "day"). With more temperate use, it lasted a bit longer. It's not going to last through two full days, that's for sure, meaning that it will probably need to be charged every night.
The Triumph is running a stock version of Android 2.2.2. It's a total bummer that it doesn't have Gingerbread on board, but we can be thankful that the Triumph isn't sullied with Motoblur. In fact, having access to a completely stock version of Android could be highly appealing to some.
This version of Android provides five home screen panels for user customization. Thankfully, Virgin and Motorola were sparing in their decoration of the home panels, which have been left mostly blank out of the box. Shortcuts to the phone, main menu, and browser are accessible from all five home screen panels. The notification shade is completely bare bones, and doesn't have any useful shortcuts, such as controls for the wireless radios.
The main menu is the stock Froyo menu grid. It can't be customized or rearranged, which means you're stuck scrolling through a massive list of apps placed in alphabetical order. The fastest way to get at apps you use regularly will be to create home panel shortcuts for them.
The settings menu is unaltered Android 2.2.2.
As for performance, the Triumph has a 1GHz S2 Qualcomm processor on board, and it is speedy most of the time. I noticed some apps were slow to open, but panning across the home screens was quick, and most tasks didn't tax the processor at all.
The Triumph makes use of the stock Android 2.2 phone application, and Motorola hasn't done anything to dress it up. That’s just fine. In-call features run the typical set: send to Bluetooth, speakerphone, mute, merge calls, etc.
The Triumph uses the stock contact application as well. With access to myriad different contact databases, the Triumph lets you carry a virtual white pages in your pocket. Each contact entry lists gobs of details, and makes calling or sending messages a cinch from any contact card. I like that you can easily switch from seeing a contact's information to your history with that contact (calls, emails, IM, SMS, etc.) and even their photos. Searching through the contact database is a breeze with the built-in search tool.
The Motorola Triumph doesn't stray too far from the beaten Android messaging path. It offers the same core functions found on most Android devices.
The stock email, Gmail, SMS, Google Talk, voice dialer, and voicemail applications are representin'. I was unable to find any differences between what the Triumph's version of these apps offer when compared to any other Android device. They all work well, and thankfully the Gmail application can be updated to the very newest version, which adds a few features compared to the stock Android 2.2.2 version of Gmail.
On the social networking front, both Facebook and Twidroyd are pre-loaded (why not the official Twitter app?). Facebook can also be integrated into several services on the Triumph, such as the contacts and phone applications. Google's Latitude app is also on board, but Google+ isn't.
The Triumph also includes a social networking application called airG. It requires users to create an account (for free) and offers chat, gaming, and flirting. It isn't connected with Facebook, Twitter, or any other major social network, it is a stand-alone product.
There are no video chatting services on the Triumph, despite the fact that it has a user-facing camera.
Virgin Mobile Live
The Triumph's stand-out media feature is Virgin Mobile Live, Virgin's streaming content service. Virgin Mobile Live offers streamed music, broadcasts, concert footage, blogs, and movies. It is an all-encompassing media service that offers bits and bytes of everything, though it’s curated by Virgin Mobile. Speaking of bytes, be careful. Streamed content eats up data allotments quickly, and Virgin Mobile has indicated it will start throttling users who exceed their monthly data plan starting in October.
The stock Android music application is also preloaded as a music option. It doesn't bring anything new to the table, unfortunately. You can also make use of the new Google Music service if you have one of the beta invites. Either way, music playback sounds good whether it’s from local storage or streamed across the internet.
Notably absent is any way to actually purchase and download music tracks. In order to do that, you'll have to download and install the Amazon MP3 Player application. The same goes for streaming services (other than the Virgin Mobile Live content.) If you want to listen to Slacker or Pandora you'll have to download them on your own.
The stock Android video application is on board for video playback. It will play side-loaded content as well as any video captured on the device itself. It offers bare-bones functionality (play, pause, stop, etc.). The YouTube app is the same old one that's on every other Android phone.
With the HDMI port available, it is easy to send video content from the device to an HDTV.
The Triumph's camera is a solid performer and offers plenty of options for the budding photographer inside you. There's no physical camera button, so you have to access it from a shortcut or the app menu. It launches in a snap. The basic shooting screen uses about 80% of the display's real estate as the viewfinder. In the other 20%, there is a simple control strip that includes a camcorder toggle, shutter button, and access to the gallery.
The Triumph has five small controls floating in the viewfinder to access other features. What I like is that using these controls doesn't take you away from the viewfinder. For example, press the little "1X" icon, and a pop-up menu appears allowing you to adjust the zoom level. After several seconds, it goes away with no further action required. The other options include adjusting the flash, white balance, location, and then the full settings menu. The full settings menu can be used to adjust the image size/quality; effects; control the ISO (camera's sensitivity); choose different metering modes; adjust color, contract, and brightness settings; set different focusing modes, and so on.
My favorite feature of the Triumph's camera by far is its sheer speed. It focuses incredibly fast and fires/saves images in the blink of an eye. Rather than jump to a review screen (which you can choose to do if you wish), the Triumph takes you right back to shooting mode. Bottom line? You can shoot on average about one picture per second. That's fast for a camera phone.
The gallery is the stock Android option. Photo albums float in stacks in the main gallery view, and you can sift through them in the chronological timeline in which they are arranged. It has a neat 3D look and feel to it. If you have photos stored in Google's Picasa service, they are also included in the gallery and you can sift through them with ease. The gallery does the normal things, such as slide shows and allow for photos to be shared via social networks.
As for editing, the Triumph only allows for crop and rotate. That kind of stinks.
The Triumph's 5 megapixel shooter is mostly good, though not perfect. Focus was consistently good — meaning mostly sharp photos. I saw only a few images that were a bit soft. Color/white balance was nearly always correct, but brightness/exposure suffered a bit, leading to shots with blown out areas and lost detail. Also, grain/noise was consistently noticeable in images captured with the Triumph.
Indoor shots, as typical, weren't as great as those captured outdoors, but the flash helped a little bit in the darkest places. It's not going to substitute for some good old sunshine, but it will at least light up those smiling faces within an arm's reach or so.
Are the results worth sharing? Sure, they'll suffice for the typical selection of social networks, but don't expect to be blowing them up into 16 x 20 prints.
The Triumph captures up to 720p HD video. The video camera software offers many of the same features as found in the still camera. That means you can do a lot of fun stuff before your shoot, though not so much afterward, as there aren't any video editing tools.
As for video quality, white balance was good, colors looked bright and rich, focus was a bit too soft, and the Triumph had trouble handling mixed lighting (some brights, some lows). I saw a lot of washed-out details. Also, the same graininess found in photos is evident in the video.
The video is worth sharing when it was shot under optimal conditions. What does that mean? If you used the Triumph to shoot 720p HD video of your friends at the skate-boarding park at noon, it'll look good on your HDTV. If you shoot your friends looking like fools while playing Wii in the basement, it's not going to look that great.
The Web browser on the Motorola Triumph is the standard Android browser. Web performance was inconsistent. As noted during the signals section of the review, the Triumph has trouble maintaining a good connection to Sprint/Virgin's network. That led to slug-like performance under crummy conditions, and only "OK" performance under good network conditions. I saw the 1x network icon far too often, and the browser was nearly useless under 1x conditions. You might want to try Opera Mini for a faster browsing experience.
The Motorola Triumph offers the standard laundry list of customization features for any Android device. Sure, it lets users adjust the ringtones, wallpapers, and such, but doesn't include themes or support for different profiles.
Motorola and Virgin Mobile were restrained when it came time to load apps onto the Triumph. There's the usual assortment of Virgin apps, such as account tools, Virgin Mobile Live, and the airG app. Help yourself to whatever you want from the Android Market.
Bluetooth worked without issue on the Triumph. Pairing with mono and stereo headsets, as well as PCs and other phones, was a snap. Sound quality of voice calls through mono headsets was pretty bad. Music sounded acceptable through stereo Bluetooth speakers, but I'd shy away from this feature if you have a good cable handy.
The Triumph offers the same lock screen clock that most Android phones do. When initially woken from sleep, it shows the time in a larger, digital read out. The time can be gleaned with but a glance. There is also a full-featured clock application within for all your timing, alarming, and stopwatching needs.
The Motorola Triumph includes Google Maps and Navigation. There are no other navigation apps on board. It also comes with Google Places, Poynt, and Where for your local searching needs. I like the way Places integrates with Google Maps for finding a nearby restaurant, and then generating driving directions to it. The GPS performance was spot on in terms of pinpointing my location. Inconsistent and slow network performance, however, really got in the way of Google Maps. It was often way behind because the phone couldn't render maps fast enough.
The Triumph is probably the best smartphone available from Virgin Mobile, though it suffers from a few serious setbacks.
The hardware is attractive (if a bit plain) and offers a great display and a reasonable set of features such as microSD and HDMI support. The 1GHz processor gives it plenty of power, and the Android 2.2 system software, while outdated, performed well.
Multimedia features may be a bit limited out of the box, but there's nothing stopping the Triumph from taking advantage of the Android Market at all that it offers. The camera and video offer average results, despite the good software controlling them.
The biggest disappointment — and biggest limitation — of the Triumph is its network performance and the problems that result. With such a tenuous hold on the Sprint/Virgin network, it was prone to poor call quality from time-to-time, and also missed calls and dropped calls. Browsing the web was also painfully slow. If the Triumph excelled at one or the other, I'd feel better about giving the Triumph the thumbs up.
Balancing out some of these negatives are the low cost of the device, the low cost of the monthly service, and the fact that you don't have to sign your life away in order to use this phone. The Triumph is truly a case of getting what you pay for.
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