Review: NEC Terrain for AT&T
The Terrain is not meant to be a powerful media consumption device, but it still covers the basics. All the Google Play services are on board, which can be used to purchase/rent content such as music, movies, books, and magazines, as well as consume it. The simple MP3 player and video player apps are present, too, which are best paired with side-loaded content. The stock YouTube app is available to satiate your video consuming and uploading needs, and the Terrain also packs am FM radio for old-schoolers.
While music sounds good through my favorite headphones, the Terrain's little screen is not ideal for watching video. It works, but doesn't offer the cinematic experience available on today's best HD smartphones.
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The Terrain has a 5-megapixel camera that can be launched from the lock screen or the home screen panels. The camera app opens somewhat slowly.
The Terrain foregoes the stock camera application in favor of the most cluttered camera UI I've ever seen. The problem is partly due to the Terrain's smaller screen. NEC decided to cram far too many controls onto the screen despite its small size. The result is a mess. There are buttons all over the place and barely any space is left through which to compose images.
That said, the Terrain does let you adjust a fair amount of the camera's behavior. Basics, such as resolution, brightness, and contrast, can all be altered with a few button presses. The Terrain offers scene modes (auto, portrait, landscape, night, and sports); macro shooting; and control over location tagging, ISO, and effects. The flash can be set to either on or off, but not "auto."
The camera includes tap-to-focus, but still requires users to press the shutter button after you've selected something for it to focus on. The camera is a wee bit slow to capture and process images. It takes several seconds between the time you press the button before it is ready to take another picture.
I got mixed results with the Terrain's 5-megapixel shooter. Focus was soft as often as it was sharp; white balance was off as often as it was accurate; and exposure ranged from good to bad. It was consistently inconsistent. I got the best results when outdoors with good, bright lighting. The flash didn't help much with indoor shots, and definitely ruined white balance most of the time. Images were also a bit grainy. It gets the job done, but just barely.
The same is true of video results. It may capture full 1080p HD video, but the footage is passable at best. The biggest problems I saw were grain and wildly inconsistent exposure. The Terrain had real trouble transitioning from dark to bright areas.
The Terrain uses the stock Android 4.0 gallery application. The app arranges photos into albums and syncs them with online accounts, such as Facebook and Google+. Albums can be viewed in grids or lists. Individual photos can be cropped and rotated, adjusted for exposure and brightness, and well as nixing red-eye. There are a number of filters that can be applied to photos to make them look more artistic. Sharing options run the gamut. Photos can easily be fired off toward a dozen different social networks as well as via email, SMS, and so on.
The Terrain ships with 43 apps on board, which are a mix of AT&T-branded services and those native to the Android platform. AT&T stuff includes Code Scanner, Drive Mode, ePTT, Navigator, MyATT, and the Yellow Pages. Random extras include QuickOffice and Amazon Kindle. There are no app stores on the Terrain other than the Google Play Store.
The Terrain comes with the stock Android browser. It worked well with the Terrain's data radio at pulling down and rendering web sites. As noted earlier, the small screen makes viewing web pages a bit difficult. You'll find yourself doing a lot of zooming in if you want to actually read anything. The app has a fair amount of options for controlling its behavior, but alternative browsers offer more.
The Terrain's Bluetooth features functioned perfectly. It paired quickly with a random assortment of devices. Phone calls I sent to Bluetooth headsets were of middling quality. I wasn't impressed with volume, but tone was OK. Music sounded pretty good went sent to my favorite pair of Bluetooth headphones.
The clock on the Terrain's lock screen is somewhat small and hard to see. Worse, it cannot be changed. You can adjust the brightness and wallpapers to make it easier to view under the sun, but it takes some trial and error.
Both Google Maps and AT&T Navigator are installed on the Terrain. Both are mature services that have been around for years. Google Maps is especially powerful, though it ran a tiny bit slow on the Terrain. Google Maps is especially powerful when it comes to searching for nearby points of interest. Navigator is a fine tool for routing directions between two points, but costs $10 per month to use. The Terrain's GPS radio worked flawlessly. It pegged me quickly and accurately.
The Terrain marks the first handset NEC has offered to the U.S. market in close to 10 years.
Jun 19, 2013
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