Samsung Droid Charge: A real life review

I’m going to do a down and dirty review of the Samsung Droid Charge. In real world terms much like I did for the Motorola Xoom. So here we go.

I have had my Droid Charge for a 3.5 months now and I can finally give it a review, as it has been field tested. As with any review the bias will be my own, based on how I use the device, your mileage may vary. This will be a simple good vs. bad list.

Good:

The Screen: The Charge has a beautiful screen. it’s a 4.5″ Super AMOLED work of art. It has great viewing angles and produces eye popping color. The blacks are dark, rich, and best of all  BLACK. Not a washed out grey like most screens portray and call black. Videos have that vivid detail that high end flat panels boast about.

The Cameras: The Charge has 2 cameras. First there is an 8MP rear facing shooter that takes great pictures. It works well in lower light situations, much better than my Droid X ever could. Like most multifunction devices it has a bevy of shooting modes and filters so you can get your sepia fix. It has a macro mode, a standard mode and a “beauty” mode, for portraits and such. The stand out feature for me, however, is the panoramic mode. I can hear you now “My <insert device name here> does panoramic pictures”. Yep so did my Droid X but no where as intuitively as the Droid Charge does. It uses the gyroscope and the accelerometer to know where you should be for each of the 8 parts of the panoramic picture. It puts guides in and will not take the next shot useless you are right on the money, in terms of location. The result are breathtaking pictures that capture a huge field of focus. The front facing camera is no slouch either. while nowhere near the resolution of the rear camera, it works well for self portraits, video chats and stuff like that. It also works really well in lower light environments. The camcorder feature will do up to  720p class video and does a great job with it. It records decent audio and will zoom as much as 4x with interpolation. It won’t replace a real camcorder with that tiny little CMOS sensor but it will sure be a plausible replacement for that talent show or parade you happen to find yourself stuck at.

The Memory: The Charge comes with a 32GB card installed. I’ll let that sink in a moment. That’s right it comes with 32GB of space on board when you pull it out of the box. Great for storing copious amounts of data. Sure it’s only a class 2 card but it beats a sharp stick in the eye. The device itself has 1GB of memory on board for the OS and storage of key elements, everything else is stuck on your SD card.  Not an entirely bad way to do it, it works well enough for me.

Connectivity: The Charge is a LTE enabled device. that means if you are in a LTE area, you get high speed data access. it does pretty well at dishing it up too. I regularly get 13+Mbit speeds on it in my area; not too shabby for a phone. It does well as a 3G device and will revert to 1x as required too. You’ll get better battery life using 3G than LTE but more about that that later. The Charge has hotspot capabilities and will host up to 5 external devices via wifi and dole out bandwidth to all of them, if you’re willing to pay for the service. The wifi radio is sufficient but nothing to make you jump up and down. It maintains connections even when you have no bars. I’m not sure if the logic for reporting the signal strength is off or what but it never seems to have a full signal, even if i am within 5′ of the AP.

Voice Quality: I have had no complaints for voice quality with this device. People say they can hear me just fine, and the sound quality is excellent. I can say the same about when I receive calls. The phone produces excellent depth of voice and makes it seem like you are standing right next to the person when talking to them. Being a VZW device, coverage is excellent and there are very few areas where you can’t get reception.

Feel: Over all the phone has good hand feel. It’s a large device with some weight to it so it feels like a real phone. The plastic bezel and battery cover make it feel a bit cheaper, but it by no means feels like a kids toy. The touch interface is responsive, although it requires a bit more force to select items than my other touch screen devices have. That’s not a bad thing in my opinion, it makes it a bit more tactile, which is something most people miss on a touch only device.

BAD:

Battery life: There is a reason that the call this device the Charge and it’s not because it will go forever on one. Don’t get me wrong it’s not terrible, but it sure isn’t great. It comes stock with a 1600mah battery, which gives me just enough juice to make it to lunch time on a fairly busy day. If you turn the brightness down, and lock it into 3g only mode and make sure you have wifi on any time your someplace that you can get it, you can squeeze a couple of more hours out of it, but it in now way compares to the Droid X it replaces. I could go 12-13 hours on the standard battery with the X, and 18 or more on the slim extended one. I can make it 16 or so with the extended battery for the Charge but it more than doubles the weight of the device and adds a huge hump on it’s backside. Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal but you can’t use any cases, or mounts for it with the big battery in.

GPS: It works OK, but damn does it take its sweet time getting locked into a signal. It can take upwards of 40 seconds to get a lock. once it gets a lock it works like it should but if I’m standing in the wide open with a plain view of the entire sky it should not take almost a minute before I can use the GPS.

Button Placement: The volume rocker is placed directly across from the power button. While you may not think this is a big deal, just try using the power button. You’ll hit the volume keys every time unless you really put forth an effort to not touch them. It wouldn’t really matter but the volume keys are used to get into diagnostic modes such as recovery, so it you hit the power button and inadvertently grab the volume key too, you can cause yourself some headaches.

NO LED indicator: This boggled me at first. I wouldn’t know if I had something waiting for my attention because outside of the first indication (a sound prompt) you couldn’t tell if you had a message, missed call, email etc. because there is no little flashing LED to alert you. This means you have to either power on the screen (which only happens via pressing the power button by the way) or employ a third party utility such as NoLED to let you know. It seems like a minor thing but believe me it’s a major oversight in my opinion; besides having that little LED could save battery life, because you wouldn’t have to power up the big screen to know if you had a waiting item to be reviewed.

LAG: That’s right this phone suffers from lag. Not all the time mind you but a good bit of the time. I’m not sure if it’s due to the file system that Samsung chose to use or if it’s due to the single core processor or a combination of the two factors. Granted you can fix it with some hackery and some OS leaks that are readily available on the web but shouldn’t they just make it so it works quickly all the time?

Conclusion:

Over all I can say I would recommend the Samsung Droid Charge with a couple of caveats.

Don’t expect this device to be the be all end all. it’s a mid-class device. It can’t hang with the Bionics, or the SGII crowd. It’s a solid device in it’s own right but it’s now high end super phone.

Don’t expect to have awesome battery life out of the gate. It’s a LTE device with an awesome screen. Expect that to drain some juice from the under powered battery that comes with the device.

If you can live with those 2 items I’d say buy this sucker. If you’re into taking video and pictures, like watching videos or listening to music, this is a solid choice. If your looking for a mid-class all in one device that has a few trade offs for some really good options, this may be your device.

I feel the “GOODS” outweigh the “BADS” for this device and if I had to assign it a numerical value I’d give it a solid 8.5 out of 10. There you have it I have officially stated my position on this device, and That as they say is that.

Rob

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