Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G: A Solid Phone For Android Lovers On A Budget [REVIEW]

Samsung Galaxy Blaze 4G

Photo: Natt Garun / Business Insider

If you’ve been in the market for Android phones, you’ll often find that most recent choices aren’t particularly pocket-size friendly.I was in this situation myself, dreading how the Samsung Galaxy S II wouldn’t fit into my pants pocket without slowly slipping out and smashing against the New York City concrete.

With the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G, T-Mobile is offering a solution to those who want a solid Android phone that fits naturally in your hands.

Some may say it’s a step backward for Samsung, which recently released the humongous Galaxy Note. But the Galaxy S Blaze offers decent specifications for the price (despite still running the old version of Android called Gingerbread), and is a great mid-range phone for those who prefer a nice, compact Android without breaking the bank.

Click here for photos of the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G >
Hardware: The Small But Vivid Screen And Grippy Case Design
Even though the Galaxy S Blaze boasts a modest 3.97-inch display, it’s definitely more than enough if you’re not looking to use your phone to replace a camera or entertainment centre. The Super AMOLED screen isn’t as responsive as the one on my Galaxy S II; I had a bit of trouble getting the touchscreen to move after several tries. Though the colours are beautiful and vivid, it can get frustrating if you keep missing your fruits in Fruit Ninja because the screen can’t recognise your initial swipes.

While the Galaxy S Blaze has an all-plastic build, it’s the back casing that impresses. Compared to the more expensive Galaxy S II, which has a shiny and slippery plastic back, the Galaxy S Blaze has a rubbery finish that makes the grip more firm. However, this does add a little weight to the phone, which I actually prefer compared to the S II. It feels like it won’t easily fly out of my hands.

The Camera Is Decent, At Best
The Galaxy S Blaze boasts a 5 MP camera, which takes relatively nice photos on the go. It’s got everything most smartphones these days should have: High resolution of 2592×1944 pixels per photo, HD recording capabilities, image stabilisation, built-in flash, and auto-focus. It’s also got a front-facing, 1.3-megapixel camera that takes decent pictures as well.

The camera boots up in about half a second, but the photos taken aren’t as colourful as the screen display itself. Both outdoor and indoor photos can get a bit grainy, though if you’re more well versed with photography you can try playing around with the balance and exposure levels and colour filters like sepia or black and white.

Some of the other pre-installed apps include Netflix and Lookout T-Mobile TV, and with the 4G streaming power from T-Mobile, movies play quite well on Netflix with very little buffering. 

T-Mobile and Samsung say the Galaxy S Blaze is capable of up to 42 Mbps in speed. (That’s really, really fast, by the way.) I tested T-Mobile’s 4G network by streaming a movie on the Netflix app and found the screening to be smooth, fast, and without any odd pixelation. T-Mobile’s network handled it well, but I didn’t get close to that 42 mbps.

For mundane tasks like watching videos and downloading apps, the Blaze performs, but don’t expect a mid-range phone like this to compare with its more powerful counterparts.

Great Battery Life
The moment I got my hand on the Galaxy S Blaze, my first thoughts went to how long this thing will last if I played games on it all day. I commute a lot, so I like to take advantage of killing times with apps and this thing lasts a whole day with a complete charge.

With 4G turned on and no Wi-Fi, the phone was able to run several free games for approximately 20 minutes each (despite the fact that free apps supposedly suck the heck out of your phone’s battery life), receive e-mails, handle my various Foursquare check-ins, read Twitter updates, make random calls and still arrive to my house without getting into the red zone.

Should You Buy It?
If you’re looking for a compact, Android phone in the Galaxy S family, the Blaze is a good option for those who aren’t looking to shell out more than $200 bucks for a new phone.

At $150 with contract, the Galaxy S Blaze is a mid-range phone with strong capabilities given its spec and size. While some of its competition includes the HTC Sensation 4G with an 8 MP camera, the Galaxy S Blaze blows the Sensation’s battery life out of the water.

The lack of Ice Cream Sandwich, the newest version of Android, is a bummer, but hopefully with many smartphones receiving updates soon, the Galaxy S Blaze might just be on that list. No promises, obviously.

The Samsung Galaxy S Blaze is available exclusively through T-Mobile starting March 28.

Let's start unboxing this thing!

Inside, you'll find the phone with a USB cord, wall plug, and a micro SD card converter.

The Galaxy S Blaze runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread.

At 3.97-inch of display, the phone fits quite nicely into my smaller than average hands.

The rubbery plastic adds an anti-scratch feel to the phone, making it less likely to slip out of your hands.

The Galaxy S Blaze is a bit thicker than most smartphones out there.

The speed test on T-Mobile's 4G network is on par with what we expect from a medium-range smartphone. Not lightning fast, but manageable.

The Blaze's front-facing camera works pretty well.

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the Blaze next to the Galaxy S II.

As mentioned, the Blaze is a bit thicker than the S II, but it does have a firmer grip.

This is a sample photo from the Blaze's camera. It's decent, to say the least, and the colours are somewhat accurate but not that vibrant.

The Android version comes with a Swype technology so you can text without lifting a finger.

Compared to an S II or an HTC Sensation, the haptic feedback feels extra bouncy on the Blaze. You can easily turn this down, or off entirely.

Would you rather wait for the Samsung Galaxy S III?

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