Mobile : Expert Review: Samsung Behold™ Cell Phone

THE GOOD: The Samsung Behold has an attractive design with a responsive touch screen. The feature set offers a range of options and call and photo quality meet the mark. Also, T-Mobile's 3G network is lightning fast.

THE BAD: The Samsung Behold lacks Wi-Fi and its memory card slot is in an inconvenient location. Speakerphone quality was just average and the Web browser wasn't quite up to par.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Though it lacks Wi-Fi, the Samsung Behold is a sleek touch-screen phone with a range of features and an easily understood interface.

If you haven't noticed, touch-screen phones are in, and it seems that every carrier and manufacturer is rushing to jump on the bandwagon. AT&T has its Apple iPhone, Verizon Wireless has its LG Dare, Sprint Nextel has its Samsung Instinct, and now T-Mobile is getting in on the fun with the new Samsung Behold. Also called the SGH-T919, the Behold is similar to the unlocked Samsung Omnia in design and features. It also has an expansive touch-screen design while offering a music player, a 5-megapixel camera, and (most notably) support for T-Mobile's growing 3G network. The result is an attractive, powerful phone with an easy-to-use TouchWiz interface. On the downside, it lacks Wi-Fi and the Web browser is a bit erratic, but the Behold is a compelling addition to the T-Mobile lineup. It will cost you more than few pennies if you pay full price ($399), but a new contract and a rebate will knock it down to a reasonable $149.

The Samsung Behold's candy bar design resembles previous touch-screen phones like the Omnia and the Dare. Below the prominent touch screen are the few physical controls; the camera lens sits on the phone's rear face. It's not terribly unique, but it is slick and eye-catching. You can get it in two colors (espresso or rose), but the features are the same on both models.

At 4.12 inches tall by 2.1 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep, the Behold is almost the same size as the Dare, but is a bit smaller than the Omnia. And at 4 ounces, it falls just between the two in weight. We liked the comfortable, sturdy feel in the hand and the way it slips easily into a bag and a larger pocket when you're on the go.

The 3-inch display doesn't offer the biggest touch screen around, but we're glad that Samsung took full advantage of the Behold's real estate. With support for 262,000 colors (240×400 pixels), it is bright and beautiful, with vibrant colors and sharp graphics. You can change the brightness, the backlighting time, and the font type. You also can change the intensity of the vibrating feedback.

The touch interface is responsive and intuitive; in many ways the internal menus are not unlike the Instinct. We had no issues with misdials or pressing the wrong button, but if you have problems, you can adjust the calibration. Thumbing through long lists presented few problems as well. As on the iPhone, the Behold has a sensor that dims its display automatically when you raise the phone to your ear during a conversation. The Behold also has an accelerometer that will change the display's orientation as you rotate the phone.

On the bottom of the display you'll notice four icons for the phone dialer, the phone book, the Web browser, and the main menu. The phone dialer features large, alphanumeric buttons with readable numbers and text. You'll also find shortcuts for voicemail, the call log, the messaging menu, and the phone book. An onscreen "back" button will let you correct mistakes when dialing.

Like the Omnia, the Behold features Samsung's new TouchWiz user interface, which allows for an extra level of personalization on your Home screen. On the left side of the display there is a bar with a series of "widgets" for applications like the clock, music player, photo gallery, calendar Bluetooth, Web browser, and notepad. By tapping the widgets, you get one-touch access to the corresponding feature. That's handy by itself, but the TouchWiz goes a step further. If you slide certain widgets from the bar to the home screen, you can get a miniature view of that feature. So for example, if you slide the music player widget over, a tiny version of the player will appear right on the home screen. You then can play tunes without opening the main menu. To end the application, simply slide the widget back onto the bar. You also can close the bar, by touching the small arrow icon in its middle.

The TouchWiz has its good points–indeed, we loved having so many options at our fingertips–but we wish it had a deeper level of customization. Like on the Omnia, you're limited to the preloaded widgets; that's a big downfall, in our opinion. The list of available widgets is pretty extensive, and we like that a Web browser widget is available, but you can't add any new applications beyond the default set. You can deactivate the widgets you don't need, and you can change their order in the shortcut bar, but that's where the personalization ends.

The main menu has a standard icon-based design. It's easy to use and intuitive and thankfully devoid of distracting Flash animation. The secondary menus have a simple list design; you don't have to fish around too much to find your needed feature. We also like the handy pull-down menu that's available in some secondary menus.

The landscape QWERTY keyboard takes full advantage of the Behold's display. It may be a bit small for some users, but most people shouldn't have a problem. You also can type messages with the alphanumeric keypad (we're not sure why you would want to) and you can change back and forth using an onscreen button or by rotating the phone. The dedicated punctuation keys are handy, as is the dedicated button for deactivating the T9 predictive text. There are separate keyboards for symbols, numbers, and more punctuation. We didn't make many mistakes when texting once we got used to it. Our only real complaint is that the allotted space for typing your message is rather small, which results in a lot of scrolling for the verbose.

The Behold has just three physical controls below the display.

Below the display are the only physical controls: Talk and End/power buttons and a back key. The icon on the Back key is tiny so we kept forgetting what it did at first. The calling controls are a tad small, too, but they're pleasantly tactile. On the left spine you'll find a volume rocker and a combination headset jack/charger port. Of course, that means that the headset jack is proprietary and you only can use one peripheral at a time. A handset locking key and a camera shutter are on the right spine. As mentioned previously, the Behold's camera lens sits on the rear face next to a self-portrait mirror and the flash. Unfortunately, you must remove the battery and the battery cover to access the memory card slot.

The phone has a huge, 2,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for four phone numbers, four instant-messaging handles, a Web site, a birthday, an anniversary, a street address, and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can save callers to groups and you can pair them with a photo and one of 18 72-chord, polyphonic ringtones.

Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a calculator, a notepad, a task list, an alarm clock, a world clock, a timer, a stopwatch, a currency and unit converter, and a speakerphone. A big miss, however, is Wi-Fi. That should be standard on phones with a full Web browser.

The Behold isn't a smartphone, but it offers a respectable set of higher-end options. You'll find speaker-independent voice dialing and commands, USB mass storage, PC syncing, Web-based POP3 e-mail, instant messaging, a voice memo recorder, GPS support with Telenav Navigator, and full Bluetooth with a stereo profile.

The Behold's camera offers a flash and a self-portrait mirror.

The 5-megapixel camera is one of the Behold's strong points. It takes pictures in four resolutions, from 2,560×1,920 down to 640×480. You also can choose from two "wide" resolutions that use the full expanse of the Behold's display. Other editing options include four quality settings, exposure metering, an adjustable ISO, a self-timer, an auto-focus, six "scene" settings (night, landscape, action, etc.), brightness and white balance, four color effects, three shutter sounds (there's no silent option), an antishake feature, and a setting for shooting backlit subjects. You also can use three shooting modes (continuous, panorama, and mosaic), and the "smile shot" mode promises to detect when a subject is smiling. Similar to the Samsung Innov8, it will take another shot again if it "sees" a frown. The flash has three options–always on, auto, and off–but its effect on photos is pretty minimal.

The camcorder shoots clips with sound in two resolutions (320×240 and 176×144). Camcorder options are fewer than on the still camera, but it's a decent assortment. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at about 4 minutes, but you can shoot for much longer in the standard mode. The camcorder has 180MB of internal memory, but the microSD-card slot will accommodate cards up to 16GB. The camera menus are easy to use and we like the explanatory text that helps you identify the camera functions.

The Behold takes quality photos.

Photo quality was very good, with sharp colors. There was some image noise around the edges of our shots, and photos suffered in low light conditions because of the weak flash, but on the whole, we were quite pleased with our pictures. Once finished with our shots we could move them off the phone easily using Bluetooth, a multimedia message, or a USB cable. When selecting mass storage mode and using a USB cable, our PC recognized the phone instantly. Alternatively, you can compose an audio postcard with sound and a photo. Video quality wasn't as great, unfortunately. Though admittedly our clips were better than many other camera phones, they were still grainy.

The music player has a straightforward interface that supports album art. Features aren't plentiful, but you get playlists, shuffle and repeat modes and six equalizer settings. Using a USB cable, we dropped music onto the phone without a hitch. You can send the player to the background while using other functions and select an airplane mode for listening to your tunes while aloft.

The Behold offers a full HTML browser that was somewhat hit or miss. Aside from the occasional jerky movement, the display is relatively responsive when scrolling through a Web page using your finger. Yet, we wish there was an easier way to zoom in on a page. Though it's no different from other Samsung phones (like the Instinct), pressing a button to zoom isn't quite the same as the iPhone's multitouch interface. We admit that we've been spoiled, but like it or not, the iPhone set the bar for a phone with a full Web browser. Also, it's important to note that the Behold will default to a WAP version of a Web site when one is available (which is almost always the case). There should be an easier way to switch to the full HTML version. But back on the upside, it was a snap to save bookmarks and enter URLs using the virtual keyboard.

You can personalize the Behold with a variety of wallpaper and a greeting. You can download more options and additional ringtones from T-Mobile's t-zones service. The handset comes with demo versions of two games–Bejewled and Sims 2–and you can purchase the full versions and additional titles. You also get a PhotoPuzzle game for fun with your pictures.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Samsung Behold SGH-T919 world phone in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Call quality was quite admirable; we enjoyed a clear signal, with loud volume. Voices sounded relatively natural, though some callers sounded a bit breathy. The phone also picked up a small amount of wind noise, but it wasn't a big problem. The handset is compliant with M3 hearing aids.

On their end, callers said we sounded fine. They reported some background noise, as well, but most of our callers were satisfied with the quality. We also never had a dropped call or encountered static or interference.

Speakerphone calls weren't quite as good. Though the clarity was fine, we had to turn up the volume to the highest levels if we wanted to hear. And at those levels, voices sounded a bit distorted. Callers could hear us when were using a speakerphone, but we had to speak close to the handset. Bluetooth headset calls were satisfactory.

The Behold supports T-Mobile growing 3G network (UMTS 17002100). As we noticed on the T-Mobile G1, the 3G speed is lightning fast. We connected to Web pages within seconds and were pleased by the browsing experience. So far, T-Mobile has impressed us with its 3G network and we see it as an improvement over AT&T.

Music quality was decent, but not great. The external speaker doesn't have the best output and the audio was rather tinny. We advise using a headset for the best experience.

The Samsung behold has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 12.5 days standby time. Our tests revealed a talk time of 4 hours and 37 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Behold has a digital digital SAR rating of 0.985 watts per kilogram.

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