Mobile : Expert Review: Samsung Finesse™ Unlocked Cell Phone

THE GOOD: The Samsung Finesse is a good-looking phone with a responsive touch screen and an easy-to-use TouchWiz interface. It also has high-end features like 3G EV-DO, stereo Bluetooth, GPS, and a full HTML browser.

THE BAD: The Samsung Finesse does not have an accelerometer or Wi-Fi.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The Samsung Finesse is a great touch-screen phone and a solid choice for MetroPCS customers.

We'll admit we don't usually associate MetroPCS with high-end phones–most of the carrier's lineup tends to consist of low-end devices like the ZTE C78 and the Kyocera Mako S4000. The Samsung Finesse, however, bucks the trend. It is MetroPCS's first and only touch-screen phone, and is the second highest handheld in its stable next to the BlackBerry 8330.

The Finesse has a design and interface very similar to that of Alltel's Samsung Delve and T-Mobile's Samsung Behold, but it's not exactly the same. It is stylish and sleek and it offers decent multimedia features. It certainly adds flair and, dare we say, finesse to MetroPCS's otherwise dull lineup. The Samsung Finesse is one of the most expensive MetroPCS devices at $350, but bear in mind that the company doesn't require any contracts.

Like most touch-screen phones, the Finesse is one big slab of a phone with a large touch-screen display dominating its entire front surface. Measuring 4.6 inches long by 2.3 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick, the Finesse is almost a dead ringer for the Delve, with its silver and black color scheme, rounded corners, and mirror finish on the front. It does have a few differences however–the three physical keys underneath the display are not as flat, and the power button, which also doubles as the screen lock key, is on the top. Those three keys under the display correspond to the Talk, Back, and End keys respectively.

We rather like the Finesse's 3.2-inch display. Though it's not as wide as the 3.5-incher on the Apple iPhone, it's marginally bigger than the 3-inch one on the Delve. The 262,000-color screen is bright and vibrant, and we like the colorful animated icons. You can change the brightness, the backlight time, the banner on the home screen, and the main menu style. The touch-screen interface has a vibration feedback, but if you don't like it, you can turn it off. You can also adjust the vibration's intensity.

The menu interface is very similar to the Delve's. It features Samsung's TouchWiz interface, which has an extendable tray of 10 drag-and-drop widgets that you can place on the home screen. The widgets range from clocks and calendars to a music player interface from which you can control your tunes without digging into the player. On the top of the home screen display is a collapsible shortcut bar for messaging, the Web browser, the music player, and the Bluetooth menu. Along the bottom of the display are shortcuts for the phone dialer, the contacts menu, the messaging menu, and the main menu.

The Finesse has a virtual dialpad with large keys.

As with all touch-screen phones, you must use the display to dial and text. We quite like the large keys on the virtual dialpad, and we also appreciate the shortcuts to your contacts, caller groups, and favorite contacts. You can also add a number to your contacts list from the phone dialer.

There are several ways to send a text message: you can either use the landscape QWERTY keyboard, the virtual keypad for T9 entry, or a handwriting recognition tool in either full or half screen. We liked both the virtual keypad and handwriting recognition, but would prefer the QWERTY keyboard for typing out text. The keys are very responsive and we like that there's a dedicated keyboard for shortcuts like the @ symbol and top-level domains like .com and .org, which come very handy when entering in e-mail addresses and Web URLs. We made a few errors when typing things out in a rush, so we'd appreciate some kind of autocorrect feature. Bear in mind the Finesse does not have an accelerometer, so you can't simply switch keyboards by tilting the phone.

The Finesse has a 2.0-megapixel camera on the back.

On the left side of the Finesse are the charger jack and the volume keys, while the right side is home to a microSD card slot, a voice dialer key, and the camera button. The headset jack is on the top next to the power button. On the back is a camera and self-portrait mirror.

The Finesse has very similar features to the Delve except for a few services that only MetroPCS offers. You'll find a 500-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, and an e-mail address; you can save your contacts to groups. You can also pair them with a photo for caller ID, plus one of 16 polyphonic ringtones. You can set a contact to not have a ringtone at all. Other basics include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a notepad, an alarm clock, a world clock, a calculator, a stopwatch, a currency and unit converter, and a tip calculator.

More advanced users will appreciate the stereo Bluetooth, voice dialing and commands, e-mail, PC syncing, a voice recorder, and USB mass storage. You also get GPS with support for Metro Navigator, MetroPCS's own turn-by-turn location-based service, and support for MetroBACKUP, which lets you back up your contacts on MetroPCS's server. Another MetroPCS service is Metro411, which gives you make voice search for nearby businesses.

The Finesse also has a full HTML browser, which takes advantage of the large 3.7 inch display. We used our fingers to pan and scroll across Web pages, and the browser was actually quite responsive to the touch. Still, the browsing experience wasn't perfect. There's some lag when panning across a Web page, and there are certain Web pages that wouldn't zoom out all the way, which resulted in more scrolling and panning. Also, there's no Wi-Fi, which is a bummer with a phone like this.

The music player interface is similar to that on the Delve, as well. It supports album art, and you get playlists, shuffle and repeat modes, plus an equalizer with six preset settings. You need to have a microSD card to use the music player, but you can load music onto the phone via a USB cable. If you want, you can also send the music player to the background while you're multitasking with other parts of the phone. It has 150MB of built-in memory with a microSD card slot that can accommodate 8GB cards.

The Finesse has good photo quality.

We quite like the Finesse's photo quality. Images looked sharp and the colors are bright and vibrant. The 2.0-megapixel camera takes pictures in six resolutions (1,600×1,200, 1,280×960, 1,024×768, 640×480, 320×240, plus a Picture ID size) and four quality settings. Other camera settings include exposure metering, ISO settings, a self-timer, autofocus, brightness, white balance, five color effects, multishot modes, mosaic shots, night mode, and three shutter sounds, with a silent option. There is no flash, however. The Finesse also has a built-in camcorder that can record video in either 320×240 or 176×144 resolution. You can record video for as long as 10 minutes in standard mode.

You can personalize the Finesse with a variety of wallpaper and ringtones, plus you can download more from the MetroPCS store.

We tested the Samsung Finesse in San Francisco using MetroPCS's network. Call quality was impressive. On our end, voices sounded natural and we experienced little, if any, static. On their end, callers said we sounded fine as well. There was a little bit of minor crackling, but it wasn't a big deal. Speakerphone calls went fine as well, though callers did report a bit of an echo. On our end, they sounded loud and clear, though a bit on the tinny side. For music quality, we would recommend using a stereo headset for the best performance.

The Finesse has 3G EV-DO support, though we were able to get only 1xRTT in our particular location. Still, the browsing experience wasn't too sluggish. It took around a second to load CNET.com, for example.

The Finesse has a rated battery life of 3.5 hours talk time and 12.5 days standby time. Our tests showed a talk time of 4 hours and 2 minutes. According to the FCC, the Finesse has a digital SAR rating of 1.22 watts per kilogram.

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