Mobile : Expert Review: Samsung Trill™ US Cellular Cell Phone

THE GOOD: The Samsung Trill is a stylish and well-made phone, with a 3.5mm headset jack, and a microSD card slot. It has a great music player powered with Bang & Olufsen technology.

THE BAD: The Samsung Trill has a reflective front finish, which may not be for everyone. Navigation controls seem crowded and the photo quality is just average.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The Samsung Trill is a really great music phone with superb audio quality for U.S. Cellular customers.

Music phones are almost a must-have category for any wireless carrier these days, as more people are taking to listening to music on their phones. These handsets don't have to be smartphones or anything too advanced, as long as they focus on delivering a decent music listening experience. The Samsung Trill is one such device, and it's for regional carrier U.S. Cellular. If it looks terribly familiar, it's because it's almost a duplicate of the Samsung Trance from Verizon Wireless, save for a few differences. The Samsung Trill is available for only $19.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate.

Like the Samsung Trance, the Trill has an elegant curvaceous design that is slightly reminiscent of a violin or a guitar. It measures 4 inches long by 1.97 inches wide by 0.55 inch thick, and is only 3.53 ounces. It has a glossy front finish that is very reflective, which makes it quite fingerprint prone. While the Trance was all in black, the Trill is a dark blue.

The Samsung Trill looks suspiciously like the Samsung Trance.

The Trill has a 2.1-inch screen with support for 262,000 TFT colors and 176×229-pixel resolution. The result is a really great-looking display, with images that pop with color. That said, the Trill's menu interface doesn't have quite the elegance of the one on the Trance. The icons and the wallpaper on the Trill look fairly pedestrian and quite similar to the ones on other U.S. Cellular phones, while the Trance's icons looked positively luminescent. Also, you can't adjust the menu layout on the Trill. This is just a small complaint, of course, but it can be annoying for some.

Underneath the display is where the Trill really differentiates itself from the Trance. Instead of touch-sensitive keys, the Trill has physical navigation controls. There's a square toggle in the middle with a center OK key, and then two raised long buttons on either side that actually house three functions each. The left button has the soft key at the top, a messaging menu shortcut in the middle, and the music player shortcut at the bottom. The right button has another soft key on top, the contacts list in the middle, and the Clear key at the bottom. We certainly prefer the physical controls over the touch-sensitive ones, but we would've preferred dedicated buttons for each of the above functions.

The rest of the phone's design is pretty identical to the Trance. The slider keypad looks the same, with the Send, camera key, and the End/Power keys on the top row. The keypad is a little flat to the surface, but there are row and column dividers that help provide some texture for easier dialing and texting.

The Samsung Trill has a 3.5mm headset jack on the side.

The volume rocker is on the left spine, as well as a hold key and a microSD card slot. On the right are the 3.5mm headset jack, a speakerphone key, and the charger jack. When you slide open the phone, you'll see the camera lens plus a self-portrait mirror on the back.

The Samsung Trill has almost the same features as on the Trance. It has a 1,000-entry phone book and basic features like a vibrate mode, a one-touch speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, an alarm clock, a calendar, a stop watch, a world clock, and a notepad. There's also voice command support, a wireless Web browser called Easyedge, and USB mass storage mode. However, you won't be able to get mobile e-mail on here. Still, you do get location-based turn-by-turn directions, thanks to U.S. Cellular's own navigation app. We're also glad to see stereo Bluetooth here.

The Samsung Trill is certified by Bang & Olufsen.

Of course, since the Trill is with U.S. Cellular, it's not compatible with online music services as is the Trance. You have to drag and drop your own music onto the Trill via a USB cable, as long as you have a microSD card installed–the Trill supports up to 16GB microSD cards. The music player interface is really well done, with easy-to-use controls and nice visual elements like several equalizer settings and even 3D sound. Some other goodies include a Music Only mode that shuts off the phone's wireless signal so you can still listen to your songs while in the air.

For information about the 1.3-megapixel camera, please check out our full review of the Samsung Trance for more details. The photo quality is slightly better than the one on the Trance–colors are rather muted with an orange tinge, but the overall crispness is better than expected.

The Samsung Trill does not have the best photo quality, but it's better than expected.

You can personalize the Trill with a variety of graphics and sounds, either your own or the ones that you can download from U.S. Cellular's Easyedge mobile store. The Trill only comes with one game–Pac-Man–but you can download more games from the same store.

We tested the Samsung Trill in San Francisco using U.S. Cellular's roaming partners. Call quality was very impressive on the whole, even though it was roaming. We heard our callers clearly without any static, and they sounded quite good via speakerphone as well, albeit not as natural-sounding.

On their end, callers said they could hear us just fine as well. They did detect some hiss and crackle, but it was intermittent and very mild. When we turned on the speakerphone, they said we sounded loud and clear, though the voice quality was a bit harsher,

Music quality was quite stellar. Thanks to Bang & Olufsen's ICEPower technology, we were impressed with the strong bass and the surround-sound qualities of the player. We think the quality compares well with most dedicated MP3 players, especially the basic ones.

The Samsung Trill has a rated battery life of 4.5 hours of talk time and 12.5 days of standby time. It has a tested talk time of 3 hours and 55 minutes. According to the FCC, it has a SAR rating of 1.34 watts per kilogram.

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