Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Stellar (Verizon Wireless)!

Samsung may have cornered the high-end smartphone market with the Galaxy S III$249.99 at Amazon Wireless, but not everyone is looking for a big, expensive new device. Many people are still picking up a smartphone to use for the first time. And even plenty of experienced users aren't willing to shell out $200 or more for a new phone every two years. That brings us to the Samsung Galaxy Stellar. It's a perfectly capable smartphone that's free with a two-year contract, and it has a simplified starter mode for first-time smartphone users. Overall it's a stellar deal, but the phone's camera isn't quite out of this world.

here's an empty, side-mounted microSD card slot on the left edge of the phone. My 32 and 64GB SanDisk cards worked fine in it. You also get 1.72GB of free internal storage.

All of our music test files played back except for FLAC, and sound quality was fine over both wired 3.5mm headphones as well as Altec Lansing BackBeat Bluetooth headphones. All test videos played back too, at resolutions up to 1080p, except audio clipped in and out on DivX files.

The 3.2-megapixel camera is the Stellar's low point. Shutter speeds are slow, at 1.1 seconds, and autofocus doesn't lock in until after you press the button to take a picture. The camera actually captures some decent detail, but colors are a bit washed out. More than that, however, there's only so much you can do with a 3-megapixel sensor, and these photos just can't compete against those taken by most other smartphones. Unfortunately, video capture is worse. The Stellar records video at a steady 30 frames per second both indoors and out, but maxes out at a small, lackluster 640-by-480 resolution. There's also a standard 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video chat.

If you can deal with the disappointing camera, the Samsung Galaxy Stellar is actually a great choice for Verizon users on a budget. It's a lot more powerful than either the keyboarded LG Enlighten$0.01 at Amazon Wireless or the Pantech Breakout$0.01 at Amazon Wireless, two of Verizon's other low-cost options. The Pantech Marauder is actually a good match spec-wise, and it's a better choice if you want a phone with a physical keyboard. But the Stellar has a sleeker form factor and better battery life, making it the better choice overall. If you're willing to spend some more money, the Motorola Droid Razr M gets you a larger, sharper display and a faster processor for just $100.

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