Samsung may have just released its latest flagship superphone, the Galaxy S III, but that doesn't mean the company has forgotten about the budget-conscious consumers. If you can't afford (or just don't want) to drop $200+ for a smartphone, then the Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate may be just the phone for you. It packs a 4-inch Super AMOLED display, a dual-core Snapdragon processor, and a 5-megapixel camera with an HD camcorder. It even runs on AT&T's brand new LTE network. The phone sounds great on paper and the price is affordable, too. I'll be testing the Exhilarate to see if it's worth your money, but here are some of my first impressions of the device after using it for about a day.
- Samsung didn't take any risks with the Exhilarate's hardware design. The phone's shell is monochrome and the back cover has a textured finish. Being an LTE device, it's quite thick, measuring .46-inches in thickness. However, it's somewhat light at 4.59 ounces, and I quickly grew accustomed to its size. It fits more nicely in the hand than some of these monster phones with 4.5-inch displays and beyond.
- There are a few areas where you'll have to take some cut-backs due to the face that it's a budget-friendly device. One of those was hardware, but another is in regards to software. The Exhilarate ships with Android 2.3, a few versions back from version 4.1 that we should see later this week at Google I/O. Android saw a complete visual overhaul with version 4.0 so it's somewhat jarring to go back to an old look and feel. Still, there's nothing wrong with Android 2.3 and Samsung's TouchWiz UI is one of the most refined and consumer-friendly UIs out there.
- As I mentioned in the outset, the Exhilarate is an LTE phone. So far, I've had several connectivity issues. When I first received the phone, I immediately began setting up my accounts and downloading my favorite apps. During this time, despite having three to four bars and the LTE indicator being on, the connection constantly went in and out. I had a similar problem with another AT&T LTE device I'm testing so it's possible that this is simply a temporary issue with the network. When I did have service, LTE speeds ranged from about 10 Mbps to 14 Mbps for downloads.
- The Exhilarate has a 4-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 480 x 800. Super AMOLED technology offers rich colors with bright saturation. This makes up for the lack of an HD resolution. True, text isn't crystal clear with no flaws, but the display looks pretty darn good. Samsung has a great history with touchscreens. They are always smooth and consistently responsive.
- I've had only a few hours with the Exhilarate, but performance thus far has been terrific. The phone has a 1.2 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 processor. Navigating through the menus and opening apps has been smooth and I've experienced hardly any lag. The phone scored a 2,613 on a Quadrant Standard benchmark test. With a dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM, I don't expect to have very many problems.
- The Exhilarate is one of the few phones I've seen recently that has an external microSD card slot on the side of the phone rather than hidden underneath the battery cover or, worse, underneath the battery itself. It doesn't ship with a card, but it supports up to 32GB of external memory to supplement its 4GB of internal memory. Another surprising detail: the phone ships in eco-friendly packaging, complete with a box made of recycled paper and only one small user guide that is also made from recycled paper. Nice move, Samsung.
The Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate isn't going to show up on anyone's "OMG-I-must-have-that-phone" list, but it seems to be a well-designed phone with some great hardware and software features. It's not every day you get a chance to buy a phone with a dual-core processor and LTE support for only fifty bucks on contract. There are a couple of other things I need to test out like battery life, camera quality, and more, but so far, the Exhilarate is shaping up to be a great mid-tier option.