Samsung Impression Review

Discussion in 'Headline News' started by Jen Edwards, Apr 27, 2009.

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  1. Jen Edwards

    Jen Edwards PocketGoddess

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    The Samsung Impression, one of the latest from AT&T, has a large touch-screen display and a spacious keyboard, along with an excellent camera. It's a quad-band GSM world phone with Bluetooth and GPS functionality, plus fun polyphonic ringtones and highly customizable vibrating alerts.

    It's an exceptional device that might make you decide you need a new phone -- even if you like your current one.


    DESIGN & BUILD

    My first impression of this device was a good one; it's a substantial phone that nevertheless doesn't feel heavy. It's nicely designed in almost every respect -- rounded in all the right places, with a slide-out keyboard that functions well.

    [​IMG]At 4.48 inches it's just a bit taller than other phones, but it's also a little narrower at just a hair under 2.25 inches, and it feels great in my relatively small hand. It's a bit large in the pocket, but it works.

    Most of the buttons are located on the sides of the device, and they're large enough to manipulate easily while still being small and unobtrusive as far as aesthetics are concerned. The call, back, and disconnect buttons underneath the screen are flush with the front of the device, but well designed and still easy to use -- my fingers don't have any trouble finding them.

    I have only one small complaint about the overall physical design of the Impression, and that's the location and use of the Lock key. It's located on the right side of the device, on the lower portion (the keyboard slider, not the display). You have to press and hold it for a couple of seconds to unlock the device, and both my test subjects and I had the same problem with it.

    When you try to press the button with your thumb, you tend to also press on the left side of the device as well, which can start opening the slider and causing the display to slide over to the right, making it harder to keep pressure on that lock button. I could be making way too much of this point, but I still find it annoying after using the device for a week now, and it's the only real problem with the physical design of the Impression. I'm learning to adjust for it and hold the phone slightly differently, but I felt this should still be mentioned.

    Display: The front of the phone is dominated by the 3.2-inch AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode)display. It's gorgeous, with vivid, bright colors and true blacks, and the new technology promises to save battery consumption as compared to traditional LCD screens. The Impression has one of the nicest displays I've seen, though it still tends to wash out in direct sunlight. It's more usable than a lot of the phones I've seen, but I was hoping for an even better performance.

    You can use either a stylus or your finger on the display, and every time you touch the device it gives you a bit of vibrating feedback. It's very responsive to your touch, so you don't have to hold your finger down hard or for a specific amount of time, which is nice. There were a couple of times that it was hard to select a specific control along the extreme edge of the screen, but after I got a bit more used to the device that wasn't really an issue.

    [​IMG]Keyboard: The QWERTY keyboard is surprisingly roomy, and I really enjoyed using it. The individual keys are larger than many, and I especially appreciate the fact that the identifying labels were very large and easy to read. Even when it came to the secondary punctuation on each one I was able to find exactly what I was looking for very quickly, which is a welcome relief for my aging eyes. The keys are illuminated for nighttime use, and the Impression is the easiest phone to use in dim conditions so far, thanks to the exceptionally clear key labels.

    The keys are nicely spaced horizontally and vertically, and are very slightly convex. The space bar is double-wide, which is great, along with the dedicated arrow keys for faster navigation. In short, it's just about the best physical QWERTY keyboard I've ever used, and if you do a lot of messaging, the Impression would be a great choice if you're tired of trying to use the tiny, thumb-cramping keyboards found on most phones these days.

    Extras: The Impression comes with a wall charger, USB cable, and a software CD that includes the user manual.

    PERFORMANCE

    I wasn't able to find any information about the specific processor for this device, but the overall performance was snappy -- I didn't have to wait for anything.

    There's also plenty of room for storage, with 189 MB of internal memory shared by the music player and camera, and the Impression supports microSD cards as large as 16 GB.

    Wireless/Call Quality: Wireless reception and signal strength for the Impression are very good, at least as good as other AT&T phones I've tested in this area. In some cases it was better, allowing the phone to receive text messages and calls even when I was in my office, temporarily located in the basement, where many devices don't work at all.

    Voice quality is also very good. It isn't as amazing as the Pharos Traveler 127I recently tested, on which my test call recipients couldn't believe that I was actually calling them from a mobile phone, but it is very good. I didn't have any problem with wind noise or traffic preventing my callers from understanding me, though they were able to hear some (very muted) noise in the background.

    The vibrating alerts deserve special mention here, because there are several different vibration patterns to choose from which can be assigned to specific contacts if you desire. I was recently made aware of the extreme utility of mobile phones for many in the deaf community due to the messaging features, and this may be of interest for those who use their phone as text-only devices to stay in touch with friends and loved ones. The different vibration patterns would allow a hearing impaired user to know who has called or messaged the device without even looking at the screen, which could be quite valuable and seems to be unique to the Impression at this point in time.

    [​IMG]User Interface: This also deserves special mention because it is so well designed and so easy to use. Perhaps this should come as no surprise for a phone reviewer, considering how many differentmodels I use on a regular basis, but with some devicesit can be quite difficult to accomplish even simple tasks. Sometimes that's because I use a different phone each week, but sometimes that's because the user interface is so obtuse it takes an engineering degree to decipher the menus.

    That's certainly NOT the case with the Impression.It includes a basic navigation setup at the bottom of the screen for dialing the phone, searching contacts, or accessing the full menu. Touch the menu button to have everything laid out for you, from applications to games, settings, messaging, address book, music player and more.

    That's all expected, but what the Impression adds is a widget-like sub-menu on the side of the display, which you can access by touching the small arrow at the top left corner of the display, That widget menu is completely customizable, and you can have anything from an analog or digital clock to speed dial, favorite contacts, applications, and more. It's highly customizable and can save you a lot of time once you get it set up according to your personal preferences.

    There's also a multitasking key on the top left side of the device that brings up a menu of the most frequently-used programs, such as the music player, web browser, messaging, and dial pad.

    Productivity: The Impression isn't meant to be a fully-featured PDA or smartphone, but it still performs fairly well in this category. It includes the typical and expected suite of tools, including a voice recorder, alarm clock, calendar, to dos, memo pad, calculator, unit converter, world clock, timer, and stopwatch. Each of those applications works exactly as expected, and in some cases offered some extra features. Many phones don't have To-Do lists, but the Impression not only has one but also allows you to sort tasks by priority, status, or due date.

    You won't be able to do any heavy duty word processing or number crunching on this device, since it's aimed primarily at consumers, but the personal productivity applications included should cover the needs of just about anyone interested in this device. The included web browser is also quite capable and will be fine for casual use.

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    Entertainment: Since this is a consumer device, the options are stronger here. The Cellular Video service is simply amazing, and though it has a rather limited selection of programs, it works flawlessly. This Samsung model's vivid, large display really shines here, and the sound quality is good too. You may not want to watch full TV shows on a mobile phone, but for CNN updates, sports highlights, Dancing With the Stars recaps, and other short clips, the service works great. No stuttering problems and good quality video makes this a winner.

    The music player as well as AT&amp;T's music download service worked flawlessly. The player has all of the typical options, allowing you to choose music by artist or album, or create your own playlists. In a nice touch, the music player will "minimize" to the home screen of the device when you hit the disconnect button while a song is playing. That gives you quick access to the forward, reverse, and pause controls and is a really nice touch that shows that the designers gave a lot of thought to making the user interface of this device as friendly and efficient as possible.

    The external speaker works well for sharing music and video with friends, and is plenty loud. It doesn't offer the full range of sound you can experience with the optional headset, but it isn't bad. It would be nice if you could plug in your own headphones, but the Impression doesn't have a standard jack.

    USB mass storage is not included with the Impression, but the device does come with PC Studio Manager, which allows you to transfer music, pictures, and video between your phone and your computer. You can also do the same thing with a microSD card, though you will have to remove the back plate of the phone to access the card slot.

    GPS: Unfortunately I was unable to test the AT&amp;T Navigator service on this device (a problem with our test account, NOT the device), so I'm unable to write anything about the GPS functionality of the Samsung Impression. It is equipped with aGPS and E911 support.

    Camera and Video: The Impression includes a 3 megapixel camera with video capture ability. The camera takes great photos -- sharp images, lots of detail, excellent quality overall. I'm very pleased with the test images, and believe that this camera is good enough for any casual use. As always, it won't replace a dedicated high-resolution camera for important photos, but for goofing around with friends, parties and gatherings, and opportunity shots you might otherwise miss, you definitely won't be disappointed.

    The camera offers a nice set of features, such as scene mode (portrait, landscape, night, sport, sunset, and text), effects (black and white, sepia, negative, watercolor), exposure, white balance, and resolution settings, etc. The guidelines feature is a nice touch, overlaying the display with lines that can help you improve the composition of your photos.

    Video capture is of good quality as well, and is not limited by an arbitrary upper time limit. The camcorder feature will keep going as long as you have available storage capacity, and videos are stored in MP4 format, which is easily played on your computer.


    CONCLUSION

    The Impression is the first phone to even challenge the LG Dare's position as my favorite phone. It's a winner in just about every respect and if it weren't for my issue with the placement of the lock button, it would have been quite difficult to come up with any cons for the list below.

    If you're on the market for a new phone and don't need a Windows Mobile smartphone or a BlackBerry, the Samsung Impression should be at the top of the list. It's powerful, easy to use, responsive, and a joy to use.

    Pros:

    • Large, gorgeous touchscreen display
    • Excellent keyboard
    • Very good battery life

    Cons:

    • Screen and button lock mechanism poorly placed
    • Non-standard headphone jack

    Related Articles:

    Samsung Epix Review

    Samsung Saga Review

    Samsung Instinct s30 Preview

     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 20, 2015
  2. Randall-Stross

    Randall-Stross Newbie

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    Nice review of this phone, Jen. I was thinking about getting one...

    Randall Stross
     
  3. Drillbit

    Drillbit Mobile Deity

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    Wow, that is a nice device.

    Too bad, it probably won't fit my specific needs, like a mobile twitter client.
     
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