Sprint Samsung Epic 4G first impressions shows it can't beat the EVO 4G

Sprint Samsung Epic 4G first impressions shows it can't beat the EVO 4G

Summary: Sprint is the third to launch a Samsung Galaxy S device in the US and looks to have a lock on the best model with a full QWERTY keyboard. I still think there are several reasons the EVO 4G beats it out though.

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The last smartphone we saw released across all four major carriers was the HTC Touch Pro 2 and there were a couple of different iterations of the device, primarily a couple that included a 3.5mm headset jack and a couple that used the HTC USB port for a headset. A couple of months ago Samsung announced that they would be bringing their Samsung Galaxy S line to these same four major carriers. Two are available now, the Samsung Vibrant and AT&T Captivate, with the Samsung Epic 4G coming to Sprint stores on 31 August. The Samsung Fascinate will be coming to Verizon soon too, but we don't yet have a release date or price. Each of the four Galaxy S devices have slightly different designs to go along with their different names with the Sprint Samsung Epic 4G being the one with a MAJOR hardware difference in the full QWERTY keyboard. I have also noticed some differences in the software and performance in these first three smartphones as I will detail below. I have now spent over three days with the Samsung Epic 4G and have my first impressions below with several photos in my image gallery and the embedded YouTube video.


Image Gallery: Check out photos of the Samsung Epic 4G on Sprint. Image Gallery: Samsung Epic 4G retail box Image Gallery: EVO 4G vs Epic 4G

In the box and first impressions

Unlike the funky frozen dinner packaging of the HTC EVO 4G, the Epic 4G comes in a standard heavy duty box with a glossy image of the phone on the front and logos of several services (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Weatherbug, etc.) in bands around the box. Inside you will find the Epic 4G, battery, A/C USB adapter, USB cable, wired stereo headset, 16GB microSD card (inserted in the Epic 4G), microSD to SD adapter, Get Started Guide, phone recycle bag, and other standard paperwork.

After opening the box and grabbing the Epic 4G, I was impressed with the feel of the back of the hardware and way the display slid up and down to reveal the keyboard. Typical of the Samsung Galaxy S devices with the Super AMOLED screens, the display looks fantastic too. I couldn't wait to charge up the Epic 4G and put it through its paces.

Specifications

Specifications for the Samsung Epic 4G include the following:

  • Android 2.1 with Samsung Touchwiz 3.0 experience
  • Cortex A8 Hummingbird, 1GHz processor
  • CDMA/EVDO Rev A wireless radio
  • 4 inch WVGA (480x800) capacitive Super AMOLED touch display
  • Integrated 1GB flash memory and microSD card (16GB included)
  • 5 megapixel camera with flash
  • VGA front facing camera
  • Dedicated, touch-sensitive Home, Menu, Back and Search areas
  • Proximity sensor, light sensor and digital compass
  • Integrated GPS
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • 1500 mAh battery
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • Dimensions: 4.9 x 2.54 x 0.56 inches and 5.46 ounces

As you can see, these specifications are almost the same as the other Samsung Galaxy S smartphones with the 4 inch Super AMOLED display, Bluetooth 3.0, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, 1GHz Cortex A8 Hummingbird processor, and more. The other Galaxy S devices have integrated 16GB memory and a microSD card slot while the Epic 4G only has 1GB of integrated memory and a microSD card slot.

The Epic 4G stands out a bit above the others, in my opinion, with the physical QWERTY keyboard, front facing camera, WiMAX radio, and camera flash.

Walk around the hardware

I have to admit the front of the Samsung Epic 4G is quite attractive with a completely flush black slab design that only has one opening up at the top for the headset speaker. Interestingly, you cannot even see that there are four touch sensitive buttons below the Samsung label since they only appear when the device is on and you are actively using them. They light up in white and go Menu, Home, Back, and Search. This is different than my EVO 4G (Home, Menu, Back, and Search) so as I bounced back and forth between them during testing I kept tapping the wrong button. I tend to use the Home button more so prefer it first since I can easily find it at the edge of the row. The backlight on these areas goes out after a few seconds so you need to remember where they are when you go to perform an action with them.

The front is dominated by the beautiful 4 inch Super AMOLED display that makes colors pop. It doesn't work as well as the EVO 4G LCD display in full sunlight, but is better than a standard AMOLED display and is usable. In comparing the EVO 4G display side-by-side I find the colors to be much better on the Epic 4G while the EVO 4G is a bit washed out with too much whiteness. However, the 4.3 inches compared to 4 inches is quite a huge difference and I still prefer the larger display of the EVO 4G.

The proximity sensor, indicator light, and VGA front facing camera are located in the black bezel area above the display. This is the only US version of the Galaxy S with a front facing camera too.

The QWERTY keyboard also dominates the front when the display is slid from left to right (up in landscape orientation). This is probably the BEST hardware QWERTY keyboard since the HTC HD2 and keyboard fans are going to love it. If you used a T-Mobile G1 before though, you may not like that you cannot assign any custom shortcuts to the keyboard like you could on that device with nearly every single key. However, the spacing is good and the tactile feedback is excellent. There is no texture on the keys so you do need to pay attention to what you are pressing on the keyboard. The slider locks solidly in the open and closed positions and seems to be something that will last for quite some time.

A physical camera button (I love having one of these) and power button are found on the right side. A mic opening is present on the bottom. A volume rocker is found on the left side.

The microUSB port (with sliding door) and 3.5mm headset jack are found on the top of the Epic 4G. The 5 megapixel camera and flash are found centered on the back. The entire back pops off to reveal the battery.

Walk through the software

The Samsung Epic 4G is an Android 2.1 device with Samsung TouchWIZ 3 user interface. As I said in my Vibrant first impressions article I like TouchWIZ 3 for the most part and do not find it too intrusive or limiting. For some reason, you cannot customize any of the four program icons on the Epic 4G while you could customize the middle two on the Vibrant and Captivate. The typical Samsung apps are present, including AllShare for DLNA sharing, Memo, Media Hub (may be activated at launch of the Epic 4G, but nothing is live yet), and an Alarm Clock application. ThinkFree Office is used as the default Office program and it lets you create a new document, spreadsheet, or presentation on the device. This is the first Office program I have seen where you can create a presentation and I will have a review of this suite up soon.

Sprint includes some of their services on the Epic 4G, including Sprint Football, Sprint Hotspot (WiFi hotspot application), Sprint Navigation (TeleNav branded GPS app and service), NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile, and Sprint TV. These cannot be removed, but the services are free and I personally find them useful.

Comparison of the Vibrant, Captivate, and Epic 4G

If I had to rank the current three Samsung Galaxy S devices I would put the Epic 4G at the top, followed by the Vibrant and then the Captivate. The Epic 4G has better hardware (keyboard, flash, better back design, front facing keyboard) and seems to perform better in most cases. I am not sure if the GPS issue has been fixed or not since I had it fail to obtain a GPS fix a few times while driving in an area with open views of the sky. I also experienced some application force close problems, but have honestly seen these kind of stability issues on all three of these Galaxy S devices so far.

The Vibrant is very good and feels great in your hand, but GPS is a complete failure on that device. I have a coworker with a Captivate and he comes to me every other day because the device keeps slowing down to a crawl and he is ticked he cannot tether since AT&T locks you out of side-loaded apps. AT&T also ruins almost all devices, except for the iPhone, with bloatware and has included the same on the Captivate.

What is best? Samsung Epic 4G or HTC EVO 4G?

I used to be a major hardware QWERTY keyboard fan, but software keyboards like Swype are turning me into a touchscreen fan so I don't always need one. I bought an EVO 4G just a couple of months ago and when I heard that the Samsung Epic 4G was launching with the fantastic Galaxy S specs and QWERTY keyboard I reserved one for the 31st of August. I was ready to add the Epic 4G or sell my EVO 4G to buy the Epic 4G, but after several days of use I am leaning very heavily towards keeping my EVO 4G for several reasons, as follows:

  • GPS rocks without ANY issues on the EVO 4G.
  • The Leap feature of Sense is very useful to bounce between the 7 screens.
  • The EVO 4G has Android 2.2 now.
  • HTC Sense gives me a better Exchange experience.
  • I LOVE the kickstand on the EVO 4G and find it essential for watching video.
  • The EVO 4G has an HDMI port. I have no DLNA devices, but do use HDMI for showing off photos and videos.
  • I don't like the hidden, backlit bottom button areas.
  • The Epic 4G feels cheaper than the EVO 4G.
  • The EVO 4G 4.3" display is large and shows more, especially when web browsing.

Pricing and availability

The Samsung Epic 4G will be available from Sprint on 31 August for $249.99 with a $50 rebate for those who want a 2-year contract or extension. This is $50 more than the Vibrant or Captivate, which may be attributed to the physical QWERTY keyboard, WiMAX radio, and more. Since I just purchased an EVO 4G two months ago I would have to pay the full $499.99 no-contract price to get the Epic 4G for myself and it is not worth this price unless I sold my EVO 4G to offset it a bit. If you don't yet have an EVO and want the latest Android smartphone on Sprint then you have a couple of excellent choices and really can't go wrong with either one.

If you want a QWERTY keyboard, then the Epic 4G is the device for you. If you don't care about a keyboard, then the EVO 4G is my recommended device and personal favorite on Sprint.

Topics: Samsung, Hardware, HTC, Mobility, Telcos, Wi-Fi

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54 comments
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  • RE: Sprint Samsung Epic 4G first impressions shows it can't beat the EVO 4G

    The Epic can do HDMI through the usb port. Look it up.
    senecarr
    • Still need some kind of adapter

      @senecarr I have HDMI cables already and I cannot plug them into the Epic unless I find some kind of adapter so it isn't the same thing as the EVO. That is what I was pointing out here.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • RE: Sprint Samsung Epic 4G first impressions shows it can't beat the EVO 4G

        @palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
        You can't use regular HDMI cables, you have to use the Samsung cable specifically for this type of Phone, see link:

        http://briefmobile.com/galaxy-s-does-microusb-to-hdmi
        playstationrules
      • RE: Sprint Samsung Epic 4G first impressions shows it can't beat the EVO 4G

        @palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller) You can't use hdmi cables with the EVO without an adapter either. Epic also will have 3.5mm to composite out, working with older TVs.
        senecarr
    • Wow, $50 for a cable? Ridiculous!

      @senecarr I checked out the link and $50 for that cable is too much. I paid less than $20 and the standard microHDMI to HDMI cable works well with my EVO 4G and should as well on my Nokia N8. I'll stick with standard HDMI cables for now.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • RE: Sprint Samsung Epic 4G first impressions shows it can't beat the EVO 4G

        @palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
        Like all cables some Chinese maker will come out with $2 USB to HDMI cable like the way we have $2 regular HDMI cables on Amazon. Monoprice.com is another place for cheap cables.
        playstationrules
  • Abe

    Thanks for the comparison. You did not mention the clunk factor. Which feels better in your pocket? I bet the Epic being smaller fits the bill. Needless to say there are applications for all these smartphones which can actually turn them into a wireless credit card machine.

    http://www.prestigemerchantservices.com
    musicperson75
  • I have a different opinion and some additions you missed

    The time for the back light on the bottom of the screen is time adjustable. You could make it match the screen or have it on longer. And you need to enable the cell cite setting for quicker GPS. Its not enabled out of the box other sites confirmed as well as Samsung that the GPS issues of Galaxy S phones isn't on the Epic. I'll take the much better screen, EXCELLENT codec support (Divx, Avi, MKV, WMV, etc),better battery life over the Evo as well. Twice the memory card doesn't hurt either

    Edit: oh yeah, 3D graphics you could play 720p files effortlessly
    Reader1950-23661036349199683953317106157567
    • I have wireless on too

      @Reader1950 I have the wireless turned on and still have some issues (intermittent it seems now) with GPS. I haven't seen the better battery life over the EVO though, actually just about the same. I'll look deeper for the bottom button backlight settings. Keep in mind this is still a first impressions article and we all have different likes and dislikes. I did not say it was a bad choice, but not currently one I prefer.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • RE: Sprint Samsung Epic 4G first impressions shows it can't beat the EVO 4G

        @palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller) The problem is your article title says it isn't as good as the EVO, but you're making that comparison after you're already used to the EVO. You're also stating it can't beat the EVO, like your first impression is definitive.
        senecarr
    • How do you change it?

      @Reader1950-23661036349199683953317106157567
      >> The time for the back light on the bottom of the
      >> screen is time adjustable.

      I have the Vibrant and love it. But this is one thing that I hate as well. I have found no setting at all that can change it so it's always on when the screen is on. Can you point me to it? I have looked all over for it.

      Matt, you could use Launcher Pro to get the "leap" feature. I love Launcher Pro and used it on the G1. As soon as I got the Vibrant, I installed it. But after going back and forth between it and TouchWiz, I decided to stay with TouchWiz. I was pleasantly surprised by TouchWiz - especially after the poor reviews it's got on prior phones. There are a few things I really liked about it which tilted the balance for me. The paged scrolling in the App Drawer is so much better than inertial scrolling. I wish I could do that in all lists. Also the WebOSish controls in the Notification drop down are very convenient.
      os2baba
  • RE: Sprint Samsung Epic 4G first impressions shows it can't beat the EVO 4G

    Both are great phones, but...

    "GPS rocks without ANY issues on the EVO 4G."
    True but this is only a temporary advantage

    "The Leap feature of Sense is very useful to bounce between the 7 screens."
    Everyone with touchwiz should be getting free LauncherPro which has this feature and many others that sense does not.

    "The EVO 4G has Android 2.2 now."
    True but temporary. Rooted users have it as well.

    "HTC Sense gives me a better Exchange experience."

    An added cost but there is great exchange software in the App store.

    "I LOVE the kickstand on the EVO 4G and find it essential for watching video. "
    This is a great feature.

    "The EVO 4G has an HDMI port. I have no DLNA devices, but do use HDMI for showing off photos and videos."
    As a previous poster said you can do HDMI through USB.

    "I don?t like the hidden, backlit bottom button areas."
    Personal preference

    "The Epic 4G feels cheaper than the EVO 4G."
    Personal preference

    "The EVO 4G 4.3? display is large and presents more, especially when web browsing."
    Personal Preference.

    The Epic also has a much better 3D chip and a Super AMOLED screen.
    gwlaw99
  • camera?

    hello, would you be able to comment on the cameras on the 2 devices? i have been reading some conflicting reports (although the majority seem to favor the epic).

    thanks
    saramendelt
  • Guess it all depends on your opinion, where you live, what you want...

    Our Galaxy S phones (wife and I) have not experienced GPS issues as of yet. Also, out of all the eight (count 'em 8) EVO 4G users we have encountered so far, our phone has blown them away, literally. Especially with the super AMOLED screen and T-mo's HSPA+ network upgrade. I know it has allot to do with luck and where you live, but in our area, we are getting a steady 5 to 6 Mbps download speed from T-mo's 3g, versus a dismal 3 Mbps (with a rare/occasional 5 Mbps burst) from 4G WiMAX. Don't even try to compare Sprint 3g. Everyone of the above 8 friends and family is planning to ditch their EVO, three have already done so (two moved to the Vibrant and one moved to a Droid 2). At work, everyone of the aforementioned EVO users is teased about their phone having a kick stand, lol! Many in our circle think the EVO is a serious clunker. The only phone made more fun of is the horrible HD2! The most popular phones in our area are the iPhone, Vibrant and Droid X.
    AssimilatedAndroid
  • RE: Sprint Samsung Epic 4G first impressions shows it can't beat the EVO 4G

    @ AssimilatedAndroid....You're really comparing your Galaxy S to the HTC Evo 4G? That's like comparing a Mustang GT to a Corvette. Just on that precedence alone, your comment is lame and all too subjective. Let me tell you, I don't know where you live, but Sprint 3g has been better than ATT and T-Mobile in every major city I've had access to phones from those 3 carriers. This includes major cities like San Antonio, Dallas, Seattle and Orlando. NO CARRIER right now can even compete with Sprint 4G, when 4G is available (and it's expanding quickly). I streamed YouTube HD in San Antonio with 4G with no lag or buffering...websites loaded as if they were connected via WiFi. The Evo can video chat, HDMI without adapter, HTC Sense (which is widely considered superior to android OS alone or with other proprietary software), superior camera and 4G (something the Galaxy S doesn't have...3G is 4 year old technology man). Yet all of your friends that are EVO owners are clowning this phone in lieu of the Galaxy S and other inferior phones? Also people that make fun of the kick-stand are just jealous...it's very convenient...you can relax a little and watch a video instead of being hunched over a table or having your head point straight into your lap...it's just jealousy. Iphone 4 and the Motorola Droid X & Droid 2 are the only smartphones that can even compete with the EVO...but then again, THERE IS NO COMPETITION in a 4G market from a connection standpoint. The Epic fares better because it's 4G capable but still isn't as feature rich as the EVO...only the screen may be superior. LOL....I don't know where you live but I don't wanna live where people are that ignorant.
    samdaverdz
    • What? Lol, what?..

      @samdaverdz - Wait, one more time, what? Lol! Look, just an opinion like the reviewer, dood! If you love the EVO like that, good for you! It is a good phone, but not better than the Galaxy S line. You need to re-check the specifications on both phones, especially the processor before you start claiming the EVO is better. I mean come on, features are nice, but it really comes down to personal preference (especially in regards to a kick-stand, good Lord)! Also, understand that 4G (especially your WiMAX) is not faster than T-mo's 3g where we live. All the things you claim to do on 4G, we do faster on 3G, lol. Btw, what download speeds are you getting on WiMAX? Come on, lets see 'em, post them. People who blindly defend phones need to realize that all phones, especially smartphones, get outdated quick. Here is wisdom for you, sometimes those who are first, will be last. Sprint loves to advertise that they are the first with 4G, well riddle me this Batman, what's going to happen to 3G once all carriers start their 4G LTE build out? Are 3G networks just gonna go poof? No, they're not, are they? For those that actually understand the 4G technology bandwidth evolution, they know that 3G will continue to remain vital for a long time. Just like Sprint desperately needs their 3G network right now or the EVO would FAIL! Funny, can you imagine your EVO with just a WiMAX radio? Total joke! Now, compare Sprint's 3G network speed with T-mobile's. In T-mo's 21 Mbps HSPA+ upgraded areas, there is no comparison. From what I hear, next year T-mo will be upgrading to 42Mbps HSPA+! Dood, this will go nicely when T-mo decides to journey down the 4G upgrade path. You see, in the future, T-mobile will have 4G and a 42Mbps 3G back up network. What will Sprint have? WiMAX and the same SLOW 3G network they have now? Well, they won't if they merge with T-mobile, lol! Dude in closing, big difference between jealousy and opinion. Both of our phones are sister Android phones, and we should just dwell in that because it's nice to have choice, unlike Apple-zombies! Lol!
      AssimilatedAndroid
    • RE: Sprint Samsung Epic 4G first impressions shows it can't beat the EVO 4G

      @samdaverdz Will a simple AMEN suffice?
      Zzyzx.exit@...
  • RE: Sprint Samsung Epic 4G first impressions shows it can't beat the EVO 4G

    Don't be ignorant. It isn't just the screen.<br><br>-Hummingbird processor on the Samsung is faster.<br>-The GPU is miles faster. Check out how smoother Google Earth runs on Galaxy series.<br>-Display like you said.<br>-Camera takes better quality pictures, believe it or not.<br>-Video records at 720p.<br>- For Vibrant, there's also a built-in 16gb internal memory, expanded to 48gb via sd card. Comes with about 18gb, 16gb from internal, 2gb from the freebie sd card.<br><br>Really, with good hardware, features (software wise) are very customizable, including the HTC Sense-like feel -- check out Weather & Toggle from the Market. But running at apps at certain speeds isn't something you can change.<br><br>Evo is quite dated hardware wise with the snapdragon processor.

    I can't believe you said this is an inferior phone when hardware wise, the Samsung is superior in every ways.

    Regarding this review, this is really biased. The reviewer is obviously biased toward bigger screen. Somehow it managed to beat the Evo screen in every category other than screen size and still managed to lose out. Thing is, the screen size is personal preference. Some people prefer smaller (me) because it allows me to use the phone with one hand. This was almost impossible with the HD2, which is the same size as the Evo.

    Many of the other 'issues' can be fixed/acknowledge with an official fix incoming. I'm quite surprised you didn't write about the stall issue, also fixable but not acknowledge by Samsung yet to my knowledge.
    dz4505
    • You do realise it's a blog

      @dz4505 <br>It's a blog and he's entitled to his opinion and he has his criteria based on which he chooses the phone he wants to use. Isn't that what Android's all about? Different phones for different requirements?<br><br>BTW, I'm rather disappointed in the lag on these 1 GHz devices. I have the lag fix on the Vibrant and it's helped a lot. But there are still many instances where it stutters. Scrolling through the call logs or scrolling through a lot of SMS messages. And since you mentioned it, Google Earth. When it first starts up and the awesome animation as you zoom in to your location is marred by the stuttering. With a 1GHz processor and the GPU on the Samsung, there should have been no lag at all. I'm hoping that the rumored hardware GPU acceleration in Gingerbread will make this phone as silky smooth as the iPhone. That is still one area where the iPhone shines. My ipod Touch (a relatively slower device) is smoother than the Vibrant. But it's not really a fair comparison since my phone is loaded with apps and I hardly use the Touch except for listening to music. I'm sure if I look for it, I'll find apps in the App Store, but since I don't use it all that often, it's not worth the effort.
      os2baba
      • RE: Sprint Samsung Epic 4G first impressions shows it can't beat the EVO 4G

        @os2baba <br>I do realize it is his opinion and he is certainly entitled to it. But at the same time I am pointing out the fact that this review isn't taking it from an objective standpoint but rather a subjective one, which is fine. I'm pointing that out, that's it <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/wink.gif" alt="wink">.<br><br>Indeed, that's one great thing about android phones, you can customize it to suit your needs. I missed the old HTC Sense so I download a bunch of apps to change the way it feels to HTC Sense and gotten a very good feel out of this combo:<br>Weather&Toggle+LauncherPro+Sense Wallpaper from adwlauncher Sense theme.<br><br>I actually don't get stutters when I zoom in, but I do get it once in a while in any apps, presumably there is tons of stuff going in the background like checking email, updating my 'Sense' widget <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/wink.gif" alt="wink">, etc.

        What I can't wait for is to testdrive this baby when Froyo comes out with Flash support. Doesn't it make you wonder how much the GPU will help with Flash? :).
        dz4505