3.0 star rating

Samsung Katalyst (SGH-t739) Review

Pros: Good call quality; Smooth handoffs between Wi-Fi and GSM; Impressive battery life; Built-in MP3 player
Cons: Poor camera; T-Zones slow to load; No stereo Bluetooth; Memory card behind battery
The Verdict: T-Mobile’s latest Wi-Fi phone impresses with its style and call quality, and is a smart bet for users who want to ditch the landline.



Until recently those who wanted to sign up for T-Mobile’s HotSpot @Home Wi-Fi calling service had three options: The low-end Nokia 6086 and Samsung t409 (both $49.99) or the popular high-end BlackBerry Curve ($249). With the release of the $79.99 Samsung Katalyst SGH-t739, users now have a stylish midrange option that includes an MP3 player. It’s not perfect, but the Katalyst is a good choice for those looking to kick that landline to the curb.

Katalyst Design

The Samsung Katalyst is an attractive gunmetal blue with silver accents. Its sliding action is smooth and sturdy, and was perhaps one of the best aspects of the unit as a whole. The large 2.3-inch display stands out, but its paltry 220 x 176 resolution is far from impressive. Volume keys and a headphone/charging jack are on the left side of the unit, and a button for snapping photos with the unit’s 1.3-megapixel camera is on the right-hand side. All of the keys on the Katalyst are spaced far enough apart so that you don’t accidentally press them. The keyboard felt comfortable during our texting sessions, but the keys were a bit flat for our tastes.

Sluggish Interface

We’re disappointed that the Katalyst has only 5MB of memory, but even more frustrated to see that it’s used inefficiently. The myFaves menu, for example, rotates incredibly slowly, and applications launch even slower. Likewise, loading t-zones is like watching an old man jog. 

Wi-Fi Calling on the Katalyst

As with other HotSpot @Home phones, you can make unlimited calls on your home Wi-Fi network with the Katalyst for a reasonable $9.99 per month. You can also make Wi-Fi calls at thousands of T-Mobile HotSpot locations, from airports to Starbucks. The Katalyst did a fantastic job switching between Wi-Fi networks and its native GSM network. The only noticeable difference was decreased volume once we’d returned to T-Mobile’s GSM network. We didn’t lose a single call during our tests.
The included single-bud wired headset has a microphone, so it can be used to chat with friends during calls. The Katalyst also supports Bluetooth (though not stereo), and callers told us things sounded clear on their end. However, we experienced some popping and fuzziness on our end. The Bluetooth connectivity wasn’t always reliable; sometimes pairing the unit required multiple attempts. 


Web Performance

The Katalyst is best suited for simple online tasks. It supports AIM, ICQ, Windows Live, and Yahoo Messaging. We wouldn’t recommend using the browser for much more than checking sports scores. Over GSM we loaded CNN.com with pictures in 11 seconds, and NYTimes.com loaded in 31 seconds. Using Wi-Fi, CNN loaded with pictures in 5 seconds, and NYTimes.com loaded in 10 seconds. You can download games and ringtones from t-zones, but you can’t download music. We downloaded Call of Duty 4 in 23 seconds; game play was good enough to pass a few minutes on the bus.

Katalyst Music Playback

You can load MP3s on the Katalyst using a microSD card, but you have to take out the battery to insert the card. Considering we weren’t expecting much from a phone that wasn’t centered around multimedia, music sounded surprisingly crisp, although it lacked bass. The audio playback interface is satisfactory; switching among songs is easy, and you can choose between two visualizations. Music plays over the phone’s external speaker or through an included single-bud wired headset.
Dual-ear listening requires a proprietary wired headset from Samsung for $20 (T-Mobile doesn’t carry them and they aren’t included), but it isn’t true stereo sound; it’s just pumped into both ears. The Katalyst doesn’t support stereo Bluetooth.


The Katalyst’s 1.3-megapixel camera took decent photos, but they were washed out and lacked sharpness. When we took a picture of a tree with lights on it, each tree light flared up, blurring the shot entirely, as if it were taken in motion.

Battery Life

The Katalyst is rated at up to 5 hours of talk time and up to 10 days of idling. We left the phone on standby for a solid 12 hours without seeing a drop in battery life, but found that the power drains quickly with normal usage. Expect to charge the Katalyst at least once every two days--although we’d suggest doing so every night if you have Wi-Fi enabled.

Samsung Katalyst Verdict

The Katalyst does a fine job replacing a household handset, and does so for a very reasonable $79.99. Call quality was clear enough that you could leave your landline behind. Just don’t expect much else from this slider.
Suggested Stories:
T-Mobile HotSpot @Home
Innovative but inconsistent Wi-Fi service provides very good in-home reception and cheap and clear calls on the go for those who want to use only one phone.
Get Better Cell Phone Reception
Keep your cell phone's bars from disappearing.
BlackBerry Curve
A sleek smart phone for much more than e-mail, the Curve sports a sharp 2-MP camera and some serious multimedia muscle.

Article Continued Below

Tags: Samsung Katalyst (SGH-t739), Samsung, multimedia phones, cell phones, reviews

Technical Specifications
Samsung Katalyst (SGH-t739)

Form FactorSlider
Internal Memory5MB
Memory Expansion TypeminiSD Card
Display (main)2.3 inches (176 x 220 pixels, 262,000 colors)
Bluetooth TypeBluetooth Mono
FM RadioNo
Camera Resolution1.3 MP
Talk / Standby Time5 hours/10 days
Size4 x 2 x 0.7 inches
Weight4.1 ounces
All Product Types Accessories eReaders Laptops Networking Projectors Smartphones Software Storage Tablets
All Subcategories
All Subcategories All-Purpose Budget Business Desktop Replacement Gaming Multimedia Netbook Nettop Rugged Student Tablet PCs Ultraportable
Acer Alienware Apple Archos ASUS AVADirect Averatec BeagleBone BenQ CTL Corp. CyberPowerPC Dell Digital Storm eMachines Emtec Eurocom Everex Fujitsu GammaTech Gateway General Dynamics Getac Gigabyte Google Hercules HP HTC iBuyPower Intel Lenovo Maingear MSI Nokia Nvidia OCZ OLPC OQO Origin Panasonic Razer Sager Samsung Sony Sony PlayStation Sylvania Systemax TabletKiosk Toshiba Verizon Viewsonic Viliv Vizio VooDoo Workhorse PC ZT Systems
Minimum Rating
Any Rating Editor's Choice 4.5 Stars 4.0 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.0 Stars
Screen Size
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 21 4 5 6 7 8 9
1024x576 1024x600 1024x768 1136 x 768 1200X800 1280 x 720 1280x1024 1280x768 1280x800 1366x678 1366x768 1440x1050 1440x900 1600x768 1600x900 1680x1050 1680x945 1792 x 768 1900x1080 1920x1080 1920x1200 2560 x 1440 2560 x 1600 2560 x 1700 2880 x 1620 2880 x 1880 3200 x 1800 3840 x 2160 800x400 800x480
Weight Range
10.1 - 12.0 pounds 12.1 - 14.0 pounds 14.1 - 16.0 pounds 2 lbs 2 pounds and under 2+ lbs 2.1 - 4.0 pounds 4.1 - 6.0 pounds 6.1 - 8.0 pounds 8.1 - 10.0 pounds Over 16 pounds Under 2 pounds
more options