Lightweight; Good variety of apps and widgets; Quality camera for price; Affordable
Small display; Slow 4G speeds; Sluggish; Short battery life
Samsung's Galaxy Exhibit for T-Mobile is an affordable and lightweight smartphone for shoppers who need just the basics, but its short battery life and sluggish speeds hold it back.
While top-tier smartphones tend to get all the attention, some consumers only need a basic device for apps, social networking, texting and email. Available for a down payment of just $19, the Samsung Galaxy Exhibit delivers just that, along with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and a 5-MP camera. However, it has a small 3.8-inch display and 4GB internal memory. Are those tradeoffs worth the low entry price? Not quite.
The chassis of the Exhibit is a dark metallic gray with chrome encircling the display. Blue accents around the Home button on the front and the back camera add a subtle splash of color. A soft-touch finish on the back of the Exhibit makes it feel comfortable and easy to grip.
Measuring 4.78 x 2.46 x 0.42 inches, the Exhibit fit snugly in our hand and weighs a mere 4.27 ounces, narrowly beating out the boxier 4.3-ounce LG Optimus L9, which measures 5.2 x 2.7 x 0.36 inches. By comparison, the Nokia Lumia 521 is heavier than the Exhibit at 4.4 ounces, but narrower and slimmer at 4.4 x 2.5 x 0.4 inches.
At the top of the phone is a headset jack. Volume and power buttons sit on the left and right sides of the phone, respectively. A microSD slot on the left holds up to 32 GB of storage to expand the Galaxy Exhibit's 4GB of onboard memory. The bottom of the device houses a microUSB port.
Display and Audio
As a result of its size, on-screen icons felt more crowded on the Exhibit than on larger displays. Colors were a tad undersaturated, but viewing angles were fairly impressive. We watched trailers for "The Lone Ranger" and "R.I.P.D." and colors remained fairly true, even at sharp angles.
While better than the category average of 296 lux and the Lumia 521 (219 lux), the Exhibit's brightness of 330 lux fell below that of the L9 (367 lux).
Like other phones in its class, the Exhibit's audio was merely decent. While the back speaker was able to achieve room-filling volume, high notes sounded tinny. We played "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke and found that the dancing cymbals in the accompaniment disrespectfully overpowered Thicke's crooning tenor.
Software and User Interface
Swiping down from the top of the screen reveals a Notifications drawer with toggles for quick settings like Wi-Fi connectivity, sound profiles and Power-Saving, Driving and Flight Modes.
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To be sure, you're not getting the full feature set you'd find on the S4. The Exhibit lacks support for Smart Stay, Smart Scroll, Air View and S Beam.
Graphics performance on the Exhibit was somewhat strong. It scored 7,217 on the An3DBench benchmark test, just below the category average of 7,269. By comparison, the LG Optimus L9 scored merely 7,067.
On the other hand, the Exhibit's performance on the Quadrant test (CPU, graphics, I/O) was dismal, with the device scoring only 2,470. The LG Optimus L9 notched a higher 3,230.
T-Mobile stuffed the Exhibit with half a dozen apps, some more useful than others. They include CallerTunes, Mobile Hotspot, MobileLife, MusicHub, My Account, Visual Voicemail, and 411 & More. T-Mobile TV allows users to watch live TV for a monthly fee, and T-Mobile Name ID is a caller ID service that costs $3.99 per month. Annoyingly, these items can't be uninstalled, taking up a precious amount of the Exhibit's 4GB of storage.
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The device also comes installed with Slacker radio, Flipboard, Scout and other popular apps.
While it's not as pixel-packed as the Galaxy S4, the Galaxy Exhibit's 5-MP camera took fairly strong pictures on a user interface that Samsung users will find familiar. A host of options are available via the customizable left panel, like Shooting Mode, timer, filter, lighting, focus, exposure and white balance.
Pictures taken on the Exhibit were crisp, clear and rich in color. Compared with pictures taken on the 13-megapixel camera of the Galaxy S4, the Exhibit's snapshots seemed unnaturally blue and somewhat less clear, but it holds up well for a 5-megapixel camera.
The VGA front-facing camera, as expected, took low-quality pictures that had duller colors and did not look as smooth as those taken on its back-facing counterpart.
Another limitation of the Exhibit is that it can only access T-Mobile's HSPA+14.4 network. On the Speedtest.net test, the Exhibit averaged 1.39 Mbps downloads and 0.31 Mbps uploads over T-Mobile's network in our Manhattan office.
Speeds were significantly slower and less reliable when we tested the network on the Upper West Side. Two of the tests returned an average of 0.21 Mbps downloads and 0.60 Mbps uploads, while a third test showed 2.03 Mbps downloads and 0.94 Mbps up.
The Exhibit comes with a 1,500-mAh lithium-ion battery that Samsung claims will provide up to 9 hours of talk time and ten days of standby time. Compared with the LG Optimus L9's 2,150 mAh battery, the Exhibit leaves much to be desired.
On the LAPTOP battery test, which involves continuous Web surfing over 4G with the display on 40 percent brightness, the Exhibit only clocked 4 hours and 40 minutes before giving out. That's almost an hour and a half less than the category average (6:09) and much less than the Optimus L9's impressive 7 hours and 20 minutes. But at least this Samsung fared better than the Nokia Lumia 521, which lasted only 3:09 on the Peacekeeper battery test.
Plans and Pricing
Consumers can purchase the Exhibit for $19.99 down payment and a monthly installment of $9 over 24 months, or $235.99 upfront.
T-Mobile offers a Simple Choice Plan for individual lines that comes with unlimited talk and text and data limits in three different configurations. The plan with just 500MB of data will cost $50 a month, while an additional 2GB costs $60 per month and unlimited data is $70 a month.
If you decide on the 2.5GB plan, you would pay $1,676 over two years, including the cost of the phone.
On the same plan, the LG Optimus L9, which costs $10 per month and needs no down payment, will cost $1,680 -- just $5 more expensive than the Exhibit. The Nexus 4 on the same plan will set you back $1,868 over two years, with a down payment of $19.99 and a monthly payment of $17. The Nokia Lumia 521 comes up to $1,590 over two years on the same plan, which is almost $100 less than the Exhibit.
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|Form Factor||Candybar Touchscreen|
|Operating System||Android 4.1|
|Networks||UMTS: 1900/1700/2100/850;Quad Band GSM|
|CPU||dual-core 1-GHz STE U8420|
|Memory Expansion Type||microSD Card|
|Display (main)||3.8 inches/800 x 480|
|Bluetooth Type||Bluetooth 4.0|
|Front Camera Resolution||VGA|
|Camera Resolution||5 MP|
|Video formats supported||3GPP|
|Video formats supported||WMV|
|Video formats supported||VP8|
|Video formats supported||VC-1|
|Video formats supported||MPEG-4|
|Video formats supported||H.264|
|Video formats supported||H.263|
|Talk / Standby Time||9 hours/10 days|
|Size||4.78 x 2.46 x 0.42 inches|
|SAR Rating (Head)||0.78|
|SAR Rating (Body)||1.12|