The slide-out keyboard on the Captivate Glide sets it apart from competitors. The design looks like a bunch of Samsung phones cobbled together -- a Franken-phone, if you will -- producing a thick brick of a device. That sounds bad -- and it is chunky -- but it's also very practical with a lot of attractive features, from a beautiful screen to a whiplash-inducing processor.
At 4.9-inches tall and 2.5-inches wide, the Glide is smaller than the Galaxy S2, but it's also fatter and heavier at half an inch thick and just over five ounces. The plastic back is identical to the textured rear of the Exhibit 2, for a grippy feel. But overall, the Glide more closely resembles the sleek S2, with soft corners and a glossy black plastic frame.
The 4-inch Super AMOLED screen gives you 16 million lush colors, so you get to see every tropical hue as you watch "Lost." It's not as large as some premium devices, so if you hold it up to the S2, it looks a little puny, but nonetheless, I'm impressed by how deep and rich the blacks are. The 800-by-480 resolution and 233-ppi pixel density is more finely detailed than the S2's 207-ppi, but the PenTile layout isn't my favorite, since it makes some fonts look jagged. But before you start thinking it's the Second Coming of the iPhone, know that there's nothing the Glide does particularly better than AT&T's other high-end devices. The design isn't as impressive as the Motorola Atrix 2, or even the lackluster LG Nitro HD, but it's cheaper -- and comes with a keyboard.
And what a keyboard. The slide-out four-row QWERTY is the reason the Glide is so fat, but it makes the added bulk worthwhile: the layout gives keys room to breathe, so if you have big fingers you won't have trouble finding the right buttons. I wish these flat-as-pancakes-that-got-run-over-by-a-dump-truck keys didn't lay so flat -- raised, tactile BlackBerry-style buttons would make typing without looking easier. But overall, the buttons are responsive, but they take some getting used to.
Oh, there's one issue: when you slide the keyboard down, the display automatically goes into landscape mode. That's fine in most situations, but certain apps only work in portrait mode, so that's flat-out annoying. Regardless, the blue and white color scheme is conservative so if you need it for work, you can use it in the conference room. And I love the dedicated voice-entry key -- it's great for when you get sick of typing.
I found the 8-megapixel distinctly underwhelming. It has the same number of pixels as the S2 and other Samsung devices, but it takes pictures that are notably grainy. Samsung's added its nifty tap-to-zoom feature, but there's a few seconds of lag after you press the button and when the shutter snaps, so you'll miss any spontaneous masterpieces. The single LED flash, though, does a great job capturing details in low-light. The Glide shoots 720p video, instead of 1080p like on other devices. To make matters worse, the clips come out with as much noise as on still photos.
I prefer vanilla Android, but out of all the major manufacturers, Samsung messes up its skin the least. TouchWiz lets you customize homescreens, as well as resize widgets without having to suffer through lag when navigating menus. But you're stuck with four apps Samsung deemed the most vital on your homescreen, so you can't completely make it your own. There's also a fair amount of bloatware, including Samsung's Social and Media Hubs, and AT&T FamilyMap and Navigator -- each requiring a monthly subscription to be unlocked. If you don't want to pay for them, you're still stuck with the icons. It's a dumb system -- think of them as ads you can't remove.
The Glide has a quirk when it comes to USB storage: it uses a different protocol than most Samsung phones, one that works fine on PC, but breaks down with Mac -- unless you download a third-party client. If you have a Mac and you plan to transfer files, you'll rip your hair out trying to get it to work. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Meanwhile, the 1-gigahertz dual-core chip runs tasks seamlessly -- apps launch without a hiccup, webpages open and scroll smoothly and multiple processes can run the background. The processor is the phone's the most impressive technical feature and about as good as you can get for the price. I just wish it fixed the shutter problem, but that's a software issue. I was also impressed by the 1,650 mAh battery -- you can gab away for almost eight hours. If the Glide had 4G or a larger screen, it'd last considerably shorter, but that's one point where the weak spots come in handy. You get 8-gigabytes of storage with a microSD slot to beef it up to 32-gigabytes. Don't buy a card though; you'll have more than enough to store photos and music.
If you don't care about the plastic feel, the Glide does some impressive things at the right price. But if you're jonesing for a truly state-of-the-art device with a premium camera and 4G LTE, it won't be your cup of tea. If you'd rather have a great camera than a physical keyboard, I'd I recommend the S2. But otherwise, it's a decent device. ♦
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