The Samsung Exhibit is a solid phone and a good choice if you're tied to T-Mobile, as long as you don't care about the camera.
The Exhibit packs a lot of features into a fairly low-priced handset, following the Sidekick 4G onto the high-speed scene. Compared to Verizon and AT&T's faster LTE networks, T-Mobile HSPA-plus service, though slower, still gets as zippy as any true 4G phone.
If you want to stand out, the Exhibit comes in violet, as well as a standard black. The rounded corners have a softer finish, making it a pleasant to hold. And even though it's only $80 with a contract after a rebate, it looks pretty expensive. The 4.7-inch plastic shell makes it fairly lightweight and comfortable to carry, and it doesn't smudge easily either.
The 3.5-inch touch screen is impressive. Even though it's slightly washed out in direct sunlight, the 480-by-800 pixel resolution offers a sharp, colorful display. Looking at photos or browsing the Web is a delight, and the virtual keyboard, though small, is easy to use with Swype installed.
Less of a delight: Samsung's TouchWiz interface, which is overlaid on Android 2.3.4. Instead of running vanilla Gingerbread, the customization detracts from the operating system's better qualities. It's not horribly distracting, but some pre-loaded widgets and apps are totally unnecessary. The Exhibit would be better served if it came without TouchWiz. And I'm not exactly sure who uses Qik -- the pre-installed video chat app -- but you can't uninstall it either. There's a number of similarly silly bloatware apps you can't remove, so expect to scroll through junk to get to the apps you really like.
The software has quirks and flaws, but overall it's a solid. But that's not the case with the unambiguously and aggressively mediocre camera. We're living in an 8-megapixel world, but there are a number of impressive 5-megapixel shooters. The Exhibit, meanwhile, features a measly 3-megapixel lens, and you can tell -- the photos are dully colored and grainy, especially indoors. The filters let you fine-tune your pictures, but it's also responsible for the annoying shutter lag. And no matter how many times you Instagram these shots, they'll still turn out significantly worse than a point-and-shoot, and they are eons behind the kind of pictures you can take on an iPhone or a Galaxy.
If you don't care about the camera, though, there's better news -- sure, the single-core processor isn't the fastest out there, but it doesn't drag -- and the battery life is top-notch. So if you're sick of lugging around a charger when you leave the house for longer than a trip to the grocery store, the robust battery will make you happy. It won't last quite as long if you're running a ton of apps on 4G, but it will keep chugging along for hours and hours otherwise.
The Exhibit isn't high-end, but it does a good job of being a middle-of-the-road option at an affordable price. Besides the dinky camera, all of the other features are good to great, and the phone comes with a reasonable price tag. So if you're looking for an Android phone but without a hefty price tag, this is a good choice. ♦
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