Full Samsung Behold II Review

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T-Mobile’s tablet gets an Android update, but is Samsung’s TouchWIZ interface a good match for Android? Find out in our Samsung Behold II review.

Look and Feel – Good

T-Mobile’s new Samsung Behold II doesn’t look exactly like the Samsung Moment, but it has a similar feel, thanks to the hard plastics and the overall bulky feel. It uses a display that is slightly smaller than the screen on the HTC Droid Eris, though that phone is more tightly packed and smaller in every dimension. We like that Samsung went for hardware buttons on the Behold II, instead of the touch sensitive controls on the Samsung Moment, and we love the OLED display on both of Samsung’s Android phones. OLED is definitely the future of mobile devices, and the screen may not pack all the pixels of the high resolution Motorola Droid, but colors pop off the screen and blacks show up deep and rich.

We’ve reviewed plenty of devices running Samsung’s TouchWIZ interface (to check out a few of these, click here) but it has never been among the best interfaces out there. This becomes especially evident on the Samsung Behold II. In a nutshell, TouchWIZ offers a drawer filled with desktop shortcuts and widgets, as well as a shortcut bar along the bottom. The irony is that Android was already using a similar design to better effect. Android has a pull out drawer at the bottom of the phone, now on the side with the Samsung Behold II, and you can drag icons to the desktop from there, or add widgets, smart folders and shortcuts as you see fit. It worked nicely because widgets weren’t allowed to overlap like with TouchWIZ, and there were some powerful and highly customizable ideas for what you could add.

So, TouchWIZ adds nothing productive to Android. It slows down the interface noticeably and it even makes some existing features worse. Many of the redesigned apps and features on the phone, like the dialer, the calendar and the music player, look and function even worse on this Android phone than they do on our T-Mobile G1, the first Android device released more than a year ago.

Calling and Contacts – Very Good

Calls on the Samsung Behold II sounded pretty good. Voices sounded better on our end than on the receiving end of calls, but on both sides, our conversations came through clearly. Our callers reported occasionally distant voices and a slight, digital fuzziness, but nothing too serious. Battery life was pretty good, too. We got almost 6 hours of talking time out of a single call, which is just shy of estimates. Reception on the phone was also pretty good, hovering around 3 bars of service as we tested in the Dallas and Seattle metro areas.

When it came to calling features and contacts, we ran into some trouble on the Samsung Behold II. Contacts synchronized nicely from our Gmail and corporate Exchange address books, but none of our contacts’ photos came through, and when we added some folks to the Speed Dial screen, even their name was left off, rendering the concept useless. The phone also crashed when we tried to add a few names, including our own contact card, which would be handy to check voicemail on our other numbers.

The Samsung Behold II comes with voice dialing, but even once you’ve given the phone spoken instructions, you have to click on the correct choice, which reduces the benefit of this normally handsfree option. The phone gets visual voicemail support, which is a great feature. Conference calling worked well, but could have been more intuitive. We like to simply dial and press send to add a second call, but the Behold II had us digging through menus. Swapping and splitting calls was no problem.

Social Networking – Good

While many new smartphones are adding more social networking integration and easy status update features, the Samsung Behold II doesn’t even come with social networking apps preloaded for Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. You can download the first two from the Android Market, but Android options for Twitter are still unimpressive without help from the manufacturers. HTC, for instance, includes a nice twitter app with their Sprint Hero and Verizon Droid Eris phones. The phone claims to be able to send pictures directly to your social sites, but when we tried to upload to Flickr, they never ended up in our photostream.

The messaging app on the phone is competent and looks pretty good. Text messages and MMS messages are presented in a threaded style, so you can read them as a conversation, like instant messaging. Pictures are presented inline with the messages, and these can be expanded with a click. For instant messaging, the Samsung Behold II gets the basic Google Talk clients and another IM client for AOL, MSN and Yahoo. These all worked well in our tests.

Multimedia – Good

Unfortunately, the Samsung Behold II didn’t perform as we hoped when it comes to multimedia. Samsung’s tweaked music player didn’t even match the basic Android music player we’ve seen before. Some of our song information came through muddled, especially if special accent marks or characters were involved, in which case our text was replaced with Korean letters. Album artwork also got lost along the way. The Music Player also starts playing a song, seemingly at random, as soon as it starts up without asking.

Video playback performance was even more disappointing, which is a shame because Samsung just announced the first Android device with DiVX support, the European Galaxy Spica. Unlike that phone, the Samsung Behold II was hardly capable of playing any of our videos. It couldn’t resize larger files to play on the phone’s screen, and some videos that play perfectly on other Android phones played without sound, or with jagged edges on moving characters.

Business – Mediocre

Though it comes with Microsoft Exchange support, the Samsung Behold II makes a mediocre business device, and most corporate users should avoid this phone. The e-mail inbox looked horrible. Instead of presenting separate subfolders and categories, you get all your e-mails as a hierarchical list. But the e-mail handling was buggy and didn’t work properly. No matter how many times we requested to see more messages, the Behold II never delivered anything more, and some subfolders it could never populate in the first place. Calendar and contacts sync came through okay, but e-mail was mostly a lost cause. If you rely on Gmail for messages, the Behold II doesn’t come with any document viewing software, so you can’t even view Office documents, let alone perform simple editing tasks.

Camera – Good

The Samsung Behold II actually has one of the better cameras we’ve seen on an Android phone. The camera is easily the Behold II’s best feature. Image quality was pretty good, with some accurate colors and nice details, especially in the fairly close-up ‘macro’ mode. The sensor had a serious problem with red colors, like most small cameraphone sensors, and red flowers could blow up and lose all sense of detail. But for the most part we were happy with images from the Behold II. The camera did a nice job with face detection, and the onboard panorama stitching created some sweeping views of our backyard. Check out our image samples below:

  • Red Flower
  • Green Leaves
  • Palm Fibers
  • Palm Fronds
  • Self Portrait, Outdoors
  • Thermometer Close Up
  • Panorama
  • eBay Shot
  • eBay Macro Shot
  • Self Portrait, Flash Only
  • Traveling – Very Good

    The Samsung Behold II comes with TeleNav for turn-by-turn navigation, and the GPS mapping app worked very well in our tests. The phone had no trouble finding us quickly for a first fix and following us on our route through the Dallas suburbs. On a trip to Seattle, the phone followed our progress from the airport through downtown, and it didn’t get lost in the dense cloud cover and tall buildings overhead. The maps responded smoothly and reloaded quickly as we lost our way. The point of interest database was also robust, and it had local recommendations that were satisfying and accurate. No complaints here, TeleNav comes through again.

    Staying Informed – Very Good

    The Web browser on the Samsung Behold II is the standard Android browser, which is a good thing, as the Android browser does a fine job rendering our favorite pages. Navigating those sites is also a breeze, though we wish the phone had multi-touch gesture support, like the HTC Android phones we’ve used. Google Reader works very well on the Android browser, and our favorite news sites, like CNN and the New York Times, looked perfect, just like their desktop counterparts. The biggest problem we had was with the Wi-Fi performance. The phone didn’t bother to report a Wi-Fi connection in the menu bar up top, even when Wi-Fi was on and apparently connected to our WLAN. The Behold II was never able to connect with our home network, and even when it seemed to be connected to an open Wi-Fi network, it usually defaulted to T-Mobile’s 3G network for Web browsing. Because we never left a T-Mobile 3G coverage area, and you can’t turn off the 3G network on this device, we were left unsure if Wi-Fi was functioning properly at all.

    Price and availability

    The Samsung Behold II is available from T-Mobile for $230 with a contract agreement.

    [via infoSync]

     

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