Samsung Continuum Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

A few months ago when the Samsung Fascinate, a Galaxy S smartphone, was released for Verizon, it was the first device for the carrier to sport a Super AMOLED display. Now a new Galaxy S-branded model has hit the streets, just in time for the Holiday shopping season – the Samsung Continuum i400. Both devices share similar features, such as running on the Android 2.1 operating system with Samsung’s TouchWiz 3 user interface, as well as having a 1GHz Hummingbird processor and a 5MP autofocus camera. So what’s the difference, you may ask? It basically comes down to a few things: the Continuum has two Super AMOLED displays (more on that later), and it’s overall a smaller device.

Included in the retail package is the Samsung Continuum i400 smartphone, 1500mAh battery, pre-installed 8GB microSDHC memory card, wall charger with detachable microUSB cable, and user guides.

Design:

When looking at the Samsung Continuum and Fascinate side-by-side, both devices are made out of plastic and sport the same all-black exterior and checkered pattern on the back, though the Continuum lacks the chrome accent around the sides. In fact, the Continuum looks like a smaller brother of the Fascinate, and holding the Continuum feels more comfortable due to its more compact size and rounded edges, but larger hands may be OK with the size of the Fascinate or even the Motorola DROID X.




You can compare the Samsung Continuum with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

One feature that we liked about the Samsung Fascinate was the impressive 4” Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 480x800 that was a pleasure to watch videos on, but we didn’t care for the fact that small text from web pages looked pixelated on the screen. The Continuum instead has two Super AMOLED displays – the main one is 3.4” with a resolution of 480x800, and the second “ticker” display is 1.8” with a 480x96 pixel resolution. Because of the difference in the main screen size (4” to 3.4”), but having the same WVGA resolution, we found that text and images on the Continuum look sharper and clearer than on the Fascinate. However, the more interesting part is the independent ticker display located at the bottom. Whenever you receive a new social network feed (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace), RSS update, a new email, text message, or phone alert, the ticker will automatically come on and show it on the bottom screen. Now say you want to activate the ticker on your own, you can touch the sides of the phone (on either side of the ticker) and it will come on, while the main display remains off. If you then press the little up-arrow on the right side of the ticker, it will then turn on the main display and show all your feeds and updates on the larger screen. A few other areas where the ticker comes in handy is with the music player, as it will act as the music controls when you are doing other tasks on the main display (such as web browsing), and it will also show your next turn when using VZ Navigator (but not Google Maps Navigation). Overall, we do like the functionality of the ticker display, as it is easy to use for checking on items and draws less power than having to use the larger display on top. The only issue we encountered is that located between the two displays are the four touch-sensitive buttons for the menu, home, back and search, and we would occasionally touch the ticker display by accident when we meant to press one of the buttons above it.


Located on the sides of the Continuum is the volume rocker, camera key, microSD memory card slot (32GB supported), 3.5mm headset jack, and power/lock button. We also prefer that the microUSB charging port is on the left side, instead of being on the top, like on the Fascinate. On the back is the 5MP autofocus camera with LED flash, and a set of stereo speakers, which most phones only have one speaker.



Samsung Continuum 360-degree View:





Interface and Functionality:

The software included on the Samsung Continuum is pretty much an exact clone of what is on the Fascinate, so we’re not going to go into great detail here. Needless to say, there are the 7 homescreens that you can add shortcuts and widgets to, including the specific Samsung TouchWiz 3 widgets for additional clocks, buddies now, daily briefing, day’s diary, program monitor, and weather. The bottom of the screen contains four icons for accessing the phone dialer, contacts, messaging and applications – that continues to use the left-and-right movable app screen that is shown in a grid view.

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Even though the Continuum and Fascinate both have a 5MP autofocus camera with LED flash, we did notice some differences. For starters, we saw that the “haze” (that was on the Fascinate) is now gone and not present on the Continuum’s pictures. Because of this, outside images that we took were sharp and crisp looking with accurate colors and saturation, though fine-detail was still lacking. Unfortunately, things got worse when we moved indoors, as images were very fuzzy (almost blurry looking) and there was even a more noticeable loss of detail. The flash on the Continuum also did a better job of illuminating the scene than the flash on the Fascinate.




For videos, the Continuum also allows for recordings at 1280x720p at 30fps (same as the Fascinate), and there was no noticeable difference in the quality between them, as playback was smooth and colors were accurate. Keep in mind that the recent Android 2.2 update that was sent out to the Motorola DROID X now allows for it to record at 30fps, where before it was limited to only 24fps.

Samsung Continuum Sample video:



When it comes to music playback, the Samsung Continuum and Fascinate are two of the few smartphones that excel in both presentation and performance, moving them into the upper echelon of Verizon’s Android pack. The tabs on the top of the music player allow sifting through your collection by artist, album and playlists, or display all at once. The landscape mode brings along some nice eye candy, like CD cover flow or an alphabetical wheel, to pick your music from. Sharing the song via email or Bluetooth is done from the context menu while playing. Aside from showing the album cover while playing a selection, we like how there's an option to enable a visualization to run. The current song will keep playing in the background when the main screen is locked or in use by another app, but the ticker display at the bottom will continue to show a “mini music player” with the album cover art and player controls – this is really cool. We're also happy to say that music quality from the rear stereo speakers was excellent and louder than from any other Verizon phone we can remember testing. If you prefer to keep your tunes to yourself, you'll be surprised to hear the level of quality when using a pair of ear phones. There is also a 5.1 channel sound effect, which makes everything sound more full bodied and natural, and a nice selection of preset equalizer settings and additional sound effects, such as wide, concert hall, and bass enhancement.

There’s a good chance you’re looking at the Samsung Continuum because of the Super AMOLED displays, and there is nowhere else it shines more for than playing movies. We’re quite happy to report that the device handled every single one of our test files; we use H.264, MPEG-4, XviD and DivX in various resolutions and bitrate. Our test files top at out 720p and the Continuum played them like a champ. There were no hiccups or stutters, videos played smoothly and flawlessly. Movies also looked a bit sharper on the Continuum than the Fascinate (due to the higher pixel density), though the Fascinate’s screen is larger, which some may prefer


All of your multimedia files get organized in the Gallery, which offers some nice 3D effects, batch view by date/time, and grid view. It automatically indexes the pictures and videos stored on the memory card and on the phone, which cuts down on thumbnail load times. Images can be rotated and cropped right in the gallery, uploaded to Picasa and Facebook, or sent via email, MMS or Bluetooth. The Samsung AllShare function is also here, if you happen to have a DLNA capable TV to watch the pictures or videos from the phone on the big screen. Videos can also be uploaded straight from the gallery to YouTube.





Internet and Connectivity:

The Samsung Continuum i400 is a dual-band CDMA (800/1900 MHz) handset with high speed data connectivity available through 3G EVDO Rev A or Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n. Supported Bluetooth profiles include headset, handsfree, stereo, phonebook access, object push for VCard & VCalendar only, generic audio/video distribution, audio/visual distribution, audio/visual remote control.

The standard WebKit-based Android browser is on board to serve your browsing needs, and it does provide for a great overall experience. Pages load very fast and scrolling is smooth, while zooming can be accomplished by double-tap or multi-touch. Of course, the advantage of this browser is that it can reformat the text so it fits your desired zoom level exactly. Even though it doesn’t come with full Flash Player 10.1 (yet), the browser does include Flash Lite to help give you that feeling of a full web experience, but we have every reason to believe that it will get Flash 10.1 with the upcoming Android 2.2 OS update. Like we mentioned earlier, due to the higher pixel density, small text on web pages are sharper than what we saw with the Fascinate, so you don’t have to zoom-in as much for text to be legible.



Software:

Since the Continuum is a Verizon device, where would it be without included the apps for VCast Music, Tones, and Videos, as well as VZ Navigator for GPS guided driving directions (Google Maps with Navigation can be download from the Market). We tested VZ Navigator and Google Maps with Navigation to see if it had the same problem locking onto our GPS that we saw with the Fascinate, which took up to 5 minutes. Thankfully it did not, as the Continuum would acquire our GPS location in about 40 seconds from a cold start. Between these two apps, we prefer the Google Maps with Navigation since it is free to use, unlike VZ Navigator which cost $9.99 per month. But the VZ Navigator will also work with the ticker display to show your next turn.


As an Android handset, the Samsung Continuum has access to over 70K applications via the Android Market, so the variety is great. There are a few preloaded apps, such as 3G Mobile Hotspot for connecting up to 5 devices wirelessly, Blockbuster movie service, City ID, Kindle, Skype, Twidroyd, Scrabble and Tetris. Samsung has included a file manager, memo pad and ThinkFree, which is a full Microsoft Office compatible suite that offers local and online document storage, and allows for creation and editing of Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, as well as viewing PDF files.





Performance:

The included Cortex A8 Hummingbird processor is fast, humming along at 1GHz speed. There was no delay when moving between the 7 home screens, as well as opening apps and switching between them. There is also 2GB of memory on-board, which is used for saving your apps, and also has 512MB of ROM and 384MB of RAM. We are glad to see a preinstalled 8GB microSDHC memory card to provide plenty of room to store your pictures, music, and videos. We preformed the Quadrant Benchmark on the Continuum, which tests the CPU, memory, I/O, 2D and 3D graphics, and got a score of 850, while the Fascinate got 892, and the Motorola DROID X with Android 2.2 got 1410. It appears that the Continuum and Fascinate are slower with the I/O tests, and we’ve heard that this may actually be some type of bug, but for the Graphics tests it was the fastest and showed up to 50-60fps.

We are also glad to hear that the Continuum is just as good with call quality as the Fascinate, as there was no background noise or echoes, and voices were clear and produced natural tones. The speakerphone on the Continuum was noticeably louder due to the two rear speakers, but it experienced some distortion at its highest level, so we had to turn it down a bit for it to sound clearer. Reception on the Continuum was also quite good, with 3-4 bars showing and with a signal of -89 dBm, while the Fascinate wasn’t as good with -96dBm, though the Motorola DROID X was in the middle with a signal of -94 dBm. But regardless, we didn’t drop any calls while using these phones.

The included 1500mAh battery with the Continuum is rated to provide up to 7 hours of talk time or 13 days of standby time on a full charge. During our testing, we were able to achieve the 7 hours of continuous talk time (same as on the Fascinate), though the Motorola DROID X is still king here with 9.5 hours of talk time. For mixed usage, which includes some talk, text, email, web, app use, and standby, we were able to get about a full 24 hours of use on the Continuum and Fascinate, while the DROID X got up to 32 hours.

Conclusion:

With all things considered, there’s a lot to like about the Samsung Continuum – the dual Super AMOLED displays, fast 1GHz Hummingbird processor, 5MP autofocus camera with 720p video recording, superb music and video playback, and excellent call quality and reception. Even though the current thinking of “a larger display is better” when it comes to a phone’s screen size, it can make the phone feel too big and uncomfortable in most people’s hand, and that’s why we like the Continuum a bit more than the Fascinate – as it’s a nice size that most people will be comfortable with. But it’s good that there’s a choice between them, and with the DROID X, for those who do want a bigger phone with a larger display.

Software on tested device: Android 2.1, Build: DJ20

Samsung Continuum Video Review:





Pros

  • Fits comfortably in the hand
  • Dual Super AMOLED displays
  • Fast 1GHz Hummingbird processor
  • Stereo speakers for good music playback
  • Above average call quality

Cons

  • Can’t replace the Bing search widget with Google
  • Back of the phone feels slippery

PhoneArena Rating:

9.0

User Rating:

9.0
2 Reviews

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