Samsung Epic 4G Review

Introduction and Design

Alright, so first has been done, now what? Meet the Samsung Epic 4G, the second WiMAX device in Sprint’s portfolio. It does what the EVO 4G doesn’t, most notably giving the user a hardware keyboard. But surely there is more to a device that demands a $50 premium over what we called the best phone on the market. Indeed there is. There is a positively stunning 4” Super AMOLED display, for starters. It’s not unique to the Epic and the entire Galaxy S lineup features the same panel, but that doesn’t make it any less gorgeous. There is also a 1GHz Hummingbird processor which lets the Epic 4G positively fly. Other key features include Wi-Fi, dual cameras (5 megapixel rear and VGA front,) six-axis motion sensing and, of course, WiMAX 4G. Included in the box you’ll find:

  • AC adapter with USB port
  • microUSB data cable
  • Stereo 3.5mm headphones
  • 16GB microSD memory card


The Samsung Epic 4G is an odd-feeling phone, but once we got used to it we like it. We’ve lauded Samsung for their high quality workmanship in the past, and we’re not saying that the Epic isn’t an example of this, just that it doesn’t necessarily feel like it. The phone feels too light for what it is, almost plasticy. The back door has a nice coat of soft touch paint to it, and the display utilizes top of the line Gorilla Glass, but something just feels off about the Epic 4G.

The build quality is great though, don’t get us wrong. The slide is butter smooth; it offers a good amount of resistance before it gets going, but then the spring assist kicks into place and the work is done for you. There is a very reassuring snap to it, and there is absolutely no play or wiggle in it whatsoever. The battery door employs the peel-off design we’ve not been too crazy about in recent Samsungs, but it fits well and all the seams on the Epic 4G are tight. The top of the phone features the 3.5mm headphone jack and the microUSB port, which has a nifty sliding cover.
The three side buttons (volume rocker to the left, power and camera to the right) are easy to find by feel alone and offer good travel when pressed.

Perhaps it’s just because we’ve gotten used to the EVO 4G by now, but the Epic just doesn’t feel gigantic in our hands. It is slightly smaller in length and width, but a bit chubbier thanks to the QWERTY keyboard. Still, those with petite hands will find the Epic 4G to be larger than they’re used to. Like the EVO, the Samsung Epic 4G is best held in landscape orientation and thanks to the QWERTY the user will be holding it that way more than an EVO user naturally would be.

You can compare the Samsung Epic 4G with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

Of course what is going to draw most users to the Epic 4G is the physical keyboard and the Super AMOLED display. The display is awesome, the keyboard could use some small tweaks but is better than most. Let’s start with the display; the big, beautiful display. We’ve seen the same panel on the Vibrant and Captivate by now, but it's still just as beautiful as ever. At 4” the WVGA display bursts with 16 million rich colors, including stunningly deep blacks. It’s not perfectly readable in direct, bright sunlight but it’s not unreadable either. Often times companies use fancy names to talk up unworthy technology, but the Super qualifier is definitely apt in this case. It is simply stunning for enjoying multimedia. On the other hand, reading small text might prove to be a problem, as it appears a bit dotted.

Along the bottom of the display are the four touch-sensitive action buttons; in order from left to right they are Menu, Home, Back and Search. Unfortunately, the keys disappear when they go dark, which they do by default after a few seconds. Luckily they follow the keyboard backlight setting so if you have it mirror your display this becomes less of an issue.

The keypad is large, the keys are well spaced and they have almost the perfect amount of travel. That said, we’ve yet to type with any real speed because of the feel. The keys aren’t quite slippery, but they would benefit greatly from a touch of gumminess. In part because of the lack of feel and in part because of the sheer size we couldn’t quite let go and just type, we always had to think about it more than we would have liked. We were incredibly accurate though, and we have a feeling that with more time with the phone it would grow on us. It’s not quite Touch Pro 2 or Bold good, but it’s still one of the better keyboards on the market.

It took a bit of getting used to, but we have come to enjoy the design and feel of the Samsung Epic 4G. There are definitely some tweaks we’d make, but on the whole it is as good as anything else out there right now. We prefer the rounded edges to the hard lines of the DROID and the slightly softer DROID 2. Despite the initial light feeling, it is apparent that the Epic has outstanding build quality.

Samsung Epic 4G 360 Degrees View:


The Samsung Epic 4G runs Android 2.1 for now, but Samsung has confirmed that the entire Galaxy S lineup will be upgraded to 2.2 in the near future. On top of Android runs Samsung’s TouchWiz 3.0 interface. While not a radical overhaul a-la Sense UI, TouchWiz attempts to address some of the shortcomings of the Android operating system by placing four dedicated buttons at the bottom (Phone, Contacts, Messaging and Applications,) adding a few home screens (7, in all,) reorganizing the app drawer (it uses swipeable pages instead of just a strait icon list) and some minor rework on things like the phonebook. TouchWiz also brings along a few custom widgets, including a weather, calendar and finance clock, a social network aggregation widget, a favorite people widget and a pretty useful program monitor widget. While TouchWiz 3.0 is a huge leap ahead from the God awful skin of the Behold II, almost all of it is unnecessary.

Sense was and still is the only custom skin to enhance the user experience for Android, but even it is losing its shine now that Android 2.2 is out. HTC has some very nice applications- such as their contacts and dialer programs- which add significant functionality beyond what stock Android has to offer. TouchWiz does none of this, and the widgets are ignorable at best. The Buddies Now widget, for example, takes up an entire screen but only displays one assigned favorite contact at a time. If the docked applications could be user-assigned then maybe things would be different (they can on other Galaxy S devices) but as it stands we’d recommend switching to LauncherPro or ADW launcher for your homescreen needs. LauncherPro Plus, available via donation, offers a decent replication of some HTC widgets which are all much better than what Samsung has to offer. Samsung seems intent on getting Froyo out to the Galaxy S lineup soon, but we can’t help but think it would have been much easier had they just stuck to a stock interface rather than attempted to tweak it.

*UPDATE (08.30.2010): In our video review (approximately 4:15 in) we mention that the app menu is not alphabetical for downloaded apps, and in fact you can see Latitude, Places and Navigation at the end of the list.  In what we can only assume to be a bug, downloaded apps take their rightful alphabetical place only after rebooting the device.

For a bit more in-depth look at the interface see our review of the T-Mobile Vibrant.


The Samsung Epic 4G supports every messaging standard you could want, including SMS, MMS and email. Gmail is of course a stand-alone app that replicates well the web experience. Other email accounts, including POP, IMAP and Exchange are handled by the Email app. In addition to the hardware keyboard, the standard Android on-screen keyboard is available, complete with voice recognition. Swype is also preloaded as the stock on-screen keyboard. For those unfamiliar with it, instead of tapping each letter as you type you simply run your finger from key to key without lifting until you’re done with the word. It definitely takes some getting used to, but was remarkably accurate even when we made some mistakes. The fact that there are different, innovative keyboards available serves to highlight what makes Android such a great platform.


Like the HTC EVO 4G, the Epic 4G is equipped with dual cameras. In this case Samsung has utilized a 5 megapixel rear-shooter with LED flash, complemented by a forward-facing VGA cam. This allows the Epic to use video chat applications like the pre-loaded Qik.

Picture quality was fairly good using the main camera. In our testing we found outdoor images to be pretty true to reality. Detail was good, lines were generally crisp and color reproduction was accurate. The Epic 4G features touch autofocus, allowing the user to choose what part of the image to focus on. As usual, the sensor size may not be up to par with the big boys but the picture quality was just as good, if not better. Speed was also good as well, autofocus takes about a second and from there the image can be captured in about half a second. With the review turned off you can capture two images in about 5 seconds.

Video can be captured at 720p, and results were quite good. We’ve seen better results from some phones that are camera-oriented, but this is without a doubt the best video phone for Sprint. (It is the third phone the carrier has offered with HD video recording, behind the Samsung Instinct HD and HTC EVO 4G.)

Samsung Epic 4G sample video 1 at 1280x720 pixels resolution.
Samsung Epic 4G sample video 2 at 1280x720 pixels resolution.


Samsung utilizes the standard Android music player, which is fine. The player offers everything you could really ask for, save an EQ, but is quite serviceable. It could definitely use a fresh coat of paint however. The general layout is easy enough to navigate, but it looks dated.

Let’s cut to the chase: there’s a good chance you’ll be looking at the Epic 4G because of the Super AMOLED display, and there is nowhere it shines more than for playing movies. We’re quite happy to report that the Epic handled every single one of our test files; we use H.264, MPEG-4, XviD and DivX in various resolutions and bitrates and rarely does a phone like every one of them. Our test files top at out 720p and the Epic played them like a champ, even though that is higher than the native 480x800 resolution.  There were no hiccups or stutters, videos played smoothly and flawlessly. If entertainment is your main concern then the Epic 4G is the phone for you (though we found ourselves wanting a kickstand!)

The AllShare app allows the Samsung Epic 4G to play nicely with any DNLA compliant device connected to the same Wi-Fi network. This means you can do things like stream music from your home computer or pictures to your TV. Samsung’s Media Hub will allow the user to rent and buy TV shows and movies directly from the device. The service is not yet up and running however so we were not able to test it out. Check back later for an update once the service becomes available.

Software and Connectivity:

As an Android handset the Samsung Epic 4G has access to over 75k applications via the Android Market, so the variety is great. There are a few preloaded apps, such as Qik and Asphalt 5, as well as the Sprint apps like Sprint TV, NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile, Sprint Navigation and the new Sprint Football Live which replaces NFL Mobile but now incorporates the college game as well. Samsung has included a file manager, memo pad and ThinkFree. ThinkFree 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. Despite its multimedia prowess the Epic’s hardware QWERTY lends itself to the suits quite nicely.

The WebKit-based Android browser is of course on board to serve you, and it does provide for a great overall experience, compared to most of the competition. Pages load very fast, and scrolling is generally smooth, while zooming can be accomplished by double-tap or multi-touch. We actually prefer the latter method, since double-tap doesn't work really great in Android. Of course, the advantage of this browser is that it can reformat the text so it fits your desired zoom level exactly. It does lack Flash Player 10.1 to give you that full web experience, but we have every reason to believe that it will get it with the upcoming Android 2.2 OS update.

The Samsung Epic 4G offers just about any means of connection you could need. Locally it supports Wi-Fi b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR with support for the HSP 1.2, HFP 1.5, OPP, PBA, A2DP 1.2, AVRC profiles. On the cellular side it has EVDO Rev. A for 3G data and WiMAX for 4G. We got to test out 4G recently in Vegas and despite a weak signal speeds were about three times faster than what we were pulling with 3G on the down, and about four times faster on the up. Sprint would do well to be aggressive with their 4G rollout if they want to take advantage of their first-to-market status. There are now two crazy powerful phones available, it would be nice if more people could use it.


Callers rated us an 8/10 while we were testing the Epic 4G. They reported no echo, and stated that we sounded clear with no nasal overtone. To us callers sounded clear and natural, with good background noise reduction. One of the big selling points of the Epic will be the battery life. We were able to achieve a full day’s use and have plenty left over when we plugged in before bed. For some this alone will be worth the $50 over the EVO 4G, which often needs to be charged mid-day.


The Samsung Epic 4G is second, and because of this it will eternally be compared with the HTC EVO 4G. The two are actually very complimentary devices, but the Epic 4G stands tall on its own. The Super AMOLED display is gorgeous, the hardware keyboard is a requirement for some and the 1GHz Hummingbird processor is snappy. The Epic plays well to both the professional and multimedia crowd, and will find a home in many pockets because of this. It is a versatile device that offers anything a user could want. Though the portfolio may only be two strong right now, Sprint has yet another 4G winner on their hands with the Samsung Epic 4G. Of course, it you don't enjoy the Epic 4G for one reason or another, you can safely choose the EVO 4G, which is also a remarkable device with great specs and execution.

Samsung Epic 4G Video Review:


  • Has a physical QWERTY keyboard
  • Great battery life
  • Screen is great for multimedia
  • Snappy performance
  • DLNA capable


  • Sports a smaller screen than the EVO 4G
  • The personalization pack is not necessarily needed
  • Lacks a kickstand

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