Samsung Exhilarate Review

Introduction and Design

For the better part of the last few months, AT&T’s lineup has been flooded with an array of top-shelf smartphones such as the Nokia Lumia 900, HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S III, and Sony Xperia ion. Pouring out high-end devices consistently is nice and all, but for some consumers, they prefer the comforts of something less comprehensive – and at the same time, easier on the pockets when it comes to price. Time after time, Samsung has been there to heed the call with a solution, and sure enough, it seems that they’re at it once again here with the $49.99 on-contract eco-friendly Samsung Exhilarate.

The package contains:

  • microUSB cable
  • Energy efficient wall charger
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Safety Guide


We’ve seen this device before people, seeing that it shares many of the same design characteristics found with T-Mobile’s Samsung Galaxy Blaze 4G. For a device that’s constructed out of 80% recycled plastic, we’re astounded that the Exhilarate doesn’t exude a cheap build with its construction. Not only is it compact and lightweight (4.6 oz), but its rubbery patterned rear casing enables us to properly grip it in our hand. Although it lacks an original design, it’s still balanced enough to come off as a decent looking device – even more when it’s the most solid eco-friendly device we’ve come across!

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

With its capacitive Android buttons, they’re scrunched up against one another, which results in some annoying accidental presses. Meanwhile, above the display, we find its front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera, earpiece, and light & proximity sensors.

Feeling out its physical power button and volume control key, they’re raised enough for us to make out with our finger – while their responses are adequate. As for the rest clinging onto its sides, we’re presented with a 3.5mm headset jack, noise-cancellation microphone, microSD card slot, microUSB port, and standard mic.

Around the rear, the Exhilarate packs along a 5-megapixel auto-focus camera with LED flash – while two notches nearby hiding away its internal speaker. Removing the rear cover, we gain access to its 1,750 mAh battery and SIM slot.


Just like the first Galaxy S device for AT&T, the Samsung Captivate, the Exhilarate shares the same 4” WVGA (480 x 800) Super AMOLED display. By today’s standards, there isn’t as much fanfare surrounding it, but nevertheless, it still proves to be a standout attraction on the Exhilarate. Coughing up some sharp details for its screen size and resolution, we’re able to distinguish even the finest of text with no problems at all. And considering that it’s a Super AMOLED panel, our eyes are enticed by its vibrant colors tones, wide viewing angles, and high contrast. However, it still requires some shielding when using it outdoors under the presence of the sun.

Samsung Exhilarate 360-Degrees View:

Interface and Functionality:

Needless to say, we’d be in a lucid dream of some kind if we found the Exhilarate running the most up-to-date versions of Android and TouchWiz, but instead, it’s running the older build of TouchWiz on top of Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread. For the average consumer, it isn’t going to be much of an issue, seeing that it offers all of the lovable aspects of Google’s mobile platform – like its deep personalization and productivity aspects. So yeah, we’re not terribly bummed by its outdated experience, but more importantly, we’re curious to know when and if it’ll be updated.

After spending time with other handsets donning super large displays, we find ourselves cautious with our pace when it comes to typing up messages with its on-screen keyboards. Of course, its layout isn’t as spacious, but at least it’s responsive enough to keep us going at a good rate of input after some adjusting.

When it comes to the core organizer apps, the Exhilarate doesn’t deviate from the typical experience, as the calendar, calculator, clock, email, and Gmail apps all follow in form to what we’ve seen constantly in the past.

Out of the box, the smartphone is preloaded with a host of AT&T, Samsung, and third party apps. Specifically, it consists of AllShare, Amazon Kindle, AT&T Code Scanner, AT&T FamilyMap, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Featured Apps, Kiers air, AT&T Live TV, Media Hub, AT&T Messages, myAT&T, Qik Lite, Quickoffice, and YPmobile.

Processor and Memory:

Of late, mid-range devices have been blessed with dual-core processors, but the Samsung Exhilarate is powered by a single-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm processor with 1GB of RAM – thus, it’s more in line to being a low mid-range device. Now don’t thinking that it’s a bad thing, since the handset performs admirably with almost all tasks. Sure, there might be some instances of choppiness rearing its head somewhere every now and then, but it’s never impacting the experience negatively. Its benchmark scores are nothing worth writing home about, but nonetheless, its real world actions are agreeable.

Quadrant StandardAnTuTuNenaMark 2
Samsung Exhilarate 2639542252,8
Sony Xperia ion2833604436,4
Samsung Galaxy S III 53351201658,6
HTC One X AT&T4958686357,7

If you plan to store a lot of content on the Exhilarate, you might want to invest in putting in a microSD card since it has 1.4GB of USB storage out of the box – with another 0.93GB reserved for apps.

Internet and Connectivity:

For a device of its stature, the Exhilarate is able to impress us because it’s offering all of the modern conveniences of 4G LTE connectivity – so yes, data speeds are blazing! Even better, the handset performs handsomely in the web browsing department, as it’s able to deliver smooth navigational controls in the wake of heavy Flash content. In fact, it rarely slows down or exhibits any choppy tendencies with its performance.

Being a GSM phone and all, the Exhilarate benefits from being compatible with a host of GSM networks around the world – while 4G LTE connectivity is achieved domestically via AT&T. As usual, the handset offers connectivity options such as aGPS, Bluetooth 3.0, mobile hotspot functionality, and Wi-Fi.


Far from being the class-leading device for taking photos, the Exhilarate’s 5-megapixel camera manages to deliver some so-so looking shots. Specifically, it produces average details that enables us to make out some things in the shot, but its color reproduction has a washed out and bland appearance. In low lighting, noise becomes more pronounced, which then softens the overall tone of its images. Its LED flash on the other hand is effective up to 3 feet away, but anything more, it’s unable to maintain any color accuracy.

Likewise, we can say the same thing about its 720p video capture, seeing we’re not tremendously convinced by them. In fact, its details appear to be softer, with artifacting being evident as we pan very quickly from side to side. Fortunately, it captures at the smooth rate of 30 frames per second, while its audio recording rounds things out with its noise-free performance.

Samsung Exhilarate Sample Video:


There’s nothing particularly exciting with the handset’s TouchWiz music player, even more when it’s the same old one we find on many TouchWiz devices. Indeed, its presentation is rather boring by today’s standards, but it’s at least functional without being too complicated. As for the audio quality of its speaker, its output is likable thanks to its pleasant tones – plus, there are various equalizer setting to better enhance its quality.

Frankly, we’re spoiled by those gargantuan displays on some high-end smartphones, but nonetheless, the Exhilarate is still a worthy option if you can handle its smaller display. In fact, it’s able to play a video that’s encoded in MPEG4 1920 x 1080 resolution, but it tends to be somewhat sluggish with its playback. However, it handles 720p videos better, as we find ourselves being attracted to the iridescent glow of its Super AMOLED panel.

Calling Quality and Battery:

As a whole, the handset delivers a bearable calling experience, as our callers didn’t have any issues on their end of the line. However, through the earpiece, voices have a choppy tone to them, but we’re still able to comprehend things thanks to its strong volume. Switching over to the speakerphone, it produces some squeaky tones at the loudest volume setting.

During our time using the smartphone, we didn’t experience any major fluctuations with its signal strength, nor did it drop any calls.

Packing a 1,750 mAh battery inside of its body, we’re glad to say that its battery life is good – well, that’s when it’s running off HSPA+. We’re able to get 1 ½ days of normal usage on a single charge, but with LTE, it obviously sucks on juice like no other.


In an era where $100 can get you a pretty stacked smartphone, you’ll need to do a lot of thinking if you’re considering picking up the Samsung Exhilarate at $49.99 on-contract. Overall, we’re pleased by its well-balanced package – and it helps that it’s one of the better-looking eco-friendly devices out there! However, it’s rather difficult to put this into consideration knowing that for $50 more, you can pick up the Sony Xperia ion for $100 – or better yet, if you want to experience the best of the best, the Samsung Galaxy S III is there. Still, there’s a home for this little guy, seeing that not everyone is in the market for super spec’d smartphones. Therefore, if you prefer something that’s still capable of delivering a tasteful experience, the Samsung Exhilarate will no doubt exhilarate your interest.

Software version of the reviewed unit:

Android Version: 2.3.6

Kernel Version:


Samsung Exhilarate Review:


  • Pretty solid for an eco-friendly device
  • Affordable
  • Packs 4G LTE connectivity
  • Handles Flash heavy sites with no issues


  • Photos appear washed out
  • Paltry internal storage
  • Choppy voices through the earpiece
  • Doesn't run Android 4 ICS

PhoneArena Rating:


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