Samsung Instinct HD Review

Messaging:

The Instinct had the best landscape onscreen QWERTY we’d ever encountered at the time, and the HD carries on this tradition. The Instinct had the stupidest portrait keyboard we’d ever encountered at the time, and the HD carries on this tradition as well. The landscape QWERTY offers visual, tactile and audio feedback and we couldn’t confuse it even when we tried. Auto-correct is now an option in the settings menu, instead of being hidden within the messaging app, and when we did make a mistake more often than not the Instinct HD fixed it for us.



For some reason the portrait keyboard is still alphabetical, which makes no sense at all. It is not intuitive, it is not easy to use and it just plain sucks. It should be a T9 keyboard like on phones such as the Memoir, but at the very least it should be a cramped QWERTY. This continues to perplex and frustrate us.

All types of messaging are handled in nearly identical fashion as before. Text messages are threaded, the phone supports picture and video messaging and email is handled by the Sprint Mobile Email app, which has Exchange support. It should be noted that HD videos are too large to share over picture mail.

There was not an IM client available when the original Instinct launched, and the s30 did not come with one preloaded. Fortunately, there is one for the HD, which can be found on the Main menu. The service supports AIM, Yahoo! Messenger and Windows Live, just like the previous IM client. The interface has been reworked; the layout is better and it is in landscape mode versus portrait. The program pseudo runs in the background, but alerts arrive as a text and they don’t always arrive in a timely fashion. When open it works just fine and gets the job done.

Connectivity and Data:

The Instinct HD brings back EV-DO Rev. A and has Wi-Fi as well. For local connectivity it offers Bluetooth 2.1+EDR; profiles include HSP 1.1, HFP 1.5, DUN, OPP, FTP, PBA, A2DP, AVRC. Paring device is easy enough and in general you won’t need to enter passwords since the HD tries all common ones.

The high speed connectivity is much better utilized this time around with the Opera Mobile browser. Not only is it the first non-Windows Mobile device to sport the browser, but it is also the first device to offer version 9.7 with some Flash support. The banner or focal point of pages like ESPN, adobe.com and our own website loaded properly, but when we tried to play embedded videos or use the desktop YouTube page it said our Flash player was out of date. Still, when phones like the iPhone and Pre can’t handle Flash it’s impressive to see it in a feature phone. Performance is very similar to what we’ve seen from Opera Mobile on previous devices like the HTC Touch Diamond and Pro. With the lower resolution text isn’t legible when zoomed out, but a simple double tap zooms in and fixes that issue. It’s a drastic improvement over the original Samsung browser and even Opera Mini which was included on the s30, but wasn’t the default browser.



Camera:

One of the Instinct HD’s calling cards is the 5 megapixel autofocus camera with HD video recording.  Pictures can be captured at 5MP (2529x1944), 3MP, 2MP or VGA resolution, and videos can be shot in HD (1280x720), VGA or QVGA.  The first Instinct didn’t allow for any adjustments to the camera, but now you can tweak all kinds of settings such as ISO, white balance, exposure, anti-shake and many others including a 5 and 10sec self timer.  The auto-focus offers a macro mode as well as face detection, and the LED flash can be controlled manually if you desire.  Unfortunately it does not have the slick panoramic mode found on many newer Samsungs, including Sprint’s Reclaim.

Results were good but nothing ground-breaking.  Details were sharper than most cell phone cameras, but nothing like you’d find on a good point and shoot.  Color representation was overall pretty good as well; some of our images were taken on a cloudy day and the camera captured that mood well.  The pictures taken in bright sunlight produced much better results as you would expect.  The macro mode had mixed results; a few of our pictures were very crisp, but others had some blur and some were unusable.  The flash did its job from about 12 feet and in, which is rather impressive for a single LED.  Despite all of this the images didn’t have any real pop to them and looking at the pictures it is clear that they were taken with a camera phone most of the time.





The video camera has fewer options than the camera, but covers your basics with white balance, exposure, contrast and a few others.  For a phone touting its HD recording capabilities we’d have expected more options, such as slow motion recording.  The results were pretty good, but again it’s not something you’d replace a real video camera with.  It is, however, better than an entry level camcorders like the Flip HD.  With the included 4GB memory card you can record about 1.25 hours of video, but as mentioned HD video cannot be sent over MMS.

Samsung Instinct HD sample videos at 1280x720 pixels resolution: Sample 1, Sample 2

Multimedia:

The media player is pretty much the same as before, but the upgraded screen makes for a much better video experience. The music player is good enough, but like the original the Instinct HD had issues recognizing ID3 tags; many of our albums weren’t read at all, while others got artist, song and album information but the album art was not loaded. Sound out of the single speaker was pretty good, but being rear-facing the sound was often dampened. The 3.5mm headset jack allows you to use higher quality headphones than the included set, and trust us you’ll want to. In addition to playback the Sprint Music Store allows users to download tracks OTA for $0.99.


Video playback looked excellent on the high quality display. It couldn’t handle our H.263 files, but the H.264 files played fine at resolutions ranging from 176x144 to 800x480 and frame rates of 15-60fps. Our Monsters vs. Aliens HD resolution trailer looked phenomenal; the Instinct HD is right there with the iPhone and Pre in leading the industry for video playback. The Instinct HD offers video out to your HDTV via an optional HDMI cable that will set you back $19.99. For $250, or even $200, we’d expect this to be included.



SprintTV performance seems to have improved and looks on par with the Pre. Sprint Radio again delivers content by genre and offers many local stations as well. We prefer Pandora, but it’s not a bad app. Pandora was actually available on the original, so we’d imagine a version will be available for the HD as well.

Software:

The Instinct HD finally has some real apps, including Facebook , Twitter and Google Maps. Some of these, like YouTube, are still web links, but the aforementioned ones are are all stand alone applications.  More standard software is included as well also, such as Sprint Navigation and the aforementioned SprintTV and Radio. It runs Java apps, but they must be designed for the phone since there are no soft keys, nor hard input.





The excellent Live Search is included and makes searching local businesses as easy as can be. The app can be launched by voice, and then you search either category or business name with your voice as well. Simply tap on the result you want and you have one click to share the info (via text,) call the business or launch Sprint Navigation to direct you there.

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