Samsung Katalyst Review

Introduction and Design

While T-Mobile is finally executing their 3G rollout, for those who wanted to stick with them and get high speed, the only real way was to get their Hotspot @Home service. There are only four handsets available for the service and the one we’ll be looking at is the Samsung Katalyst. Looking over the specs, there’s really nothing that makes it special so can this simple handset really be worth it? Let’s find out.


The Katalyst is made up of gray and chrome plastic that feels somewhat cheap but at least it’s supportive enough to prevent the handset from slipping out of your hands. As with sliders, the front is dominated by a TFT display that does a good job of showing true colors and detail. We did have trouble making out was on shown in bright environments even with the brightness turned all of the way up. Just below it will be the navigation and calling keys arranged in which are large enough to be easily used. Along the left are the volume rocker and the headphone/charger slot while the right holds the camera shortcut. On the back is the 1.3MP camera right next to speakerphone. There are two oddities in the layout the first of which being that they mirror is on the back of the upper portion of the slider. Our worry was that it would be too high to be useful but it actually captured the field very well. The second is that the microSD card slot is located inconveniently underneath the battery. That’s right; no quick hot swapping your cards here, the Katalyst will have to be shutoff each time.

You can compare the Samsung Katalyst to many other phones, using PhoneArena's Visual Size Compare tool.

Moving on, once the slider is open, which is very easy to open thanks to the spring mechanism, it will reveal a keypad where the keys are laid out in four rows with spaces separating the rows but not the keys. It’s very comfortable to use, nonetheless, even though you may have to take a quick glance down every now and then to make sure that the right button is being pressed.

Samsung Katalyst Video Review:

Samsung Katalyst 360 Degrees View:

Features and software:

Despite its flashy name, there is nothing special or cutting edge about from the design to the software. The home screen has the usual Samsung layout, i.e. time, date, battery life, and reception at the top, myFaves symbols in the center, and shortcuts at the bottom. Once in the main menu, the only color found is in the banner and the highlighted icon. It’s laid out in a 3x3 grid with all of the applications going into logical menus. Almost all of the programs are crammed into the fun and apps menu, this includes the games, camera, music player, organizer tools, files such as music and images, and voice commands. Voice notes seem to be getting important as they have their own shortcut. IM clients are available in the form of AIM, ICQ, Windows Live, and Yahoo! Messenger and they continue to have the same layout and functions found in other Samsung handsets such as the Blast.

Messaging consists of text, picture messages, and voice notes and email can be accessed through t-zones only. The phonebook is pretty typical as it shows the contact, their number, and where it’s stored. You can add mobile, home, office, or a fax number, small notes, email address, ringtone, picture id, and assign them to a group but that’s about all that can be done with contacts.

The camera layout is the same as in other Samsung handsets; quick features, such as zoom, can be accessed from the home screen while others such as settings and shooting effects are in the options menu. Picture quality was mediocre and photos tended to come out washed out, blurry, and somewhat dark. The music player is a carry over as well meaning that the d-pad controls the main actions while you have to go into them menu to change other settings, where you’ll only find volume and visualization. The browser is close to useless as it can only open up simple pages and wasn’t even able to load our website.

So, it appears that the only exciting thing, if that can be said, with this handset is the Hotspot @Home connection. Simply put, the handset uses its Wi-Fi to connect to a wireless network and that is used instead of the GSM network, think of something like Skype. It can be done through just about any wireless router that is configured properly or an @Home one so the one sitting at home doesn’t have to be replaced. It can work with or without the add-on plan but if one isn’t purchased, it will just use up your regular minutes. It promises better reception and longer battery life but we’ll see if that holds up in our tests. Just how easy is it to setup? As simple as plug and play even into another preconfigured router. No settings have to be changed and unless you have some strict policies one your configuration, there shouldn’t be any problems. At locations that are have T-Mobile Hotspots, the handset will automatically connect to the network.


With the Katalyst being slim, our concern was that reception would suffer but we are happy to report that it has strong reception. We managed to have signal almost anywhere, even to places where the majority of the handsets couldn’t. In our location where we were testing the @Home connection, we were receiving one to two bars on the GSM network but once we connected to the router, no less then four bars were seen constantly.

Sound quality was just as impressive as voices came through clearly and crisply through the earpiece but once you switch to the speakerphone, things go slightly downhill. Everything sounded somewhat muffled and hard to understand at times. The other end didn’t see as dramatic of a change and we came through loud and clear. When connected to the @Home router, sound quality improved greatly and the people on the other side thought we were using a landline.

The ringer was very quiet and muffled since it is played through the speakerphone. In quiet to moderately loud environments, we experienced no difficulty hearing a call but once in a loud area, it could not be heard unless the handset was close to our ear.

Battery life is just astounding during our single charge test. The Katalyst is rated for 5 hours of talk time but we got 8 hours and 5 minutes in our experience. When using the @Home network, it lasted for 7 hours and 36 minutes. Standby time is rated for 250 hours.


So, the Katalyst may be a boring handset with so-so features but it performs great where it needs to, during usage. It has a great reception strength, strong battery life, and clear sound quality. On top of that, the Hotspot @Home service is just another perk whether or not the plan is used. So, if you want to save some money by not getting a landline but have little to no reception inside the house, definitely check out T-Mobile’s Hotspot @Home and the Katalyst will add onto that even when you’re traveling around.


  • Great sound quality
  • Strong Reception
  • Long battery life
  • Hotspot @Home is a bonus for those planning to ditch landlines


  • Pointless web browser
  • Mediocre photo quality
  • Quiet Ringer

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4 Reviews

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