T-Mobile and Samsung went crazy preloading the Exhibit with apps, which you typically can't uninstall. We won't list them all, but we will touch on the biggies. First, there's Qik, the Skype-owned (now, Microsoft-owned) video chat app that makes use of the Exhibit's front-facing VGA camera. For media entertainment, there's also the Samsung MediaHub, a portal to TV and movie rentals. T-Mobile has its own solution too, with T-Mobile TV, a $9.99-per-month service for streaming live and on-demand programs. It has a free 30-day trial to get you started.
AllShare is Samsung's system for sharing multimedia to DLNA devices. DriveSmart is a native application on the Exhibit that will divert your incoming texts and calls to either your Bluetooth headset or to voice mail, sending a text notice in return that you're driving and can't get to the phone. T-Mobile's other services include Wi-Fi calling, visual voice mail, and shortcuts to online stores. There are also some productivity apps, there's the Lookout app for mobile security (free trial), and there's a social networking app called Write and Go, which lets you update status messages to sites, or send them as a text. Bejeweled 2 and Scrabble are two of the smartphone's onboard games.
We were generally pleased with the camera and camcorder, which both feature Google's usual tools for exposure, white balance, self-timers, and the works. Although we've certainly seen better quality on more premium cameras, the Exhibit did a good job taking outdoor photos, and it struggled less than other shooters on indoor shots, even if not every indoor or night shot was the greatest. Color fidelity tended to suffer indoors, with images darkening and looking less vibrant once the picture processed.
We were impressed that the auto-focus succeeded in mostly stabilizing a well-lit inside image shot from moving exercise equipment. Our biggest complaint was the lag we found in the camera software. We missed a few choice shots waiting for the shutter to snap.
Video replay was smooth, without jerkiness, even while we walked and shot. We did notice a second of pixelation in one video, however. Volume was also high and colors were true, though unsurprisingly sharper and more vibrant for videos recorded outdoors. As usual, you can use photos on your phone or export videos and images to share via e-mail, messaging, and social networks.
The Exhibit has 512MB RAM and comes with a 4GB expandable card preinstalled. It takes up to 32GB memory total.
PerformanceWe tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS 1700/2100) on T-Mobile's network in San Francisco. Call quality was acceptable overall, with strong volume and background clarity on both ends of the line. Voice fidelity was where we differed. On our end, voices sounded warm enough, just not crystal clear; "gauzy" or "foggy" is the best way we can describe it. On their end, callers said we sounded hollow and echoey, and while we didn't sound robotic, we also didn't quite sound like ourselves.
Samsung Exhibit 4G call quality sampleListen now:
Speakerphone impressed us with strong volume, although it did decrease slightly for our listeners. We heard a faint rattle at times when our callers spoke, and voices had the characteristically tinny overtones we always get with this feature. For their part, callers said we sounded clear, with no background noise.
4G performance is the looming question on any 4G phone, and from where we sit, the Exhibit largely delivers on its promise. Speeds were pretty zippy on T-Mobile's HSPA+ network, although they never came close to T-Mobile's stated theoretical speeds of 21Mbps for downloads and 5.76Mbps for uploads. Part of that is because actual speeds vary by everything from network strength in your location to the network load; that is, how many people are using data at a given time. It's also common for us San Franciscans to clock slower speeds than our New York colleagues. Our diagnostic tests using the Speedtest.net app are in keeping with the trend, averaging from about 4Mbps to 6Mbps down (7.4Mbps was our high) and ranging from 0.36 to 1.37Mbps up in a series of tests.
To accompany the diagnostic results, we also ran the usual real-world tests. It took about 6 to 7 seconds to load CNET's mobile site and only 20 seconds to completely load the graphics-heavy full CNET.com. The New York Times' mobile site loaded in 9 seconds, followed by just 13 seconds to load in full. Even with the stopwatch turned off, speeds were markedly faster with the Exhibit than with your typical 3G phone.
Navigating the phone was no problem with the Exhibit's 1GHz Hummingbird processor. Again, the only complaint is the lag time between pressing the onscreen camera control and having the software process the image; it wasn't as immediate a response as we would have liked.
The Exhibit has a 1,500maH lithium ion battery and a rated battery life of 6.5 hours talk time and 14.5 days. Keep in mind that heavy data usage will shrink how many hours your battery lasts throughout the day, even if you're not a big talker. We had a tested talk time of 6 hours and 18 minutes. FCC tests measured the Exhibit's digital SAR at 0.57 watts/kilogram.