T-Mobile Prism review:

T-Mobile Prism

I tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Prism in San Francisco using T-Mobile's network. Call quality was acceptable -- voices came off clearly in both indoor and outdoor calls, and there were no extraneous buzzing. Audio was continuous, as it didn't cut in and out, and none of my calls were dropped. My friends could hear me clearly and audio on my end was decent.

Listen now T-Mobile Prism call quality sample

The camera's photo quality was expectedly poor. Because the processor isn't fast, the shutter speed is slow, as well. I had to hold the device very still after clicking the shutter to prevent motion blur. But even that didn't help much. The edges of objects were ill-defined, as if dabbed on with a paintbrush. Colors were dulled and objects were pixelated and grainy.

View full gallery
Even the large amount of outdoor sunlight couldn't help the blurry edges of this photo. Lynn La/CNET
View full gallery
In this indoor shot, colors were muted and the edges of the bricks and tiles bled together. Lynn La/CNET
View full gallery
Our standard studio shot shows images that are grainy and a low range of color. Lynn La/CNET

Video quality also was below par. During my shooting time, images were heavily pixelated and blurry. Colors were muted and grainy, too. Feedback lagged a little, but not so much that it was too bothersome. Audio came off as too sharp and harsh at times, though sounds could be heard at a decent volume. Since there's no focusing feature, lighting was over the place. Some objects were washed out while other dark objects were hard to distinguish.

For the most part, T-Mobile's network was reliable, and clocked in some decent 3G speeds. Loading the CNET mobile site took an average of just nine seconds, while loading our full site took 45 seconds. The New York Times full site took shorter on average, clocking in at 22 seconds, and its mobile site took a mere 11 seconds to load. ESPN’s mobile site took 12 seconds and its full site clocked in at 27 seconds to load on average. Ookla's Speedtest app, which is 2.99MB, took 21 seconds to install, and showed me an average of 3.17Mbps down and 0.19Mbps up.

The handset's reported talk time is 6.5 hours. During our battery drain tests, it lasted 8.32 hours. Anecdotally, battery life is satisfactory. I still had about a third of battery power left at the end of the day, after I surfed the Web, made calls, and watched YouTube videos. According to FCC radiation tests, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 1.11W/kg.

For someone who's looking to be a first-time smartphone owner and doesn't care about data speeds, the T-Mobile Prism is a decent start. Though the carrier offers other entry-level phones, like the LG Doubleplay and the Samsung Gravity Lunar for free, the Prism still has a cleaner look or newer OS.

However, for just $10 more, I'd consider the Samsung Exhibit II 4G instead. It's still a T-Mobile handset, but as you may have guessed, it runs on its 4G network. And if you want to watch your videos, load your maps, or read your e-mails faster, the extra money forked over will be worth it.

Editors' Top PicksSee All

  • Samsung Galaxy S7

    Starting at: $589.00
    4.5 stars

    We reviewed the new Samsung Galaxy S7 in London, Berlin, San Francisco and Sydney. It's...

  • Apple iPhone 6S

    Starting at: $32.41
    4.5 stars

    3D Touch promises a new type of future input on iPhones. It joins an improved camera and...

  • OnePlus 3

    Starting at: $489.99
    4.5 stars

    You just don't see cheap phones with this combination of price, polish and prime-time...

  • Motorola Moto G4

    Starting at: $149.99
    4 stars

    The G4 packs everything you need from an everyday phone into a water-resistant body. And...


Discuss: T-Mobile Prism (grey)

Conversation powered by Livefyre