Samsung Galaxy Pro review: Samsung Galaxy Pro

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CNET Editors' Rating

2.5 stars OK

Average User Rating

1.5 stars 2 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Excellent Qwerty keyboard; lightweight; decent camera.

The Bad Terrible screen; doesn't run latest version of Android; incompatible with some apps and games.

The Bottom Line The Samsung Galaxy Pro's keyboard is undeniably fantastic but, otherwise, this Android phone is disappointing, with its screen being particularly poor. Its low price and half-decent camera are some compensation, but there are better phones to be had.

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The Samsung Galaxy Pro is an Android phone with a BlackBerry-style Qwerty keyboard, as well as a touchscreen. It's pretty affordable too, so it could appeal to those who hanker after physical buttons.

The Galaxy Pro is available for free on a £15-per-month contract, while it will set you back around £130 on a pay as you go deal. SIM-free prices start at around the £200 mark.

Should I buy the Samsung Galaxy Pro?

Manufacturers of Android smart phones know that not everyone wants a touchscreen-only device. There are still millions of people who value good old-fashioned buttons. To that end, we've see a few BlackBerry-style Android handsets, including the lacklustre Acer beTouch E210 and the excellent, but expensive, HTC ChaCha

But the Galaxy Pro's biggest rival is still to be found among RIM's range of BlackBerry devices. Given the Pro's low pay as you go price, its closest challenger is the BlackBerry Curve 8520, which some stores are selling for around £120 on pay as you go.

There's no question that, despite the lack of 3G and RIM's often outdated method of doing things, the Curve represents a much better choice if you really demand physical buttons. It's a phone that's built around the keyboard, while the Pro feels like an Android device that has had a keyboard forced upon it, with occasionally unpleasant results.

Still, if you're a fan of buttons but wish to try a new operating system, the Pro may prove a cheap method of making the transition from keyboard to touchscreen with as little trauma as possible.

Software

Like its siblings, the Galaxy Mini and Galaxy Fit , the Galaxy Pro runs Android 2.2 Froyo. This isn't the most up-to-date version of Google's mobile OS -- that distinction is reserved for Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which is loaded onto the flagship Galaxy S2 -- but it's hardly light years behind, either.

You can still access the Android Market, connect seamlessly with Google applications such as Gmail and Maps, multitask with several apps open at once, and do all sorts of other neat tricks. This iteration of Android also offers the ability to store app data on your microSD card, freeing up storage space on the phone.

Samsung likes to install its TouchWiz user interface on the phones it sells, but the Galaxy Pro rocks a fairly stripped-down version. You won't find any of the unique widgets and custom menus that make the Galaxy S2 so appealing. What you have here is an almost vanilla version of Froyo, with only very minor concessions to the TouchWiz aesthetic.

There's the usual Samsung app store, which essentially offers much of the same content that's available in the Android Market, and a pre-installed file manager that helps you keep your phone's SD card in order. There's also Samsung's Social Hub app for keeping up-to-date with your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Still, you're better off with the official apps for those services.

Out of the box, the Galaxy Pro sports three separate home screens, but you can add four more if you wish, bringing the total up to seven. These can be packed with shortcuts, live widgets and other time-saving devices, such as toggles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other system settings.

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You can have up to seven home screens (left), and Samsung's file manager is also included (right).

Android's famous drag-down notification bar is included too, and Samsung has added a bank of buttons that allows for quick access to certain important elements of your phone's functionality.

Interface

Possibly the most notable aspect of the entire phone is the four-tier Qwerty keyboard that takes up over a third of the Galaxy Pro's front. Thirty-nine individual buttons have been packed into this tactile treasure trove, and, while we're not convinced that it will give  Swype -loving touchscreen typists any sleepless nights when it comes to text input speed, it's certainly one of the most comfortable keyboards we've seen recently.

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The Galaxy Pro's 39-button Qwerty keyboard is definitely its most appealing feature.

Each button has a sloping shape, and, although there's scant space between them, you're unlikely to press two simultaneously once your fingers become acclimatised. There's a pleasing degree of travel to each button too. The only negative we can offer up is that the spacebar is a little small.

Although deactivated by default, you can enable the on-screen virtual keyboard if you wish. It's ultimately a pointless gesture, though, as the keyboard takes up almost the entire screen. This is possibly why Samsung has chosen to omit the trace-to-type Swype keyboard, which has been an ever-present feature on most of the company's Android devices.

Design

The challenge of fitting in a decent Qwerty keyboard has forced Samsung's designers to make the Galaxy Pro a seriously wide handset. At just under 67mm wide and 108mm tall, it feels rather dumpy, although it's still eminently pocket-friendly. While not pleasing to the eye, these dimensions do at least make the handset easy to hold. There's no danger of the Galaxy Pro slipping from your grip due to its size.

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It's not as thin as its sibling, the Galaxy S2, but the Galaxy Pro is still pretty slim.

Despite the abundance of shiny chrome, the Galaxy Pro is made entirely of plastic. This keeps the weight down to 103g, but it also makes the phone feel slightly cheap when you pick it up for the first time. Having said that, it's not as if the other members of the Galaxy family are hewn from expensive materials either.

The battery cover has a ridged texture that makes the Galaxy Pro easy to hold, and there's even the slightest hint of the Galaxy S2's lip right at the bottom. As well as bonding the phone with its more highly-esteemed relation, this makes it even easier to grip in your palm.

The trademark lip seen on the Galaxy S and Galaxy S2 is in evidence here, too.

Sandwiched between the screen and the Qwerty keyboard are the traditional Android command buttons -- menu, home, back and search. The last choice is usually omitted on Samsung phones, so it's surprising to see it here. Another surprise is that these are physical controls rather than touch-sensitive.

Touchscreen

The Galaxy Pro's dinky and dismal 2.8-inch touchscreen is arguably its biggest weakness. It looks washed-out and dim, and its 320x240-pixel resolution is almost laughable when compared to the screens on other devices in this class.

The 2.8-inch screen is woefully inadequate for viewing detailed images, and the lack of pinch-to-zoom support is a killer.

As you might expect, browsing detailed Web pages is a nightmare with such a low-resolution display. Text is heavily pixellated and images are hard to discern. To make matters significantly worse, there's no support for multi-touch pinch-to-zoom gestures, so you have to use virtual buttons in order to zoom in and out.

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The lack of pinch-to-zoom support also means that games like Angry Birds are very difficult to play.

The absence of such a key feature is puzzling when you consider that the Galaxy Pro's touchscreen is of the capacitive type, so there's no technical reason why multi-touch shouldn't be included. It's a sorry omission.

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Where to Buy

Samsung Galaxy Pro

Part Number: CNETSamsung Galaxy Pro

Typical Price: £200.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

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