Samsung Galaxy Attain 4G (MetroPCS) review:

Samsung Galaxy Attain 4G (MetroPCS)

The rest of the controls are straightforward enough, and switching between camera and video mode, or front-facing and rear-facing cameras, is pretty easy. The same goes for toggling on the flash, setting exposure, and fiddling with the other settings for focus and scenes. There are 14 of those, incidentally, and they range from backlit to beach/snow, night, sports, and indoor configurations.

The phone did a great job reproducing this outdoor mural in even lighting.

I snapped my test shots indoors and outdoors in auto mode to see how well the cameras fared when left to its own devices. The camera did much better than I anticipated, at least as far as the outdoor shots were concerned. They may not have been quite as textured or as detailed as some other camera phones, but the Galaxy Attain 4G's comprehensive quality and clarity are key. There was noticeable shutter lag, but nothing out of the ordinary range. You can see all the test photos in this gallery.

Indoor shots, on the other hand, were often bathed in grayed-out tones, which washed people and scenes in a sickly cast.

The handset's video camera also did pretty well outdoors, though it did lack some image stabilizing, which gave it a--shall we say, authentic--handheld feel. Still, videos will get the point across. The phone's front-facing camera was much more blurred, but still acceptable.

I tested the dual-band (CDMA 850/1900; LTE 1700/2100) in San Francisco using MetroPCS' network. Call quality was a mixed bag. Our caller said it sounded good--nice and loud, and it sounded almost as good as a landline. On my end, however, a persistent white noise every time the caller spoke made voices sound hazy and indistinct. At times voices also sounded completely unnatural, with blips, blops, and moments of distracting feedback. The volume wasn't overly soft, but it could have been a little louder, especially since the caller's voice had to cut through the aural miasma I heard.

Samsung Galaxy Attain 4G call quality sample Listen now:

Speakerphone also sounded gentler to our caller's ears when I held the phone at waist level. I reportedly sounded rather quiet and hard to hear, and a little echoey, but nothing out of the ordinary for most speakerphones. On my end, volume came in at about a medium, but was tinny and echoey. Strangely, we also experienced some delays while in speakerphone mode, which was probably the result of the network being overloaded. The problems didn't occur during subsequent tests or calls.

When it comes to data speeds, you ought to take MetroPCS' 4G LTE network with a grain of salt. As usual, I conducted two kinds of speed tests. First, there are the diagnostic tests using the app. Download speeds all over San Francisco ranged from 1.1Mbps to a high of 2.6Mbps, with upload speeds just a tad slower or tad faster. As a reference point, Verizon LTE brings in speeds consistently in the 15 and 20Mbps download range in the CNET offices.

Next, I conducted real-world tests loading up Web sites. During a moment of network strength, the mobile version of the New York Times loaded in between 4.5 and 6 seconds, whereas the full site took about 20 seconds to complete. CNET's mobile site loaded in just under 13 seconds in one test, and 27 seconds in another, with the full site completely available after 20 seconds, or 26 in a second test. The real-world speeds I got in my test weren't bad, especially for sites like the New York Times, which is cleverly optimized for mobile viewing.

Perhaps more worrisome is the fact that coverage was inconsistent throughout the city, often bouncing back between LTE and the 2.5G (1xRTT) network that Metro falls back on in lieu of most other carriers' 3G networks. Since MetroPCS positions itself as an urban wireless provider, that coverage zone is something to keep in mind.

The phone's 1GHz processor kept things moving along sufficiently fast.

The Attain 4G has a rated battery life of up to 3.3 hours of talk time, which is low, and a standby time of up to 8.3 days on its 1,650mAH battery. FCC radiation tests measured a digital SAR of 0.78 watt per kilogram.

There are two things to consider when buying any phone: the handset itself, and the network to which it's tied. For 200 bucks, the Samsung Galaxy Attain 4G is a pretty nice package for a midtier Android phone: it looks pretty good, it has two decent cameras, all the Android perks, and 4G LTE support.

Yet if you use a lot of data, the phone is only as good as its network. MetroPCS offers a valuable service and all-you-can-eat business model for customers who don't want to be tied to a two-year contract. For those longtime customers, Metro's 4G LTE network is much faster than the 2.5G (1xRTT) network that's been ferrying data all along, a step up those loyalists can appreciate. However, it's harder to keep that in mind when MetroPCS' LTE network has spotty performance in my tests, and falls back to the 2.5G network when 4G isn't available.

So is the phone good? It'll be one of the stronger choices for MetroPCS' lineup, and one I'd easily recommend for someone who would use data occasionally, or who is dedicated to the wireless provider. However, if you're looking for something higher-powered, you'd do well to check out that LG Connect 4G, and if you're a data-hungry information fiend, I'd have to caution expecting lightning-fast speeds at every turn.

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