Samsung Galaxy Reverb (Virgin Mobile) review:

This Android lasts long and packs a great camera

Equipped with a 5-megapixel sensor, the Samsung Galaxy Reverb doesn’t offer the same pixel count as higher-end phones with 8- and even 13-megapixel cameras. Even so, indoor still-life images I shot were clear with bright and accurate color. Images I took indoors under low light, though, were blurry and grainy especially with active subjects.

View full gallery
Still-life shots were clear and colorful. Brian Bennett/CNET

View full gallery
Low-light images had lots of color noise. Brian Bennett/CNET

Moving outside, colors and details perked up and I observed lots of detail in shadows despite the lack of an HDR mode. I suspect the Reverb’s Backlight scene mode accomplishes a similar effect. Still, I would have liked to see more crispness to lend additional sharpness to objects.

View full gallery
Details in shows were visible. Brian Bennett/CNET

View full gallery
Details could have been sharper, but shots were still pretty good outdoors. Brian Bennett/CNET

The Reverb does snap images quickly, with a shot-to-shot time of less than a second. There are plenty of shooting options, too. Besides the previously mentioned Backlight mode, there’s smile shot, panorama, and cartoon. You also get special filters such as negative, black and white, and sepia.

Able to record video at 720p (1,280x720 pixels) resolution, movies I captured were smooth and clear even while panning. Detail was on the soft side, though, compared with phones capable of 1080p video recording.

Pushing along the Samsung Galaxy Reverb’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS as a steady, if not blazing clip, is a 1.4GHz Snapdragon Scorpion S2 processor. As a result, the phone doesn’t run applications and fly through menus like greased lightning. Still, the Reverb felt responsive enough and I didn’t experience any stutters or other performance hiccups.

Turning in a low Linpack benchmark score of 41.7 MFLOPs (single-thread), however, it’s clear the Reverb is no mobile firebreather. For instance, superphones such as the HTC Evo 4G LTE (Sprint), which uses more recent dual-core Snapdragon S4 chips managed to double the Reverb’s score (104.1 MFLOPs). On the more demanding multithread version of the test, the Evo delivered a showing more than five times higher (198.4 MFLOPs versus 38 MFLOPs). That said, the Galaxy Reverb held its own against the HTC One V on the same benchmark (33.9 MFLOPs).

While testing on Virgin Mobile’s CDMA network in New York, call quality on the Galaxy Reverb was rock solid. Callers described my voice as clear and easy to hear with no distortions. They could, however, easily tell I was calling from a mobile phone. On my end, voices through the earpiece were also warm and static-free. The speakerphone gets pretty loud too, with enough volume to fill a medium-size conference room.

Like the HTC One V, the Galaxy Reverb is limited to 3G data speeds. In New York and connected to Virgin Mobile’s EVDO Rev A network, I recorded very slow throughput. Average downloads came in at 0.57 Mbps. Average upload speeds were even slower, at 0.34 Mbps. That’s a far cry from 4G LTE that typically average downloads of around 15 to 20 Mbps.

View full gallery
Sadly, 3G speeds are all the Reverb can deliver.

Battery life was a bright spot for the Galaxy Reverb with the phone lasting for a long 8 hours and 6 minutes on the CNET Labs Video playback battery drain test. By comparison, the HTC One V managed just 6 hours and 4 minutes on the same benchmark.

I know carriers often make it tough to choose between two phones that are similar in either price or features. For example, if the HTC One V, now offered for $159.99, didn’t exist on Virgin Mobile, the $249.99 Samsung Galaxy Reverb would be an easy and smart choice. Its nearest competitor is the $239.99 HTC Evo V (really a recycled HTC Evo 3D), which offers Android 4.0 and 4G WiMax access but an outdated camera. In my view, the less expensive One V makes a much better option since it matches almost all the features the Reverb can muster in a more seductive all-metal chassis. If battery life plus having a replaceable battery is what you crave above all, however, then the Samsung Galaxy Reverb is the Virgin Mobile Android phone for you.

This week on CNET News


Discuss: Samsung Galaxy Reverb (Virgin Mobile)

Conversation powered by Livefyre