The 3-megapixel camera takes pictures in five resolutions, from three megapixels down to 400x220. Other editing options include four quality settings, five "scene" selections (like night and landscape), exposure metering, four color effects, adjustable brightness and white balance tools, a self-timer, 20 fun frames, a multishot mode, a smile shot feature (the camera snaps a picture when it detects a smile), and a mosaic shot mode. The camera interface is easy to use with many options surfaced on the viewfinder.
The camcorder shoots clips in two resolutions (320x240 and 176x144), while offering a similar set of editing options. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at about one minute, but you can shoot for much longer in normal mode. The Impression has 190MB of user-accessible shared memory, but you can use a memory card for more space.
Photo quality was pretty good, with bright colors and little image noise. We also had enough light despite the phone's lack of a flash. We should note, however, that vanity shots will be tricky with a self-portrait mirror. Videos are fine, but not exceptional--definitely not beyond normal camera phone quality. The photo gallery application is a mixed bag: we liked that you can cycle between different photos by swiping your finger across the display or by tipping the phone to either side, but we didn't like that you don't always get an MMS option when viewing individual photos.
As a 3G (UMTS) phone, the Impression offers the full set of AT&T's wireless broadband multimedia services. You'll find Cellular Video (streaming-video content) and AT&T Mobile Music (wireless song downloads through partners). The experience with the two applications is similar to that on other AT&T phones; both are minimalist in their designs, but the music player supports a wide variety of file formats (MP3, AAC, eAAC+, and WMA) and it offers useful features, such as album art, playlists, shuffle and repeat modes, and an airplane mode.
The Impression also has a solid selection of music-related features, such as support for XM Radio Mobile, a Music ID application, a Billboard Mobile channel, music videos, and a community section with access to fan sites and downloads. We especially welcome the application that lets you create your own ringtones and saving music tracks as ringtones.
The full HTML browser isn't quite like the iPhone's Safari browser, but it exceeded our expectations. Scrolling around Web pages was pretty smooth, thanks to the responsive touch screen. We didn't experience the usual jerky motion when dragging our finger across the display. As mentioned earlier, the display's orientation will rotate automatically when using the Web browser, but it's rather annoying that your bookmarks list works only in portrait mode. That means that you must rotate the phone back and forth. The magnifying glass tool isn't our favorite method for zooming in on Web pages--we prefer Apple's pinching motion--but it works well enough.
You can personalize the Impression with a variety of wallpapers, sounds, and a greeting message. You can buy more options and additional ringtones from AT&T with the Web browser. You also get a number of subscription-based applications, including Mobile Baking, Yellowpages Mobile, MobiTV, MobiDJ, The Weather Channel, and Where 2.1. For gaming, the Impression comes with demo versions of five titles: Ms. Pac-man, Diner Dash 2, JuiceCaster, Midnight Pool2, and Monopoly. The quirkiest application is Tumbling Dice, which will come in handy if you forget real dice.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Samsung Impression world phone in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was quite good under almost all conditions. The audio was clear and free of static and we encountered no interference from other electronic devices. Voices sounded natural and we had enough volume to hear in even noisy environments. Our only issue was an occasional background noise, but it was a satisfactory experience on the whole.
On their end, callers said we sounded great. A few couldn't even tell that we were using a cell phone. Some had a bit of trouble hearing us if we were in a noisy place, but that's not uncommon for any cell phone. We also had few issues when speaking to automated-calling systems.
Speakerphone calls were fine for the most part. The volume was very loud and we could stray a bit from the phone and still be heard on the other end. Voice quality was a bit distorted on our side, but not enough to be worrisome.
The Impression is compatible with 850 and 1900 UMTS 3G bands. We'd like support for 3.5G HSDPA bands, as well, but we can let it pass. On the whole, the phone performed well in data tests. The Web browser was pretty zippy and downloads took just a few seconds.
Cellular Video quality was quite good. Videos kicked in relatively quickly and the quality was free of heavy pixelation. The sound was also in sync and quick movements looked pretty good. We also were pleased that the frame size used the entire display. Too often that's not the case. We had to pause once to buffer, but videos didn't freeze.
Sound quality over the external speaker was fine, but not nothing spectacular. The audio lacked warmth and most tunes sounded tinny. Headphones will provide the best experience.
The Impression has a rated battery life of just three hours talk time, which is rather low for a GSM phone. The promised standby time is 10.4 days. However, our tests showed a talk time of 7 hours and 53 minutes on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the Impression has a digital SAR rating of 0.27 watts per kilogram.