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Samsung Intensity III (Verizon Wireless) review:

Samsung Intensity III (Verizon Wireless)

The video still has the same brightness, white balance, color effects, timer, viewfinder grid, and quality options; however, only two recording sizes are available (one for saving and a smaller size for sending).

Photo quality was understandably low. Pictures taken indoors and outdoors were visibly grainy and had ill-defined edges. There was a lot of digital noise in low-lit environments, objects were out of focus, and colors were heavily muted. However, colors were slightly more vibrant in photos taken outdoors with lots of sun.

Video didn't fare any better. Though focus remained consistent and sharp enough, audio picked up poorly -- a puff of wind, for example, sounded explosive in the recording. Colors weren't as bright as they appeared in real life and the viewfinder for the playback was so small, it didn't even take up all of the screen.

In this indoor shot, images are grainy and colors are muted. Lynn La/CNET
Colors are slightly more vivid in this sunny outdoor shot. Lynn La/CNET
In our standard studio shot, objects were out of focus and there's a lot of digital noise. Josh Miller/CNET

I tested the dual-band (CDMA 850, 1900) Samsung Intensity III in San Francisco using Verizon's services. Call quality was impressive -- voices were audible and clear and the in-ear maximum volume level was great. There was no extraneous sound or buzzing, I didn't lose signal, and audio didn't clip in and out. It was reported back to me that my voice sounded clear as well, though when I was outside my friend could hear the sounds of the passing wind.

In comparison, speakerphone was a little disappointing. Voices sounded blended together and muffled, making it difficult to hear individual words clearly. On maximum volume, music came off harsh and tinny, and again, a bit blended. I was told, however, that I sounded fine when talking through speakerphone.

Listen now: Samsung Intensity III call quality sample

The device runs on 1X technology, so don't expect blazing-fast data speeds. Loading the CNET mobile site took an average of 8 seconds, The New York Times loaded in 10 seconds, and ESPN took an average of 12 seconds. Keep in mind that these mobile sites don't appear like they would on higher-end smartphones. A lot of coding is stripped away, so the site is modified to show only some of the graphics and images.

Watching YouTube wasn't pleasant. Just like recorded video, YouTube videos don't play in the full area of the display and in fact only occupy about a fifth of the screen.

As for its ruggedness, I dropped and kicked the handset down several flights of stairs, and it only suffered a few scratches here and there. The screen stayed intact and the sliding keyboard still felt snappy after the tumbles. However, during one particularly hard landing, the back plate and battery flew off. After I put the pieces back together, everything was still fully operational. Though I don't doubt that the modern fragile smartphones of today wouldn't have fared as well, the Intensity III didn't feel any sturdier than other standard feature phones. Plus, people looking for rugged phones probably want water resistance as well, which this doesn't offer.

During our battery drain tests, the phone lasted 7.25 hours and had a solid battery life. After a day spent talking on the phone, texting, and browsing the Web, only about one battery notch (out of four) would disappear. It can also last a handful of days without a charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 0.66W/kg.

Unfortunately, the Samsung Intensity III isn't so "intense." Although it can survive the hard bumps of daily (and sometimes, not-so-daily) use, to be worth its rugged salt, it should be water-resistant as well. In addition, its unattractive look and its all-too-flat keyboard surface are two design flaws I can't get over.

Ultimately, even though it makes solid calls and has a great call simulator for bad social situations you want to get out of, its low specs aren't worth it. Instead, consider the LG Extravert. It too is a simple feature phone on Verizon's network that has a sliding keyboard, but it has much more comfortable keys.

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