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Samsung Rugby Smart (AT&T) review: Samsung Rugby Smart (AT&T)

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The 5-megapixel camera can digitally zoom up to 4x and has tons of options. In addition to the autoflash, it has auto and macro focusing, five shooting modes (single, smile, panorama, action, and cartoon), a whopping 14 different scene modes (none, portrait, landscape, night, sports, party/indoor, beach/snow, sunset, dawn, fall color, firework, text, candlelight, and backlight), and an exposure meter. There is also a timer, four color effects modes (none, negative, grayscale, and sepia), eight resolution options, five white-balance choices (auto, daylight, cloudy, incandescent, and fluorescent), an ISO meter that ranges from 100 to 400, three metering options (center-weighted, spot, or matrix), auto contrast, and a GPS tagging feature.

The camcorder can record and playback HD video, and includes the same color effects, white-balance and exposure meters, a timer, five resolution options, and three recording modes: one for regular recordings, one for sending over MMS, and one for self-recording.

I tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Samsung Rugby Smart in San Francisco using AT&T's service and the call quality was average.

When I used the phone indoors and outdoors, there was no extraneous buzzing in the background, but voices sounded a little muffled. Even when I turned up the volume, voices were not as clear, but still audible. Speakerphone was also adequate enough, despite the fact that I could hear some reverberation from noises bouncing off from the back of the handset. Voices sounded stifled, but were easy to understand. Listening to music or watching videos through speakerphone also reflected the same occurrence. It was reported to me that I sounded fine both in-ear and through the speakerphone, and there was no additional noise pollution coming from my end.

Samsung Rugby Smart call quality sample Listen now:

Video chatting through Google+ also was good. With a strong connection, I didn't experience any audio or video delays. From time to time, I heard a subtle clicking noise in the background, but it didn't happen very often and it wasn't too distracting. The person I chatted with sounded clear, and I was told I sounded fine as well.

The Rugby Smart has a 1.4GHz processor and can run on AT&T's 4G network. I found the processor speed to be zippy; opening apps, switching screen orientations, accessing menu items, and transitioning back to the home screen were all executed without any lag.

The camera's photo quality is perfectly adequate. On pictures taken outdoors in the sun, colors were true to form. Also, because you can take photos up to 2,560x1,920 pixels, you can upload them and zoom in quite a bit. Of course, the objects get grainy close up, but at least your photo is large. Photos taken indoors looked less vibrant when compared with real life, and some light was washed out. Pictures taken with the front-facing camera looked paler, too, and grainy. But objects were easy to make out, and images weren't overly pixelated.

The colors in this outdoor shot are true to life, and images came out clear.

The window light is washed out and colors are a little paler in this indoor shot.

In this front-facing camera shot, images are grainy and not as smooth.

The white balance in this photo is good, despite colors not being so vibrant.

Because of the autofocus feature of the camera, you have to wait a little bit to press the shutter until the camera focuses. However, I was impressed by the quality of focus, especially with the camera's macro function, and the number of different scene settings you can choose.

The quality of the videos was also great. Recordings were clean and not too grainy. Sounds were picked up clearly. Feedback didn't lag behind my moving the camera, and the speed of which the camera shifted its lighting to accommodate a particular focus was quick.

Browsing the Web on the device was swift, as well. The phone can support EDGE, GPRS, and HSPA+ networks. Loading the CNET mobile site took an average of 20 seconds, while loading our full site took 33 seconds. The New York Times full site took shorter on average, clocking in at 22 seconds, and its mobile site took only a brief 7 seconds to load. ESPN's mobile site took 12 seconds, and its full site loaded in 26 seconds. Ookla's Speedtest app, which is 2.99MB, took 56 seconds to download, and showed me an average of 1.03Mbps down and 0.77Mbps up. The 18.34MB game of Fruit Ninja downloaded in 2 minutes and 11 seconds, and Google+, which is 8.5MB, downloaded in a minute and a half.

Although the phone lasted 8.8 hours for our battery drain tests, during my time using the device the battery drained pretty quickly. Perhaps it's because of the bright AMOLED screen, but I couldn't go a full day downloading songs, making calls, or playing games, without at least one charge to bump up the usage time. According to FCC radiation tests, the Rugby Smart has a digital SAR rating of 1.52W/kg.

If you're looking for a rugged handset, I highly suggest the Samsung Rugby Smart by AT&T. Its design is still thick compared with regular, more-fragile smartphones, but it's not overly cumbersome and doesn't look like an ugly rubber brick. Its responsive AMOLED screen makes graphics incredibly bright and crisp, and the camera comes with tons of features. Most importantly, the device does what it's supposed to do: take a tough beating and live to tell about it.

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