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Samsung Array review: A simple and solid feature phone

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The Good The Samsung Array has a simple user-friendly design with a spacious and comfortable keyboard. Call quality is top-notch.

The Bad The Array's display has a low resolution. Media and Web features deliver a poor experience.

The Bottom Line The Samsung Array excels at communication, but anyone wanting more out of a phone should look elsewhere.

6.3 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7

If you don't want a smartphone, but still want to text like mad, then take a long look at the Samsung Array. Sure, its design will transport you back to the previous century, but you're left with a user-friendly and simple feature phone with reliable performance. As it's built primarily for communication, other features aren't worth the effort, but that's really the whole point of the Array in the first place. It's available with both Boost Mobile and Sprint, though pricing will vary between the two carriers. Sprint charges just $19 for the Array, but you'll have to sign a new two-year contract and send in to get a $40 rebate. Boost charges $59.99 contract-free. Either way, it's a deal and much better than paying the full price of $219.

The Array's low-key design is one we've seen many times before. But in this case, that's not a bad thing. After all, there's not much you can really do with a slider messaging phone to make it unique. Rather, it's more important to design a roomy keyboard and a sturdy construction.

Fortunately, the Array accomplishes both points. It doesn't have rubber sidings or an extra-thick plastic shell, but the slider mechanism should withstand normal wear and tear. It takes more than a gentle nudge to open and close the phone, but you can perform both actions with one hand. The keyboard beneath is quite spacious and comfortable. It has four rows of buttons so most letters double up with a number, a symbol, or punctuation. That's not a problem as I was able to type relatively quickly while using the Shift and Function keys. The long space bar is smack in the center of the bottom row between a dedicated ".com" key and four arrow controls. All of the buttons are plastic, but I liked that they're not completely flush. Also, the top row of keys isn't squashed up against the bottom of the slider.

The Array has a spacious, comfortable keyboard. James Martin/CNET

The 2.4-inch QVGA display is as retro as the Array's physical design. It's full color and bright enough, but the 240x320-pixel screen produces subpar graphics with visible lines between color shades. That would be unacceptable on a smartphone, and even here it's distracting. Yes, I know you're not going to be using the Array as a power gaming device, but a small bump in the resolution would be nice. You can change a few display settings like the brightness and the backlight time. Inside, the list and icon-based menus are clean and easy to use.

The Array's display isn't amazing, but it does the job. The handset is small enough to take anywhere. James Martin/CNET

I liked that the navigation toggle and OK button are large and raised above the surface of the phone. That makes them easy to use by feel, even if you have larger hands like me. What's more, it was the same story with the other controls. On the left side are the Talk button, a soft key, and a speakerphone shortcut, and on the right side are the end/power control, a second soft key, and a Back button. The alphanumeric keypad just below takes up the bottom third of the phone. I found it crowded, and I'd prefer that they keys weren't flush, but that they have a bright backlighting.

On the left side of the display are two soft keys that activate when you open the phone (the display will rotate 90 degrees to the left). The volume rocker is on the left spine, and the camera shutter and microSD card slot are on the right spine. The camera shutter is a little to hard to press when the slider is open, but I don't see how Samsung could have done it differently. The 3.5mm headset jack is up top, right where it should be, and the Micro-USB charger port sits conveniently on the Array's bottom end. The battery cover has a nice textured feel; just keep your finger away from the rear-facing camera lens when you're snapping a photo.

The Array's camera lens is on the top half of its rear side.

Though it's a slider phone, the compact Array measures 4.4 inches long by 2.1 inches wide and 0.6 inch deep. I carried it comfortably in a front pocket for a few hours and almost forgot it was there. What's more, the plastic skin keeps the weight down to 4.14 ounces. The Array isn't officially a "green" device, but Sprint says it "contains environmentally preferable materials with a minimal environmental impact." Interpret that as you wish.

For smartphone users, the Array will seem downright primitive, and in many ways it is. You can't access a robust app store, it doesn't have a full Web browser, and you can't watch a movie on it. Yet, it does excel at exactly what a phone should do while adding a few extras here and there. The phone book stores multiple fields for each contact, plus a photo and a dedicated ringtone. You also can organize contacts into groups. Other organizer features include a calendar, a calculator, a notepad, a world clock, and a voice recorder.

As I mentioned, the Array doesn't just stick to the basics. It has Bluetooth for connecting to a headset or another device, voice dialing and commands from Nuance, a file manager, and a bare-bones music player. The full versions of Tetris and Bubble Bash come preinstalled, and you can use the Array as a mass storage device. You can download additional games and rudimentary apps from Sprint for Boost, but the experience is a far cry from the iTunes Store or Google Play. Boost also adds a TeleNav GPS app, but keep in mind that you will pay for data access if you want to use it. That's normal for any phone, but not worth the expense given the Array's limited feature set and small display. The Array has just 40MB of internal memory, but the microSD card slot can use cards up to 32GB.

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