Samsung Exhibit II 4G - marine blue (T-Mobile) review: Samsung Exhibit II 4G - marine blue (T-Mobile)

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The Good The Samsung Exhibit II 4G has HSPA+ speeds, good call quality, and a lot more bells and whistles than you'd expect from an Android 2.3 Gingerbread phone at this price.

The Bad A cheaper-looking design keeps the Exhibit II from being a lustworthy handset, and photos lack a little brightness.

The Bottom Line A surprisingly full feature set makes the Samsung Exhibit II 4G ideal for Android bargain-hunters; just don't expect the best of the best.

7.6 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8

T-Mobile has taken an interesting turn with the Samsung Exhibit II 4G, and I'll tell you why. The original Samsung Exhibit 4G (which was quite good) only received the breath of life in June, and it's already being subsumed by a sequel. Moreover, the new Exhibit is the same phone as the Samsung Galaxy W, which was introduced for the U.K. last August.

I'm not sure why T-Mobile was in such a rush to accelerate its Exhibit brand (apart, perhaps, from the ease of already possessing rights to the Exhibit name), but I will admit that the specs are nice for the price. First things first, the Exhibit II 4G runs on T-Mobile's HSPA+ "4G" network. It has a 3.7-inch WVGA touch screen, a 1GHz processor, a 3-megapixel rear-facing camera, and a front-facing VGA camera.

There's also support for T-Mobile TV, and apps like Qik video and the Swype virtual keyboard come preinstalled.

Pricing is the really attractive selling point, with the Exhibit II 4G costing just $29.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate when you buy it with a new, two-year contract, and $199.99 off-contract through Wal-Mart. In fact, T-Mobile is calling the Exhibit II 4G the "first no-annual-contract 4G smartphone to be sold at most Wal-Mart stores." The model I reviewed is sold off-contract and contains T-Mobile's prepaid SIM.

Despite its name, the Exhibit II 4G bears only a little resemblance to the original. Where the first Exhibit 4G had a flat bottom and a rounded top, the sequel literally flips the design on its head, giving us a flat top and a rounded bottom. That's where the similarities end. Instead of the rubberized grippy material enrobing the Exhibit II, it's all hard plastic: a shiny front, matte gray sides, and a textured, nubbly dark-blue backing. There's one metal accent, a ring surrounding the camera lens.

With a hard plastic body instead of a smooth finish, the Samsung Exhibit II 4G barely looks like its predecessor.

At 4.54 inches tall by 2.35 inches wide by 0.45 inch thick, the Exhibit II 4G is fairly thin and compact, so it fits well in pockets, purses, and other carrying contraptions. The phone weighs 4 ounces, which feels fine for its size; you wouldn't want it to be any lighter lest it feel cheap and fake.

It has a 3.7-inch TFT LCD WVGA (that's a 480x800-pixel resolution, mind you) with support for 16 million colors. As with most screens, it looks bright, colorful, clear, and sharp when on its own, and it isn't until you hold it next to the screen that's best-in-class that you can tell the difference. This isn't the best screen out there by a long shot, but I have no complaints when beholding it on its own. That is, except when the screen comes into contact with direct sunlight and gets washed out.

The Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system steers the Exhibit II 4G, along with Samsung's TouchWiz interface. That gives you seven customizable home screens, an overview screen where you can see all screens at once, easy access to system services in the pull-down notifications menu, and a certain look and feel to the interface, from the static buttons on the home screens to the look and behavior of the app tray.

In addition to the front-facing VGA camera, there's a decent 3-megapixel camera on the back.

Like the original Exhibit, the Exhibit II 4G has a front-facing VGA camera above the screen. The camera isn't stellar on its own, but it's pretty great to have around for video chats and easy self-portraits. Beneath the screen there are the four touch-sensitive buttons currently typical for smartphones, which is a shame because I was quite partial to the physical Home button on the original Exhibit; it gave the phone some character.

For external features, there are the 3.5mm headset jack and Micro-USB charging port on top, the volume rocker on the left spine, and the power button on the right. I'm a fan of physical camera buttons, but the Exhibit II 4G, like its predecessor, is without one; you'll need to use the camera app icon instead. Video is serviceable, though colors are a little off and also a tad less vibrant than the real-world spectrum.

On the back is that 3-megapixel camera with flash, and lurking beneath the back cover is the microSD card slot, which can hold up to 32GB of memory.

You'll find your usual complement of Android features in the Exhibit II 4G, like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, multimedia messaging, and a nearly limitless phone book.

There are all the usual Google services to play with, such as Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps with turn-by-turn voice navigation, Google Places, and the built-in music player you can use when you've inserted a microSD card.