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Samsung Galaxy Axiom review: Low prices make this midtier Android attractive

Samsung Galaxy Axiom
The Axiom's camera had a tough time capturing flower petal details and shadows, so these cyclamens look like pink blobs. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Photo tools and settings are plentiful. There are multiple resolutions for both photo and video, plus presets for white balance, scenes, effects, and various shooting modes. Samsung gives the Axiom its typical helping of Panorama, Cartoon Mode, and Smile Shot, and video can spool full-length or foreshorten for multimedia messaging.

Samsung Galaxy Axiom
CNET editor Jason Parker is a blur in this candid. Granted, he was moving, so the Axiom gets a pass. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Photos taken with the Axiom's 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera are fairly good for what they are. Most people will use the camera for video chats, but it will snap a decent, if soft, image that you could use as a profile picture for a social-networking site, for instance.

This studio shot shows the Axiom's limitations. Much of the image is slightly out of focus, and the flash reflects off the wall. Josh Miller/CNET

Call quality
I tested the Galaxy Axiom in San Francisco using U.S. Cellular's roaming network (CDMA:850/1900/1700/2100.) Since San Francisco is neither in the carrier's 4G zone nor even in its home network, my experience with call quality will likely differ from your own if you live within U.S. Cellular's network footprint.

Regardless, audio was fairly poor on my end. I heard a high though quiet whine throughout my main test call, and fellow CNET editor Brian Bennett's voice on the other end of the line sounded choppy, though the voice quality was true to life. Volume was strong set on medium-high in a relatively quiet room. If the room were louder, I might have surpassed my volume needs. I've heard much clearer, less distorted calls on Samsung devices. On his end, Brian said I sounded warm, clear, and loud, but he could detect a faint background hiss each time I spoke.

Samsung Galaxy Axiom call quality sample Listen now:

When I tested the speakerphone at waist level, I immediately had a hard time understanding Brian and had to ask him several times throughout the call to repeat himself. Some combination of the buzziness and tinniness made it hard to discern his words, though I did like that he sounded human and not robotic. According to Brian, my voice immediately dropped in volume, and I became distant and muffled. Switching back to the standard earpiece immediately put us both at ease.

When it comes to the processor and network speeds, you'll find uneven performance. I mentioned that since I live and test in a U.S. Cellular roaming network area, I only sucked down 3G speeds -- and very slow ones at that. Out of seven tests using the diagnostic app, results typically showed 0.07Mbps downlink and 0.13Mbps uplink. The highest scores were, respectively, 0.26 down and 0.82 up. Real-world tests painted a similar story, with app downloads taking minutes for a handful of megabytes to install, and Web site pages loading up four times more slowly than the top LTE performers.

To make matters worse, the network frequently disconnected, requiring me to reload the Google Play store over and over again before I could download a single app -- to cite just one example. I really hope that the carrier's home network behaves better.

Samsung Galaxy Axiom Performance (3G)
Download CNET mobile app (3.8MB) 5 minutes, 20 seconds
Load up CNET mobile app 40 seconds
CNET mobile site load 47 seconds
CNET desktop site load 1 minute, 20 seconds
Boot time to lock screen 25 seconds
Camera boot time 2.6 seconds
Camera, shot-to-shot time 3.5 seconds with focusing

Thankfully, the Axiom's chipset performance scored much higher. I tested the 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 with the Quadrant diagnostic test. While the phone didn't perform as well as the HTC One X+, according to Quadrant's results, it did come in fairly close behind. No especially laggy quality popped out, though the handset isn't perhaps as snappy as the most high-end models.

One shining beacon is the Axiom's battery life. It's rated as providing 8 hours and 10.8 days on its 2,1000mAh battery, and in real-life tests, it played back 10 hours of video before needing a recharge. FCC tests of radio emissions measured a digital SAR of 0.69 watt per kilogram.

The Axiom has 4GB of onboard storage, only 1.9GB of which is user-accessible. You can, however, add up to 32GB in external storage. The phone also carries 1GB RAM, the same quantity as some other high-end devices.

Final thoughts
I like the Samsung Galaxy Axiom's design, battery life, and price -- all positive traits that make me inclined to recommend the phone to the carrier's customers. However, the Android 4.0 smartphone's two biggest deal-breakers for me -- the call quality and data performance -- are still in the air as far as I'm concerned, since I wasn't able to truly test them in the carrier's own realm. For the features and price point, I'd also check out the LG Splendor and Motorola M before making my final decision, though the Axiom's camera has the edge over both.

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