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Samsung Galaxy Rush review: Small, affordable, indistinctive

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Just because a phone isn't large or expensive doesn't mean that you can't get some of the best that Android has to offer. That's the message Boost Mobile seems to be wrapping into the Samsung Galaxy Rush, a petite package with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and an attractive look that won't bust your wallet.

Samsung Galaxy Rush (Boost Mobile)
6.3

Samsung Galaxy Rush

The Good

The <b>Samsung Galaxy Rush</b> has Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, a nice, petite design, and a front-facing camera.

The Bad

A slow processor, poor photo quality, and creeping 3G data network are part of the Galaxy Rush's drawbacks.

The Bottom Line

Android 4.0 and an affordable price help make Boost Mobile's Samsung Galaxy Rush a decent no-contract option, but lower-end specs are disappointing nevertheless.

The Galaxy Rush's Boost ID profile-changing software adds some interest, and a front-facing camera means you can engage in video chats. However, the basic 3G Android phone keeps costs down with a slower processor and cheaper camera, and the fancier Ice Cream Sandwich tricks, like S Beam, never made it onto the phone.

In short, the $149.99, no-contract Rush is a compromise device for those who want Android without the high price tag.

Samsung Galaxy Rush: Lookin' good for budget (pictures)

See all photos

Design and build
One person's "small" is another's "cute," and whichever way you look at it, the portable Galaxy Rush is ideal for one-handed operation. It's also attractive, in the glossy way, with rounded corners and a face that looks like it's bubbling up from the center of the phone. The gray plastic backing resembles brushed metal, and a dark gray metallic finish graces the rim. The Galaxy Rush is pocketable and feels good to hold.

The Galaxy Rush measures 4.8 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.47 inch deep. Its 4.2-ounce weight gives the handset enough heft to make it feel solid and durable. While the glossy surfaces will repel water and deflect some scratches, the Rush, like all phones, will be prone to scuffs and more from bad falls.

Samsung Galaxy Rush
The Samsung Galaxy Rush fits easily into the hand. Josh Miller/CNET

A 3.5-inch screen will look miniature compared with jumbo phones like Boost's Samsung Galaxy S II 4G, but thanks to an accurate virtual keyboard, typing doesn't feel as cramped as it could. Of course, you'll do better if you have smaller fingers.

The Rush's HVGA TFT display, with a 480x320-pixel resolution, is on the lower end of the scale. Colors are still fairly bright, but images lack the crispness and definition of higher-resolution screens.

Below the display are three capacitive buttons to open the menu, go home, and go back. Pressing and holding the Home button pulls up recent tabs. Above the display is the front-facing camera lens.

The Galaxy Rush has one physical feature that's rarely seen on a Samsung phone: a hardware camera button that not only opens the camera app, but also snaps shots when you hold it down. The left spine hosts a volume rocker and a microSD card slot. You'll find the power button and 3.5-millimeter headset jack up top. On the back is the 3.2-megapixel camera lens, plus an LED flash.

OS and features
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich graces the Galaxy Rush, topped with Samsung's TouchWiz interface. The lock screen has Samsung's characteristic shortcuts on it for the dialpad, browser, and camera.

The phone has Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, and all the usual Google apps and services, like multiple accounts, YouTube, Maps, and turn-by-turn voice navigation.

Samsung Galaxy Rush uses Boost ID
Using Boost ID, you can download and switch among different profiles, or ID packs. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

One-tap system access controls take up residence in the pull-down navigation menu, and you can pinch to view all your home screens, up to seven in all. You'll see stock Ice Cream Sandwich style in the app tray, which separates apps, widgets, and your downloaded apps into three windows.

However, you can change the entire look and feel of your interface using Boost ID, a feature that lets you download any number of IDs, or profiles. Download one by theme -- say Android basics or entertainment -- to get a prepackaged set of wallpaper, app shortcuts, and widgets centered on the theme. ID packs take some time to download, and are editable after the fact. While I tend to regard them as clutter, others may appreciate the preselected assistance.

When it comes to preloaded apps, you'll find the likes of the Boost Zone storefront, Samsung's app storefront, and Facebook to complement the music player, calendar, calculator, and video player.

You'll start seeing a lot more icons in your app tray if and when you start taking advantage of Boost ID.

Samsung Galaxy Rush
I'm still glad the Galaxy Rush has an LED flash, but I wish camera quality were better. Josh Miller/CNET

Cameras
Samsung has given us high-quality, low-megapixel cameras for Boost Mobile in the past (specifically, the Samsung Galaxy Prevail.) That history makes the Galaxy Rush's 3.2-megapixel camera quality all the more disappointing.

Testing the Rush's camera
Boo, hiss! The Samsung Galaxy Rush made CNET Car Tech gurus Brian Cooley and Antuan Goodwin look blurred and dull. (This photo has been resized. Click to enlarge.) Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Outdoors photos were mostly lackluster, even when sucking in plenty of natural light, and indoor photos turned dynamic objects and people into dull, fuzzy cut-outs. My favorite photo, of a mural, is the richly hued and highly textured exception. Yet since mural photos come out looking terrific on any camera phone, that's a little like getting 200 points on a test just for writing your name.

Testing the Rush's camera
These little fuzzy guys can't keep focused either. (This photo has been resized. Click to enlarge.) Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Videos played back fine, without stuttering or jerkiness, and colors held true. Keep in mind that the lens quality ultimately limits the video quality, so don't plan on playing the Galaxy Rush videos back on a 50-inch-screen TV. The Rush's 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera took quite decent shots.

Testing the Rush's camera
Even in excellent lighting with my unsuspecting targets standing still, they still didn't come out crisply. (This photo has been resized.) Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

The camera software, in typical Samsung Android fashion, was easy to use. Panorama mode joins single shot and smile shot modes, and the settings are filled with the typical array of adjustments and settings for white balance, shooting mode, scene mode, and additional effects. There's a macro mode as well for close-ups, and you can geotag photos.

Testing the Rush's camera
When all else fails, murals are consistently excellent subjects for producing saturated photos. (This photo has been resized.) Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Although 3.2 megapixels is the highest resolution you can get, if you need to make images smaller, you can drop down four steps all the way to 0.3 megapixel. Similarly, you can shoot videos on normal mode or limit the size for multimedia messaging.

Call quality
I tested the Samsung Rush's call quality in San Francisco using Boost Mobile's network (CDMA 1,900MHz.) While it wasn't a buttery-smooth experience, it wasn't downright awful, either.

Voice quality sounded broken up, not cohesive; it almost had a frayed or shaggy quality to it, with tendrils of sound moving away from the core. Volume was good on the highest level in a mostly quiet office, but without Samsung's audio boost software, there's nowhere else to go if you need to crank up the volume. My caller's voice sounded warm, and when it didn't sound hollow with the stuttering distortion that kept it from sounding 100 percent human, it also sounded natural. Background noise never entered the picture.

On his end, my test partner said I came across muffled and loud, but basically understandable. My voice distorted at high volume, he said, and I sounded a little canned. That said, he knew it was me calling. The overall experience results in an adequate, but not very inspiring, call.

Samsung Galaxy Galaxy Rush call quality sample Listen now:

After the standard call, I dropped the phone to waist level and switched to speakerphone mode. Volume was fine at the highest levels, and the speakerphone mode gave it an automatic boost. While the usual amounts of speakerphone echo kept the phone company, the tinniness and reverberation never distracted. Voices did sound a little muffled, but the conversation quality wasn't bad at all. From the caller's perspective, my volume noticeably dropped, but I otherwise sounded about the same as I did when speaking into the mouthpiece. On the listener's end, the Galaxy Rush also doles out typical speakerphone echo.

Performance
As a 3G phone, the Galaxy Rush's data speeds are typically slow, relying on your patience and desperation to load graphic-intensive content. It'll happen eventually, but if you're within Wi-Fi range, you'll thank yourself for switching over.

Samsung Galaxy Rush performance testing
Download CNET News app 39 seconds, 646KB
CNET mobile site load 48 seconds
CNET desktop site load 2 minutes
Boot time to lock screen 37 seconds
Camera boot time 2 seconds
Camera, shot-to-shot time 3-4 seconds
Load up app (Quadrant) 1.8 seconds

When it comes to waiting around, the data network is the far greater culprit than the phone's chip. I found myself waiting and waiting, then waiting some more for sites to load and apps to update. In truth, waiting 2 minutes for a Web site like CNET's to load used to be typical, and it isn't so bad if you aren't staring at the screen watching every bit and byte to finish rendering. Still, if you need to navigate a few pages deep, those minutes add up to a whole lot of dead time.

Samsung Galaxy Rush diagnostic speed tests
Speedtest.net's diagnostic app captured depressingly slow speeds for the Rush. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

The Rush's 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 processor performance isn't at the bottom of the Quadrant app diagnostic test, beating out U.S. Cellular's Samsung Galaxy Metrix 4G (results pictured in that phone's review) running Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Still, there's notable lag when compared to top-of-the-line phones.

Running diagnostic testing on the Galaxy Rush using the free Quadrant app.
Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Although the Galaxy Rush has a fairly good rated battery life of 8 hours on Boost Mobile's network, I found that battery drained quickly, and I needed to charge the phone sooner rather than later. It did rather well in video playback tests, going strong for 8.2 hours on a full battery. The 1,750mAh battery is also meant to keep the phone going for up to 14.5 days of standby time.

According to FCC radiation tests, the Rush has a digital SAR of 0.92 watt per kilogram.

Final thoughts
You'll never buy this phone for the camera quality or speed, and the Samsung Galaxy Rush doesn't do everything that ICS can; for instance, it doesn't have NFC (near-field communication). In fact, there's no single standout feature and even if you enjoy Boost ID, it's little more than a party trick. However, those who really want Android for a reasonable price will find it in the Samsung Galaxy Rush. In the same basic size and price range, the Kyocera Hydro is a second Android 4.0 option worth checking out.

Samsung Galaxy Rush (Boost Mobile)
6.3

Samsung Galaxy Rush

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 6