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Samsung Mythic SGH-A897 (AT&T) review: Samsung Mythic SGH-A897 (AT&T)

Samsung Mythic SGH-A897 (AT&T)

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Nicole Lee
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Nicole Lee

Former Editor

Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.

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7 min read

OVR
7.7

Samsung Mythic SGH-A897 (AT&T)

The Good

The Samsung Mythic is a slim and lightweight phone, and you can customize its home screens and menu pages. Its multimedia feature set includes AT&T Mobile TV, and it has good performance.

The Bad

The Samsung Mythic's streaming video needs improvement, and its Web browser has only two zoom settings.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung Mythic is an admirable multimedia phone with the added bonus of AT&T Mobile TV.

Even though AT&T launched its live mobile TV service more than a year ago, few support it-- the last one we saw was the Samsung Eternity, which was released in October 2008. Now it seems that AT&T may be looking to breathe fresh life to the service by releasing a new AT&T Mobile TV device. The Samsung Mythic has that familiar Samsung touch-screen design with the TouchWiz interface, but it offers a few surprises like customizable menu pages. Overall, we were pleased with the solid multimedia feature set and the 3G performance. The Mythic is available for $199.99 with service.

Design
The Mythic resembles most touch-screen phones that we've seen before. It has rounded corners, silver chrome edging, and it's encased in a glossy plastic shell. Though the front of the phone is black, the Mythic has a burgundy patterned back plate. Measuring 4.49 inches long by 2.06 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick and weighing 3.8 ounces, the Mythic has a slim profile and won't weigh you down.


The Samsung Mythic's design reminds us of previous Samsung touch-screen phones.

The Mythic's 3.3-inch display is quite impressive and supports 262,000 colors and has a 360x640-pixel resolution. Its colors look bright and vibrant, and graphics are sharp. You also get Samsung's TouchWiz interface that you can customize it with up to 33 widgets or shortcuts. The Mythic also has three home screens that you can flip through by swiping your finger horizontally across the screen. You can customize each home screen by dragging and dropping a shortcut from the TouchWiz tray for even quicker access to a particular function.

At the bottom of each home screen are shortcuts to the phone dialer, the contacts list, and the main menu. The same shortcuts are at the bottom of the main menu, except the menu shortcut is replaced with a New Text Message shortcut. The Mythic has multiple menu pages, and you navigate through them as you would on the home screens. You can customize the menu pages by moving the application icons around or by adding and removing them from the menu. Some application icons can't be removed, like those for the Web browser or the music player, but others can, like those for the alarm clock and the camera. Removing the icons from the menu does not remove the application from the phone.

The phone dialer has big digits on the keypad, and we like that you can save a number or send a message directly from the dialer. As for messaging, you have the option of using the T9 alphanumeric keypad entry, handwriting recognition, or a full virtual QWERTY keyboard. Thanks to the internal accelerometer, the QWERTY keyboard is revealed whenever you rotate the phone to landscape mode. The virtual keyboard is roomy and easy to use, with large keys and basic punctuation on the primary keyboard.

The touch screen is responsive and we appreciate the haptic response, especially when dialing and texting. You can adjust the intensity of the vibrating feedback and go through a calibration setting for better precision. For additional customization, you can change the display's brightness, backlight time, transition effect between page swiping, font type, greeting message, and wallpapers for each home screen.

Beneath the display are three physical keys: the Talk button, the back button, and the End/Power button. Both the calling controls are slightly angled and are easy to press, while the back button is raised for quick access. The volume control is on the left spine, while the screen lock key and camera key are on the right. Also on the right is a quick shortcut key that reveals shortcuts to the phone dialer, the messaging menu, the Web browser, the music player, and the games menu, plus an option to end all the running applications. On the top of the phone are a 3.5mm headset jack and the charger jack. The camera lens and flash LED sits on the back. The microSD card slot is located behind the battery cover.

Features
The Mythic has a generous 2,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for four phone numbers, one e-mail address, a birthday, and a note. You can also save your contacts to caller groups, and pair them with a photo for caller ID, one of eight polyphonic ringtones, and one of five vibration patterns. Other basics include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a calculator, a memo pad, a task list, an alarm clock, a tip calculator, a unit converter, a world clock, a timer, a stopwatch, and a sketchpad. More advanced features include voice command support, USB mass storage, PC syncing, mobile e-mail, instant messaging, GPS with AT&T Navigator support, and stereo Bluetooth.

The big feature on the Mythic, however, is AT&T Mobile TV. Like V Cast Mobile TV, the service lets you watch live TV right on your phone via Qualcomm's MediaFLO network. It doesn't broadcast via cellular airwaves, so you won't get any buffering wait time. AT&T promises more than 150 simulcast and time-shifted programs from content providers like ESPN, CNN, and Comedy Central. You can get the service for as low as $10 a month for the basic package. You can read our LG Vu review for more details on Mobile TV's offerings.


The Samsung Mythic has a 3.2-megapixel camera with flash

The 3.2-megapixel camera can take pictures in six resolutions, from 2,048x1,536 pixels to a picture ID size of 640x360 pixels. Other settings include three quality settings, five white balance presets, five color effects, three exposure meters, a self-timer, flash, auto focus and macro focus, and three shutter sounds plus a silent option. You also get six scene presets (None, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Sunset, and Text) plus six shooting modes (Single, Continuous, Panorama, Smile shot, Mosaic, and Frame). We were pleased with the photo quality for the most part. Images look sharp and rich with color.


The Samsung Mythic takes good photos.

The phone also has a camcorder that can record videos in two resolutions (320x240 and 176x144) with or without sound. Settings are similar to those on the still camera, though it doesn't have the scene presets and shooting modes. You can either shoot the video in normal mode that doesn't have a time limit, or in MMS mode, which limits the video to 1 minute. The Mythic also supports AT&T Video Share service that lets you stream one-way live video to a Video-Share compatible phone.

Aside from Video Share, the Mythic also has access to AT&T Mobile Video, AT&T's streaming video service that is separate from Mobile TV, and AT&T Mobile Music. The latter lets you purchase and download songs over-the-air from Napster and eMusic. From there, you can play the songs in the music player, which has album art, playlists, and shuffle and repeat modes. You also can load your own songs via a microSD card. Also included in the Mobile Music package is support for XM Mobile, music videos, and a community section that connects you to more music fans.

Like the Pantech Reveal and the Samsung Flight, the Mythic has AT&T's new full HTML browser that is based on Opera Mobile. There are three welcome screens, and two of them are just for local and popular Web links. You get a visual tile array of Internet bookmarks, which you can customize by logging on to your AT&T account on your PC and sending shortcuts via the "Send to Mobile" feature. You can toggle between mobile and desktop versions of Web pages. You can zoom in and out of Web pages, but there are only two zoom settings--either you pull back to see the whole page, or you zoom in close enough to read the text.

The Mythic comes with a few apps, like My-Cast Weather, Yellow Pages Mobile, WikiMobile, JuiceCaster, MobiVJ, MusicID 2, Where, and Mobile Banking. If you like games, you might enjoy the Bejeweled, World Poker Tour Hold 'Em 2, Tumbling Dice, Block Breaker Deluxe, and I-play Bowling. You can download more apps, games, graphics, and ringtones via the AT&T mobile app store.

Performance
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1,800/1,900) world phone in San Francisco using AT&T. Its call quality was quite good overall. On our end, we heard our callers' just fine with little distortion. We did hear a bit of static at times, but it wasn't a deal breaker. However, its voice quality was a little on the harsh side.

Callers reported similar quality. They said they had no problems hearing us and had plenty of volume. They also said our voice quality was a little on the harsh side, but it wasn't too bad. Automated call systems responded well to our voice. Calls via its speakerphone were decent as well. Callers said they heard a lot more echo, but that's not unexpected.

Music quality was decent as long as you didn't rely on the speakers for the audio experience. The mono speakers emitted tinny and flat sound. We would certainly recommend a headset, especially since the Mythic has both a 3.5mm jack and stereo Bluetooth.

We were very pleased with the 3G performance on the Mythic. We blazed through the full CNET front page in less than 20 seconds, and downloaded a 2.09MB song in about 30 seconds. We had a few seconds buffering time for streaming videos. Video quality was quite pixelated however.

Like we mentioned, AT&T Mobile TV doesn't go through the 3G airwaves, so the response time felt much snappier. We were able to change channels quickly with no loading times at all. Its picture quality was much sharper than the streaming video, though it's certainly not HD-quality. Colors looked a little dull at times.

The Mythic has a rated battery life of 3 hours talk time and 10.5 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 3 hours and 13 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Mythic has digital SAR of 0.67 watts per kilogram.

OVR
7.7

Samsung Mythic SGH-A897 (AT&T)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 8
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