Samsung Reality SCH-u820 review: Samsung Reality SCH-u820

Samsung Reality SCH-u820

Nicole Lee

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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At first glance, the Samsung Reality seems like a successor to the wildly popular Samsung Rogue from last year; both have touch-screen displays, slide-out QWERTY keyboards, and are from Verizon Wireless. But if you look a little closer, the Reality is a little more scaled down than its older cousin. The design isn't quite as polished and it has EV-DO Rev. 0 instead of EV-DO Rev. A. Still, the Reality offers multiple home screens and several social features that are missing from the Rogue. If you evaluate it on its own, the Reality is a very good midrange multimedia phone, but if you compare it to the Rogue, you'll find yourself wanting more. The Samsung Reality is available for $79.99 with a two-year service agreement from Verizon Wireless.


Samsung Reality SCH-u820

The Good

The Samsung Reality has an intuitive display, three home screens, a 3.5mm headset jack, a nice keyboard, and features that include a 3.2-megapixel camera, GPS, and stereo Bluetooth.

The Bad

The Samsung Reality isn't quite as good as the Samsung Rogue, has almost the same design and features, and is also on Verizon Wireless. We also wished the photo quality was better.

The Bottom Line

On its own, the Samsung Reality is a great midrange multimedia phone, but it doesn't hold a candle to the Rogue, which has a better design and better features.

Measuring 4.23 inches long by 2.09 inches wide by 0.65 inch thick, the Reality almost matches the Rogue in terms of shape and size. It shares the Rogue's same boxy look, with curved corners and rounded edges, though it is a little lighter at 4 ounces as opposed to the Rogue's 4.94. The Reality also has a decidedly glossier sheen all the way around, which makes it much more susceptible to fingerprint smudges. It comes in both black and red, and has an interesting grid pattern on the back.

The Samsung Reality has a 3-inch touch-screen display.

The display is where we start to really see the difference between the Rogue and the Reality. Instead of the stunning 3.1-inch AMOLED of the Rogue, the Reality gets a relatively pedestrian 3-inch WQVGA display. This isn't to say it's bad-- we actually quite like the 262,000 color support and the 240x400-pixel resolution--but it just doesn't match up to the Rogue. You can adjust the backlight time, the shortcut icons on the main menu, the dial font size, the menu font style, the color of the lock screen font, the clock format on the home screen, and the transition effect between menus.

Like many other Samsung touch-screen phones, the Reality comes with the TouchWiz interface, which is a collapsible tray on the left side of the home screen that consists of several widgets and shortcuts. One of the widgets new to the Reality is a Communities widget that offers quick access to seven social networks and photo/video sharing sites, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Friendster, MySpace, PhotoBucket, and YouTube.

You can have up to three different home screens on the Reality, and the TouchWiz is accessible on all of them. You are also free to customize each home screen by dragging and dropping different shortcuts from the TouchWiz tray. Along the bottom row of each home screen are shortcuts to the phone dialer, the contacts list, the messaging menu, and the main menu. The phone dialer offers a roomy virtual keypad plus shortcuts to the contacts menu, groups, and favorites. You can also tap out a new text message via the virtual keypad and the T9 method if you don't want to use the physical keyboard for some reason.

The resistive touch screen is not as responsive as capacitive ones, but it's still intuitive and easy to use. You can add haptic and audio feedback to your finger taps if you'd like, and you can then adjust the vibration intensity, the sound effect, and the volume level.

Aside from the touch screen, you also get a few physical controls. There are the Send, Back/Clear, and End/Power keys underneath the display, and the volume rocker and screen lock key on the left spine. The charger jack is on the left side as well. On the right are the microSD card slot, the voice command key, the speakerphone key, and the camera/camcorder key. The speakerphone and voice command keys double as zoom controls for the camera. On the back is the camera lens and a self-portrait mirror. A 3.5-mm headset jack sits on top.

The Samsung Reality has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

Slide the phone to the right, and you'll reveal a full four-row QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard is spacious and we like that each key is slightly raised above the surface for faster typing. There's a dedicated number row, a navigation array, and the typical shift and function keys. The A, W, S, D keys plus the navigation arrows are grayed out for gaming purposes. Unfortunately, the Reality's keyboard is much more cramped than the Rogue's and the keys themselves are smaller.

When you slide open the phone, the display changes orientation from portrait to landscape mode. The Reality also has an internal accelerometer that can change the screen's orientation without you having to open the phone, though this only works with certain applications, like the Web browser.

The Reality has a 1000-entry phone book with room in each entry for five numbers, two e-mail addresses, an instant-messaging screen name, two street addresses, a company title, a photo, a birthday, and a note. You can then assign contacts into groups and pair them with one of 17 ringtones and alerts.

Basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, a calendar, a calculator, an alarm clock, a stop watch, a world clock, a notepad, a sketchpad, and a timer. There's also voice command, USB mass storage mode, a file viewer that lets you read Microsoft Office documents, GPS with VZ Navigator support, and stereo Bluetooth.

The Reality comes with a slew of messaging features. Of course, there's the usual text and multimedia messaging (with threaded conversations), but you also get voice messaging and instant messaging (AIM, Windows Live, and Yahoo). As for e-mail, there are three options: mobile e-mail, which is a downloadable application that lets you get e-mail directly to your phone; corporate email, which lets you get your work e-mail and calendar via RemoSync; and mobile Web e-mail that simply gives you quick access to Web mail services like Yahoo Mail and Gmail. There's also visual voice mail, but that costs $3 a month. The mobile e-mail app is $5 and the corporate e-mail option requires a $9.99 a month subscription.

We're happy to see an HTML browser on the Reality, as well. It looks and feels a lot like the mobile browsers we've seen on other Samsung phones. You can scroll around easily, and you can zoom in and out of Web pages by sliding your finger up and down the screen. Other features include full page view, search, and a copy and send feature so you can e-mail yourself Web site links. There's also a RSS setting that you can customize with your own newsfeeds.

Even though the Reality supports EV-DO Rev. 0 and not EV-DO Rev. A, it still has access to Verizon's 3G services like V Cast Videos for your streaming video needs, plus V Cast Music with Rhapsody, which lets you purchase and download songs over the air for $1.99 each. If you don't want to buy your music, you can also upload your own tunes, as long as they're in the MP3, WMA, or unprotected AAC and AAC+ formats.

The music player has a simple but pleasant interface. It has all the usual player controls as well as options for repeat or shuffle. You can create and edit playlists on the fly and you can choose one of nine preset equalizer settings to boost the audio quality. There's a music-only mode so you can shut off the phone's wireless signal, which is good for when you're on an airplane or need to conserve battery life. You can also send the music player to the background while you fiddle around with other parts of the phone. The Reality accepts up to 16GB microSD cards for more storage.

The Samsung Reality has a 3.2-megapixel camera on the back.

The Reality's 3.2-megapixel camera can take pictures in eight different resolutions, from 2,048x1536 pixels all the way to 320x240 pixels. Other settings include three quality settings, autoshot mode, a self-timer, a night shot mode, five color effects, five white balance presets, five shooting modes, adjustable ISO, three metering options, and different options for brightness, contrast, saturation, and sharpness. You even get to choose different Ready and Shutter Sounds (there are silent options for both). Photo quality was good, but not as great as we expected. Images had a slight yellowish tinge to them, though they looked sharp enough for the most part. As for the camcorder, you can record in 176x144-pixel resolution for MMS mode, and in either 320x240- or 640x480-pixel resolutions for "save" mode. Other camcorder settings are similar to that of the still camera.

The Samsung Reality takes good, but not great, pictures.

You can personalize the Reality with several different graphics and sounds for wallpaper and ringtones, including different wallpapers for each of the three home screens. The Reality comes with four games: Dice, Oregon Trail, Pac-Man, and Tetris. You can get more via the Verizon online store.

We tested the Samsung Reality in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless. Call quality was excellent. We heard our callers loud and clear without a hint of static. Their voices sounded natural, almost as if they were next to us.

Callers reported similar results. They said the audio quality was comparable to that of a landline, even when we were talking to them from the car. Speakerphone calls fared well, too; callers did say they heard an echo effect, but it was just fine otherwise.

As for listening to music, the audio quality was quite good. The speakers themselves offered a tinny and hollow listening experience, but the quality through a headset was very good. We appreciate that the Reality has a 3.5mm headset jack so we could use our own headphones.

Even though the Reality has EV-DO Rev. 0 instead of EV-DO Rev. A, it offered respectable speeds. We downloaded a 1.09MB song in just 27 seconds, for example. Streaming video did suffer a few seconds of buffering, but it wasn't too bad.

The Samsung Reality has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 12.5 days. According to our tests, the Reality has a talk time of 4 hours and 46 minutes. According to the FCC, it has a digital SAR of 0.99 watts per kilogram.


Samsung Reality SCH-u820

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8