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Editors' note: After further review of the device, we have decided to give this an Editors' Choice award because of its better-than-average feature set when compared with other handsets in the same category.
Samsung has had mixed results with touch-screen phones with full keyboards. Verizon's Samsung Glyde had its share of faults, but we liked the Samsung Impression for AT&T quite a bit. Fortunately, the new Samsung Rogue for Verizon Wireless is no slouch. Not only is it a touch-screen and keyboard combo handset, but also it boasts an absolute gorgeous AMOLED display, a 3.5mm headset jack, and voice dialing. It also has plenty of high-end features, like a HTML browser with Flash Lite support, GPS, EV-DO Rev. A, and more. The Samsung Rogue is available for $99.99 after a two-year service agreement and a $100 mail-in rebate, which is quite affordable. Do note however, that the Rogue is one of a few non-smartphones from Verizon to require a data plan--either $9.99 for 25MB a month or $19.99 for 75MB a month.
Though the Impression and the Rogue share the same basic design, they're not exactly alike. Measuring 4.29 inches long by 2.17 inches wide by 0.65 inch thick, the Rogue is slightly shorter and thicker and is a tad boxier around the edges. It's lighter at 4.94 ounces, but has a nice heft when held in the hand. The Rogue also has a nice textured battery cover that provides additional grip to the phone, and the bronze-and-silver color scheme gives it a sophisticated look.
The Rogue's most impressive characteristic, however, is definitely the 3.1-inch AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) display. It is simply gorgeous, though it suffers a little under direct sunlight. With support for 262,000 colors and a 480x800 pixel resolution screen, colors look vibrant, images are bright, and text is tack sharp. You can adjust the backlight, the dial font size, the menu font style, the clock format on the home screen, and the transition effect between menus. The touch screen interface is quite intuitive and easy to use as well. There's a touch calibration wizard setting so you can fine-tune the responsiveness. We like that the screen has vibrating feedback--you can even adjust the length and intensity of the vibrations. The Rogue supports Samsung's TouchWiz interface, which offers a collapsible toolbar with shortcut widgets. Some of the more useful widgets include one-touch access to social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, and Twitter.
On the bottom row of the home screen are four shortcut icons that lead to the phone dialer, the contacts menu, the messaging menu, and the main menu. The phone dialer has a big number keypad with virtual keys, a shortcut to the contacts menu, groups, and favorites. You also can choose to type out a text message with this virtual keypad layout--just select new text message in the messaging menu while the phone is closed. Though it doesn't make too much sense to use this interface when the phone has a full keyboard, we can see how it would be useful if you only have one hand free to send a text.
You're not just stuck with virtual controls; there are physical keys as well. Beneath the display are the Send, Clear, and End/Power keys, while the volume rocker and charger jack are on the left spine. On the right spine are a screen lock key, a voice commands key, a speakerphone key that also doubles as a zoom key in camera mode, and a camera key. The camera key activates the camcorder when held down. Also on the right side are the card slot and a 3.5mm headset jack, which are always welcome on a music phone. On the back of the handset is the camera lens, complete with a self-portrait mirror and a flash LED.
When you slide the phone to the right, you'll see a full four-row QWERTY keyboard. It is spacious with nice big keys that are raised above the surface for easy and responsive texting. We also really appreciate that the numbers and letters keys are separate. There are the typical shift and function keys here, as well as navigation arrows and an OK key for navigating the phone in landscape mode. Also note that the whole screen changes orientation from portrait to landscape mode when the keyboard is out, even the widget toolbar and shortcut icons.
The Rogue also has an internal accelerometer that changes the orientation of the screen depending on how you hold it. It does work with only certain applications, though, like the Web browser and the photo gallery.
The Rogue has a 1,000-entry phone book, with room in each entry for five numbers, two e-mail addresses, an instant-messaging screen name, a street address, a birthday, and notes. You can also save your contacts to groups, add a photo for caller ID, or pair them with one of 22 (72-chord) polyphonic ringtones. Other basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stop watch, a world clock, a notepad, a timer, and even a sketch pad, where you can draw doodles and then send them to friends. You also get voice commands, USB mass storage mode, a file viewer in which you can read Microsoft Office documents plus PDFs, and GPS with VZ Navigator support. It supports a wide array of Bluetooth profiles as well, like hands-free, A2DP streaming, file transfer, and more.
Appropriately for a messaging phone like the Rogue, you get a variety of messaging features as well. You can send text, picture, video, and voice messages, and they'll appear in your in-box as threaded conversations. You also get visual voice mail, mobile IM with AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo messenger support, and three different e-mail options--mobile e-mail, corporate e-mail, and mobile Web e-mail. Mobile e-mail lets you get e-mail from services like Yahoo, AOL, and Windows Live directly to your in-box; corporate e-mail lets you sync your work e-mail and calendar via a RemoSync service. Do note that the visual voice mail costs $3 a month, the mobile -email application is $5, and the corporate e-mail option requires a $9.99 a month subscription.
Since the Rogue comes with EV-DO Rev. A, it supports all of Verizon's V Cast broadband services, like V Cast Video, where you can watch streaming videos from a variety of content providers, and V Cast Music with Rhapsody that lets you purchase and download songs over the air. Each song is $1.99, which includes a download to the PC as well. If you prefer to load your own songs to the Rogue, you can do so via a microSD card--it supports up to 16GB cards. The Rogue supports MP3, WMA, and unprotected AAC and AAC+ formats.
We're quite pleased with the music player overall. It's easy to use, and the songs are automatically categorized by albums, artists, and genres. You can set the songs to shuffle or repeat, and you can create and edit playlists on the fly. The interface is simple, with the album art in the center and the player controls underneath. You can also search through your songs with the included search tool. However, you can't multitask with the music player active in the background. There's also a video player on here that can play H.264-encoded videos.
Another application that benefits from the EV-DO Rev. A support is of course the full HTML Web browser. It was a pleasure to use, with smooth and easy scrolling plus the ability to zoom in and out of pages just by using the camera zoom controls at the top. However, we did notice that in more complex Web pages, scrolling can be a little sluggish. You can use the search function, add bookmarks, and set the page to fixed width if you like. We also like that you can copy and paste text in the browser. More advanced users will like the browser's newsfeed feature that you can customize with all your favorite newsfeeds. Perhaps more interesting is that the Rogue's HTML browser also supports a version of Flash Lite that lets you watch streaming videos from sources like YouTube and CNET TV.
We were definitely impressed with the Rogue's 3.0-megapixel camera. Photo quality was really good, with sharp edges and vibrant colors. The camera can take pictures in eight resolutions, from 2,048x1536 all the way to 320x240. You also get three quality settings, auto focus plus macro focus, an autoshot mode, a self-timer, an adjustable ISO of up to ISO 400, three metering options, and settings for brightness, contrast, saturation, and sharpness. Other camera goodies include a ready sound, five color effects, up to 10x digital zoom, three shutter sounds with a silent option, and five shooting modes (single shot, multishot, panorama shot, mosaic shot, and frame shot). Since there's a flash LED, you can of course enable flash as well.
The camcorder can record in two modes: one for saving and one for sending as a multimedia message. In MMS mode, you can record in 176x144 resolution only; in "save" mode, you can record in either 320x240 or 640x480 resolution. You can adjust the self-timer, the color effects, the white balance, the brightness, and the flash LED. We were quite pleased with the video quality overall, though it was choppy at times. Colors looked great and there was little blur. Video is good enough for sharing on YouTube or Facebook.
You can personalize the Rogue with a variety of graphics and sounds for wallpaper and ringtones. You can get more from Verizon's online store. The same goes if you ever want more games or applications. The Rogue comes with a few games already, like Need for Speed Undercover, Resident Evil: Degeneration, and Tetris. There's also a handy Dice application that substitutes for real dice if you're ever in need of them.
We tested the Samsung Rogue in San Francisco using the Verizon Wireless service. Call quality was very impressive overall. On our end, callers sounded great, with hardly any static or interference. They sounded natural, and the volume was good enough in most situations.
On the callers' side of things, they said we sounded really good. Some even said it was close to landline quality. They said our voice sounded natural, and they didn't hear too much noise in the background. Automated-calling systems had no trouble recognizing our voice.
As for the speakerphone, callers could still hear us loud and clear. The voice quality was no longer so natural, however, and had a bit more of a harsh tone. Still, it sounded great for the most part. On our end, we thought callers sounded good with plenty of volume, with perhaps a bit of a tinny undertone. The same goes with audio playback--overall sound quality was fine, but the lack of bass makes most songs sound a bit flat. We definitely recommend a headset for the best audio quality.
EV-DO Rev. A makes downloading songs and loading Web pages a breeze. We downloaded a 1.5MB song in just a little more than 30 seconds, and loading a complicated Web page like CNET's front door took around 10 seconds. Streaming video had a very short buffering time as well. Still, video quality wasn't that great. They looked very pixelated and blurry, especially when there's a lot of movement.
The Rogue has a rated battery life of 4.7 hours talk time and 12.5 days standby time. Our tests showed the Rogue had a talk time of 4 hours and 49 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Rogue has a digital SAR of 1.36 watts per kilogram.