Samsung Slash (Virgin Mobile)
Most phones available for Virgin Mobile are from UTStarcom, Pantech, Kyocera, and LG, and the handsets are typically basic entry-level phones with minimal features. The latest phone to join Virgin Mobile is the Samsung Slash, which is the first Samsung handset for the MVNO carrier. Though it's still fairly basic, the Slash does come with a VGA camera, Bluetooth, voice dialing, and a Web browser. However, it's quite affordable at only $79.99 with no contract required.
We were expecting a bit more luster to the Slash, based on its name alone, but we were ultimately disappointed by its boring run-of-the-mill slider design. Measuring 3.8 inches long by 1.8 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick, the Slash is fairly light and compact, and it does have soft curves along its sides that make it comfortable to hold in the hand. It's clad mostly in black with silver trim around the display.
The Slash has a 1.9-inch diagonal display, which is decent for a phone this size. However, it only displays 65,000 colors and doesn't have a very good resolution, resulting in lackluster colors and imagery. You can adjust the menu style, the backlight timer, and the incoming call screen. Underneath the display is a slightly raised rim that can be used to anchor your thumb for sliding the phone open and close.
Right under that is the navigation array, which consists of a circular toggle, two soft keys, the Talk and End/Power keys, and a Back key. The up toggle doubles as a shortcut to your VirginXL account to see how many minutes you have, and the down toggle doubles as a shortcut to your recent calls. The left and right toggles are configurable to whatever shortcuts you want. If you slide open the phone, you'll find the number keypad. Though we liked that the keys are all nicely raised above the surface, we did find the Talk, Back, and End/Power keys a bit too cramped for our liking. Similarly, we found the bottom keys of the number keypad quite crowded as well.
Rounding out the design of the phone are the volume rocker and charger/headset jack on the left spine, plus a dedicated speaker and dedicated camera buttons on the right. When you slide the phone open, you'll find a camera lens and self-portrait mirror on the back.
As we mentioned, the Slash doesn't have a lot of whizbang features. However, it does have a few extra capabilities that put it above just a basic handset. For starters, it has a 500-entry address book, with each contact able to hold up to five numbers, two e-mail addresses, two instant-messaging account names, and a URL. You can also assign a contact to a caller group, a photo for caller ID, and a personalized ringtone or texttone (an alert for text messages) out of 10 sound files. Other features include text and multimedia messaging, a vibrate mode, a calculator, a tip calculator, an alarm clock, a calendar, a notepad, and a voice memo recorder. Some of the Slash's more advanced features include a speakerphone, voice dialing, Bluetooth, and a wireless Web browser.
Also, the Slash comes with a built-in VGA camera. It's nothing much, but it does provide the capability to take quick snapshots. You can take pictures in three resolutions (640x480, 320x240, 224x168), three quality settings, five white balance settings, 14 fun frames, five color tones, and with four shutter sounds. Photo quality was predictably blurry and pixilated, but it was actually fairly good as far as VGA cameras go and had decent colors.
You can personalize the Slash with graphics and sounds for the wallpaper, screensaver, themes, and ringtones or message alerts just by heading to the Virgin VXL portal and downloading them. Demo versions of three games--Gameloft Jukebox, Superscape, and Tetris--are included, and you'll have to purchase the full version via Virgin as well.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 850/1900) Samsung Slash in San Francisco via the Virgin Mobile service. Call quality was fairly good, though we did experience some static and ambient noise. Callers could hear just fine, and vice versa. Speakerphone calls were also surprisingly decent--callers did sound rather tinny, but there was plenty of volume, and they could hear us without us raising our voices too much. We managed to pair the Slash with the Aliph Jawbone 2 without a problem.
The Slash has a rated battery life of 3.5 hours talk time and 7 days standby time. We managed to get 6 hours and 18 minutes of talk time in our tests. According to FCC radiation charts, the Slash has a digital SAR rating of 0.872 watts per kilogram.