Sprint EPIC 4G: First Impressions

The Samsung EPIC 4G is Sprint’s second 3G/4G dual-mode Android handset. The full-QWERTY slider device is a member of Samsung’s Galaxy S line of phones, and packs the standard set of equipment expected of a high-end smartphone, 1 GHz Hummingbird processor, 4-inch Super AMOLED display, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 5 megapixel camera with 720p video recording… you know, all the good stuff.

As some of you have been kind enough to point out, we have yet to publish our full review of Sprint’s Samsung EPIC 4G. We’ll admit, we have been a little delinquent in getting around to testing the device, but we’re on the case now. We recently opened up our shiny new EPIC, and have been tinkering with it very diligently in order to put together some first impressions for you. Hit the jump and let’s get started.

The natural point of comparison for this device would seem to be AT&T’s Captivate or T-Mobile’s Vibrant. All three handsets belong to the Galaxy S family, have the same processor, run Android 2.1 with TouchWiz 3.0, and sport that gorgeous Super AMOLED screen. The EPIC takes a sharp right-hand turn away from its brethren with the addition of a full slide-out QWERTY keypad and a 4G cellular radio. Some of you may have read our review of the AT&T Captivate, and noticed how we really weren’t all that in love with it… for whatever reason the EPIC 4G is a whole different kettle of fish.

Size/Keyboard

The phone’s hardware is really nice. The size is good, several millimeters thicker than the Captivate/Vibrant, has solid feeling keyboard (with full number pad!), and smooth mechanical hinge. The device feels a little heavy to us, but it is something that we (and you’ll) get used to after a few days.

The keyboard is really nice and we love, love, love the fact that it has a full number pad. The arrow keys make text correction and text-box selection convenient and the height and stiffness of the keys all feel very natural. This is a phone you could pick up and start typing accurately with instantly.

There is also a dedicated “emote” key included two keys to the left of the space bar. Not a huge deal, but if you find yourself expressing your inner monologue with emotes, you’ll appreciate it :-)

Native visual voicemail is included on this device for those of you that haven’t made the leap to Google Voice just yet.

The only thing on the keyboard that seemed a little off to us was the placement of the function (Fn) key and the Shift key. Perhaps it is because we are used to the DROID and DROID 2 keyboard layout, but getting adjusted to the function key being above the shift is going to take a little bit of time. Again, as with the weight of the device, it is obviously something you will just get used to… but we thought we would mention it.

Software

If you read the Captivate review you’ll know we strongly dislike TouchWiz 3.0. We actually thought it sort of ruined the whole Captivate experience. Ironically, it is completely tolerable on the EPIC 4G. The device seems faster, doesn’t hang up or balk when navigating around quickly, and is much, much more fun to use. When we first started to use the EPIC we had to go back to the Captivate to make sure we weren’t losing it –seriously — because the 4G device felt so much quicker. Surprisingly, it’s true. Even the on-screen keyboard on the EPIC feels more responsive. We tried and failed to get the EPIC to stutter like we could (almost effortlessly) with the Captivate; the EPIC even boots faster.

The device comes with some Sprint pre-loaded programs. We’re football (that’s American football) fans so the “Sprint Football” app is appreciated, although we can’t say we have much use for the NASCAR app (your mileage will vary). It also comes pre-loaded with “Sprint Navigation” (Google Navigation is on there as well so you now have two built-in navigational options at your disposal). Speaking of GPS, the EPIC doesn’t appear to be suffering from the GPS bug that its touch-screen brethren are. Oh, and Sprint Mobile Hotspot is also included.

The software is identical to that of the Captivate and Vibrant, it just seems to run better and have a few small optimizations for the QWERTY keyboard.

Battery/4G

Since this is an initial impressions post we haven’t been able to fully exercise the battery or 4G prowess of the device. We’ll go over this more in-depth in our full review.

Camera

We find both the camera and video camera in the device very usable. The shutter is controlled with a dedicated camera button, half-press to focus full press to shoot, and it can also be controlled from touch-screen buttons on the display. The 5 megapixel sensor with LED flash has good macro zooming and color accuracy, but it seems like you are going to have to be a little bit more involved with the picture taking process than in say the iPhone 4 (we know, we know, another iPhone 4 reference). If you leave the camera on full-auto and shoot a picture close-up, in moderate light, you may get something that looks like the image on the left (below). However if you tell the EPIC to not use the flash you can see last night’s sushi order in perfect clarity. Again, the camera is good, you just have to be a little more hands-on than you might want to be. The iPhone 4’s sensor is extremely good at this; the EPIC’s sensor… not so much.

Quick Wrap Up

Again, these are our initial impressions of the device and they are — for the most part — very positive. We’ve been impressed by both the hardware and software in the EPIC 4G and look forward to putting this puppy through its paces. We’ll use, and more importantly abuse, the device more over the next several weeks and craft a proper review for you ASAP. If there is anything specific you would like us to cover don’t hesitate to let us know about it in the comments.

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