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Review of the Samsung Slash for Virgin Mobile

In what we hope will be the first of an ongoing series, we’ll start taking a look at handsets offered by the major prepaid carriers. First up is the Samsung Slash, available through Virgin Mobile USA. We covered the Slash when it was first announced, and even linked to a not-so-kind review. However, we’re not just going to take someone else’s word for it. We’re going to take a look for ourselves and check out what this baby can do.

Before we dive in, I want to note the expectations factor. Not every new phone is going to be the best in the world. It’s not even going to be the best in its class. We can’t help hype, but I’d like to disregard that when reviewing a phone. The aim is to judge how this phone works. How it stacks up to the competition is secondary. Now, having said that, onto the review.

Form factor

I’ll admit my bias right up front: I love slider phones. This gives the Slash an immediate appeal. On the whole, it stacks up to other sliders I’ve used and adored. I guess it’s tough to stand out as a mechanism. It was smooth and easy, as expected.

The best part is the automatic keyguard when in compact mode. You can’t even hit the outside keys, which is a huge advantage for those of us who prefer to stow our phones in our pockets. Not only are the inside keys protected — so no pocket dialing — but the outside keys are, too, so no pocket Internet. In fact, once the backlight goes out, hitting a key will not trigger it, so you won’t be wasting any battery power.

Keys

This kind of goes along with form factor, but for this portion we’ll focus on the buttons, in terms of easy of use. My first complaint about the device is the apparent scroll wheel in the middle. Turns out, it’s just a big tease. Upon seeing the first images of the phone, I had hoped it would be like the LG Chocolate, where the center wheel acts like the wheel of an iPod. This is not the case. It’s just a directional pad, where you can press up (My Account), down (recent calls), left (VirginXL), or right (send message).

The back button, which I use frequently, is a bit small, though it’s not an egregious fault. The top row of keys is a little close to the top of the slider, though it didn’t cause too many issues when dialing or texting. As a whole, the keypad is conducive to heavy texting. Or at least as conducive as a 12-digit keypad can be.

Display

The resolution on the display is just 128 x 160, and the screen measures just 1.9 inches diagonally, so we’re not expecting the world here. For what it is, the Slash provides a decent display. However, if we’re going to compare it to some higher end models, we might not like what we see. Once again, we’re trying to judge the phone for what it is, not what its competitors are.

That said, I’m pretty neutral on the display. I’m used to my BlackBerry, so you can understand that the Slash doesn’t stand up to that. However, from my last consumer phone, it represents a major upgrade. Dollar for dollar, I’d give it a positive rating.

Call quality

I have to say that I had zero problems regarding the Slash’s call quality. Everything was crisp and clear, and no one seemed to have trouble hearing me. This is a huge positive for the Slash, since a cell phone’s primary function is, you know, calling people. My reception was always on the high end, too, usually giving me the maximum five bars.

This, of course, comes with the omnipresent caveat of location. I’m in New York City, so you might have a different signal situation in a more suburban or rural area. It seems to me, though, that if you get reception on other Virgin phones, you’ll be just fine with this one.

Mobile Web

No, this phone does not operate on an EVDO network, so the Web browsing speed is a bit sluggish. No worries, though. It is not intended for power users, so we have to keep that in mind when rating this phone.

Between VirginXL and the standard mobile Web, the Slash delivers a somewhat easy to use Internet experience. Searching can be a bit tough, since only one result can stay on the page at once. However, the breadth of results was surprisingly good, especially for a non-Google engine.

As far as site display, it displayed mobile-specific sites clearly, though there was much scrolling involved. Once again, that’s considered a given with this phone. Even for non-mobile sites, the display wasn’t bad. In fact, since the browser strips out many of the graphics, it made for an easy surfing experience. Once again, lots of scrolling, but that’s about the only negative.

Extras

The big extras on the Slash are the Bluetooth and the camera. Both performed as expected. I got the unit paired with my Bluetooth in no time flat. The camera took exceptionally grainy pictures. But hey, it’s a VGA cam, so there’s not a lot of room to complain. For what it is, it’s fine. Compared to other models, it’s a bit lacking.

Feel

Here’s the most subjective of our categories. As I’ve said before, I love the slider aspect of the phone, and loved it even before I unboxed it. It just feels right sitting in my hand. The sliding mechanism is quick and easy. There are really no complaints at all on that end.

The phone barely weighs anything, which once again is of benefit to those who keep their phones in their pocket. It’s a mere 3 ounces, which is a nice break from my much heavier BlackBerry.

Final thoughts

I’d say I dig the Samsung Slash. The call quality was superb, which is of course the main consideration when purchasing a consumer phone. The extras were just okay, but that’s because they’re just that: extras. The core elements of the Slash make it a formidable competitor.

If you intend to buy the Slash, don’t expect the world. It’s really just a newer version of the mid-range phones we’ve been seeing for years. Yet it certainly takes advantage of being newer, though, as it outperforms any consumer phone I’ve owned in the past, and is better than most of the consumer phones my friends have. That’s not to say that it knocks it out of the park. It’s to say that if you’re looking for an affordable phone, this could be the winner.

Price: $79.99

Carrier: Read the Virgin Mobile review