Here's the thing about the T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G. When you get over the fact that it's got a rather ridiculous name, and that because of that name it's a little confusing as to where it fits in the scheme of things, and that it's maybe a little overpriced, you've got yourself a pretty capable mid-range smartphone rocking along on T-Mobile's 42-megabits-per-second data network.
That's a lot of qualification, to be sure. (And we should be used to ridiculously named Samsung phones by now.) So should you consider the SGSB4G for purchase? And what, exactly, will you be getting?
It's all after the break in our Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G review.
A nice feel in the hand. Decent screen and hardware by 2011 standards. Can access the faster lanes of T-Mobile's data network. Includes NFC, Wifi calling and Wifi Direct.
Yet another phone launching in 2012 without 2012's version of Android. Branding may be a bit confusing, given that the Galaxy S phone has replaced in 2011 by the Galaxy S II.
If you're looking for a mid-range phone on T-Mobile (both in price as well as specs), the Blaze 4G is worth a look, though it's a tad lacking in the hardware department.
Inside this review
Let's get this out of the way: If you're looking for the latest and greatest in smartphone hardware, you're not going to find it in the Blaze 4G. It doesn't have a ridiculously large display with more pixels than Zeus. It's not the thinnest in the world (but it's no fatty, either). And it doesn't have a bazillion cores in a processor that rivals the clockspeed of desktop computers.
No, this is a mid-range smartphone. And we're perfectly OK with that.
So what do you get? The Blaze 4G has a 4-inch Super AMOLD display at 480x800 resolution. If you've been using a qHD or full 720-pixel-wide display, going back to 480p will be a bit of shock to the ol' Mark I eyeball. But it's also plenty usable. (But don't you go and try to talk us down to a lower resolution any time soon.)
Below the screen you've got the four capacitive buttons in the menu-home-back-search configuration. Above is the T-Mobile logo and the 1.2MP front-facing camera.
The rest of the phone is relatively unspectacular -- power button and volume rocker where you'd expect them on either side of the phone, with the 3.5mm headphone jack up top and the microUSB on the bottom. The one surprise is the microSD card, which is accessible externally. No having to remove the battery cover.
'Round back is a textured plastic battery cover (which feels nice enough in the hand), and the 5MP rear camera and flash.
Pop open the battery cover and you've got a 1750 mAh battery (T-Mobile's website says 1850mAh, but our battery disagrees) and the full-size SIM card. And ... well, that's it.
What's under the hood
A muscle car, the Blaze 4G is not. It's got a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, and 1GB of RAM. For storage, you've got about 1GB dedicated to apps, another 1.4 in internal storage, plus the microSD card. (Our review unite came with a 4GB card.)
And now you know why it's not the Galaxy S II Blaze 4G. This is decidedly a phone with 2011 specifications. That's not to say it's overly sluggish or anything -- it gets through basic tasks just fine. But it's not going to be winning any benchmark competitions anytime soon. (Not that those really tell you anything, but you know what we mean.)
Something it does have hidden under that plastic, however, is an NFC radio, so you can get your near-field communications on. It's also got T-Mobile's Wifi calling. And it's got the right radios to pull down data in T-Mobile's 42Mbps fast lane. That's really the crux of the whole phone.
As far as data speeds go, it very much depends on where you live. In a good T-Mobile coverage area? Sweet. You're going to see some ridiculous speeds. In an average area? You'll likely still see some great speeds. (I'm not in a great area, but I still pulled in greater-than 7 Mbps averages. Not too shabby.)
Battery life was decent enough. Your mileage will vary depending on your usage case, but we didn't have any real concerns. And because the battery's removable, you can always swap it out for a fresh one, if that's how you roll.
So we've already established that the Blaze 4G is running Gingerbread, with TouchWiz on top. That's disappointing to your average smartphone nerd, but it's likely not going to be a thing for the average person who buys a Blaze 4G. This thing's ready to go for regular consumers.
You've got seven home screens for apps and widgets and stuff. They're of the perpetual variety, which means you can just keep on flipping without hitting one end or the other. They've been pretty well loaded up with widgets and apps — perfect for someone who's not likely to do a lot of home-screen customizing on their own.
As for preinstalled apps, there are a few. Actually, there are a lot. Between Samsung and T-Mobile, you'll likely not have to ever install another app. EVAH. OK, maybe it's not that bad. But there are a bunch. Worth mentioning: Game Base, Lookout Security, Mobile Life Organizer, More for Me (offers and deals), Netflix, Photo editor, Polaris Office, Pro apps (a stub landing page for apps like Evernote, Dropbox and Tripit), T-Mobile Mall, Name ID, TV and Video chat, Tags (for NFC), Telenav, Yelp and Zinio. That's not even all the preinstalled apps. Not by a long shot.
The Galaxy S Blaze 4G has a front-facing 1.2MP camera, and a rear-facing 5MP camera. Neither is really anything to write home about, but they could be worse. The software is standard Samsung fare and isn't horrible. Check out the examples below.
Warning: Images below open in full resolution in a new window
Other odds and ends
- Wifi direct is already built in. That's mostly been an Android 4.0 feature.
- The Blaze 4G has T-Mobile's Wifi calling. But you have to have the proper SIM card to use it. If you don't, the phone will yell at you. A lot.
- Tethering and mobile hotspotting are possible.
- The speakerphone is passable.
We keep asking ourselves where the Blaze 4G fits into T-Mobile's lineup. Moreover, we keep asking ourselves, "Why?" — a relatively fair question because T-Mobile's still got the Samsung Galaxy S II, and it rocks 42Mbps. It's also another $70 or so at $229 on contract.
For you smartphone nerds reading this review, you're likely leaving a bit non-plussed. But for you folks looking for your first Android smartphone, the Blaze 4G is an above-average choice, with T-Mo's highest tier of data thrown in for good measure.
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