Review: Samsung Epix - A BlackJack Replacement | Page 2

The 2.0 megapixel camera includes a very nice self-portrait mirror. It also shoots video and you can send video messages almost instantly after shooting the footage. To snap a photo or start rolling the camcorder, you tap the touch pad. Features include automatic white balancing (for video), a self-timer and various image effects. When framing a photo, your finger on the touch pad gives you access to the zoom feature and to a slider that adjust the light level.

Curiously, out of the box, the Epix is set to vibrate whenever you tap the screen. To turn this feature off, you've got to put the phone in silent mode. (Either press the silent key, found two keys to the right of the space bar on the bottom row of the keypad, or pull down the volume menu from the speaker icon in the upper-right corner and turn off the volume.) Tapping still prompts vibration when the volume is set to vibrate only. We've haven't experienced this before and don't find it a particularly likable feature.

Two aspects of the Epix that might give rough users pause are a pair of hardware decisions. The microSD slot is on the right edge of the device, which is undeniably more convenient than inside the battery compartment where it's found on some phones. But, the external access requires a door and this one hangs by a rubber-plastic thread when it's open.

For frequent users, the easy-access may out weigh the potentially fragile design. But then those are also the same users who are most likely to wear out the flimsy-seeming connector.

It's a design issue for which we have yet to see a good solution. The tiny hinges on the BlackBerry Bold feel like an improvement, for instance, but actually removing the card is more difficult there.

Secondly, Samsung's stubbornly proprietary connector on its USB cable is perhaps not a big deal for someone with only one device. But anyone who's got USB connectors for a variety of electronics will note the inconvenience of a dedicated Samsung cable (not that this is unique to Samsung, but some companies do use a standard cable).

Plus, the slot has another of those flimsy doors covering it. Since all users will charge their phones regularly it seems a door over the connector begs to be broken.

The phone's equipped for AT&T Navigator and comes with a 30-day free trial of the program.

The Epix had good phone reception, though unfortunately where we tested it was not within a 3G coverage area so we can't comment on that network. It's available from AT&T for $499.99 with no commitment or $199.99 after a $100 rebate with a two-year contract.

For happy Samsung customers, the Epix will definitely be an improvement on a good thing. For new smartphone users, the small keys may be a deterrent, though the sizeable screen could be a decent trade-off.

It's hard to predict just who will love the optical mouse-fervent texters? gamers? phone call-addicts?-but it's certainly worth getting your fingers on one to see if that person is you.

Right now, Amazon is offering the Epix for only $99.99 with a two-year contract. It lists for $299.99.

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