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General Samsung Droid Charge Review

Discussion in 'Android Devices' started by Yankees368, Jun 26, 2011.

  1. Yankees368

    Yankees368 Android Enthusiast
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    In my ever evolving quest to find data service that actually works, my latest phone is the Samsung Droid Charge. This phone is a 4.3 inch SAMOLED+, LTE data blasting, 8 mega pixel shooting beast. Of course, with all these great features there are always some draw backs. Here is my break down:

    Pros:
    Screen: Holy crap! The screen on this phone is above and beyond anything else I have ever used or seen. The screen technology is Samsungs own Super AMOLED+, and let me tell you, it is as good as the name is long. Holding it side by side to my Motorola Droid X tells the story. The Charge has deep blacks and vivid colors, while the Droid X in comparison looks washed out, as if there were a dirty film over the screen. Below is the Droix X on the left, and the Charge on the right. You can easily tell that the Charge displays deep blacks, almost as if the screen wasn't even on in that portion, while the X has a lot of backlight bleed and overall isn't that dark.
    I've never gotten a compliment about the screen on my phone before, but I have with this one.
    [​IMG]
    Appropriate Headline:
    [​IMG]

    LTE Data Pretty much the only reason this phone even exists is because of the LTE radio. When in an LTE market, this phone eats up the megabytes with ease. With a good signal, I often get over 30Mbps down and 5 up. In normal circumstances, I average aboud 10/2. This is a far cry from EVDO Rev. A, which often times is so slow that you might as well be on 2G. As with the Thunderbolt, transitions to and from LTE and EVDO aren't always great. Sometimes you will reacquire LTE with no user input needed, sometimes you MUST do an airplane mode flip to get it. Overall, LTE is what makes this phone worth picking up.
    [​IMG]

    Camera The Charge has an 8MP camera w/ LED flash, and it really is a decent sensor for a phone. Combined with the SAMOLED+ screen, pictures are vivid and clear. Videos are great too.
    [​IMG]
    YouTube - ‪June 20, 2011 5:22 PM‬‏

    Neutral:
    Network Reception On the CDMA side, the Charge performs like a typical Samsung. I don't know what their deal is, but even since my Samsung A460 in 2002, Samsung just seems to under perform when compared to every other company. I am not saying that it is unusable, but it definitely drops calls (or breaks up) where my Motorola did not.
    On the LTE side, I have nothing to compare it to. However, the signal does drop out more than I would like it to given the frequency it runs on (700mhz). The LTE network constantly vanishes in my apartment, but this may be due to the network deployment and not the phone itself.

    Build Quality A typical complaint about modern Samsung phones is that they feel like they are made from plastic....well, they are. And because of that, it is very lite. Even with the extended batter and case, it is still much liter than my parents Droid 2's. However, the plastic is very slippery, and that may be a problem for some people. As I wrote this review, the phone slid off my couch and damaged the tip of the charger, lol. The case is also scratching up fairly easily because of the plastic materials. On top of that, this phone has a rather rare inclusion of physical buttons instead of capacitive. I haven't had this phone all that long, but the springiness of the back button is already questionable. This could also be a problem down the road.

    Cons:
    Battery Life in LTE mode Battery life with the standard battery is low. It is low enough that I wouldn't recommend buying this phone without the extended battery, which presents a problem. I was lucky to get one because the extended battery cover for the Charge has been out of stock for weeks now. If you don't get the extended battery, at least get another standard one, you will need it. This is the price we pay for having access to LTE. Battery life in CDMA mode is not bad, and is on par with other phones in its class.

    RAM The Charge only comes with about 328MB of user accessible RAM. Right now, with a grand total of zero applications running, my phone is using 271MB of RAM. That is unacceptable for a Droid branded, $300 phone. After a few hours of use (or days in some cases), your usage will creep up and things will slow down. Slow way down. In fact, after not too long Launcher Pro has to re load everything on the home screen slowly every time I hit the home button. This is very annoying and can't ever be fixed with a software update.

    Twitter Breaks The Phone? This is a weird one that took me quite a while to research and figure out. Something that has been plaguing Galaxy S devices for some time is that the official Twitter application totally breaks all audio and video codecs after a little while of use. No media will play until you reboot the phone. The only long term solution to fix that is to uninstall the official twitter application, if you use that. No comment from Samsung, Google, Verizon, or Twitter about this yet. BAD! Here is my video of the bug in action:
    YouTube - ‪Droid Charge Media Issue‬‏

    Overall, would I recommend this phone? Yes, but only if you live in an LTE area, or frequently go somewhere that does have it. Without LTE, this phone wouldn't exist. Without it, it is simply a Samsung Fascinate in a time where the Galaxy S II is almost out.
    WIth LTE, however, it is something completely different. I can actually use mobile data again, something I haven't been able to do for a while
    If you want LTE, get this phone (and get it now, before Verizon goes to tiered data plans in July!)
     

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  2. ItsAboutTime

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    Thanks for the review. How about the GPS? Does it lock in in a reasonable amount of time? How close to actual location does it lock in?
     
  3. DocBeech

    DocBeech Well-Known Member
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    My gps works just fine, takes about 60 seconds to track all 10 sats, but in 30 seconds it can get a good general idea.
     
  4. flipdiddlin

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    This review is extremely accurate. My only question is how did you get your ram data as mine seems to differ
     
  5. Yankees368

    Yankees368 Android Enthusiast
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    The GPS is definitely a step down from my Droid X, but not in a way that really impacts use. When the Droid X can easily get a GPS lock in a room with a window, the Charge never will. However, outside, it is just fine. Considering that I really only need it outside, I'm ok with this.

    Thanks for the nod. The RAM data can be found by holding down the home key until the app switcher comes up, clicking task manager, then hitting the RAM tab. You will see a meter of the currently used and total available RAM.
     
  6. Ken7

    Ken7 Android Expert
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    Mine works fine too, about 10 minutes...oh wait, that sucks. I forgot, it was my Iphone that locked on virtually instantly.
     
  7. Ken7

    Ken7 Android Expert
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    You can add 4G to the other things on the Charge that don't work too well indoors. :rolleyes:
     
  8. Yankees368

    Yankees368 Android Enthusiast
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    Your reception may vary. I don't have any issues using 4G at school or work, but I do at my apartment. Remember, the LTE network is still brand spankin new.
     
  9. kyler13

    kyler13 Android Expert
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    That's because it's not on in that portion. ;)

    Great review and I agree on most points, but I have a couple comments. My 4G is pretty solid, but maybe it's just the area I live in. It works in my basement at home or at my desk at work (pretty deep inside a building), and with good speed. As a matter of fact, I sometimes switch off my wifi when I'm upstairs because 4G gives me better speed and response than wifi at the fringe. I haven't experienced any issues with call dropping, nor does it seem to underperform on 3G. Maybe I haven't had enough time with it on 3G (I will this weekend as I venture into rural America where only 3G is available - LOL at that). Battery life has been par for the course, a full day on 4G. All this comes in comparison to my Incredible I had for over a year. That being said, I think battery issues are an expense of signal fringes which really boils down to the network in the user's area. If your phone spends most of the day hanging on for dear life, it's going to burn down your battery pretty fast as it keeps boosting power to send/receive.

    The RAM issue is an issue. I honestly thought the RAM stats were reporting free RAM (don't know why I assumed that) but you're right that it's mostly full with zero third party apps running. I wonder if TW eats a bunch of RAM, and if so, would a custom ROM and rooting actually help. Would be interesting if someone with root + ROM could tell us what their memory usage is at boot up before starting any apps. I assume you mean software can't fix it because of the physical amount, not it terms of freeing up memory?

    I get some stuttering when streaming music via bluetooth in my car. It doesn't happen all the time but crops up the longer the up time, and certainly can be remedied with a reboot. I'm thinking it's RAM related.

    I think the Charge is a good preview for the SGSII on Verizon. Really, this phone would be phenomenal with a dual core processor and 1GB of RAM which is exactly what will be addressed in the sequel.
     
  10. DocBeech

    DocBeech Well-Known Member
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    Im not sure I would want a dual core processor on a 4glte phone. The battery life takes a pretty big hit as it is, add a second core and thats just that much less battery life.
     
  11. Ken7

    Ken7 Android Expert
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    Yes, it's new, but there is NO excuse for the frequent "no connectivity" issues that I and TONS of other people are getting. When this occurs in areas where you have almost a full set of bars, and the person standing next to you with a 3G only phone is having no issues with data...well, something is seriously wrong and this goes beyond the 'brand new' aspect of the VZW network.

    I firmly believe (and one guy who was on with VZW tech support said the tech acknowledged) is the receivers/antennas are less sensitive than the 3G only phones. Let me tell you, it shows big time.

    If you live in a solid 4G network area, consider yourself lucky...very lucky. Here in N.Y. we are not so lucky. The fragility of the 4G signal is absurd. If you're lucky enough to grab a 4G signal, in many areas you simply walk inside a WOOD frame building and kiss your 4G goodbye. That would actually be fine if you consistently got a 3G signal WITH data to replace it. But getting no data is inexcusable, new system or not.
     
  12. Yankees368

    Yankees368 Android Enthusiast
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    I've used the phone in Detroit and Lansing MI, as well as a few weeks in NY (Long Island and Westchester). Back on LI, I had no issues with reception. In fact, it was BETTER than 3G for inexplicable reasons, and is the reason why I got a 4G phone. Our once great 3G signal vanished a few months ago.
    Out here in MI is a different story, and it comes down to the network being new. At my apartment, my local and closest tower does not have LTE for various reasons, so my signal is constantly dropping back to 3G. This destroys the battery, so I turn on wifi.
    And that is exactly what I meant on the memory thing. No matter what software they issue, you can't increase the amount of physical memory on board. No excuse for that, really.

    Dual core does not give you lower battery life, it actually increases it. The processor has to work for less time and at a lower speed to complete the same task as a single core one.

    I do agree that for a 700 mhz signal, the 4G signal disappears too often. However, a very quick flip in and our of airplane mode usually reacquires LTE for me.
     
  13. Ken7

    Ken7 Android Expert
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    It does for me too...for about 10 minutes.

    BTW, on LI where I live, reception varies tremendously. In mid to western Nassau, 4G is quite strong. As you travel east from that point, not so much. In fact that's where you will have numerous instances of 'no data connectivity' despite showing almost a full set of bars.
     
  14. Yankees368

    Yankees368 Android Enthusiast
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    In an around South-Western Nassau I didn't have many issues. I will do some more testing in July when I am back.
     
  15. twistedlim

    twistedlim Android Expert
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    Well, thoughtful review but I must disagree on a couple of aspects. I have run launcher pro since I got it and even running stock I have had no problems whatsoever. Coming from a overclocked rooted DX I really did not notice a difference. For a short time I had both the charge and TB and the Charge consistantly held 4g better. The battery life was much better than in the TB. I can get pretty much what I got out of my stock DX and stock battery.
    Build wise it ain't the TB but then again it is not nearly a heavy or cumbersome. I like the thin style and lines, it fits very comfortable in my front pocket. I have been using without case and not scratches or nicks after 3 weeks. I am sure they will show up but the way the phone fits in my pocket I don't want to saddle it with a big sticky case.

    BTW rooted with the lag fix (not overclocked) creates a whole new phone. Quadrants are where they should be (1650-1700) and the phone is very responsive and I can still easily get a day out of the battery.
     
  16. Yankees368

    Yankees368 Android Enthusiast
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    I have never had a Thunderbolt, so I can't compare the Charge to it. As for launcher pro, I don't now why I see the widget and icon reloading so often, but I attribute it to the low memory. None of my past phones did this.
    As for rooting and lag fixing, that wouldn't create a fair review. I reviewed this phone as stock, the way that 99.5% of users will have it operating at. I still haven't done any of that tinkering simply because I shouldn't have to and don't want to break it.
     
  17. MaxBuck

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    Mine works fine indoors.
     
  18. MaxBuck

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    In my own case, my 4G signal with the Charge is much more stable than the 3G signal I got with my Fascinate. Not arguing with you, just saying this is a phenomenon that may depend on where you are, physically.
     
  19. Ken7

    Ken7 Android Expert
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    Yes, that may be, but there is absolutely, positively no arguing that I've had many instances where I've had zero data with my Charge and my wife's VZW Iphone had no issues at all with data as she stood or sat right next to me. This has happened more times than I'd care to mention. Her 'cutesy' response to me is always "You have a bad phone". :rolleyes:

    For a $300 phone that I told her was so 'advanced'...well, it's pretty embarrassing.
     
  20. DocBeech

    DocBeech Well-Known Member
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    First off a close friend of mine just bought hers from verizon after playing with mine and paid 200$ out the door, which seems to be the norm. Always remember a phones price is negotiable.

    Second I almost never loose signal. My phone even has signal in MRI reading rooms, and places burried deep in the hospital. The only place I ever loose 4g signal is in the sky scraper elevators downtown and even then its rare it happens. I have 4GLTE 3bars+ all the time. Ive never had a dropped call, and never have connection issues.
     
  21. Yankees368

    Yankees368 Android Enthusiast
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    Just as an FYI, we have absolutely no way of knowing the LTE signal strength. The bars you see are for CDMA 1x signal strength, not LTE.
     
  22. John Jason

    John Jason Android Enthusiast
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    I'm supposed to have a job?
    Portland, left side North America
    Dual core phones use less battery than single core phones. I don't understand why, but it's well documented on the forums.

    Edit, never mind. Someone beat me to it.
     
  23. kyler13

    kyler13 Android Expert
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    You make a good point. The signal meter probably always reflects your signal to at a minimum make a call. This reminds me of some of the feature phones (like LG's) where there were dual signal bars stacked, one labeled "1X" and the other "EV". I'm sure there's a way to report the LTE-specific signal strength, it's just not done so in the status bar by design. Sounds like an excellent opportunity for an app.
     

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  24. Yankees368

    Yankees368 Android Enthusiast
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    Yea that would be nice, but no app I have found so far will report the LTE signal strength. Hell, I even bricked one Charge looking for an internal field test mode. I have had no luck on that front.
     

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