The QWERTY slider hasn't exactly gone the way of the dinosaur, but it's definitely approaching giant panda status. That is to say, it's become rare for a major device manufacturer to output anything other than candybar touchscreen smartphones. And why not? Slimmer, faster, beastlier is the mobile motto as of late and that's precisely what consumers seem to gravitate towards. But for diehard fans of tactile feedback, Samsung's birthed the Captivate Glide, a handset that marries the best of both form factors. Sitting just below its high-end brethren, Sammy's 4-incher runs along AT&T's 21Mbps HSPA+ network and bundles an 800 x 480 Super AMOLED display with a dual-core 1GHz Tegra 2 processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB of internal storage, a 1,650mAh battery, WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0, a 1.3MP front-facing camera and an 8MP rear camera capable of 720p video capture. At $150 on a two-year contract, it's just half a Benjamin short of the top-tier, LTE-capable HTC Vivid. With that small of a price divide, you have to wonder: is the downgrade really worth it for the Captivate Glide's (comparatively) slower speeds and physical buttons? Are you willing to trade-in thin and sleek for messaging convenience and a bit of bulk? Follow on past the break as we deliver the answers to those burning questions.
Gallery | 54 Photos

Samsung Captivate Glide review


Hardware

There's no sidestepping it: the Captivate Glide is built like a brick, although it possesses none of the associated heft. Fans of distinctive form factors won't find much to love in the way of design, as this handset is neither RAZR-thin nor oval like the DoublePlay. At 4.9 x 2.5 x 0.5 inches (124.5 x 63.5 x 12.7mm), it's 0.13 inches (3.3mm) thinner than LG's unique slider and 1.5 ounces (42.5 grams) lighter at 5.2 ounces (147.4 grams). In typical Samsung fashion, there's lightweight plastic used throughout its construction and, of course, that signature textured backing which makes for a secure hold.

For all its chunky dimensions, you'd think the Captivate Glide would be awkward or uncomfortable to grip. But Samsung made sure to round out all of the phone's edges, giving way to a well-sculpted, palm-pleasing fit. In fact, it feels much the way cellphones used to, before tall and svelte became all the rage. It's thick enough to have a reassuring presence in the hand, with a large enough screen for easy one-handed navigation. Around back, the finely grooved, black casing is broken up by Samsung's logo at the bottom, a brushed metal plate that stretches across the top, housing a secondary mic, 8MP camera, LED flash and speaker grill. A 3.5mm headphone jack and covered micro-USB port sit at the top of the phone, with the volume rocker and power button residing on the upper left and right sides, respectively. The phone's main mic is hidden in a notch at its base that can be peeled back to expose the SIM and microSD card slots, both of which are easily accessible without removing the 1,650mAh battery.


On the front face, AT&T's managed to keep its logo rather discreet. That logo sits smack dab below the equally diminutive ear piece, which is flanked by a 1.3MP front-facing camera on the right and ambient light sensors on the left. And in case you missed it on the posterior, Samsung's once again brandished its logo, this time between the four capacitive buttons and the Captivate Glide's bright 4-inch screen. The phone's a gentle homage to Sammy's original Galaxy S line, borrowing a sprinkling of design elements (think the PenTile display and covered micro-USB port), while still harking back to the Captivate of 2010.

As you may have guessed, the Captivate Glide's display is of the Super AMOLED variety -- not Plus or HD, just regular Super AMOLED. The tech is something of a hallmark for the company's phones and while the 800 x 480 resolution used here won't wow you in the way the Rezound, Galaxy Nexus or Nitro HD might, it does an excellent job for this mid-range tier. Blacks appear rich and deep, while colors pop with an expected vibrancy. Viewing angles are excellent and we didn't have much trouble discerning the contents of the screen while outdoors, though brightness was set to 50 percent.

Keyboard


Touchscreen keyboards have come a long, long way and, when paired with an appropriately sized display, remove the majority of frustration and misspellings that are now considered par for the mobile course. If, however, you still cling to the notion that physical feedback is superior to capacitive tech, then the Captivate Glide's for you. Unlike the flimsy hinges used on T-Mobile's G2 or the stiff mechanism employed by the Droid 3, this keypad snaps out smoothly and securely. It is slightly difficult to get a handle on the device while you attempt to slide it open and there were more than a few instances when it almost flew out of our hands given its relative lightness and the force of the slider.

Samsung's spread out the QWERTY fun over four rows, so there's a sense of spaciousness to the keyboard where other efforts come off as cluttered. Except for the oblong menu, home, back and search buttons bordering the layout, the rest of the keys are rounded squares that lie virtually flush with the pad. You'll have to rely on muscle memory to punch out those texts and emails or just keep a fixed eye on your thumb placement, considering the lack of any raised surface or texture to guide you, save for the slight notches on the F and J keys. The keys are backlit, however, so typing at night won't pose much of an issue, nor will using the keyboard while lying prostrate thanks to the equal weight distribution between the screen and slide out pad.


Much as you'd expect, popping open the keypad automatically reorients the screen into landscape mode, giving you the option to touch to navigate or use the provided physical buttons. Pressing any of the letter keys triggers the search function which displays a list of alphabetically relevant contacts and applications selectable via the OK button. It's an unintuitive setup that'll have you opting for a swipe instead of a button push. And speaking of Swype, the application comes pre-loaded onto the device as an alternative input option should you fall out of love with tactile feedback.

In our time with the Captivate Glide, we found typing on the keypad to be a mixture of fluid and frustrating -- the fault of which lies with the flat layout. Too often, our fingers would slip and depress the wrong key or even no key at all. If Samsung had only added a bit of a curve to the physical keys, the experience would be that much smoother. As it is, you won't be able to focus solely on the screen while you bang out messages and, if you do intend to rely solely on the keyboard, expect a few hiccups.

Performance and battery life


We pitted the Captivate Glide against fellow stablemate, the Galaxy S II and AT&T's $50 pricier LTE offering, the HTC Vivid in a battery of benchmark tests. The result? Sammy's QWERTY slider managed to mostly keep in step with the SGS II, while outperforming the Vivid in Quadrant and Linpack multi-string -- a testament to its swift real-word performance. From the scores listed below, you can clearly see that the SGS II's overall excellence is without peer, but the Captivate Glide does an admirable job aspiring to that level of quality given its mid-range grounding.

Captivate Glide Vivid Galaxy S II
Quadrant 3,061 2,005 3,616
Linpack single / multi (MFLOPS) 33.35 / 59.3 44.9 / 38.9 57.0 / 84.6
Vellamo 672 893 763
NenaMark 1 (fps) 56.3 43.7 59.8
NenaMark 2 (fps) 28.9 30.1 48.4
Neocore (fps) 56.1 58.3 59.7
SunSpider 9.1 3,998 4,540 3,455

Need a daily driver? The Captive Glide won't let you down. With its stock 1,650mAh battery, we managed to push this handset over the 12-hour mark in moderate to heavy usage. That's with Twitter set to sync at 15 minute intervals, one push email account, light browsing, ample use of Google Maps, brightness at 50 percent, GPS and WiFi enabled. Under less intensive use, you'll easily manage to hold a charge for well over a full day. As for our formal battery rundown test, in which we play a video in a continuous loop, the outcome was equally as longlasting. After eight and a half hours, the phone had fully depleted from a 100 percent charge. Bear in mind, you'll need to consume a heavy amount of media to achieve this same performance.

Voice calls made on the handset were incredibly disappointing. Not only did our caller sound distant and disjointed, but there also appeared to be some sort of delay, rendering a fluent two-way conversation impossible and forcing us to end the call. This could very well have been an AT&T network issue and not a flaw in Samsung's construction. Still, should you be the gossiping type, prepare to embrace decent call quality.

Network speeds


AT&T may have recently deployed its 4G LTE network here in New York City, but the Captivate Glide isn't among the chosen few handsets to take advantage of those 700MHz radio waves. Rather, the operator's given Sammy's phone the next best thing -- 21Mbps HSPA+. That is, when it's available. Coverage in the city is inconsistent at best and we found the majority of our speeds coming within the confines of HSPA -- no plus -- and averaging about 2Mbps to 3Mbps down and 0.20Mbps to 0.95Mbps up. When we did latch onto an HSPA+ signal, downlink speeds increased drastically, maxing out at 8.12Mbps down. The same, however, could not be said for uploads, as performance only improved marginally, topping out at 1.17Mbps.

Camera


You'd be hard pressed to find a rear-facing camera these days that seriously underwhelms. The majority of contemporary smartphones are equipped with above average modules that do a fine job taking photographs, though we wouldn't ditch that DSLR just yet. And so it goes that the Captivate Glide's powers of picture taking are, understandably, solid. It's 8 megapixel rear shooter is on par with those found on variants of the Galaxy S II and delivers muted and slightly grainy images when awash in direct sunlight. Shots taken at full zoom displayed a noticeable loss of detail, but we were more surprised by the camera's low light performance. Aided by a single LED flash, photos taken with a shallow depth of field exhibited a clarity and precision not present in other lighting conditions.
Gallery | 47 Photos

Samsung Captivate Glide sample shots



We've become spoiled by the recent influx of smartphones capable of full 1080p HD video capture and though the Captivate Glide falls short of that mark, it does maintain a smooth framerate when recording in 720p. Again, the overall image quality was muted and softly blurred, though we didn't notice any distortion in the recorded audio.


Software


Of all the OEM skins floating about and fragmenting the Googlefied mobileverse, TouchWiz seems to be the least offensive pollutant. Sammy's skin replaces Android's multi-layered UI with a user experience that skates firmly upon the surface, welcoming even the most tech hesitant with its ease of use. We're still dealing with Gingerbread here -- 2.3.5, to be exact -- and it's unclear whether the future harbors an Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade. Still, the company's managed to optimize this iteration of Android to create an uninterrupted user experience that is unfailingly brisk and consistent.

Out of the box, you'll be treated to seven homescreens that scroll in a continuous loop. If that available real estate proves too much, you can easily reduce it by pinching the screen and trashing what you deem unnecessary. Similar to other Sammy devices, a long-press brings up a screen preview and submenu which offers an array of widgets, folders, shortcuts and wallpaper options. Customization, however, isn't as pervasive throughout TouchWiz as it would be on LG's doppelganger UX. Have a preferred set of apps you often use and need to access regularly? Well, you're out of luck. Samsung's pinned the four basic apps -- phone, messaging, web and applications -- to the homescreen dock, so don't bother trying to swap them out. Bloatware on the device isn't overwhelming and, thankfully, some of it's uninstallable -- a growing trend for AT&T handset that we hope continues. There's the usual assortment of carrier branded apps like Code Scanner, Family Map, Navigator and Live TV, in addition to Qik Lite, Facebook, Amazon Kindle and Quickoffice.


Web browsing was especially speedy when within range of an HSPA+ signal, as full desktop pages rendered in under 15 seconds. Naturally, you're in store for longer load times should your network default to plain HSPA. Pinch to zoom was remarkably fluid and kept close track of our finger movements with only momentary instances of checkerboarding.

Wrap-up


Android in 2011 has been defined by Samsung. Omitting the company's recently released Nexus refresh, its Galaxy S II and resulting variants have served as the bellwether for all the Gingerbread handsets which followed. While the Captivate Glide may not achieve the svelte form factor and nigh weightlessness of its high-end elders, Sammy's done its darnedest to replicate that polished experience in QWERTY slider form. Given the demand for slim and sleek candybar phones, the company could have easily overlooked the market for physical keyboards, however increasingly niche, and focused on outputting more of the same. Instead, the company's earned an internet high five for creating an all around well-performing device and loading it up with respectable specs. True, a little more attention could've been paid to the design of the slider's flat, textureless keys, but somehow that minor oversight doesn't terribly cripple its purpose; you'll still be able to craft emails and texts at a reasonable speed.

No doubt, the Captivate Glide is an excellent option for QWERTY aficionados, but its $150 on contract price is too close to the lowest tier LTE option for our liking. For only $50 more, beefier specs and access to AT&T's faster, 700MHz 4G network are within reach on the HTC Vivid. Is it worth the jump in cost? Well, that depends on your predilection for slide out keyboards. If you've had your eye on an SGS II-like device, can't seem to part with AT&T's service (read: contract chains) and rely upon tactile feedback for messaging, then by all means make the Captivate Glide your own. If, however, you find your 'wants list' lacking in any of these criteria, indulge your senses with the Vivid.
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AT&T

Samsung Captivate Glide

Pros

  • Beautiful 4-inch Super AMOLED display
  • Long battery life
  • Lightweight build
  • Spacious QWERTY keyboard
  • HSPA+ 21-capable

Cons

  • Overpriced for mid-range tier
Summary

The Captivate Glide carries on the legacy of Samsung's Galaxy S II, delivering a quality experience with the addition of a workable, slide-out QWERTY keyboard.