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Samsung Restore

September 12th, 2010
Samsung tries a green QWERTY slider to woo environmentalists.

The Restore is the third eco-friendly Samsung cell phone to be carried by Sprint. The Restore is built with a more mainstream slider design than its predecessor, the Reclaim. While there were some features in the Reclaim that we enjoyed there was plenty of room for improvement. But does the Restore make up for them, or is it another social statement that happens to make phone calls? Our new Samsung Restore review finds out. Hardware design

The Restore is available in two colors: Limeade Green and Midnight Blue. Our review unit came in Limeade, which is appropriate considering the eco-friendly focus of the phone. The device itself is made from 77 percent recycled materials and includes an entire menu of links entitled ĎBest of Greení to green resources on the Internet. We appreciate the gestures, although this is definitely to stroke the egos of the buyers as much as it is to be helpful.

The slide-out QWERTY keyboard on the Restore is very solid. Each of the keys is adequately large for typing. and adapting to the layout of the keyboard isnít too hard. Menu navigation is handled by 4 way arrows if the keyboard is slid open and by a touchpad on the center of the phone when the keyboard is shut. The touchpad is, well, touchy. Even after heavy use, we still havenít fully adapted to the calibration of the touchpad, and we often find ourselves scrolling past items by accident. Samsung has some work to do with the sensitivity of this input scheme.

The screen on the Restore is a basic 2.4-inch, 320x240 LCD. This resolution was fine several years ago, but is starting to feel cramped in light of the resolutions that newer smartphones are boasting. Even though the phone supports Internet browsing and comes with some social media apps preinstalled, actually using the Internet on this phone is quite challenging due to the small screen resolution.

User experience, call quality and camera quality

The user experience with the Restore is, simply put, disappointing. The operating system has the same look, feel, and issues as the Reclaim. As a feature phone OS, it's functional but not terribly exciting or original. One positive item to note, though, is that multitasking is supported; you can browse the web while music plays, for example.

Not that weíre trying to harp on Samsung, but we do need to talk about the lackluster social apps and web browsing. Apart from the porthole-like viewing experience, it's just not where it needs to be as of 2010. We tried several Google searches and browsed many of our favorite websites. The sites loaded slowly on the phone and never rendered in a usable fashion. The built-in Twitter and Facebook applications both work; but, again, it takes too much effort to scroll through status updates and tweets on such a small screen. Should one come across a web link in a tweet, it doesn't do much good as clicking on it will only sometimes show you the intended page. As is becoming increasingly obvious with every passing month, mobile social networking really needs a full browser and a sharp display.

We felt that the call quality on the Restore was below average. Callers on the other end of the line sounded distant and at times digital. We also felt that the speakerphone is underpowered, as we got lots of distortion, even at moderate volume levels.

We were further disappointed with the Restore by the navigation system and camera quality. While the navigation system (Sprint's TeleNav-supplied Navigator) works quickly, its instructions are less than helpful. There isnít enough screen real estate to adequately give directions on this phone. The camera on the Restore reaches two megapixels, but we were unimpressed with the quality of our outdoor test photos; they're muted and show the usual chromatic aberration effects of a small lens. This phone is built to a price, and it shows.

Wrapping up

While we really appreciate what Samsung and Sprint are trying to do for the environment with the Restore, itís simply not a great cellphone. There are plenty of other slider cellphones in the $50 price range that offer better features along with a better user experience. While we can see eco-conscious shoppers being drawn to the Restore most users will and should pass on it -- there are simply better phones available. We'd also ask whether it's a great idea to concentrate greening efforts on a basic phone when smartphones are on the rise and need at least as much attention.

Kudos to Samsung on taking care of the environment; hopefully it can merge some of the great qualities of their other phones with their green construction processes to produce a worthwhile and eco-friendly phone.

- Solid build.

- Comfortable, large keyboard.

- Eco-friendly design.

- $50 price.

- Basic multitasking.

- Simply too small a display.

- Sub-par call quality.

- Mediocre camera.

- Over-sensitive controls.

- Social and GPS apps not really effective.