Verizon has offered only a few choices for Windows Phone devices, recently adding Samsung's Ativ Odyssey as the fourth option. With a $50 subsidized price tag, the handset sits between HTC's Windows Phone 8X and Nokia's Lumia 822. In our full review, we try to determine if the Odyssey represents a viable competitor among its close peers and in the broader smartphone market.
With a four-inch display, the Ativ Odyssey is a smaller phone than the Lumia 822 and Windows Phone 8X. It is nearly indistinguishable from the Focus 2, with broad curved corners and a fairly thick bezel around the display.
There is not much to say about the Ativ Odyssey's overall design. We certainly don't like to see companies tweak a good design just for the sake of differentiation, however Samsung appears to have made little attempt at improving the design over the Focus 2 and many of its other budget smartphones. As such, it maintains the look and feel of a cheap phone despite having a seemingly robust build.
Keeping to the low end of Microsoft's Windows Phone design parameters, the Odyssey's four-inch panel offers 800x480 resolution. Its Super AMOLED tech is perfect for the high-contrast interface, however, floating bright tiles on a pure black background that blends seamlessly into the phone's black bezel.
Despite the high contrast ratios and deep saturation of the AMOLED panel, its PenTile pixel layout brings a fuzzy appearance to fine details such as text. The problem would not be as apparent with a higher-resolution screen, such as the 1280x720 panel on the 8X, but we generally feel that PenTile should have been retired long ago.
The Odyssey is powered by a dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon processor and 1GB of RAM. This is on-par with the rest of the current Windows Phone 8 crowd, providing enough power to handle any common tasks without a hiccup.
Gauging performance against the iPhone or Android devices is a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison. Nonetheless, in subjective tests such as browsing, the Odyssey seems to keep up with midrange Android devices and the previous-generation iPhone. It is clearly not as powerful as most of the latest high-end Android devices, however, including a few similarly priced handsets.
A five-megapixel camera adorns the back of the Odyssey, complete with autofocus and LED flash, while a 1.2-megapixel sensor has been placed on the facade. We found the image and video quality to be good, but not great.
HTC's 8X and Nokia's Lumia 822 both integrate eight-megapixel shooters, keeping up with what has become the industry standard for smartphones. Five megapixels is not necessarily a drawback; if Samsung had put more effort into the optics and light sensitivity, this Odyssey would be far superior to other phones' eight-megapixel cameras, but this is not the case. In fact, of the three Verizon offerings, Nokia appears to have paid the most attention to the camera experience, thanks in part to a higher-quality Zeiss lens and additional features in the associated software utilities.
Electronista has remained optimistic about Windows Phone as a potential rival to Android and the iPhone, however device manufacturers and carriers have been reluctant to dedicate serious time and effort to Microsoft's mobile platform.
Budget buyers are usually trying to get the best bang for their buck, and the Odyssey is one of 14 smartphones that Verizon offers for $50 or less for new or upgrade-eligible customers. A spec-to-spec comparison against LG's Spectrum 2, for example, does not leave many reasons to choose the Odyssey.
For the Windows Phone enthusiast in the market for a new budget phone on Verizon's network, the Lumia 822 is the direct competitor. Nokia's handset offers a slightly larger display in a similarly sized housing, along with twice as much memory and a better camera, all for free with a two-year contract.
The Ativ Odyssey is not a terrible phone, but like the entire Windows Phone platform, it seems to come across as too little, too late.