Review: Samsung DROID Charge

  • June 1, 2011 11:36 am

Joining a slew of new handset releases on Verizon Wireless this past Thursday, May 26th, the Samsung DROID Charge is yet another heavy hitter. What instantly sets this phone up front in our eyes is support for Verizon’s LTE network that is quickly sweeping across the country as well as a gorgeous Super AMOLED display. But are super speedy download times and pretty pixels enough to make up for a few mis-steps in hardware and software? Hop inside to find out…

The Specs

  • Processor: 1GHz Samsung Hummingbird
  • Display: 4.3″ Super AMOLED @ 480 x 800
  • RAM: 512 MB
  • Storage: 2 GB built-in + up to 32 GB via microSD
  • Cameras: 8-megapixel rear w/ LED flash/1.3-megapixel front
  • Wireless: 1xRTT/EV-DO (3G)/LTE, 802.11 Wi-Fi b/g/n connectivity, Bluetooth 3.0, aGPS, Mobile hotspot
  • Battery Size: 1600 mAh

Hardware

We’ll start right off with the declaration that we love Samsung phones. There’s just something about them that looks so…sleek. HTC has their moments as does Motorola, but just about every Samsung device we’ve seen we’ve fallen in love with.

Starting on the front of the Charge we have the 1.3-megapixel video chat camera plus four physical buttons (Menu, Home, Back, and Search) that in our eyes are far more useable and less error prone than the capacitive variant. Looking left will reveal the volume up/down rocker and microSD port for syncing and charging. A lone headphone port resides up top while the right side plays host to the power button and miniHDMI port. Finally, out back Samsung has tucked a nice little 8-megapixel camera w/ LED flash.

The overall weight actually caught us off guard. Official specs say 143g is all she weighs and we believe it. While the HTC Thunderbolt stands in one corner as a hulking mass of power, the Charge exudes a sense of swiftness and mobility.

Display

What can we say, the display is one of Samsung’s shinning achievements. The 4.3″ window to the world has incredibly bright and vibrant colors thanks to Samsung’s use of Super AMOLED technology which far and wide trumps mere LCD competitors. Proving this point can be seen above — A DROID X2 on the left with its technically superior qHD display (540 x 960) looks rather dull compared to the Charge’s Super AMOLED (480 x 800) offering. Even despite the reduced resolution on the Sammy, we find it more pleasurable to look at for extended periods.

Camera & VIdeo

We found the DROID Charge’s photo taking chops to be up there with the Xperia Play in that photos were well balanced, vibrant, and crisp.

What we found rather surprising was that while the Super AMOLED display was incredibly vibrant and the camera capable of some truly stunning photos, the video camera left quite a bit to be desired. For starters, white balance and contrast seem to be a chore for the Charge as does switching between color profiles. In the video below you can see when walking through the grass the green hue jumps around quite a lot. One area where the Charge excels, however, is in closer up shots with the video camera. While still blurry and unable to get super close, it did a better job than DROID X2 and Xperia Play.

Software

Oh Samsung. Why must you punish us with your god awful TouchWiz user interface. It literally looks like you put a bunch of preschoolers in a room, gave them narcotics and crayons, and said “go to town”. Seriously, it sucks. What’s even more disgusting than usual is that the TouchWiz interface on the DROID Charge makes use of a rather odd color palette — brown, orange, and tan. (Thanksgiving anyone?)

If you can manage to get over the terrible UI, a sense of normalcy can be restored. While we would have liked to see Android 2.3 instead of Froyo — especially this late into the game — we didn’t find ourselves wishing we had any one feature of Google’s latter 2.3 Gingerbread OS.

Being from Verizon Wireless, there usual allotment of VZW-branded Vcast services are present. While we don’t use them, we’re sure the 4 or 5 people who do would die without them. Hey, Android is all about choice, right?

If we’re to be completely honest, if you’re looking for a new Android device and are eyeing the Samsung DROID Charge based on its hardware, be sure to give the software a test drive first. It can be a make or break situation depending on how strongly you feel for skins on Android. On that same note, we have no doubt in our mind that the Charge will be rooted and fitted with custom ROMs in the not too distant future. At least in that sense, the TouchWiz interface can be ripped off the Charge’s sexy body and refitted with some Android 2.3 action thanks to a very active developer community. However, while we can immediately see the possibilities of a rooted Charge, we can’t forget that words such as “root” and “ROM” are foreign to many users.

Case in point: if you’re not willing to root your device, give TouchWiz a test drive before you buy.

**If you’d like to take matters into your own hands, installing a 3rd party launcher such as LauncherPro or ADW will go a decent way into removing a good portion of Samsung’s TouchWiz interface. Things such as the gaudy icons in the app drawer and homescreen app launcher are converted to a more stock looking, customizable layout. With that said, colors in the notification pull down shade as well as notification/alert boxes, and various other aspects will still retain the default TouchWiz UI.

Voice & Data

There’s not too much out of the ordinary to report here. VZW’s network is known for being extremely large and stable. We didn’t have any voice quality issues in our neck of the woods (northern Indiana). Data speeds on VZW’s 3G network averaged around 1 Mbps down and 3-400 Kbps up. Moving over to neighboring Chicago netted much more impressive LTE performance to the tune of 10+ Mbps downloads and equally speed uploads.

Battery Life

Expecting somewhat disappointing results because of LTE, we are pleased to report that we’re actually quite happy with the DROID Charge’s battery life. Weighing in at 1600 mAh, the included battery is slightly larger (average is 1400-1500 mAh) than the usual cell you’ll find in most of todays phones.

With 3 push Gmail accounts and several widgets updating every hour along with ~20 emails/hour and a dozen or so tweets, we made it a good 10 hours (on 3G) before we hit the 30% warning. LTE obviously lessend said runtime as you can’t have your cake and eat it too — we saw 4-5 hours of rather heavy on/off data usage over LTE before our battery was begging for relief at 10%.

Conclusion

The Samsung DROID Charge is an incredibly good looking device that in our eyes is marred by a sub-par and hideous OS. With that said, we can’t solely base our final decisions off an “optimum experience” — rooting the device and installing a stock Android ROM. In that light, we’re not so sure we could use the Charge day in and day out. The hardware is certainly capable and the battery life pretty fantastic. If the UI doesn’t bother you or you actually like it, then by all means get this phone.

One particularly redeeming quality is the fact that even with LTE the larger 1600 mAh battery provides enough extra power to make it through a solid 8-hour day with plenty left over to spare an additional few hours of night life adventures — a far cry from the HTC Thunderbolt we reviewed. With that device you could literally see the battery meter depleting when LTE was being employed.

Compared to our other recently reviewed handsets — the Sony Xperia Play and Motorola DROID X2 — we’d still pick the Charge despite our gripes about it’s ugly UI. To us, the faster web speeds and greater battery life trump the use of a single-core processor. For users who favor more CPU-intensive apps and games, this will obviously sway you.

Overall, the Samsung DROID Charge is a great phone for Verizon Wireless that can stand up to the latest dual-core giants from the likes of HTC, Motorola, LG, and even Samsung’s own products — if you can get past the software.

GS Rating: 8/10

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  • Anonymous

    Why are tech writers so clueless that they do not know that you can replace Touchwiz with Launcher Pro, ADW or any number of clean launchers in 30 seconds?

  • http://www.gadgetsteria.com The Gadgeteur

    3rd party launchers only change the icons, homescreen, and app drawer — not the overall UI such as alert boxes, status bar, etc.  It’s a bandaid on a bigger wound.

    **For the record, I prefer LauncherPro over ADW.

  • Anonymous

    Come on, it removes most of what people complaint about.  It is a huge change not bandaid.  Even in your review you only mention the garish colors-so that must have been the biggest problem for you-which launher pro removes.  At the very least you should mention it as a way to remove most of Touch Wiz.  Most people who use launcher pro instead of manufactuer custom interfaces are completely satisfied and barely notice the built in UI.

  • http://www.gadgetsteria.com The Gadgeteur

    It removes half of the problem.  Not most of it.  Not all of it.  The garish colors are still there even after LauncherPro or similar 3rd party launcher is used.  

    With that said, I still rated the Charge quite well because, overall, it is still a very good phone.

  • http://www.gadgetsteria.com The Gadgeteur

    *Added paragraph in software section

  • Anonymous

    I appluad you listening to feedback :) The paragraph is definitely fair and accurate.

  • http://www.gadgetsteria.com The Gadgeteur

    Thank you.  I take pride in my reviews in hopes to help people find the right phone for them even if it isn’t my personal favorite.

  • VC

    I’ve had the Droid Charge, from Verizon, for four days. I hate it. It freezes, slower than I expected, and its size is uncomfortable to hold onto. I am taking it back Friday. The screen looks nice…..when it’s not frozen. It does have some nice features, but it isn’t worth the frustration of taking my battery out a few times a day.

  • Gambino50

    yes, but new rom’s do change all of the above….

  • Gambino50

    I’ve had mine for two weeks now and so far I have no complaints at all. The phone hasn’t locked up once. Coming from droid1 with a chevy simply stunning rom, I like touchwiz’s UI. Not going to root my phone yet, it has ran flawlessly so far. The call log has some very cool features. My only complaint is the battery life. Without 4g, after a day of surfing and texting, I have to plug-in.

    Back to the Gaudy app icons, I thought these were pretty good looking…. who likes generic?

    Great review Gadge, thanks.

  • Tim

    I don’t know. I’ve had my Droid Charge since launch, and still love it. Thanks to Launcher Pro, and Dolphin browser, this thing is great.

    Does it have some quirks? Sure. All phones do. But this phone is very nice.

  • Mike Norris

    Thanks Gambino.

  • Mike Norris

    Very true. And while I highly encourage as many people as possible to root their phones and install custom ROMs, the sad fact is most people don’t. As such, they miss out on a ton of Android functionality.

  • Lou Farrell

    I bought it as soon as it came out and am very happy with it.  I switched to GoLauncher and haven’t given TW a second thought.  I was trying to hold out for a dual core LTE, but the Charge definitely met my needs.  As the price drops, it will become a very good value for an LTE phone.

  • Rex D

    The ONLY thing I don’t like about the Charge is the stupid PUZZLE PIECE used to unlock the screen…. but that’s a small price to pay.  

  • Pt10961

    This phone great.  No complaints.  I’ve been using it for two weeks.  The LTE network is incredible….not looking back, could never recommend a 3G device.  Use Launcher Pro to hide the unwanted icons.  Add a battery manager.  If that is not enough, get the 2600 mAH battery and cover for about $60 on-line.

  • Wolos68

    Nice review of the Charge (content-wise). Too bad the author can’t spell. “Ways” when he means “weighs” and “it’s” when he means “its” makes this review look so amateurish. Get a proof reader.

  • Wolos68

    Nice review of the Charge (content-wise). Too bad the author can’t spell. “Ways” when he means “weighs” and “it’s” when he means “its” makes this review look so amateurish. Get a proof reader.

Author: Mike Norris

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Gadget lover, smartphone collector, and beer connoisseur. I've been writing about gadgets for three years now and loving every minute of it. Outside of the digital landscape, I enjoy being active outdoors. I'm always up for a good conversation, so feel free to drop me a line!