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I've had the Samsung Epix i907 Windows Mobile smartphone (AT&T) for about a week now, and spent two days or so getting extra-cozy with it on a trip to Dallas late last week.  While it's no secret that I'm not a big fan of Windows Mobile in general, I also won't make a secret that I've been really pleased with Epix itself.  Early "reviews" were hard on Epix for having a thick profile and what some called a superfluous feature in an optical mouse where the D-Pad would normally go.  Me, I actually didn't mind the phone's size (it's largely offset by its light weight) and found the combination of touchscreen, optical mouse, and full QWERTY board to be a victorious triumverate.

First off, Epix hasn't crashed on me even once.  Can't say that about some of the WinMo devices I've tried in the past.  Reminds me of when I first got a Motorola Q9 to review some time back and took it on a trip with me.  I distinctly remember almost losing my marbles in a United Airlines terminal somewhere when our flight was twice-delayed and I tried to take solace in reading some sports news on the Q9.  Crash, crash, crash and I nearly broke out in sobs.

Next, battery life is much improved over the notoriously short-on-stamina Blackjack and Blackjack II, which Epix essentially replaces.  Thin may be in, but thick adds room for a beefier battery, which means you can rock the 3G a little bit longer than your iPhone-toting friends.

Beyond that, I really like the use of the optical mouse.  It's not much different than the trackball that RIM and HTC have recently employed on the Curve/Pearl/Flip and G1, respectively, but it might actually be easier to use than a trackball.  The optical pad can be set to full-on mouse mode or to a "sweep and pan" mode depending on the user's preferences.  I found it really handy when browsing the Web and trying to click on those tiny little hotlinks that touchscreen phones are notoriously bad at dealing with.  Several times I honestly forgot that Epix also had a full touchscreen, and got a kick out of remembering ... and then mashing every vritual button in sight with my thumb.

Speaking of browsing, I also installed a Beta of the Skyfire browser on Epix and it worked quite well.  I wasn't quite able to "enjoy" streaming Flash videos from Hulu or YouTube (as I'd seen advertised on some forum or another), but Flash does work on Skyfire - at least in theory.  Complex pages rendered very quickly via Skyfire on Epix, and I'm looking forward to playing around with the browser a little more.

I still find Windows Mobile to be a clunky, annoying OS, and Samsung didn't put TouchWiz on Epix so none of the WM 6.1 experience is hidden from the user.  But the actual hardware worked very well for me - at least in initial, limited testing - and the fun of using Epix itself overshadowed whatever personal bias I still harbor towards WM.  3G data worked well in Dallas and Oakland, WiFi was decently strong, and Samsung did a nice job with the camera and camera UI, in particular.


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