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Overview

What's Good: Nice design, complete with HD video-out for digital media fans.

What's Bad: Some lag when browsing, erratic reception at times, and mediocre battery life. HDMI cable (to view HD videos on TV) isn't included; costs $30.

Introduction

Following the popular line of Instinct devices, Samsung has taken the brand to a new level with the Instinct HD. The device has grown up, offering new features such as a 5.0-megapixel camera, support for HD video-out, EVDO Rev. A, and Wi-Fi. The design has changed as well, offering a more rounded body as opposed to the standard rectangular form factor. The challenge is the launch price of $250; with numerous Sprint devices such as the HTC Hero, Palm Pre, and BlackBerry Tour coming in at lower price points, is the Instinct HD in a category in which it can't compete?

Design & Features

Offering what seems to be the popular form factor of the season, the Instinct HD is a touchscreen candybar phone, offering a nice silver trim with black tones and a matte back. More importantly, the neutral color scheme of the device broadens the appeal to more than one demographic. Just like I could see this device in the hands of a twittering teenager, I could also see it in the boardroom. Coming in at 4.6 inches long by 2.3 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick, the Instinct HD weighs 4.01 ounces, making it just lighter than the average smartphone. The 3.2-inch LCD display supports 16.7 million colors and offers 320 x 480 pixels. The display was impressive; text was easy to read, and pictures were bright, full of color, and crisp. The screen also seemed to be near-perfect in regards to size; large enough to be legible, but small enough for the pocket.

The left side of the Instinct HD sports the volume rocker and a voice dialing shortcut key, while the right side contains the microUSB charging port, HD video-out port, and a camera key. The front of the device houses three touchscreen buttons, which light up and can be pressed when the option is available: back, home, and phone keys. The camera lens, flash, portrait mirror, and external speaker can be found on the back. On the top left hand corner of the phone, a status light keeps the user informed of missed alerts and charging status, and on the very top of the device, a 3.5mm headphone jack can be found.

Samsung Instinct HD
Though the Instinct HD doesn't ship with all of the goodies that the original Instinct did, Samsung was relatively generous, offering a home charger, 4 GB microSD card, microSD card adapter, USB cable, earbuds, and instruction manuals.

Usability & Performance

Instead of the OneClick user interface that Sprint has become known for, the Instinct HD offers a proprietary Samsung option. Overall, the interface was easy to use, and offered a reasonable level of customization. At the bottom of the display are five icons: Favs, Main, Fun, My Stuff, and Web. The Favs menu is completely user-customizable, while Main houses e-mail, IM, messaging, navigation, and PIM options; Fun offers media and camera options; MyStuff offers personalized content such as ringers, screen savers, and the like; and besides the obvious, Web offers shortcuts to CNN, Bloomberg, Fandango, and My Account. When pressing the phone button, five new menu options appear: Speed Dial, Contacts, Recent, Voicemail (Visual), and Dialer. Like most Sprint devices, the Instinct HD offers Sprint TV, Sprint Radio, and Sprint Navigation as a part of the package. Thanks to EVDO Rev. A, Sprint's included services were a pleasure to use, with little to no choppiness or lag.

The device offers a resistive screen with haptic feedback, and while it was a positive experience for the most part, we did experience some lag when browsing the web and long lists. If you're used to a capacitive touchscreen (Apple iPhone, BlackBerry Storm, etc.), you'll notice a difference. In regards to input methods, the Instinct HD offers an on-screen QWERTY keyboard. While the keys themselves are of a reasonable size, Samsung's strange portrait keyboard threw us off. Instead of a traditional portrait QWERTY keyboard, it is arranged in an ABCDEF format, completely throwing off the way that most of the world is familiar with when it comes to typing. Though the landscape keyboard is a traditional QWERTY one, we couldn't quite get over the portrait keyboard's design. It's something that we never became accustomed to; even after moderate use, we almost always had to resort to the landscape keyboard.

The Instinct HD ships with a 5.0 megapixel camera, and in our testing, image quality was fantastic. The phone offers numerous customization options, including a self-timer, four different resolutions, seven different color tones, four different ISO selections, seven scene modes, and four shooting modes. The camcorder is very good as well; it can shoot in VGA, QVGA, and HD (720p). Videos can be viewed on the device, but in order to get them onto an HDTV, you'll need an HDMI cable, which is not included and costs $30 at Sprint.

We tested the Instinct HD in the Charlotte area, and reception was somewhat erratic. Available bars of service would jump significantly despite the phone remaining in the same spot, and call quality seemed to be impacted as well. Callers would say that we sounded great, and when the Instinct HD moved to one bar or less, they would reference a bit of choppiness. On our end, calls were mostly decent. When testing the device in a known fringe area with no bars of service, the device was so choppy that we couldn't understand the call. Speakerphone, on the other hand, was clear and quite usable; we tested the device in a busy coffee shop, and we could hear our callers well. Though there was reported background noise, callers told us that they could understand most of our discussion. We were also able to successfully pair the Plantronics Voyager Pro to the device. With EVDO Rev. A, data speeds were very impressive. Internet browsing was quick and painless, and other data-intensive tasks such as Sprint Navigation performed well throughout our testing.

Estimated talk time is 5.8 hours, and in our testing, battery life was mediocre. With moderate use encompassing experimenting with the device for several hours, clicking through menus, and the like, we were able to make it just over one day before the device powered down. With little to no use, the device lasted just over three days. Granted, these numbers will vary with usage, but overall, the battery life isn't as great as others in its class.

Conclusion

Regardless of whether it was intentional or not, the Instinct HD is targeted for a select group of individuals. Digital media fans? The Instinct HD is for you. Road warriors and those that e-mail or text message on a consistent basis? Probably not, due to the strange reception and mediocre battery life. Be sure to check it out prior to purchasing, though at $250 after various rebates, you'll probably find a better equipped smartphone for a similar price - and thanks to Sprint's "Everything Data" plans, you're not paying additional monthly fees to do so.


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