Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G Review

October 5, 2012
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If you're in the market for low priced budget smartphone that has some quality specs and a hardware keyboard, we might have one for you. Samsung's added another device to their ever expanding lineup on T-Mobile with the new Galaxy S Relay 4G -- complete with a slide-out QWERTY hardware keyboard. This mid-range 4-inch smartphone rocks Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich so lets see how it stacks up to the competition.

This phone had all sorts of names like the Blaze Q and more before officially getting released with the lengthy title it has now. It has most of the makings for a top-end smartphone, but the screen and slightly outdated camera are what bring this to you for a low price. Here's some more details.

Hardware
The Relay 4G is no slouch on hardware. It's a fine blend between the Galaxy S II and the older Samsung Captivate Glide from AT&T. You combine the design elements of the Galaxy S II with a smaller screen and tack on a keyboard. The specs have a slight drop overall (except CPU), but nothing to be too concerned about. As far as hardware this certainly looks and feels like a slider. You get a little heft and size to your device, but that comes at the benefit of the dedicated hardware keyboard for those in need. Full size specs are: 125.9 x 64.9mm in size being 13.4mm thick -- so basically a mini brick like most sliders.

Overall the hardware is pretty decent. It feels great, it's durable, and build quality is a fine blend of plastic and soft touch matte backing for the rear so it feels like a quality smartphone. As far as a spec sheet we have a 4-inch WVGA (800x480) display -- so no HD here -- Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 (says S3 on box) dual-core processor at 1.5 GHz, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of internal storage. As usual we get a micro-SD port for expanded storage, and the usual bells and whistles. Then you'll be working with a 5 megapixel rear, 1.3 front camera setup, 720p video capabilities, and a decently sized 1,800 mAh battery.

As you can see the setup is extremely familiar. Power button around the right edge, micro-USB for charging on bottom, volume up/down to the left, and the lone 3.5mm headphone jack up top. The soft touch matte rubber on back feels great and makes the device slip resistant -- something I can't say for their new flagship Galaxy S III. The images above should give you an idea on the hardware, as well as the video below.

Keyboard
Honestly we weren't too impressed with the keyboard. In a world with bigger displays, accurate on-screen keyboards, and voice dictation this is slowly becoming a non-factor. For many however, hardware keyboards are still something sought after. In that regard the keyboard here is decent -- but it's the rest of the package that makes this great. In general we didn't really enjoy the keyboard experience due to the hard plastic keys, flush design, and lack of spacing. Typing took some serious getting used to, and even then I opted for Google's voice dictation and on-screen typing personally. Previous QWERTY's from Samsung have been better including the Captivate Glide, and even the old Epic 4G.

The Relay 4G is one of the best smartphones to date that comes with a QWERTY hardware keyboard so that should make plenty of users happy. If you need a keyboard, are on T-Mobile, and don't want those massive screens this is a great package and a powerful phone. Certainly about 10 steps better than T-Mobile's Huawei made myTouch Q we recently reviewed.

Software
With the new Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G you'll be working with nearly the latest version of Android. That being version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. This comes out of the box -- so you'll only be waiting for the recently released 4.1 Jelly Bean. Everything that makes Android great is here. You have multitasking, an enhanced camera, voice dictation for hands-free typing, emails, Google searches and more. Then performance is smooth and swift as usual. Here's another quick look at the hardware and software in our hands-on video review.

Thanks to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich the device is basically buttery smooth and performs great. From browsing the web, playing a few games, snapping pictures and more everything flows with ease. The dual-core Snapdragon processor keeps things chugging along great, and multi-tasking by long pressing the home button is a breeze. As usual the software is riddled with T-Mobiles bloatware, which is only getting worse as the year continues. Out of the box we have 8 apps just from T-Mobile themselves -- 8! That doesn't count Amazon, TeleNav GPS, and Samsung's additional music and video players. You'll have three full pages out of the box, none which can be uninstalled. Thankfully you have 4GB of internal storage so you'll never need to worry about having too many apps.

Benchmarks and 4G Speeds
We've ran a quick couple of benchmarks to see how this budget smartphones stacks against the competition. As you saw in our video it had no problems keeping up with the times and being a mid to high end device. For the price it performs great. Quadrant saw impressive results blasting past 5k, while as usual AnTuTu wasn't as kind for the lack of graphical power. Games will play with ease though -- so don't worry about missing out on that Angry Birds Space.

T-Mobile doesn't rock 4G LTE like Verizon or AT&T but you'd hardly notice it missing. Here in Vegas their HSPA+ "faux 4G" speeds are excellent. I achieved around 14-16 Mbps downloads and 1-4 uploads daily this entire week. Safe to say you'll be uploading those 5 megapixel photos to Facebook with ease.

Browsing the web, uploading a stack of photos after a night out, or just updating apps you shouldn't have too many problems as long as you have T-Mobile's 4G speeds in town.

Camera and Battery
Sadly Samsung's only tossed in a 5 megapixel camera here, but for a budget-aimed device it certainly does a respectable job. Even indoors the images were acceptable, and outdoors you'll have no problems getting a decent shot. Below is a few samples taken with the 5 megapixel shooter on the Relay 4G.

Then battery life is always a concern. Being that we don't have actual 4G LTE sucking down the battery, nor is there a massive 4.8-inch screen that will drain the life from your phone you'll have no problems here. The battery is a decent size coming in at 1,800 mAh -- which isn't as big as recent Sammy phones -- but it lasts well over an entire day. As you see below I've used the phone for almost 24 hours and I'm at about 56%. It's safe to say medium usage will last almost two days on a full charge.

Phone
As a phone, yes one of those things we make calls with, it works great. The speakers are loud and clear, and the external speaker for conference calls or while watching a YouTube video was decently loud. T-Mobile has great call quality and we experienced nothing bad worth noting. You'll probably only be texting on that 5-row keyboard anyways -- but it was worth a quick mention.

Wrap-Up
As we said above, the Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G is no slouch. In terms of any real QWERTY Slider competition on T-Mobile -- there is none. The myTouch line runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, as does the Galaxy S Blaze 4G, and neither have the dual-core S4 processor power under the hood. It's very safe to say this is the best slider T-Mobile has to offer.

Overall we were mildly pleased with the Relay 4G. For a mid-range smartphone costing just $149 the package is decent, but we'd still rather spring an extra $50 for the Galaxy S III -- then you'll get all the stars instead of just most in the "Galaxy". In the end this device is aiming at the keyboard crowd, and in that regard the hardware was certainly not my favorite. We'd recommend something along the lines of the Galaxy S II or Galaxy S III over this, but if you must have the keyboard this is surely the best bet from T-Mobile. Enjoy the rest of the pictures in the gallery below. Head to your nearest T-Mobile store to pick up the Galaxy S Relay 4G today!

[device id=3425]


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  • Joe Dirt

    Can anybody tell me how much System storage and USB storage it has??

    Thank you for the review.

    • rose945

      Internal Storage : 8 GB
      External Storage:MicroSD

      • Joe Dirt

        Well, but that is misleading. I bought a Samsung Captivate Glide yesterday that advertises 8 gb of storage. However when I got it home I found out that it only has 1.89 gb of storage to download apps to. I am sensitive to this because I had to suffer with a Motorola Flipside with 150 mb of internal memory for 1.5 years. It couldn’t make a call much less down load an app. I am disappointed that cell phone manufacturers have no problem misleading their customers. So if anyone actually owns this phone, please let me know what the System and USB storage is. thank you

      • sdfgdfg

        Root it and use all the space you need

      • Joe Dirt

        Thanks alot. I don’t know why it so hard to get a simple question answered. If you have the phone, please reply, if you don’t have the phone, save it.

      • Chaz

        Total space available on the phone without SD card is 5GB

      • http://www.facebook.com/allen.ng.963 Allen Ng

        Email me back at allen@mrnearmint.com and I can give you all the specs I just got this phone and I have been using it for a day, I love this damn thing!

    • Allen

      I just got this phone hands down it is sick. I own a company and I use this wherever I go, doing business on the go. After all the apps installed 5.10 GB of total space so all those tmobile samsung apps took about 3 GB so you have more than enough. Honestly 1 GB is enough for apps but 3+ is a major plus keep adding more apps lol.

  • Craw

    We get it, you don’t like hardware keyboards.

  • Zombie Killer

    So what you (author) didn’t like that caused you to call this HIGH END phone a “mid” or “budget” were the display and the camera?

    Display: this is a 4″ display. One would think that in this time when “smaller is better”, that you would APPLAUD the smaller display. Its easy to make a huge monster, but I sure wouldn’t want to walk around with a 10 inch tablet stuck to the side of my head. Enough is enough, as much as I dislike apple, they got the screen size right. As far as the screen’s overall resolution goes, its enough. You only need to go with the much higher resolution displays when you have a larger area you need to span. Needlessly increasing the overall display resolution does nothing except reduce graphics performance.

    Camera: no phone will ever replace a DSLR camera. The problem isn’t so much the number of “pixels” that you can capture, but the optics. There is a point where capturing more pixels doesn’t actually improve the picture you capture. Take a phone with an 8MP camera and zoom in all the way until you can see the individual pixels, you may notice that they are blurring up there. If you want a good high resolution picture, there is no replacement for a nice BIG high quality lens and sensor, and this takes a whole lot of space. Yeah, you can put this onto a phone, but then your phone will be 2 inches THICK. Think they’re bricks now? With the physical dimensions of a phone, you’re really hitting a wall at about 3 or 4 MP on the camera. Going higher than that is just a numbers game.

    About your price quote… not sure where you’re coming up with $150 — ??? It is listed on tmobile’s website at $500. If you’re referring to the “contract discount”, there are different economics at play there (involved in customer manipulation), so that number is absolutely meaningless for comparisons.

    About your hatred of keyboards: you obviously don’t actually use a phone for anything important (i.e., work, email, etc.), evident by your statement “You’ll probably only be texting on that 5-row keyboard anyways” — just how the HELL can you try to say what ***I*** will be using my phone for??? This actually explains perfectly why you don’t care for a keyboard — SMS = SHORT message service. Emphasis on SHORT. 4-5 characters typically, and yeah, OSK might be easier than sliding out the keyboard for this. How about if you’re typing out a highly detailed email, for example, this response I just wrote to you? OSK = absolutely USELESS for typing anything of decent length. And voice dictation? A toy, and it doesn’t work at all if you’ve got ambient discussions. Of course, I can’t think of one single reason why you would want to use voice dictation rather than just TALKING ON THE PHONE with whoever you’re sending a message to… it is, after all, a PHONE.

    Why are you recommending galaxy s2/s3? s2 is inferior in EVERY specification, s3 is just WAY the hell too big to actually use. Oh wait, you need that massive oversized screen so you can type your 4-character SMS’s without fat fingering the OSK. Way too “big” of a compromise…. Better to get a phone with a keyboard.

    The reality here is that this is absolutely a high end phone. A *VERY* high end phone.

    • parkimedes

      Its good to read a passionate review, thanks for that. I’m about to
      buy 2 phones, one to upgrade my slow LG MyTouch and one for my Dad
      switching from an iPhone 4.

      How do you think it compares to the
      iPhone? And how is the video camera? Also, does it lag when heavy apps
      are running and text messages or calls come in? My current one actually
      misses calls completely because it often freezes when a call comes in,
      if I’m playing Angry Birds or some heavy app like that.

      And do you think someone with big fingers would enjoy the keyboard more than the touch screen keyboards?

      Thanks!

      • Cheapo

        We just bought two of these phones.. One new in the box and one used for 280 and 160- we pay $86 a month for both phones with 4g speeds and 1000 minute plan with text and data.. I was at a funeral yesterday and my bother in law has a iphone.. I was adding pictures and he showed me something neat on the iphone I couldn’t do- he cropped the picture to his screen size after resizing and then saved it.. I have to save it then crop- you can talk about apple all you want but they made a nice phone =] just he paid way more for that thing- more than both our phones combined.. It lasted all through the day and I was using the net and keyboard.. The phone is really nice and no issues at all, very responsive.. Pictures I have to agree after copying them to my pc I noticed it doesn’t come close to the quality of our digital 10mp camera (which also has macro).. Not bad though.. The video is encoded mp4..

        I’m happy and paying half what the iphone users are paying monthly and getting 4g speeds.. You just have to go out and hussle up some used or new phones someone wants to get rid of.. Meet them at t-mobile to check the IMEI number and ask for the 2 year contract family plan.. $86 dollars a month for two phones with data- hard to beat that..

  • Lex L.

    I’ve had this phone for a few months now. Rooted it within hours of getting it home. After uninstalling the bloatware[Tmobiles and Samsungs] it had 6.3GB free space on the internal storage. After adding a 16GB microsd, space became a non-issue. I LIKE the keyboard! Its clean[and easy to keep clean], elegant and well laid out. And I have huge hands so these points are important. The screen is bright and beautiful. The camera takes excellent pictures and videos. It’ll run any app you throw at it. Plays music and video flawlessly. The battery lasts for a solid two days with moderate use and a full 24 hours with heavy use. Speaking of heavy use, I’ve dropped it twice. Not a scratch. It is very durable.

    Clearly the author’s bias clearly plays a part in this review. But he hit the nail on the head in a few key areas; This is THE Tmobile phone to have if you, like me, need a keyboard. But it’s a damn great phone even when compared to the competition. Specs-wise, it falls in between the Galaxy S2 and the S3. And for a price less than the S2. This phone is a win no matter how you look at it.