As 4G coverage continues to spread across the United States, the smartphones built for these fast data networks are growing increasingly affordable. The Samsung Exhibit II 4G from T-Mobile is one of the most competitively priced handsets we've seen yet.
While this smartphone on a budget skimps on some of the more luxurious features, it's hard to argue with its price, and the inclusion of a prepaid option available at Walmart.
You won't be hopping on a 4G network for much cheaper than this, but is a low price point the best thing this Android handset has going for it?
Hardware-wise, the Samsung Exhibit II 4G (T-Mobile) is identical to its predecessor, the Samsung Exhibit 4G. Both phones run Android 2.3: Gingerbread with a 1Ghz Snapdragon processor and 512MB of RAM. The differences are mostly external; the Exhibit II has a completely plastic exterior, while the original Exhibit had a rubberized casing.
It's a compact phone, with a 3.7-inch screen and a light body that fits easily in the hand. The WVGA touchscreen is bright, responsive, and at a resolution of 480 x 800, it has a respectable pixel density for its small screen size.
The Exhibit II's screen is 3.7 inches, a mere .2 inches larger than its predecessor's. Indoors, it was colorful and easy to read, but outdoors, it had real problems. Even in moderate sunlight, it would get washed out. Bumping up the display brightness helped, but even at maximum brightness, the screen was difficult to read while outside. Also, maxing out the brightness did no favors for the battery life - we'll get into that later.
The phone features a front-facing VGA camera for video chatting, a generous feature for a budget smartphone.
At a mere 4 ounces, the Samsung Exhibit II 4G (T-Mobile) is light. It fits easily in a pocket or purse without feeling bulky or cumbersome. It's a compact 4.54 by 2.35 inches, with only .45 inches of width.
The Exhibit II has a rather dull appearance. It's not very handsome or eye catching. We appreciated the "grippiness" of the phone's marine blue back, but missed the tougher exterior of its rubberized predecessor, the original Exhibit 4G. We also wish it was available in more colors.
On the Exhibit's backside you'll notice the lens for its 3-megapixel camera and an LED flash. No, that's not a lot of megapixels, compared with the 8-megapixels that's become standard on most smartphones. Still, the phone is capable of taking a decent quality picture, but we'll get into further detail on that later in this review.
The back casing comes on and off easily, revealing a 3.7-volt lithium-ion battery and removable SIM card. Opening the phone is simple, but the case is secure. It never opened accidentally in our pocket or in a bag.
While no SD card is included with purchase, you can add up to 32GB. Onboard storage is a scant 1GB.
On the left side the phone you'll find a volume rocker, which is convenient for quickly silencing the ring of an incoming call, or adjusting speaker levels.
The Exhibit II's power button is on the right side, in convenient range of your thumb. Tapping it once wakes it up or locks the screen. Holding it brings up a quick menu for switching to silent, airplane mode or powering off.
Unfortunately, being located parallel to the volume rocker makes it easy to accidentally lock the device when adjusting the volume.
At the top you'll find a mini-usb port and the standard 3.5mm headphone jack.
With a two-year T-Mobile contract, the Samsung Exhibit II 4G is available for only $29.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate, or for $199.99 from Walmart with no annual contract. This pricing makes it one of the most affordable 4G-enabled smartphones on the market.