A Month With AT&T’s Samsung Captivate

Recently, I was given an opportunity to spend a good deal of time with AT&T’s flagship Android phone, the Samsung Captivate.  The Captivate is (Quite obviously) a member of the Galaxy S family, whose 4″ SuperAMOLED screens and 1GHz Hummingbird processors can be found on most of the worlds major carriers (See T-Mobile Vibrant, .Samsung Fascinate, Sprint Epic 4G, etc).  How does the Captivate hold up to my (often hyper)criticism?  Can I successfully remove the battery door without a heart attack?  Find out after the break!

First Impression:

They say first impression is always the most significant, so I feel I should describe the events in as much detail as I can.  Allow me to set the mood; it’s 7 P.M, a bleak November night.  It’s chilly out, sweater weather.  There’s a knock at the door, my dogs go nuts.  Tony (partner in crime) waltzes in through the foyer, grin on his face and a box of nerd crack in his arms.  We migrate to the garage (man-cave), settle in to our respective seats, and begin the unboxing.  Tony had already done his once over, so the phone was charged and ready to go.

How it felt:

The very first thing I noticed was how amazingly light the Captivate was.  Numbers on a tech sheet are one thing, but experiencing the minuscule 4.5 ounces speaks volumes.  Comparing the Captivate to my Moto Droid weight for weight was laughable, the Droid’s 6 ounces might as well have been 6 pounds.  Using the Motorola Droid as my litmus, I have to say the decision to go with plastic throughout the device left a little much to be desired.  I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that one fall would destroy this beautiful device, and would happily traded a few more grams on the Captivate for the inclusion of an alloy outer casing.  Speaking of build materials, the battery bay door is one sexy chunck of carbon-fiber goodness, good for at least 5 horsepower.  Accessing the battery behind that bad boy confounds the logic center of my brain.  Inorder to remove the battery door, one must apply extreme force to a thin piece of plastic at the bottom of the device until it pops back violently into the open position.  A harrowing experience to say the least. Regarding the overall size, the market seems to have found a comfortable middle ground between size and function in the 4″ region, and I have to say the size of the device felt great.

Power On:

As I pressed the power button, I couldn’t help but let out a little sigh of astonishment at the color represented in the SuperAMOLED screen.  This being my first encounter with such a screen, I was temporarily taken aback.  The contrast ration is absolutely astonishing, creating blacks so deep it’s near impossible to tell where bezel ends and screen begins.  Feeling inquisitive, I racked my brain for the most colorful application I could think of, cranked up the brightness (battery be damned!) and let ‘er rip.  Angry Birds have never look better (I’ll go into detail further on regarding gaming performance later on in the review)!  The color representation, the fidelity, everything Samsung has stated about the technology assaults your retinas in the most glorious of fashion.  Soon after, Tony left and I was quickly fading into my usual near coma.


I didn’t quite know what to call this portion of the review, because I’ve quite frankly never experienced this reaction to a handset before.  The very day after getting the Captivate, I’m spending my 15 minutes of sanity in the break room, listlessly browsing the Android Market in an attempt to drive my attention away from the unwashed denizens around me.  After a few minutes, a co-worker happened to notice the screen while quite obviously “eves dropping” on my phone situation, and exclaimed, “Holy Shit!  What phone is that?”  After giving him the rundown, a few minutes went by.  He eventually looked back at me, confusion clouding his eyes; “Guess I should have waited instead of buying this, huh” he said, gesturing with the phone in his hand.  He had an iPhone 4.  An Apple fanboy lusted over my Android device.  I was stunned.


I pride myself as an experienced gamer.  You name it, I’ve played it.  When I had my Droid (before she took a swim 😦 ), I’d spend hours downloading and playing various free and paid games, so to say I’m familiar with gaming on an Android device would be an understatement.  Or so I had thought.  The Captivate’s Hummingbird CPU and PowerVR SGX540 GPU absolutely destroy everything in the Android Market.  Raging Thunder 2, one of my “waiting-room goto” games, played like an arcade system, buttery smooth and stupidly responsive.  The same held true throughout all the games I played.  Pocket Legends ran at a consistent  60 FPS, Fruit Ninja desiccated more fruit than Gallagher, Angry Birds caused more structural damage than Hurricane Katrina.  Mobile gaming has come home.  Side by side comparisons of a Droid 2 and the Captivate running Raging Thunder 2 really showed off the power of the platform, and helped in securing my place as the technological king of the workplace.


Moving away from the texture heavy gaming world, the same performance characteristics hold true.  Navigating between applications is seemless and near instantaneous.  Occasional lag can be seen from time to time, which can be attributed to Samsung’s use of RFS (that is if the dev community is correct), but isn’t a major game killer.  Scores in Quadrant average 1000, which is quite lower than I had expected, but this too may be a result of RFS, as the test seems to hang during the filesystem read/write tests.  Browser performance benefits greatly to the added power under the hood, and the speed difference between the Captivate and other devices is quite impressive.  Rendering the Desktop version of Engadget, flash and all, takes substantially less time than any other Android phone I’ve had the pleasure of using.  TouchWiz 3.0 is nice, but I still prefer LauncherPro to anything any of the big manufacturers have created.  In an attempt to create some lag, I loaded the home screens with widgets, but my attempts were futile.  Scrolling and orientation changes weren’t noticeably affected.

Home-row Buttons:

One of my biggest gripes about the non-standard nature of the Android ecosystem is the arrangement of the so-called “Home-Row” buttons; these are your major navigation buttons for the Android OS, found in untold numbers of combinations from a number of manufacturers.  Samsung appears to have made a bad decision in opting for capacitive buttons for the home-row, as I can’t ever seem to get them to respond on the first touch.  I’m unsure if this is isolated to the device I was provided, or if it affects all the members of the Galaxy S family, but it can be aggravating at times to say the least. As I can’t imagine something as fundamental as this would make it though final inspection, I’m inclined to believe my fingers just aren’t compatible.


More and more commonly, the actual cell phone portion of these smartphones get placed on the back-burner.  During my time with the device, I placed numerous calls, and haven’t a complaint in mind.  Sound quality was always excellent, no echos or feed back to be found.  Recipients reported call clarity to be excellent.  The speakerphone sounds phenomenal, albeit a tad too quite for my tastes.  Sound representation is particularly impressive in the lower ranges where many phones fall short.  At times, the act of placing a touchscreen device to your face can be a nightmare in accidental hang-ups, but I’m pleased to report the proximity sensor functioned perfectly, never once waking the phone prematurely.



During my time with the Captivate, I’ve come to respect the Galaxy S line of devices.  AT&T’s network aside (seriously, wtf AT&T.  Get your game together), I never experienced what I call a “deal breaking encounter”; a mishap in the device or software that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  The minor quirks I encountered were easily overlooked, and my overall experience was great.  Samsung may have finally found the antidote to Apple’s growth serum, and condensed awesome is the main ingredient.


One Response to A Month With AT&T’s Samsung Captivate

  1. Pingback: Samsung Captivate Refurbished | Buy Refurbished Brands | Buy Refurbished Products

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