Remember the Samsung Galaxy Exhibit, aka the Galaxy S III Mini? As if two versions weren’t enough, Samsung and T-Mobile have teamed up for yet another iteration of this diminutive Android smartphone. The Galaxy Light ($216 direct) adds LTE and NFC, and increases the screen size by a few tenths of an inch. The result is more of the same: a modestly equipped, affordable, entry-level Android phone. If TouchWiz tickles your fancy, and you don’t need a ton of phone, the Galaxy Light is a good deal on T-Mobile.
Design, Network, and Call Quality
There’s nothing new here in terms of design. You get the same, somewhat tired “inspired by nature” look of last year’s Galaxy devices with the same glossy plastic build. At 4.78 by 2.5 by 0.4 inches (HWD) and 4.3 ounces, the Light is indeed light and comfortable for one handed use. Below the display is the physical Home button flanked by capacitive Menu and Back buttons, while Power and Volume buttons are on the right and left sides, respectively. The flimsy plastic back pops off to reveal a microSD card slot and the removable 1800mAh battery.
Samsung bumped up the screen real estate since we saw the Exhibit, going from a 3.8-inch display to a 4-inch panel on the Light. The 800-by-480-pixel resolution remains, which makes for a slightly less dense 233 pixels per inch, but you really won’t notice the difference here. It’s also still a TFT LCD, which doesn’t have the same punchy colors you’ll find on Samsung’s AMOLED packing Galaxy devices. Viewing angle is good, though, and colors appear truer. If you’re used to larger screen devices, the on-screen keyboard can feel a bit cramped on the Light.
The network upgrade is the most significant change here, as the Light now supports T-Mobile’s 4G LTE. The company’s still working on expanding its coverage, but its LTE is fast if you can find it. In our tests in New York City, the Light averaged around 11Mbps down and 7Mbps up. Also onboard are dual-band 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
As we’ve found with most Samsung devices lately, the Galaxy Light is a great voice phone. Call quality is above average, with full and rich tones through the earpiece and Samsung’s signature call quality tuning options. Static and distortion starts to creep in at higher volumes, but you likely won’t need to pump it up that high on most occasions. Transmissions through the mic sound clear, if a bit treble heavy, but noise cancelling leaves something to be desired. The phone picked up a good deal of outside street noise in my tests, though it wasn’t so much that it drowned out my voice. In our tests the Galaxy Light lasted for 8 hours, 11 minutes of talk time. The LG Optimus F3 lasted longer, turning in 14 hours, 30 minutes in the same test.
Performance and Android
Another notable upgrade here is the quad-core 1.4GHz Samsung-made processor, up from the dual-core 1GHz unit powering the Exhibit. In synthetic benchmarks, the Light performed on par with entry-level Android smartphones like the LG Optimus F3. Overall system and Web browsing performance is on the low-end for today’s Android phones, while graphics tests were above average for an entry-level device. Graphically intensive games like Asphalt 8 ran surprisingly smoothly, though you’ll still see backdrops rendering as you zoom by, which you don’t get on more powerful devices. In day-to-day use, the Light felt brisk and responsive, though you’ll deal with some delay between launching an app and being able to use it—that’s the case with most phones in its class.
Like any self-respecting Galaxy device, the Light runs Samsung’s TouchWiz Android skin with all of its cosmetic flourishes and system-wide customizations. I won’t spend too much time here, as it’s the same skin you’ll find on the S III, S4, and pretty much any Galaxy phone made in the past two years. Some highlights include Smart Stay, which keeps the screen on when it detects your face looking at it, and S Beam, which lets you directly transfer files via NFC and Wi-Fi Direct to other Galaxy devices. You also get your usual array of Samsung pre-loads, like S Translator and Samsung Apps, as well as carrier pre-loads like T-Mobile TV and T-Mobile Name ID, none of which can be deleted.
Multimedia and Conclusions
There’s 8GB of total internal storage, but only 4.6GB is available out of the box—our 64GB SanDisk microSD card worked fine for expanding memory. Samsung’s nailed down media support for most of its Galaxy devices, and it’s no different with the Light, which supported all of our test formats, including DivX and Xvid for video and FLAC and OGG for audio.
The rear-facing 5-megapixel camera isn’t completely useless, but it’s a far cry from the 8-megapixel shooters we’re used to seeing in higher-end smartphones. It takes soft, noisy images in low light, and even in good lighting images looked dull and lacked fine detail. Video tops out at 720p with steady frame rates, but again detail is lacking and shooting indoors results in grainy footage.
The Samsung Galaxy Light is one of the least expensive Android options with LTE on T-Mobile. There’s no glaring issues with it, but the phone is completely devoid of character—it’s the watered down Galaxy experience befitting its beer-evoking moniker. At this price point, though, that’s par for the course. The LG Optimus F3 costs the same $216 on T-Mobile, offers essentially the same experience, losing out to the Light on internal storage, but easily besting it in battery life. Depending on where your priorities lie, either could make a suitable starter Android smartphone. If your budget allows, the $350 Nexus 5 is the absolute best bang-for-your-buck Android smartphone on T-Mobile, offering a stock Android experience as Google intended with some seriously fast hardware to boot.
|Phone Capability / Network||GSM, UMTS, LTE|
|Screen Resolution||800 x 480 pixels|
|Dimensions||4.78 x 2.5 x 0.4 inches|
|Video Camera Resolution||720p|
|Battery Life (As Tested)||8 hours, 11 minutes|
|Available Integrated Storage||4.6 GB|
|Processor Speed||1.4 GHz|
|Total Integrated Storage||8 GB|
|High-Speed Data||GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, LTE, HSPA+ 21|
|Screen Type||TFT LCD|
|Operating System as Tested||Android 4.2.2|
|Camera Resolution||5 MP Rear|
|Screen Pixels Per Inch||233 ppi|
|Bands||850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100, 1700, 700|
|Form Factor||Candy Bar|
|Screen Size||4 inches|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc