Samsung Galaxy Victory 4G LTE (Virgin Mobile) review

The Samsung Galaxy Victory is a pretty good smartphone for Virgin Mobile, and 4G LTE support gives it a leg up on the competition.
Photo of Samsung Galaxy Victory 4G LTE (Virgin Mobile)

It sort of felt like Virgin Mobile was throwing users a bone when it started offering phones that tap into Sprint’s abandoned WiMAX network. Sure, WiMAX is way better than 3G, but 4G LTE is the future. Sprint’s 4G LTE coverage map may still be scarce, but Virgin is offering it up in unlimited quantities with the $249.99 Samsung Galaxy Victory 4G LTE, the carrier’s first device with LTE support. It’s a pretty good smartphone, but 4G LTE gives it a leg up on the competition.

Editors’ Note: The Samsung Galaxy Victory 4G LTE models on Sprint and Virgin Mobile are physically identical, so we’re sharing a lot of material between these two reviews. That said, we’re testing each device separately, so read the review for your carrier of choice.

Design, Network, and Call Quality
The Galaxy Victory measures 4.8 by 2.5 by 0.5 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.9 ounces, which is bulky for a phone with a 4-inch screen and no keyboard. It’s made entirely of slippery, shiny gray plastic that looks and feels a little flimsy. But it’s a comfortable size and shape to hold, especially if you find larger phones too unwieldy.

The 4-inch, 800-by-480-pixel display looks perfectly adequate; there’s just no wow factor. There are three capacitive touch keys that have been embossed onto the plastic chin beneath the display. I don’t care for the look, and they don’t work as reliably as on-display keys either. There is often a pronounced delay between pressing a key and the corresponding action taking place; I tapped twice on more than one occasion during my tests. The onscreen keyboard is a little cramped for typing, but you get used to it.

Virgin Mobile uses Sprint’s network, and the Victory is its first phone to feature 4G LTE support—if you can get it, that is. Sprint LTE is only available in a limited number of cities right now, so chances are you’ll be stuck with significantly slower speeds until it comes to your town. In last year’s Fastest Mobile Networks tests we found Sprint’s 3G network to be the slowest of the nationwide networks. We got a chance to test Sprint’s 4G LTE network and found it to be a vast improvement. Unfortunately, Virgin LTE is not yet available where we test in New York City, so all of our tests were conducted over 3G.

That said, if you fall into the limited LTE coverage zone, Virgin offers some fantastic prices. You can get unlimited texts and data for just $35 per month with 300 voice minutes. The 1,200 minute plan costs $45, and unlimited voice calling brings the price to $55 per month. If you don’t do much talking, that $35 plan is hard to beat—especially considering that a data plan alone will cost you $30 on a carrier like Verizon Wireless, and for that price you’re limited to 2GB of data per month. There is a downside for heavy data users: After 2.5GB of full-speed data usage per month, your speeds will be throttled significantly until the end of your billing cycle.

Reception and call quality are average. Voices get loud but sound a bit fuzzy in the phone’s earpiece. Transmissions through the mic sound very processed, and noise cancellation is average. The phone had no trouble pairing with my Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset and Samsung’s S Voice assistant worked well. The speakerphone sounds fine and is loud enough to use outdoors. Talk time over 3G was very good at 10 hours and 1 minute.

Processor, Android, and Apps
The Victory is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8960 Lite processor. Benchmark scores were good, but not great. The phone performs much better than Virgin’s lower-end smartphones, but you’ll find similar performance on the Samsung Galaxy S II 4G and HTC EVO V 4G. The Victory is still perfectly fine for gaming and running most of the 700,000+ apps or games available in the Google Play store.

(Next page: Multimedia and Conclusions)

The Victory runs Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean). That’s still a couple of generations behind the most recent Android 4.2.2, but considering that many new phones are still shipping with Ice Cream Sandwich, we’re not complaining.

Samsung has left its mark on the OS with its TouchWiz UI extensions. You get five home screens that come prepopulated with apps and widgets to swipe between. Samsung has also added a tiny strip at the bottom of the home and app screens that allows you to slide through pages just by dragging a finger over it.

There’s very little bloatware. Mobile ID is included, as it is on all Virgin phones, which lets you customize your phone with premade theme packs. You also get NFC support and Google Wallet comes preinstalled. Samsung’s S Beam allows you to transfer files by tapping two phones together using a combination of NFC and Wi-Fi Direct.

Since this is Android, you also get excellent email support. Curiously, Google’s Chrome Web browser does not come preinstalled, and the browser here defaults to Yahoo for Internet searches. Luckily, you can switch over to Google easily, and download Chrome from Google Play if you want it. You also get Google Now, which culls information like local transit routes, attractions (like concerts and restaurants), and weather into a pleasant and easily digestible hub.

Multimedia and Conclusions
There’s an empty, side-mounted microSD card slot on the left edge of the phone. My 32 and 64GB SanDisk cards worked fine. You also get 1.59GB of free internal storage.

All of our music test files played back except for FLAC, and sound quality was fine over Altec Lansing BackBeat Bluetooth headphones, though there was some audible background noise over 3.5mm wired headphones. All test videos played back too, at resolutions up to 1080p, but audio stuttered on DivX files.

The 5-megapixel camera features autofocus and an LED flash. Performance is just average. Shutter delay is a bit long, at 1.2 seconds. Photos look passable. Detail is average, bordering on soft, and colors looks somewhat faded, especially on photos taken indoors. The camera also records decent 720p video at 30 frames per second indoors and out. There’s a 1.3 megapixel camera on the front of the phone for video chat.

The Samsung Galaxy Victory 4G LTE received 3.5 stars when we reviewed it on Sprint. We’re bumping it up to 4 stars here, because it’s the only phone on Virgin to offer 4G LTE support right now. It also looks a bit stronger in the context of Virgin’s lineup, which lacks many of the heavy hitters that Sprint offers.

So which phone should you buy? That’s a matter of preference. If you’re mostly surrounded by Wi-Fi, and you want the best possible Android phone on Virgin, you’re better off with the HTC EVO V 4G or the Samsung Galaxy S II. Both feature larger, higher-quality screens than the Victory, along with better call quality, better cameras, and comparable power. But if you want a phone that’s a little more future-proof, the Samsung Galaxy Victory will keep you cruising with high-speed data—whenever it comes to you, that is.

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Specifications
Phone Capability / Network CDMA, LTE
Screen Resolution 800 x 480 pixels
NFC Yes
Dimensions 4.8 x 2.5 x 0.46 inches
802.11x/Band(s) 802.11 a/b/g
Video Camera Resolution 720p Rear
VGA Front-Facing
Battery Life (As Tested) 10 hours 1 minutes
Available Integrated Storage 1.59 GB
Processor Speed 1.2 GHz
CPU Qualcomm MSM8960 Lite Dual-Core
GPS Yes
Service Provider Virgin
Total Integrated Storage 4 GB
High-Speed Data EVDO Rev A, LTE
Weight 4.9 oz
Screen Type TFT LCD
Operating System as Tested Android 4.1.2
Physical Keyboard No
Camera Resolution 5 MP Rear
1.3 MP Front-Facing
Screen Pixels Per Inch 233 ppi
Bands 800, 850, 1900
microSD Slot Yes
Form Factor Candy Bar
Screen Size 4 inches
Bluetooth Version 4

Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy Victory is a pretty good smartphone for Virgin Mobile, and 4G LTE support gives it a leg up on the competition.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc