Review by Dan Seifert on Thursday March 29, 2012.
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The Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G is a nice departure from the over-sized smartphones that manufacturers have been keen to pump out on a regular basis lately. It's very easy to reach all four corners of the Blaze's 4-inch display (3.97-inch, if you want to be nit-picky) with your thumb when held in one hand, and the phone has no trouble sliding into the skinniest of pockets. Its measurements of 122mm x 63mm x 11.7mm (4.8in x 2.48in x 0.46in) make it ever so slightly wider, taller, and thicker than an Apple iPhone 4S, but not demonstrably so.
The rear of the Blaze 4G is dominated by a textured, soft-touch battery cover that offers ample grip and a nice feel. It also resists fingerprints with aplomb. The back is also home to the 5 megapixel camera and LED flash, as well as the Blaze's external speaker.
As is commonly the case with Samsung smartphones, the power/sleep/unlock key is located along the right-hand edge of the phone and works as expected. Curiously enough, the microSD card slot is also located on the right side of the phone, not under the battery cover as is the case with many smartphones these days. In it, you will find a 4GB card pre-loaded, though it has support for cards up to 32GB in capacity (the Blaze 4G also has 4GB of internal storage).
The display itself is actually a bit of a letdown, which is surprising considering that I am usually a fan of Samsung's displays. The Blaze 4G uses a Super AMOLED screen with WVGA (480 x 800 pixel) resolution and a PenTile pixel matrix, though that is not the issue here. Rather, the screen has a noticeable color shift when you tilt it to a slight angle off from dead center, giving everything on the display a purple hue. It might not be something that all users can see or notice, but it was really irritating and noticeable during my review period, especially since Samsung's Super AMOLED screens are usually praised for great viewing angles. Aside from the color shift at an angle, colors on the display are as bright and vibrant as other Super AMOLED screens, and blacks are just as inky-deep.
Under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G has a dual-core, 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 processor - the same as found in the Galaxy S II for T-Mobile, the Galaxy S II Skyrocket for AT&T, and the Galaxy Note for AT&T. In this instance, the processor just screams, making the Blaze 4G one of the most responsive Android phones that I have used in recent time. Samsung's TouchWiz interface is as fluid as I have ever seen it, and apps open very swiftly.
Unfortunately, the Blaze 4G runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread instead of the newer Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. T-Mobile says that an upgrade will be made available for the Blaze 4G at some point in the future, but it did not specify exactly when.
The Blaze 4G comes with the Swype on-screen keyboard preconfigured out of the box. You can also use Samsung's custom keyboard that features XT9 predictive input.
T-Mobile is using the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G as a showcase for its 42Mbps HSPA+ network. When coverage is available, the Blaze 4G can notch really impressive speeds, even rivaling that of 4G LTE devices on Verizon Wireless and AT&T. Unfortunately, despite T-Mobile's claims that the 42Mbps service is available in 181 markets across the country, it can be tough to find areas that offer the high-speed data unless you live in a major metropolitan area. Even then, tests in New York City had wildly different results, with download speeds ranging from just 1 or 2Mbps in some locations to over 10Mbps in others.
Call quality on the Blaze 4G was average for a smartphone available today. Callers were clear and I was able to be understood well, but the actual quality of the sound wasn't terribly impressive. The speakerphone can reach adequate volumes, and the external speaker does well to resist distortion at full volume.
The Blaze 4G features support for Near Field Communications (it's built into the battery), and it includes a Tags app to make use of the feature. Unfortunately, there isn't very much you can do with NFC at this point, and the Blaze 4G cannot use Google Wallet, so its abilities with NFC are pretty limited.
Dan is MobileBurn.com's Editor-in-Chief. Based in Poughkeepsie in New York, Dan can be found on Twitter as @DCSeifert.