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Samsung Propel Pro (AT&T)

>> Thursday, April 16, 2009

Samsung Propel Pro (AT&T) captures your attention for a couple of reasons, the first of which is its shiny exterior. The smoky mirrored chassis is definitely eye catching and tones down the Samsung Propel's playful image with a classic and corporate appropriate look. However, the shiny surface gets dirty pretty quickly, as it holds many fingerprints and smudges we had to constantly wipe the screen. Also, the back of the handset can feel slick, almost greasy.

All these issues sap the smartphone of some of its initial allure. Samsung Propel Pro (AT&T) is slightly bulky. The second reason you take notice of the Propel Pro is because of the slider phone's squat, squarish shape. Though we've seen more handsets come in this shape, including the LG Lotus and Verizon Wireless Blitz, it's still uncommon and to our recollection, it's the first smartphone we've seen with this design.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, however it's just different. In all, Samsung Propel Pro (AT&T) measures 3.9 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick, and weighs 4.8 ounces, so it's quite a bulky handset. The smartphone feels wide when held in the hand and you might want to put this into your coat pocket, since it's not going to easily slip into the pocket of your pants. On front, there is a 2.5 inch, 65.000 colors TFT nontouch display with a 320x320 pixel resolution.

It could stand to be a little bigger and there's certainly room, but overall, we found it sharp and easy to read. Like most cell phone screens, Samsung Propel Pro (AT&T)'s tends to wash out a bit in bright sunlight. You can customize the Home screen with various layouts, color schemes, and background images. We particularly like the sliding panel layout since it provides easy access to your information and applications right from the Home screen.

Without a touch screen, the controls beneath the display will be your main way to navigate the phone. You get two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, a Home shortcut, a back button, and a navigation joystick. The controls are fairly easy to use, with the exception of the joystick. It doesn't provide the most precise method for scrolling and selecting menu items. For example, on several occasions, we inadvertently moved the joystick when we were simply trying to press down to select something.

It gets easier with more time, but still, it doesn't offer you complete control like a traditional directional keypad or trackball. Below the display, you'll find some navigation controls. We weren't huge fans of the joystick since it wasn't very precise. To access the full QWERTY keyboard, simply push the screen up. The sliding motion is smooth and the screen securely locks into place. The Propel Pro's keyboard is slightly different from the regular Samsung Propel.

The buttons are rectangular instead of oval shaped and there's no spacing between the keys, making it slightly cramped and troublesome for users with larger thumbs. The spacebar was particularly problematic, since it's so short we'd have preferred it slightly longer (and it looks like there was space to do so). On the positive side, the buttons weren't stiff to press as they were on the Samung BlackJack II, so that reduced some typing errors.

The Propel Pro's full QWERTY keyboard features good size buttons that are easy to press. However, the layout is a bit cramped. On the left side, there's a power button, a volume rocker, and a microSD expansion slot and on the right spine, you'll find a camera activation or capture button and Samsung's pesky proprietary power or headset jack.

We really hope Samsung considers switching to a more standard Mini or Micro-USB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack in the future, since having to use Samsung specific accessories is quite annoying and restricting. Finally, the camera is built into the back of the front cover, so you need to slide open the phone in order to use it.

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