Exclusive to T-Mobile and Three in the UK, Samsung’s second endeavour into the Android space is the imaginatively named Galaxy Portal, and it’s a refreshing change from the mixed bag of smartphones from Samsung in the past.
In some ways this is an upgrade to the Galaxy, the Korean manufacturer’s first Android device. However, it also lacks some of the powerful features seen in Samsung’s original device.
For starters, the AMOLED screen has been demoted to a TFT number. It’s no less responsive, but you may find it a little trickier to see in sunlight and it’s not as bright as the Galaxy’s display. However, it is the same size and resolution.
Below the screen, the call end and answer buttons have been restyled, as has the selection button and four-way navigation button. There’s nothing bad about these keys, they just feel a little unnecessary when using a capacitive touchscreen.
The Galaxy Portal is slightly fatter than its older brother, but this doesn’t mean you’ll struggle to slip it into a pocket. It’s also marginally heavier.
All design tweaks aside, the internals are rather different too. The camera has been downgraded to 3.2-megapixels and it doesn’t perform as well as other Samsung smartphones. It’s slow to focus on subjects and slow for photos to save. Images are often grainy and look lower resolution when viewed on a computer. The flash has also been disposed of, so snapping away in the dark is rather pointless.
One major omission in the Galaxy Portal is the severely slimmed down internal storage. The 8GB of storage was one thing that was so attractive about the Samsung Galaxy, especially with a microSD card slot to boot. 180MB just doesn’t cut it on the Portal, although it does support microSD cards up to 32GB.
The Galaxy Portal packs in an 800MHz processor. It’s noticeably speedier than the Galaxy, which is certainly a good thing as the Android Market becomes more established and you’re likely to be downloading and running more apps at once.
There’s no UI sitting atop the Android 1.5 OS and although it may be possible to upgrade the OS to 2.1 in the future, it’s not an ideal solution considering operator-exclusive updates are usually the last to arrive.
Vanilla Android is a little boring, although fully functional in the right places and still runs along smoothly for what is considered a ‘budget’ Android device.
Where the Samsung Galaxy Portal does excel though, is battery life. It features an identical Li-Ion 1500 mAh as the Galaxy, which is better than a more powerful device such as the HTC Desire.
Despite using the device for push email, phone calls and texting (plus a couple of the preloaded games), it lasted much longer than any other touchscreen smartphone we’ve used of late. Two days into usage, the battery icon was still displaying 30 per cent full.
With this allied to everything else you’d expect from an Android device, it’s hard to understand why you’d opt for the more expensive Galaxy.
This is a budget Android device, reflected in its sub standard 3.2-megapixel camera, lack of internal memory and chunky design. However, it can stand up next to the Galaxy almost as an equal with an improved processor and solid Android performance. It’s a shame Samsung hasn’t applied its own skin to the device and that it’s currently stuck in the past running on Android 1.5, but this should be rectified with a future update. For a basic device you can’t go massively wrong with the Galaxy Portal, especially when compared to similarly-priced smartphones.