Below is part 2 of my in-depth Samsung T401g review. If you haven’t already done so, read part 1 of the review series here. Or take a look at the Samsung T401g review index for all my info related to this model.
I really like the display on the T401g – it’s as big as the screen on the T301g, and bigger than any other Trac/Net10 model I’ve tried
(though I’ve yet to try the LG 290c or the Samsung r451c as of this writing). Further, the t401g’s screen is bright, clear, and vibrant. I give it two enthusiastic thumbs up.
I’m frequently asked how a display functions in direct sunlight. I thought that sun wouldn’t be a problem on this model since the screen is so bright, but I overlooked the extremely glossy finish on the display. In my testing, the actual light output from the display was adequate to overcome direct sunlight, but I had to be careful what angle I held the phone at to keep from reflecting the sun directly into my eyes
. So I guess it’s a toss-up there – the screen is bright enough for outdoor use, but caution must be used in direct sun.
The screen does give the same distortion I’ve noted with all other phones when viewed from the side. The T401g does seem to be better than most other models, though – even when angling the screen as much as 45 degrees or more to the either side, the text is readable, if not visually appealing.
The numeric keypad feels nice to use, especially for one-handed texting or dialing. As I believe I mentioned in an earlier post, the keypad itself reminds me of the Nokia 1100, which I loved. The keypad is one continuous piece of rubbery plastic, as opposed to the distinct, harder plastic keys on many other recent models. The rubber feeling to the keys makes it easier, in my opinion, to dial, as the keys feel better under my fingers. The keys also provide a solid “click” when pressed, so you don’t need to guess whether you’ve actually pushed the key.
The external keyboard sports eight shortcut keys in total – up, down, left, right, left soft, right soft, and two raised keys directly below the soft keys. The four directional keys can each be programmed to the shortcut of your choice.
The left and right soft keys are hard-coded to the menu and browser (I know many people won’t like this), respectively, from the home screen, and cannot be changed. The left raised key is dedicated to text messaging, which seems to make sense for a phone with a QWERTY keyboard, and the right raised key is hard-coded to “clear,” which functions to cancel a menu selection or to delete a character when texting. This also makes sense to me.
Getting back to the browser shortcut key – on the down side, if you accidentally push it, it is very quick to load the browser and beginning deducting airtime (one full minute right off the bat in the case of Net10). This is a major disadvantage for me. On the other hand, it is nearly offset by the design of the keyboard – the soft keys are considerably smaller than on other web-enabled models from Trac/Net10. Further, the soft keys are somewhat “protected” by the raised keys immediately below them. The combination of these two factors, in my experience, makes it much less likely that you will accidentally press either of the soft keys. I have not once unintentionally activated the browser in my extensive testing of the model – something I cannot say for ANY other phone.
The QWERTY keyboard on the T401g is about 1.25” tall, and the keys are lined up in three rows (as compared to the new Samsung r451c for Net10 and Straight Talk, which has four rows of keys). The keys don’t feel too cramped – they each have a distinct button, to reduce the likelihood of accidentally hitting the wrong key. The keys themselves are made of the same rubbery material as the main keyboard.
I like the layout and spacing; though the keys are small, I don’t see any way the layout could be improved without making the phone bigger. I did prefer to use my thumbnails as opposed to the pads of my thumbs for typing on the QWERTY, as I felt that gave me more precision.
My only possible complaint about the QWERTY keyboard is that it takes a little more force to press the keys than I would like. However, when I compared it to a Kyocera Wildcard from Virgin Mobile, I found that the Wildcard keys were even stiffer than the Samsung. I definitely preferred the Samsung T401g.
Moving on to the menus – I don’t know exactly what it is about the menus on these Samsungs, but they just don’t seem to make quite as much sense to me as those of the LG and Motorola models. That being said, I’ve adapted fairly quickly to the Samsung navigation. I used the T301g as my main phone for for several months over the summer, and can now use the menus just fine. I’m sure that anyone interested in this type of phone (i.e. with lots of advanced features) will be able to learn the menu layout without a problem.
Which brings me around to the text messaging – perhaps the most important feature on a phone with a QWERTY keyboard. I wasn’t sure I would make use of the QWERTY keyboard all that much, but I’ve found it feels pretty natural to slide the keyboard out for use with texting. As soon as you slide the phone open, the screen automatically rotates to accommodate the new position of the phone in your hands. Also, shortcuts associated with the directional keys rotate 90 degrees.
There is one shortcut that is lacking, in my opinion. I would really like to have the option to make the phone automatically open a new text message if you open the slider. I would assume that most people, when they open the slider, plan to write a text message, so a shortcut like this would make sense to me.
The Samsung T401g can easily be connected to a computer using a standard Samsung USB data cable (such as these on Amazon). When connecting by USB cable, make sure that your phone is set to “USB Mass Storage” mode in the menu settings>3. Phone Settings>7. USB Mode. I was also able to connect to my PC as well as to other phones using bluetooth. Using either a USB cable or bluetooth, I was able to transfer files from my T401g to my computer, and bluetooth worked for the exchange of files between phones, too.
The bluetooth worked fine for audio using my very cheap, generic BT headset, so I suspect it should work fine with most bluetooth audio devices. I am frequently asked whether BT phones can use the phonebook capabilities of certain in-vehicle navigation systems and stand-alone GPS systems, but since I have neither of those I can’t answer that question.
I also cannot tell how well the T401g works with stereo bluetooth devices for audio playback, although the device does support these functions.
Well, that’s all for this installment of the review; I’ll be back later this week with yet another segment in which I’ll cover the fun stuff like camera, mp3 player, games, memory card slot, and other tools.