The Samsung Dart is a lot like the old Dodge car with which it shares a model name: homely, sluggish, and not particularly capable. At first glance, the Dart is tempting, as it gets you a real Android smartphone for no money up front. But there are plenty of better choices at the T-Mobile counter, including the far superior LG Optimus T (Free, 4 stars).
Design and Call Quality
The Dart measures 4.1 by 2.4 by 0.5 inches (HWD) and weighs 3.8 ounces. It’s made entirely of plastic, with a matte dark grey underbody and a black front panel. The 3.1-inch plastic capacitive touch screen sports just 240-by-320-pixel resolution. That breaks many third-party Android apps and makes it tougher to navigate Android’s various scrolling menu panels. Worse, the screen feels rough, and has poor contrast, color accuracy, and viewing angles. System and Web page fonts look excessively large and pixelated, and typing on the on-screen keyboard felt stiff and cramped.
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The Dart is a quad-band EDGE (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) and dual-band HSDPA 7.2 (1700/2100 MHz) device with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. The Dart also works with T-Mobile’s software-based Wi-Fi calling, which helps in areas with poor T-Mobile signal. Regardless, call quality was generally poor, with a choppy, harsh tone in the earpiece, and significant audio dropouts even when standing outside (where I usually have stronger T-Mobile coverage). Clearly something is up with this phone’s reception. Callers said I sounded fine, though.
Calls sounded clear through an Aliph Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset ($129, 4 stars). Voice dialing worked perfectly over Bluetooth without training. The speakerphone was just okay, with not quite enough volume to use outside, and some distortion at the top two volume settings. Battery life was a little on the low side, at 7 hours and 48 minutes of talk time in EDGE mode; expect about half that in 3G areas.
Samsung Dart SGH-T499 Specifications
- Service Provider
- Samsung Dart SGH-T499O perating System
- Android OS
- Samsung Dart SGH-T499 Screen Size
- 3.1 inches
- Screen Details
- 240-by-320-pixel, 16M-color TFT LCD capacitive touch screen
- GSM, UMTS
- 850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100, 1700
- Samsung Dart SGH-T499 High-Speed Data
- GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA
- Samsung Dart SGH-T499 Processor Speed
- 600 MHz
Samsung Dart SGH-T499 Apps, Bugs, and Compatibility Issues
The Dart packs a 600MHz Qualcomm MSM7227-1 CPU running Android 2.2 (Froyo). There’s no word on when we’ll see an update to the current Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) for this phone, if ever. On the plus side, you free Google Maps Navigation for voice-enabled, turn-by-turn GPS directions, which is great on a free phone, as well as Android’s excellent, stock WebKit browser. But the low screen resolution and sluggish CPU response limits how much you’ll want to do with the handset.
You’ll run into trouble finding compatible third-party apps in Android Market, thanks to the QVGA screen; some of our standard benchmarks wouldn’t show up, for example. We also saw numerous bugs. Some benchmarks crashed several times before running all the way through correctly. One time in standby mode, the handset froze up, except for the four touch buttons beneath the screen. They’d light up, but the screen stayed dark. I couldn’t do anything until I rebooted the handset.
Samsung Dart SGH-T499 Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
Perhaps the Dart’s best use is as a music player. The standard-size 3.5mm headphone jack and easy-access, side-mounted microSD card slot are welcome. Samsung tosses in a 2GB microSD card to get you started, and there’s 134MB of free internal storage as well. Music tracks sounded clean and punchy over Samsung Modus HM6450 Bluetooth headphones ($99, 4 stars). Samsung’s music app wasn’t very responsive on this handset, but it was still easy to navigate and displayed large album art thumbnails. Standalone video files played smoothly, at least when transcoded to the phone’s (low) native resolution; none of my other test files would cue up.
The 3-megapixel camera has no flash or auto-focus. Test photos were a disappointment, with considerable graininess even in well-lit interior rooms, and overexposed outdoor shots with blown out highlights and just average detail resolution. Recorded videos maxed out at just 320-by-240-pixel resolution and 14 frames per second, but they were viewable in a pinch.
Two years ago, I could have made a case for a low-end Android phone like the Dart, especially with T-Mobile’s reasonably priced data plans. But the competition is just too stiff now; you can get something much better, even for free up front. The LG Optimus T features a higher resolution screen that’s compatible with more third-party apps, standard definition (640-by-480-pixel) video recording, longer battery life, and an overall nicer feel in day to day usage. I can’t think of a single reason to buy the Dart over the Optimus T. Heavy texters on a budget will prefer the MyTouch 3G Slide ($49, 3.5 stars), which features a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, a better screen, and better voice quality. If you need something that’s inexpensive off contract, try the Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type (3.5 stars), which isn’t a smartphone but delivers a better camera and better voice quality for only $139 unlocked at Newegg.com.