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Samsung Galaxy xCover (Extreme) Review

Another fortnight, another farewell to another phone. Sometimes I wish the phone in my possession would somehow be forgotten by the respective PR firm but this was not really a vibe I got from the Samsung Galaxy xCover. I’m not saying it’s a bad phone, it’s just not an amazing phone that I would want as my daily driver.

To give you an idea, the devices I have reviewed previously and also loved for various reasons include; the HTC ChaCha, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active, the Huawei MediaPad, the Motorola Atrix 2 as well as my personal daily driver HTC Incredible S. The xCover kills this streak of fortune sadly.

Sure the xCover has IP67 certification and can survive a good dunking under a tap but while it is percieved as a rugged phone it just doesn’t feel like something I would willingly throw across a field or into a pond. To me this is the pinnacle of a rugged smartphone.

Instead it is more suited for those who want a low to middle of the range Android smartphone that can stand up to water and clumsy drops better than the average smartphone.

The xCover’s plastic build materials and likely other design perks did mean that celluar coverage was more extensive than any other phone I had on hand. However, the plastics do add an overall cheaper feel to the phone.

Browser performance was surprisingly good, probably thanks to some hardware optimisations in the Marvell PXA968 chipset. While the browser benchmarks I conducted don’t reflect this scrolling and text re-flow performance in a real-usage scenario was impressive to say the least. But alas, the display…

The display is beyond poor; colours are washed out from the start and the 480×320 resolution on the 3.65 inch TN display is horrible. Hardware performance, both on paper and in benchmarks fails to impress but as a result battery life was perhaps better than the average smartphone; easily lasting a day and a half with somewhat usage.

The 3.2 MP camera was nothing worth writing home about, or more than this line for that matter.

For the large part the software combination of Android 2.3 Gingerbread and Samsung’s TouchWiz UX interface is bug free; I only encountered two minor bugs in two weeks of usage. However, through getting a relatively bug free experience you get a oversimplified and under-featured interface. You want to sort the applications by alphabetical order? Want to access your alarms or calendar by tapping a clock widget? It’s not going to happen.

Of course this is based purely on stock applications, obviously it is possible but I prefer to keep things as close to stock as possible when reviewing a phone. After all this is how over two thirds (a made-up but realistic figure) of people will see and use the phone for the entirety of its lifespan.

Where To Buy?

The Samsung Galaxy xCover is available for £198 inc vat from Clove.

Other Phones to Consider

The Motorola Defy Plus has stronger hardware, a better display and better official and unofficial (custom ROM) support over the xCover for just an extra 23 quid.

You could also grab the Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo V for just £215 which is better in just about every way, except it doesn’t come with the IP67 certification.

Software Information

My unit was running Android Gingerbread 2.3.6 with build number GINGERBREAD.XXKL3

Pros

  • Has IP67 certification; so it is water and dust-proof.
  • Satisfactory hardware performance.
  • Above average radio coverage.

Cons

  • Needs a price drop, superior phones available for a similar price.
  • Will never get an Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update.
  • The display is just downright bad.
  • Camera won’t replace a 5 year old digital camera.

Kitguru says: The Samsung Galaxy xCover is a pretty nice phone, I’m going to give Samsung that, but in answer to my original question in the introduction header: No, the xCover does not sway my evaluation that anything that isn’t flagship from Samsung is pretty average. Where it does well in real life browser performance and durability, it severely lacks any punch in the display or price categories.

Better luck next time eh Samsung?

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Rating: 6.5.

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