The Galaxy Portal is an entry-level addition to Samsung's Android army. Read our review to see if it's the budget Android phone you've been waiting for.
NB: Our review model came with Android 1.5 (Cupcake) installed but we understand that certain retailers will sell the Galaxy Portal with Android 2.1 (Eclair). This review is therefore based on the Samsung Galaxy Portal running Android 1.5.
What we like
Even when you've got the Portal pushing emails to the inbox, playing music and checking Facebook, it manages to run without any major lag. Web browsing is surprisingly good on the Galaxy Portal. We downloaded the Opera Mini 5 beta and Dolphin browsers from the Android Market - both of them downloaded and installed quickly and rendered web pages well. Zooming in and out and finding specific words on a page was particularly good on Dolphin.
Music sounds good on the Portal. There's no noticeable distortion and the sound is balanced, not too trebly or bass-heavy. The Galaxy Portal boasts a 3.5mm audio jack (always a plus in our books) so you can use your own Skullcandies or Sennheisers if you wish. Call quality is fine, we had no issues with hearing people even in a low signal area.
The 3.2-megapixel camera works pretty well despite not having a flash. It's more responsive than the camera of the HTC Magic, less shaky and takes better-quality pictures. We like that you're given the option of a virtual shutter key on the screen and a physical one on the side.
What we don't like
Samsung's PC Studio software - which you'll need to install if you want to move any MP3s/pictures to your Galaxy Portal - is an exercise in user unfriendliness. We'd prefer it if you could simply drag and drop songs from iTunes or Windows Media Player or, well, anything. Our computers had issues recognising the phone as a USB mass storage device - hopefully this was an error restricted to our model.
The diamond-shaped 4-way directional key feels stiff and restrictive. We're used to the full 360 degrees of rotation afforded by the trackballs and trackpads. To be fair, this doesn't impair your ability to navigate through menus that much - you do most of that through the touchscreen. The Home key (on the right) ought to be more prominent as it's one of the keys you'll end up using a lot.
On the right hand side of the phone there's a key to lock the phone which we think is pointless seeing as Android has its own PIN-style locking method. If you enable the Android 3 x 3 unlock pattern on the Samsung Galaxy Portal, you'll essentially have to unlock it twice.
The Samsung Galaxy Portal is a solid Android 1.5 handset that's better than the HTC Magic in our opinion. If you want a reasonably priced touchscreen phone to check emails, Facebook and Twitter, and surf the web, then the Samsung Galaxy Portal won't disappoint. It's worth noting again that certain networks are selling the Galaxy Portal with Android 2.1 which features turn-by-turn navigation among other things.