COMPUTE: Tablets, phones and e-readers for the holidays

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Samsung Galaxy Victory (Sprint)

$50 (with two year contract)

The Samsung Galaxy Victory is an impressive little phone. It is only offered through Sprint, and is $50 with a two-year contract. If you want a smartphone on a budget that has a great list of features, its well worth it. The form factor is really nice, with a screen size that is just right - not too small, not too large. At almost five ounces, its certainly not the lightest phone available, but it feels solid in your hand. The curved back also makes it comfortable to hold if you decide to use it as a traditional phone! While its not the flashiest phone available, there is nothing to complain about either.

From the moment you start to use the Victory, youll be impressed by the speed of the 4G service. Even websites that are not optimized for cell phone browsing load quickly and easily. Without the 4G speed, this phone would be far less impressive, but the speed of downloads makes features like the Media Hub really practical.

There are both front and rear facing cameras, both with decent quality. There is a dedicated camera button that is well positioned, and switching between the front and rear facing cameras only requires a touch of a button. The pictures can be edited right on the phone, which is also fun to play around with. The phone also has a MicroSD card slot, which allows you to add up to 32GB on top of the 4GB of built-in storage. Finally, this phone can be used as a hotspot, which might not be something youll use every day, but is a handy option, especially if you travel often. This phone is billed as a media-focused device, and it definitely pushes that on the home screens. The speakers and brightly lit screen are both a nice quality, so being able to expand the memory means you can carry a lot of movies and music and comfortably use them on the go.

If there is a drawback to this phone, its the Android operating system. If you are switching over to Android from Blackberry or iPhone, youll find the Android system initially frustrating. There is a large learning curve (Ill admit, it took me longer than it should have to figure out how to search for and download apps). However, it is customizable nicely if you give it time. I like that you can set shortcuts from the lock screen, like the default for getting into the camera.

Overall, this is a fantastic value for a smartphone. It has a surprising amount of features, and the more you use it the more youll discover. For $50 its tough to go wrong, especially since Sprint still offers unlimited data.

- Claire Kiely

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This story, "COMPUTE: Tablets, phones and e-readers for the holidays" was originally published by Network World.

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