Review: Samsung's stunning slider


Mobile phones have gripped the planet and shook it furiously by the scruff of its neck for the past ten years or so now. The cellular revolution has taken place and you'll be hard-stretched to find anyone on the high street that is not in possession of a mobile phone. That said, the benefits are obvious and recent reports detailing how safe mobile phones are suggest there may have been no health risk at all. But does anyone really give any of this serious thought? Before splashing out on the latest clamshell-of-dreams do you question your safety? Nope, you want the 2MP camera and 3G video calls. Features fuel the world's mobile phone market.








At the moment people also want slide phones. Slide phones are the new black. The Samsung D600 falls under both "slide" and "black" categories – so is it really that cool?





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Sitting pretty in the palm of your hand at 4.7cm by 9.6cm, the D600 is an absolute pleasure to hold and use as it's also light at a mere 103g. Upon powering up you're presented with Samsung's trademark fanfare and a greeting message. It's pretty quick to start up and shut down (at least my unbranded one is), though don't turn it on in a meeting/lecture/funeral without expecting to catch some attention. You'll instantly notice the beautifully crisp display (as long as you tear the protective cover off, as I was reluctant to). Samsung have fitted an 18-bit screen with a whopping 240x320 pixel resolution. The main advantage of a slide phone is that because the buttons are hidden the screen can be stretched to rather larger proportions. This means reading text, viewing images and movies as well as playing games causes little strain to the eyes.





Navigation is a breeze via the four-way D-pad and large well designed lower half of the phone. The D600 uses a 3x3 tile system for the main menu, with an optional "Flash" (their word not mine) menu to spice it up a bit if you ever get bored. One thing to note is that the layout and buttons feel like were designed by a masseur. The whole phone sits and operates beautifully, from the smooth yet sturdy slide action to the basic yet functional D-pad. With the phone in your palm, you have two main select/back buttons, a D-pad, accept and reject call buttons and a "C" button, used much in the same way as a Sony Ericsson phone. On the left side is a volume up/down button, and on the right is a camera shutter button, should you want to hold the phone on its side. The phone can be used in the open or closed position, but naturally you'll need the keypad for sending SMS and dialing numbers. The phone locks automatically when you close the slide too, which means no more calling 999 in your pocket without realising. The device feels very responsive – there's no delay between menus, or button presses. Some have reported the T9 predictive text engine to be slow and cumbersome, but I haven't noticed any slowdown whatsoever – and I've used it extensively.







It's not 3G, but the phone has a 2MP camera built in, which can take pictures at resolutions of: 1600x1200, 1125x864,

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800x600, 640x480, 320x240 and 240x180 pixels. Image quality is crisp and flawless on the phone's screen, though when viewing the pictures on your PC you'll notice a camera phone was used to take the pictures. By this I mean there's a few jagged edges here and there, it gets a bit grainy in poor light and can appear slightly out of focus at times. Unfortunately the D600 wasn't blessed with auto-focus unlike it's rivals from Sony Ericsson, that said there's very little time-delay between the exposure and pressing the button. The phone's camera function comes bundled with extra features that you'll probably never use, e.g. frames and novelty effects. The flash is useful however, and it can be set to a few different modes including auto and permanent. Unfortunately the camera "forgets" the flash setting each time you exit camera mode, but you can cycle through using the 0 key. Most of the camera's functions can be altered using the numeric keypad, but it can be a pain if you hit the wrong one. ISO functions are present, which suggests Samsung are serious about the camera on this phone. Sure it's good, but I don't know if it warrants ISO settings – not that I'm complaining. You can also alter white balance and metering exposure. My only major problem with the camera is its location on the phone. Unfortunately the 2MP unit isn't mounted behind the slide, as per D500. The camera is on the back of the phone, but you'll find your fingers often obscure the lens. This isn't as big a deal as it sounds, you soon adjust the way you hold the phone accordingly – I'm just a bit concerned at the lack of lens cover.






The video capabilities of this phone are very impressive. In MP4 mode I found the framerate to be very smooth, and loved the way you can pause and resume playback within the same file. Unfortunately MP4 files tend to be quite large, but the phone has 72MB internal shared memory and who could forget the Mini SD slot. That's right, a Mini SD (or TransFlash as it used to be known) slot is built into the left side of the phone, which means you'll never run out of memory. The

UK
package doesn't include a memory card as standard, though I have heard of international and branded D600s that do indeed come bundled with one. Whilst on the topic of storage, the phone has room for 1000 contacts (with 12 fields) and 200 text messages. There is also 4MB set aside for Java, and the phone comes with 3 pre-installed games. Applications run with no problems whatsoever, in full-screen mode too.





MP3 playback comes bundled with a visualizer, which works quite well but I imagine is an unnecessary drain on battery in your pocket. Just like its rivals, the D600 requires you to use Samsung's accompanying hands-free-earphones, which don't live up to audiophile quality. I personally use a separate MP3 player for audio on the go, but the phone handles playback well. There is a slight delay when loading the songs, but I think we're a few years away from a truly gapless MP3 player phone.








External sound quality is top notch. Ringtones and videos are clear and loud using the phones dual-speaker system, which Samsung claim to be 3D sound. In-call sound quality is shockingly good when utilising the phone's voice clarity setting. Unfortunately I think this drains the battery excessively, but you've the option to leave it on or turn it off. In built ringtones are typically Samsung, with pretty sparkly noises and tacky pop music as standard. You can of course upload and use your own, which is what I'd recommend. Message tones are unfortunately locked to a selection of 10, but they're not quite as bad as I'd imagined. One thing that did annoy me however, was the exclusion of a vibrate and ring function. You can have one or the other, but not a simultaneous ring and vibrate! Luckily there's a vibrate then ring option, but it's still a touch annoying.






Connectivity is provided via Bluetooth, USB and the rather unique TV-Out. I was half hoping for an infra-red panel, as my laptop doesn't have Bluetooth as standard, but it was not to be. Probably just as well, it's old and unreliable technology now. EDGE is provided on the D600E, but thus far the technology hasn't made a dent on the mobile market in the

UK
. The browser is of the OpenWave variety, and works well. WAP isn't really my thing, but I've had a play and am quite impressed. Email is integrated into the phone's messages menu, with full support for POP3 inboxes. The TV-Out function works surprisingly well, allowing you to view documents using the Picsel Viewer software (allows you to view MS Office documents) on a big screen. In fact you can do everything, on a big screen! Watch videos, view photos or even play primitive Java games. I found that it put quite a strain on the battery, but that could have been my over-use of the phone in the first few days of having it. It's a novelty feature, and one I probably won't use very often, but it certainly sets the D600 apart from its rivals in terms of innovation.







Samsung have provided a copy of their excellent PC Studio software with the phone, which connects in seconds via


USB. It's incredibly easy to install too, I didn't even need to restart my PC. The software allows you to manage everything on your phone – including files, contacts and SMS. You can also edit movies, sounds and synchronize with MS Outlook. The speed at which the whole program operates is quite impressive, though I imagine connecting via Bluetooth to be a little slower. Another feature I haven't seen mentioned anywhere is charging via USB. This is incredibly handy as I'm often out and about with only my laptop for company which makes it the perfect solution to a dwindling phone battery.






I won't lie, the whole phone is a bit of a fingerprint magnet. The glossy screen is actually pretty scratch resistant (no scratches after 4 days) but you'll find yourself polishing it religiously. I have dropped it, I confess, once. There's now a very slight mark on the top of the phone, but it's my own stupid fault and the phone is still working flawlessly. In terms of battery life, I managed to use the whole battery in half a day when I received the phone, but it's actually pretty good on battery life. A day of average texting, taking pictures and the odd call won't tax the battery too much and you can usually get about 2 days of pretty heavy use out of it. The phone charges from empty in around 2 hours, but I never let it get too low so an hour or so usually suffices. There's a bundle of extra features too, for example a voice recorder, world time, calendar and to-do list, alarm, a convertor and a timer/stopwatch. What else could you possibly need?






To round up this review, I have to go back to my original point. The public are obsessed with features in today's mobile phones, and this phone is full of them. It's as close to a perfect phone I've used, and that includes the new Nokia range and Sony Ericsson's K750i and W800i. If you want an innovative, well designed phone and are not afraid of breaking with tradition and opting for a slide phone – the D600 is for you. Samsung have truly triumphed to avenge the D500's death with a phone that does everything just that little bit better.








Score:
8/10






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