IntroductionSamsung is a huge electronics brand and has gained a lot of popularity in the mobile phone market, even though it cannot compete with the giants like Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Motorola, it is still quite amazing how many new models Samsung brings out each year. Today we are having a look at the SGH-i710 which is a Windows Mobile 5 powered handset. Although many Windows Mobile powered devices tend to be quite similar, Samsung has done a fantastic job to make the SGH-i710 stand out from the crowd.Although the handset we had a look at was the Chinese version, the SGH-i718, overall functionality is the same and so are all the hardware features, the main difference being the language on the handset and some applications. The SGH-i718 has been available on the Chinese market for some time, but the SGH-i710 only became available earlier this year.
The PhoneLet us start by taking a look at the hardware specifications. The SGH-i710 is powered by a 416MHz ARM920T PXA272 processor, which should make it fairly snappy in normal use. It has 128MB of ROM and 64MB or RAM and the memory can be expanded via a microSD card. It also features Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR, but it does not offer Wi-Fi. This is not a 3G device, but it will work on all four GSM bands (850/900/1800/1900MHz) and it offers GPRS and EDGE, both class 10, which is the fastest type of each.
The screen measures 2.8-inches, has a native resolution of 240x320 and can display 65,536 colours. In use the screen is very clear and easy to read, even when you turn down the brightness. Navigation is done by using either the four-way rocker pad with a central button, or with the supplied stylus. The stylus is very pointy and has three parts to it that extends much like a radio antenna. It is a little bit tricky to get out from the top rear of the handset at times, but it also means that it will not accidentally fall out. You could of course always use your finger in an emergency, but the screen picks up smudges quite easily.
On the top of the handset is the power button, which also puts it into standby. On the right-hand side is a small reset hole - you have to use the stylus to reset the handset if it locks up - a quick access button to the voice recorder/voice dial application, a memory card slot for a microSD card, and a quick access button to the camera application that also doubles up as shutter release. There are no buttons or connectors at the bottom of the SGH-i710.The left-hand side is home to the combined charger, USB and headset connector, which means that you cannot use more than one accessory at a time. There is also a volume rocker that adjusts the earpiece volume during calls or the general volume of the handset when not in a call.
The front of the handset is home to the aforementioned four-way navigation pad with a centre button, as well as two soft-keys that correspond to screen menus, a Windows button that brings down the Start Menu, an OK button, a make call button which also enables the speaker phone when depressed, and finally the end call button which also locks the keys when depressed for a couple of seconds. Everything else is done on-screen.The design is very Samsung, in a good way, as Samsung has a feel for designing stylish mobile phones and the SGH-i710 follows that tradition. At 109g and 108.8x58x13.5mm (HxWxD) the SGH-i710 is in a class of its own compared to most smartphones in this category. It fits nicely into a shirt pocket without weighing you down and its slim design makes it comfortable to hold during calls. However, we were disappointed by the chrome plated plastic on the front, as the paint had already started to wear off on our review unit, something we did not expect to see so soon on a Samsung phone.
SoftwareIn general usage, the SGH-i710 is very much like any other Windows Mobile 5 device and we are not going to go into too much detail about the OS in this review, since it is not as if you have a choice of what OS to run on your phone. Windows Mobile seems to be one of those platforms people either love or hate, but we have to say that we prefer it to the latest version of Series 60 from Nokia which can be confusing to use.
Samsung supplies a wide range of applications with the SGH-i710, although as our review sample was in Chinese, it made it slightly difficult to determine how some of them worked. One of the more useful utilities is a business card reader that works in conjunction with the built in 2-megapixel camera. Considering that there is no flash, it worked quite well as long as the business card was well lit. It was not 100 percent accurate, but it is a quick way to get business card data into your contacts list on the phone.
What sets this handset apart from just about every other Windows Mobile device is Samsung's application launcher overlay. It is pretty much like skinning Windows, it makes the SGH-i710's menus look, and in all intents work, like any other Samsung handset. This is great for those that are not familiar with Windows Mobile, but it can be a bit confusing jumping back between the Samsung front-end and the Windows Mobile OS as soon as you launch an application. It also slows down the overall speed of the handset, which is rather frustrating and something Samsung should have considered. This is rather strange considering the 416MHz CPU.
Overall the Samsung SGH-i710 is a great Windows Mobile handset even though it has a few quirks. If you are looking for a stylish smartphone, it is definitely worth considering. Some people might fault the lack of Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, but then again if you are not looking for these functions then there is no need to pay extra for them in your phone. Also some of us a Tweak Town have got used to smartphones with a slide out keyboard, but models like this end up thicker and much heavier than the SGH-i710. At the end of the day, when it comes to choosing a suitable handset it all comes down to what you intend to use it for and what features you want, and that is always a hard choice to make.However, Samsung has done a first class job with the SGH-i710 and it shows that Samsung can master every mobile platform, since the company offers phones based on a wide range of mobile operating systems. The SGH-i710 is a stylish and fairly straightforward device that lacks some of the functionality that power users are looking for, but that does not mean that there is not a market for it. Expect to pay around US$460 for a contract free version, which is quite reasonable for what you get.- ProsSlim and lightweight smart phoneGreat displayFast processorStylish designBluetooth 2.0 with EDR- ConsChrome plastic seems to wear off quicklyProprietary USB connectorNo flash for the cameraNo Wi-FiRating - 7 out of 10
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