Samsungís second slider phone, the SGH-E800, has hit our shores, and no doubt itís going to create its own niche in the market. Phones utilising the slider form-factor are few and far between, and they are likely to appear more rapidly in the coming months alongside the clamshell form-factor thatís taking the Western world by storm. Samsungís solution is a smart, compact handset that will fit in anybodyís pocket or handbag, and while itís not the latest hip-hop gadget, it more than adequately handles the day to day needs of the average person. Complete with VGA camera, polyphonic ringtones, picture messaging and more, the E800 delivers on many accounts. Read on for more details.
While not new in itself, the slider format is slowly making a comeback. It was first reintroduced by Siemens in their SL55 handset, and they continue to push the form factor actively. In Samsungís case, the rather large SGH-D410 was Samsungís first foray into the slider market, a rather large phone with its own technological innovations. With the E800, Samsungís second slider phone however, theyíve gone into a head to head battle with Siemensí SL series, producing a very compact and collected handset. Its slide method in particular is innovative, only requiring a slight push before the spring catches and finishes opening or closing the handset.
The rest of the phone however doesnít break any ground in any other category. Samsung have obviously focused more on the physical aspects of the phone rather than the technological side. Besides the fantastic 64-tone sound synthesiser, the rest of the phone is quite dated in terms of technology, and itís a shame as more recent advancements would have made the phone a fantastic piece of electronics in its own right, and made it far more worth its price tag.
The E800, as mentioned previously, is an ultra-compact slider phone. With dimension of 87 x 44 x 23.5 millimetres itís going to fit into many different compartments, and at an official weight of 86 grams itís fairly light. The E800 does feel heavy though, heavier than many other 2.5G phones that are bigger than it, interestingly.
The front of the phone is characterised by the 128x160 pixel display, with the loudspeaker above it. Below, you have the directional pad with i button in the middle, flanked by left and right soft-keys, dial and hang-up keys and a clear/cancel key. The directional pad can be used as shortcuts to access certain parts of the phone, although the shortcuts Samsung have chosen as the most used are questionable. Pushing up takes you to the camera menu; right to the ringtone configuration menu; down to the calendar, and left to the SMS composition window. I would have personally preferred a Java application access shortcut rather than going to the ringtone menu, something I donít see myself accessing everyday. And of course, the i key should be anywhere but the centre of the d-pad. That button should be a confirm button, not a WAP shortcut. Samsung would do well to follow the rest of the industry in that regard. In any case. to reveal the rest of the keypad just slide the phone open with a gentle push to access the 12 numerical keys. These keys arenít too cramped, but I did find a little effort was necessary to use them with the big hands I have. Unfortunately big, well spaced keys and small space donít go hand in hand, and a compromise was made here.
On the left hand side of the phone is the volume rocker switch, and on the right youíll find a dedicated camera button, as well as the Handsfree socket protected by a plastic cover. This cover is attached to the phone so you canít lose it. The main connector on the bottom of the phone however, is not so lucky. The plastic dust cover on this connector is not attached, and youíll likely lose it in no time at all. The infra-red panel is on the bottom of the right side, and the hole for a strap is on the top right. Finally, the mobile camera features on the back of the top layer of the slider, and is hidden and protected when the slider is closed.
User Interface & display
Samsung have elected to remain with their old 65,536 colour TFT screen with the E800. Supporting a resolution of 128 x 160 pixels, the screen does a good job of displaying pictures taken by the digital camera, although it looks far better when displaying the rest of the phone. The low resolution is noticeable in camera mode, but not enough to irritate.
Samsung have done away completely with their old user interface and gone with the de-facto standard of the 3 x 3 icon grid. Again, the functions accessible from the main menu could have been better thought out. From top-left to bottom-right, the icons are SIM Toolkit, Call Records, Network Services, Sound Settings, Messages, Fun Box, Organiser, Camera and Phone Settings. Iím puzzled as to why Samsung believes Sound Settings to be so important that it needs its own Main Menu icon and d-pad shortcut. More commonly used options such as Java and web browser are one level below the main menu, and it is options such as these that should be on the top level. In any case, all options are easily accessible as they can be accessed by a number shortcut, making for quick navigation.
The rest of the menus are based on text lines with their own number shortcuts. The screen can display up to six lines of options or message text.
Making and receiving calls
Making calls on the E800 is a fairly simple exercise, and call quality is very good. The caller is very clearly heard, as is your voice on the other end. Considering that the antenna is built into the phone, reception is good. Itís right in the middle, not being too weak or too strong either, and comparable with many other phones on the market.
Besides regular calls, you also have the option of using the integrated speakerphone, as well as an included wired hands free. The speakerphone is very good, with the caller being loud and clear. I didnít test speakerphone from the other end, although I had no complaints with the people I spoke with.
The hands free however, is a different story. Two flaws make using the wired hands free very impractical. The first one is the earpiece itself. It simply doesnít sit in your ear. There is a rubber lining around it that should prevent it falling out, but it doesnít work unfortunately. The second one is the length of the cord, which doesnít even reach to my trouser pocket. I needed to put the phone in my shirtís top pocket to use the hands free comfortably. Incidentally the socket used for the hands free is a proprietary one, so third party ones might be a bit difficult to come by.
The polyphonic ringtones are excellent, output by a 64 tone synthesiser. All sorts of tunes are stored in the phone, from classical to pop music, and the volume can be set to a very loud setting.
The phonebook in the E800 can store up to 1000 entries, with each entry being able to hold five different numbers, one email address, a note and a graphic. Each entry can also be assigned a specific ringtone. All of this is possible if you store the entries on the phone of course. Searching through the phonebook is very quick and efficient. Typing letters will allow you to get to the entry you want, and there is no delay between typing.
Messaging is a treat on the E800. You have the option of SMS or MMS, and in the case of SMS you can attach simple pictures and monotone ringtones to your message. SMS is easy to compose, and you can combine up to 12 SMS messages for one huge SMS message of 1835 characters, the largest Iíve seen in any phone. I was eager to try this, but by the time I got to the sixth message text input had become so slow that I gave up. The speed of input begins to slow around the third message, but thatís more than enough for most situations anyway. You can compose messages using conventional triple-tap input or the faster T9 predictive text input. The implementation is good, and adding words is a simple process from a menu option.
MMS also works well. Multiple slides are supported, and you can add a picture, sound and message to each slide, up to the maximum size of 100 kilobytes per message. If you want to take a photo there and then, you can access the camera from the MMS menu, and once youíve taken a picture the phone will add it straight to the message for you.
There is no email client on the E800, but you can send MMS direct to email addresses, so I doubt that it will be missed.
The E800 is a dual-band GSM phone, meaning support for 900 and 1800 MHz frequencies. The phone will work fine in Europe and most of Asia only. GPRS is also available, and allows you to surf the wireless internet using the included WAP 2.0 browser, with support for xHTML webpages.
PC connectivity comes down to either a USB cable or infra-red connection. I tested the infra-red connection, and used it to successfully transfer files between the phone and my PC. The handset manager designed for the E800 (and many other Samsung phones) does a very good job and compares well with the likes of Nokiaís PC Suite and Motorolaís software package. You can transfer your address book, pictures and sounds, and send SMS straight from your computer. I could not find an option to synchronise data with external programs such as Microsoft Outlook however.
The E800ís build quality is very acceptable. The plastic finish is very good and the phone feels very solid. With no interchangeable covers the phoneís casing is latched on tight, and the back of the battery is exposed as the back cover. The battery is firmly attached and doesnít show any signs of becoming loose in the future.
Up to 220 hours of standby time and 270 minutes of talk time are provided by the standard 800mAh Lithium-ion battery. In practice the phone was able to last two days with mixed usage including talk, messaging and playing Java games. Recharging the phone takes about 90 Ė 120 minutes.