The Korean manufacturer, Samsung Electronics, has established a reputation for itself in the mobile phone market as a supplier of well developed and reliable handsets. Generally it is an expectation that any handset that Samsung brings out will be good and I have yet to be disappointed by one. Samsung's latest slider phone offering is the D600, which is the new model based on their first incarnation of a slider phone, the D500. When it first arrived, the D500 was a high-end handset combining both a high resolution screen as well as a 1.3 megapixel camera. The D600 is an update of this phone and Samsung have upgraded a host of features and corrected issues since their first implementation.
Slide factor handsets are an alternative design model from clamshell design and are aimed at people who still like the standard phone design while having the claim shell benefits of having the keypad automatically locked when the phone is closed. The slide-out design allows the phone to have a larger screen and having only the vital buttons/functions available while hiding away other functions available through the complete keypad when they are needed.
Being an update over the D500, Samsung has upgraded several key features in the D600 over the older model. When the phone is switched on the first most noticeable aspect is the brilliant 240 x 320 pixel 262k color screen, updated from the D500's 176x220 screen.
Samsung has also upgraded the camera from 1.3 megapixels to a respectable 2.0 megapixels. This allows photos of 1600 x 1200 pixels in resolution which will finally be at a level where they will look good printed and not just be used for thumbnail or messaging purposes.
Another new feature introduced to this model line is the microSD (Transflash) card slot which allows memory expandability on top of the generous internal memory. Perhaps as a result of this, the internal memory has been reduced to 73MB from the 96MB that was offered in the D500.
Samsung has also included a TV output port to view media on your television, so that you can impress your friends with all the photos/videos you have taken. And on top of this the D600 includes the Picsel Viewer, giving the handset the ability to open PowerPoint, Word, Excel and PDF files and display them on the big screen.
The D600 looks almost exactly like the old D500 except for a few subtle differences. It is by no means a small phone and a tad on the thick side but it is a nice shape and has a good feel to it when being held. The D600 is an exterior mixture of black and dark gray colors with dabs of silver here and there to give the phone a classy look about it. As we have come to expect from Samsung, the build quality of handset is excellent. The D600 weighs in at 103g (which is slightly heavier than the D500) and its dimensions have also changed to 95.7 x 47 x 21.8 millimeters. The antenna has been thoughtfully placed internally, so there is no stub poking up from top of the handset.
On the left-hand side are the volume adjustment keys, used when in a call or playing media files. The right-hand side features a camera snap button, a proprietary headset connector and a microSD (Transflash) card slot. On the bottom is the charger socket, which is protected by a plastic cover. One thing good about the charging connector is that it is really easy to plug in and you don’t have to fiddle with the port as is the case with some other phones. All ports are covered and as expected from Samsung, they have nice plastic covers which are much better than the rubber covers used on other phones. Rubber covers tend to wear and tear and the plastic covers are also easier to get off even with short fingernails like mine. The back incorporates the D600's two megapixel camera which also includes an LED flash light and the battery is covered with a matte type of plastic which is an excellent idea to reduce the wear and smudge marks that appear with normal use of the phone.
When opening, the slider will fling up and want to lock into place, although without any audible click. Although I was not a fan of it at first, the slider design is especially helpful for people who want to maintain their standard handset look (as opposed to a clamshell) and this design allows them to hide the functions they don't use all the time and also lock the keypad by just sliding the phone closed.
The front panel of the D600 includes the main screen and the directional keypad. The typical 12 key numerical keypad is hidden away under the slider and the phone needs to be slid open to get at it, essentially ‘locking’ the keypad. The directional keypad links to the phone’s most used functions. Pressing the right button will bring up the calendar and left gets you to creating a SMS message. Up displays the phone’s media player, while pressing down shows the Bluetooth device list. Finally, pressing the confirm button in the middle of the arrow-pad brings up the web browser. On either side of the arrow pad are two buttons that function as soft keys for menus. Beneath the directional pad is a row of three keys – dial, cancel and hang-up. The only small problem that I had with the numerical pad and the slide design is that reaching the bottom three buttons is a little awkward as they sit right at the bottom so typing messages one handed might be a little harder. Otherwise both keypads feel great.
User Interface & display
The D600 features a brilliant TFT LCD display with a native resolution of 240 x 320 and capable of displaying 262k colors. This is an upgrade from the D500, which was capable of displaying 176 x 220 pixels. This is one of the best screens out there that I have seen. The screen is bright and visible even in bright light, the contrast is excellent and the text size is large and clear so that it should be legible for most people. The phone is theme-able and it is also possible to change the background image for personalisation.
The main menu in the phone displays the standard 3x3 grid of icons. The icons include Call Records, Phone book, Applications, Browser, Messages, File Manager, Calendar, Camera and Settings. Selecting an icon with the centre key will take you further through the menu system, with the rest of the menus using text lines. Each menu option is accessible by number key shortcuts. For example, to access security settings, you press the Menu button, then #, 4.Generally if there is a number next to a link, pressing that number’s button will activate it. One additional thing that Samsung has included is that of tabbed menu options. For example, to move from different sub-menus in the Settings menu (such as from Display Options to Call Records), you simply press left or right on the directional pad. It’s a wonder why this simple option is not included in other phones.
On the standby screen the time and date are displayed at the top with all the phone’s statistics such as reception and battery life. The user interface is just another well thought out feature of this phone as everything is logically put into menus and is easy to access.
Making and receiving calls
The D600 can receive and make calls in both closed and open positions. When closed however it is not possible to access the numerical keys so the calls made can only be of numbers stored in the handset. There is no need to open the handset when a call comes through like a clamshell, just push the appropriate soft key.
The call quality on the D600 is excellent. Samsung has also included speaker phone support and the quality of the dual speakers included is excellent with low distortion at loud levels. One problem is with the phone using a proprietary headphone plug, meaning you have to hunt for headphones with that connection type. However the headphones included with the D600 are excellent, and the D600 also has the option of using a Bluetooth headset.
There are 30 preset polyphonic, 15 MIDI and one MP3 ringtone that ships with the phone and most of these are excellent due to the good playback of the synthesiser and the great speakers. Other ringtones can be downloaded from various websites/services or transferred from MP3s/MIDI via a USB cable or microSD card slot. The synthesiser can play 64 tones at once and makes even the low quality ringtones sound good. All of the tones can be set for when the phone rings, when you receive an SMS or MMS. One curious thing of note is that Samsung hasn’t included profiles in the phone. So it is only possible to assign ringtones to calls, messages etc and the only option is to mute all sounds.
The address book can store up to 1000 fields in the phone’s memory and each contact can store a photo, up to 12 fields and it is also possible to define their group. In addition to being able to assign photos for each contact it is possible to assign videos as well, which definitely brings about a different angle on things. In terms of making and receiving calls, Samsung have done an excellent job.
The Samsung D600 supports the standard SMS, EMS, MMS and e-mail. T9 predictive text is available for all message composition. Several of the main languages are also available for T9. The keypad is nice to use as the keys are large however due to the slide design the keypad is offset underneath the main display and it makes typing messages not as natural as on a clam shell or even standard handset but its a matter of getting used to the layout.
The D600 is able to compose SMS messages of up to 1920 characters resulting in a total of twelve linked up messages being sent at maximum. MMS is also supported and it is possible to create multiple slides, with each slide being able to have a picture, sound, video, or text assigned to it. When creating large messages the D600 tends to slow down as more and more characters are entered. This will have a big impact for people who are heavily into text messaging as there is nothing more annoying than having to wait to see what you've typed.
E-mail messaging is integrated in the Messages section of the phone instead of being a separate application as opposed to other phones. It is possible to compose, receive, and read e-mail messages and several e-mail accounts may be defined, as long as they support SMTP, POP3, or IMAP4. The e-mail client allows the user to receive only the headers of the e-mail messages they need in order to minimise GPRS charges.
Thankfully Samsung is on the ball and has made sure the D600 includes nearly every type of connection under the sun. The only thing omitted is an infra-red port, a shame as it requires carrying a USB to use the handset as a modem (not all laptops have Bluetooth as a standard feature these days). Speaking of Bluetooth, Samsung has included v1.2 with this handset and a full range of profiles are available such as headset, file transfer and modem usage and it works like a charm. It is also possible to set the handset to be visible or invisible to other Bluetooth devices.
The D600 is a Quadband GSM handset and has the ability to connect to 850, 900, 1800 and 1900MHz GSM networks. The phone has Class 10 (4+1/3+2 slots) GPRS support that provides internet download speeds of 48kbps. The browser is WAP 2.0 compliant and webpages look great on the D600's high resolution screen.
USB support on the D600 is also excellent. From the phone settings, it is possible to use the handset in three USB modes – modem, mass storage and Pictbridge. The mass storage allows access to the microSD card in the phone while the Pictbridge mode allows the phone to be connected to any Pictbridge device (ie. printer) for image transfer. The USB connection worked flawlessly and the software package to synchronise data off the phone is also excellent and does not try to take over the computer.
On top of all of this, Samsung has now made the memory expandable by incorporating a microSD card slot into the D600. This is a welcome feature as the 2 megapixel camera photos and videos can quickly fill up the D600’s 73MB of internal memory. If only Samsung had included infra-red in the D600, then it would be safe to say that the connectivity options on the phone are pretty much perfect.
What can I say about build quality? Being a Samsung phone I already had high expectations that the D600 would be a well put together handset. The phone always felt sturdy in the hand and the back plate (which is really the back face of the battery, rather than a cover) is nicely attached so that it doesn't feel like it’s going to fall off while at the same time it is easy to get off when trying to get to the SIM card.
Even though Samsung has gone for a black coating for this handset, the mixture of dark grey and the small amount of silver used makes the phone look very slick and classy. The buttons on the side of the handset are also nicely placed and protrude just enough to be functional but are not in the way and the keypad feels nice but because the slide form factor sits at an offset to the directional pad it will take some adjustment to new users when working between the two levels.
Another good thing that Samsung has done with the D600 is to cover the back side of the handset with a soft matte plastic which is less prone to smudge marks and wear and tear in addition to making the phone great to pickup.
The Samsung D600 includes a Li-ion 900mAh capacity battery giving it a claimed talk time of 7 hours. Samsung claims that the handset is able to remain on standby for 300 hours which is excellent. Other phone manufacturers should have a look at the power figures from Samsung as some other phones despite having less features and a larger powered battery still manage much worse talk and standby times than the D600. Congratulations to Samsung for packing so much into the phone, having a high resolution screen and still managing to achieve quite high talk and standby times. The actual times during the test were similar to the claimed figures although slightly less as expected.
The battery pack is part of the rear back panel and is easily removable. Recharging the phone is fairly fast as with most handsets these days and takes over two hours with the D600.