It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a tiny handset – these days the manufacturers of mobile phones have been much more focused on the functionality rather than the size of their handsets. I remember not long ago when tiny handsets were all the rage! Since then, most manufacturers have stuck to a similar size for all their handsets and consumers have been happy.
The X830 is a new handset out of Samsung that can definitely be classed as a tiny handset. It looks more like an MP3 player than a phone, and has a swivel form factor that I haven’t seen in quite some time. The handset boasts 1GB of internal storage, a 262k colour display, 1.3mpx digital camera, Bluetooth wireless connectivity and USB 2.0.
With mid-range specs and a unique size/form-factor combo, the X830 looks promising. Let’s see how it went in real life.
The most notable feature of the X830 is its size and form factor. Swivel handsets made their debut some time ago, but have fallen back due to clam shell and standard (candy-bar) form factor handsets achieving the biggest market share. The X830 measures 84 x 30 x 19.9 mm, so it’s not super thin in terms of depth, but is when it comes to width. It only weighs 72grams, too!
Packed inside the handset is a whopping 1GB of shared memory. The X830 is mainly being marketed as a multimedia handset, so the large internal memory is a godsend for the target consumer base. Unfortunately, there is no external memory card support which may deter some.
Bluetooth or USB connectivity can be used to transfer files to the internal memory. The handset comes with a USB data-cable in the sales package, as well as the appropriate PC software for file transfer and synchronization. The X830 also has a “Media Transfer” mode which can be used to sync a Windows Media Player (and other supported applications) library to the handset with ease.
The LCD on the X830 is capable of 262,144 colours and has a 128 x 220 pixel resolution. This is a non-“standard” resolution, and the actual LCD itself is not as large as you think, although the resolution is quite big. The X830 cannot be used when the swivel is closed, except if the handset is in Music mode. When the swivel is closed the display is completely turned off, there is no idle screen.
A mediocre 1.3mpx digital camera is positioned on the back of the X830 and can be used for still image capture or MPEG4 video capture. For more on the camera, check out the dedicated Camera Performance page of this review.
The X830 is a very interesting handset, physically. However, when it comes to actually using the handset it may drive you slightly mad, like it did to me.
I’ll start with the good things first. The X830 has a click wheel instead of the usual 5-button navigational keypad. The click wheel is much like an iPod’s click wheel, except the Samsung X830’s click wheel actually has a section that moves around as it is rotated – it is not touch sensitive. The click wheel is used to move up and down through the user interface. Samsung have placed actual buttons underneath the click wheel, so if you wish to you can just push the direction you want instead of scrolling the wheel. The click wheel is the only “button” located on the front of the handset. There is a volume up/down rocker on the right hand side of the X830 and a hold button on the left hand side, but the two soft keys and all other keys are located underneath the swivel.
My only criticism of the click wheel is that it moves through the operating system too slowly. That is, it takes too much movement of the click wheel before the operating system will move down to the next menu item. Other than that, I really enjoyed this feature of the handset!
I personally really like the swivel design, but for it to work as desired the handset needs to have ‘locks’ at both the open and closed position. The X830 locks into place very securely when shut, but this is not the case when the handset is opened. There is absolutely no locking/holding mechanism and the top part of the handset can move around freely. This is annoying while you’re in a call because if you move the bottom part of the handset the top won’t move along with it and the handset may even close shut if it gets to the right angle. Also, when using the numerical keypad and navigation click wheel the display section will move around.
One of my biggest issues with the X830 was the two column keypad design. Ever since mobile phones have been available they have used the 3 column design that is used on a regular telephone. Everyone knows how to use a 3 column keypad! Because the X830 is so thin, making a three column keypad would make the buttons too small to be functional – so Samsung have opted for a two column design.
This basically means that you must re-learn how to type using the keypad. All the buttons are in different positions and it can really do your head in when you’ve come from a 3 column keypad. When I first received the X830, a full SMS message sometimes took me a good 10 minutes to type before I got used to the keypad layout. Frustrating!!
An interesting feature on the X830 is the keypad backlight settings. Instead of a light sensor, the X830 has a timer setting which activates the numerical keypad backlight after a specified time. You can choose a custom time, “night time” (5pm), or turn the timer off so the backlight will light up at any time.
User interface & display
The X830’s display is approximately 18mm wide and 32mm long. It supports up to 262,144 colours and has a 128 x 220 pixel resolution. A minimalistic version of the regular Samsung operating system is used because of the screen size restrictions. The click-wheel is used to navigate through the menus, and there are also two soft keys for menu selections located above the numerical keypad.
I’m happy to report that the operating system is quite fast, and I had no issues with lag or delay when opening functions. By default the main menu is a text list, but the font size in unnecessarily large so the whole word (or words) is not displayed on screen. Hovering on an item will start a marquee scroll so you can see the entire word. There is a small icon next to each icon so it’s not that hard to distinguish which option is which. The main menu can changed to a block/icon view via the Settings menu, which displays an icon with a text label at the bottom of the screen. For me, this setting made the menu much easier to navigate through.
You can use the click wheel to scroll through menus, or just push one of the numerical buttons corresponding to that function. The two soft keys have labels displayed at the bottom of the screen, but most of the time you will be using the centre key of the click wheel.
The standby screen of the X830 is your regular Samsung layout. The top most row on the display has the reception and battery levels, as well as any other indicator icons such as Bluetooth, profile, alarm clock, and so forth. Below this is the date and time. The operator name is displayed below this bar. Wallpaper can be selected from any image in the gallery, and there is also an option for the wallpaper to scroll between all the images in a specified folder – like a slideshow.
The X830 only offers two skins – black or white. The only thing the skins change is the colour scheme and backgrounds of the menu system. The dialling font size, colour, and background colour can be adjusted to suit personal taste. Unfortunately you can’t change the font size throughout the whole operating system, though.
My major gripe with the X830 in this department is the display width. Because it is so small and the font size is so large, it’s often hard to read the text without waiting for it to scroll along – which depending on the length of the text, can take some time.
Making and receiving calls
The X830 can only take calls when the swivel is open. The microphone is located below the numerical keypad, so with the handset shut it wouldn’t line up to your mouth properly. When a call is coming through, opening the swivel will automatically answer the call. This can be turned off if so desired, which means you will need to open the swivel and then push the pick-up button to answer.
The X830 also has a function to use the volume up/down key on the right hand side of the handset as a reject button. By default, it is set to mute, which will mute the ring tone when the phone is being called. Changing this to reject means you won’t need to open the handset and push the hang up button if you wish to reject a call.
During my time with the X830 I had the earpiece volume at 4/7, and this was perfect for most situations. At 7/7 it was too loud and uncomfortable! No problems with the loudspeaker volume, either.
Because the X830’s top section doesn’t lock into place, the handset will move around on your ear while you are on a call – and let me tell you, it’s mighty annoying! Especially if you’re doing something with your hands and using your shoulder to hold the handset to your ear; I even had the handset close shut on me entirely while doing this.
Bluetooth can be used to connect a headset or hands free device to the X830. The handset supports both profiles, as well as the stereo Bluetooth A2DP profile for use with supported devices.
The common messaging formats are supported by the Samsung X830: SMS/EMS, MMS, and e-mail. The X830 also has T9 predictive text support.
I had a lot of troubles messaging on the X830, and for one reason in particular – the keyboard! Because the keys are in two columns instead of three, you need to re-learn how to input text. I’m someone who messages very quickly and gets frustrated when messages take longer than necessary! It took me a solid week before I could type messages at a semi-fast pace, and even then I still had to look at the keys to double check before pushing them.
The SMS composition window displays a character counter in the top left hand corner and a small icon in the top right corner indicating which text input method is active. Unfortunately the handset doesn’t tell you when you have rolled into two (or more) messages, so you’ll have to keep checking the count if you’re concerned about this. Linked SMS messages up to 1836 characters can be composed.
When it comes to creating SMS messages, the X830 displays a wizard-like interface which has separate sections for subject, image or video, sound, and text for each ‘page’ (often referred to as a ‘slide’) of the MMS message. Images and video can be selected from the memory or recorded fresh from the 1.3mpx digital camera.
Because of the size of the X830’s display, some messages will span over several ‘screens’ due to the way the handset handles large words. If a word will not fit on a line with another word, instead of splitting it across two lines the handset will put the large word on its own separate line. Not a major issue, but can be annoying with long messages.
The Samsung X830 offers Bluetooth and USB local connectivity, and GPRS & EDGE packet data connectivity.
The sales package includes a USB data-cable and Samsung PC Studio software for Windows machines. The PC Studio software allows you to transfer data to and from the handset and synchronize your data with the supported PIM applications. There is currently no software from Samsung compatible with Mac OS.
If USB isn’t your thing, Bluetooth Wireless Technology (version 1.2) can be used to connect to a PC or other device. The X830 includes support for the Bluetooth stereo audio profile, A2DP. Combined with the Music player features of the X830 you can enjoy your music in high quality on the go!
For packet data connectivity over GSM 900/1800/1900MHz networks, the X830 will automatically select between GPRS or EDGE where available. A browser is built in to the operating system for browsing the mobile internet. The X830 I received did not have any GPRS or MMS settings, so I had to manually enter them. This will not be the case when the handset is released to the mass market.
The X830 has two functionality modes – Normal Phone mode and Music mode. In music mode, the music player application is open and the swivel is shut. All control of the application is via the click wheel and external buttons on the handset (volume up/down and the hold key).
The music player is horizontally aligned for easy readability when the handset is shut. It scrolls the name of the song along the bottom of the display, and below this is the current track time and total track time with a moving slider. You can skip forward/backwards through the song by holding down the left or right navigational button. Pushing the middle key of the click wheel will pause or play the currently selected song. The battery and reception levels are also displayed in the music player application.
File formats supported by the music player are MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, and WMA. When the application is opened it automatically scans the internal memory of the handset and adds the supported files it finds to the library.
Flicking the X830 open while it is in Music mode will not interrupt the music playback, it will just continue in the background. To end the application, just flick open the handset and push the hang-up button. The handset will confirm and then close the application.
Music can be transferred to the X830 using Bluetooth Wireless Technology or via the included USB data cable and PC software.
The X830 does support video playback, but I couldn’t find out what file formats it supports as there is no options menu in the application – and it can only be opened if you are opening a video clip stored on the handset. It looks like it only supports playback of 3GPP and MPEG4 video files. It does not have a full screen mode, so videos look tiny on the display.
Volume through the loudspeaker of the X830 is sufficient for personal use, but if you’re playing the music to a small group of people it’s going to be hard to hear. Most users will find themselves using the included stereo headset to listen to music, though.
The X830 has basic PIM applications including a calendar, world clock, alarm, calculator, converter, timer, phonebook, memo jotter, and stop watch. The handset also has a Java environment for add-on applications and games – but I could not install any applications that I had transferred to the phone via USB or Bluetooth. Only applications downloaded via GPRS can be installed.
Inside the X830’s sales package is the Samsung PC Studio software that can be used to transfer files to and from the handset and synchronize the data on the handset with your Windows PC.
My biggest issue with the X830 was that the swivel mechanism did not lock into place when the handset is open – so it swivels around everywhere! When in a call it’s very difficult to keep the X830 straight against your ear, and sometimes it will even close shut if you move your head too much.
As for the rest of the X830, things weren’t too bad. The buttons are all large and brightly backlit. The click wheel moves through the operating system a little slow, but other than that is an interesting replacement for the usual 5-way navigational key. There is no battery cover on the X830, the battery fits straight into the back of the handset and has a black exterior covering.
A 700mAh lithium-ion battery powers the X830 for approximately 3.3 hours of talk time and 256 hours of standby time. I charged the X830 to full when I first received it, and it lasted for around 3.5 days without being recharged. I’m a pretty regular user with my phone, making many short calls a day and a lot of SMS messages, along with the occasional web browsing and photo taking.