Samsung Galaxy Note. First Look
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Review GSM phone Samsung E720/E730
After the D500 was announced the main question was how soon the company would apply the same hardware platform in other models. That happened quite soon; let's remember Samsung Z130 and also Samsung E720, Samsung E730. The last two models are actually the same phone with only one difference - the elder model comes equipped with a radio and all the other characteristics are identical. In some way, the transformation of the D500 into a clamshell went well since the basis used was Samsung E700/E710. There are many adherents of the model, but still many needed some business functions. From the marketing position, creating a complete copy of the D500 was not right. As a result, the new model has no IrDA, the camera is now megapixel but not 1.3 MP. The device is not positioned as the leader, the D500 remains the first and the E720 comes only after it.
The dimensions of the phone are 90x45x23 mm and the weight is 90 grams. The model fits well in a hand and can easily be put into a trouser or shirt pocket. Only one colour is available now, a dark asphalt plastic on the front and back, where the battery compartment is. Plastic on side surfaces is not silvery as it might be expected but of titanium colour. The model rouses a feeling of style though not impressing as much as the E700, since it got all the attention being the first of this design. Only one interested in phones will distinguish the models, when a normal customer won't notice the difference evidently.
There is a megapixel camera on the front panel and two point light sources on sides, they act as small lamps in the standby mode (activated using a side button) or as a flash when in the camera mode. The brightness of the LED's is high and they light well in the dark. There role is not as evident when used as flash, they make shooting easier in the dark when the distance is small, but the quality remains very poor.
The external screen is OLED and always showing two lines backlighted in blue. The lines show the signal strength, time and charge level. The rest of the screen has a resolution of 96x96 pixels with 65000 colors. The advantage of the screen is that the picture is seen well in the sun, since the screen fades less than STN and TFT ones.
There are three buttons for mp3 control, you can start listening to songs and skip to another track. The advantage is that you do not need to open the phone to adjust melody playing. Using the E720 as an Mp3 player is quite possible if you are satisfied with only 90 MB of memory. Due to the absence of memory cards, using the phone as a fully functional mp3 player is impossible. The next version of the model, the Z500, will have a TransFlash card slot.
There is a coupled volume button on the left surface and a headset connector closed with a plastic shutter a bit higher. There is a miniUSB slot and a stereo headset included into the kit. There is a camera button on the right side. There is a strap hole on the top end of the phone and a standard interface connector (wide) placed on the bottom end.
Opening the phone is possible with one hand and having done that you'll see a large display. The screen is 176x220 pixels with 262K colors. Samsung models have always been at the top in this aspect and this one is not an exception. The colors are bright and vivid and the display is really better than other manufacturers (the only exception is Sharp and Motorola using the same screens). The quality of the screen has no rivals and even Siemens SL65 looses in the picture quality. Comparison with Motorola v620 showed no big difference, the colors and brightness of the picture are approximately the same. The TFT screen behaves not bad in the sun and the picture is seen.
The keypad is comfortable to work with; the keys are large and well-distanced. The backlighting is white and the characters are clearly seen. We found the contrast of the black keys and the body in titanium colour very nice. The only one disputable point is the OK button integrated into the navi one, it is small and as a result, pressing it is difficult and it needs a lot of pressure. The little size of the button is also a bad thing.
There is an 820-mAh Li-Ion battery integrated into the phone. According to the manufacturer it is capable of working for 180 hours in the standby mode and up to 3 hours in the talk mode. In Moscow the phone worked for 3 days with 45 minutes of talking and up to 30 minutes of using other functions. If Bluetooth is always on, battery life shortens to two days. Full recharging takes about 1.5 hours.
The interface is similar to the D500 and thus the main menu is represented only with a row of icons. All of them look stylish. Number navigation using number series is supported. All the submenus are lists and shifting between the submenus is possible by pressing the left or right on the navi pad. You can assign personal functions chosen from the list to the navi button. In general the menu division is quite logical and navigation is not a problem.
While entering texts you can switch local layout with English quickly. Predictive input is adjusted at your will and the phone remembers your last entry.
Phone book. By pressing the right soft key, one can obtain the contacts in a form of a list containing all the files both from the phone's and the SIM-card memory. The first name in the list is backlit by default and the number is shown in the status bar (there is a special sign for numbers from a SIM-card). There is a fast search by first letters of a name; the phone can hold more than twenty of those for any possible language. By pressing the OK key, you enter in the view menu of a single file where you may see a small icon in case the name is matched with the image. Any graphic file or the pictures of your own may be used as such image. Up to five phone numbers of various types (cell, office, home, fax, etc.) may be kept for a name with one number as the main contact (it would become the first one by default). The margins are strictly fixed and there may be not two cell phone numbers entered. On the other hand, SMS/MMS can be sent to any number from the phone book once chosen.
Names are displayed in the way you entered them, for example, if you entered Eldar Murtazin, it is displayed exactly in this manner. The length of each line is 20 symbols for any of the available languages. You may opt to alter the language while inserting the text as well.
Files in different languages are sorted out according to a rule - first it will be all files in the local language (Russian, for example), and then those in English. This is rather convenient and habit forming. Taking into account an option of fast language change during the search, it becomes clear that the files in different languages do not impede the work with this phone.
Let us return to the information entered for one name. Besides phone numbers, an e-mail address and a little text memo can be recorded. Any music file as well as composed Mp3's can be chosen as a ring tone for the name. The phone offers three groups of subscribers and one 'out of any group' category. The needed number of groups, the ring tones and the pictures for them can be created very easily.
Up to 1000 names with all the data can be saved in the phone's memory. Even if all the available lines are not used, the number of names to be saved would remain a thousand. It is possible to indicate in the settings where the new numbers should be kept by default. There is an option of moving files from the SIM-card although not vice versa. According to the developers, PC is the best means of synchronization, MS Outlook in particular. Any file in the form of SMS/MMS, mail message or other text file can be sent quickly through Bluetooth and IrDA to another device. There are no problems with delivery and the file being transmitted to another device is precisely decoded without any trouble.
New files can be entered only through the main menu; the first soft key always calls for the name list only. You can create your own morning coat; its format would be the one of a regular file from the phone book.
There can be up to eight numbers in the speed dial list; peculiar is the fact that separate numbers of one name may be in this list as well. The subtitle of the chosen name (but not of the phone type) is displayed on the buttons.
The comparison of this phone book with phone books of other phones is rather interesting. It is not fully compatible with MS Outlook's layout as the phone has fewer margins. Consequently, the phone gives way to all the smartphones (the phone book options are the most extended ones in those). The phone book is moderate here when compared to the phones such as Siemens and Alcatel. However, the model is a decent rival to all other phones. The phone also has a very convenient phone book, which is a pleasure to work with.
When receiving a call, a picture is not displayed on the full screen, but only on a part of it (approximately 120x140 pixels). In a way, this can be seen as a big disadvantage, however the developers may resolve this shortcoming in some time. Another serious disadvantage of this phone is the lack of voice recognition. Users of a Bluetooth-headset or an in-car speakerphone are particularly interested in this function.
Call lists. Up to twenty phone numbers are displayed in each list. There is a combined list of all the last calls with an icon indicating a call type. Tilting the scroll key horizontally, you may switch quickly from one list to another. The date and the time of the call (it's duration is not kept) can be seen for separate files. As always, the overall time of the calls and their prices can be viewed in this menu (this service has to be installed).
Applications. Java World is the first menu file; up to four MB of memory are available in the phone for various programs. This is a separate memory allotment and is used for Java only. MIDP 2.0 version allows the use of the graphic reach and three-dimensional games. There are four games preinstalled in the phone - Bobby Carrot, Airship Racing, Freekick and Archangel.
MP3 player. An integrated mp3 player supporting accidental track reproduction, both sequential and cyclic, is available in the phone. Mp3 files can be downloaded into the phone both directly through Bluetooth and through a synchronization program. Files may be of various names and tags (in Russian language as well!). The bit rate of the files is not that important since the phone accepts all the possible formats. We came across several problems with the files recorded through VBR since the phone would report an error and reject downloading. However, a number of the same VBR mp3 files were successfully downloaded and reproduced without any problem.
The name of the track playing is displayed as well as the overall number of different composition. An equalizer is of an entertaining nature; there are no separate settings (only a possibility to choose from classic, rock, jazz and normal reproduction). The tracks can be played through the stereo headset as well as through the speakerphone. The volume has ten levels. The user is welcome to create play lists of his/her own. There is 90 MB of memory available for mp3's, which is good for more than one and a half hours of music recordings of a decent quality. The player in this model is simple and does not differ from other models. Everything is quite plain.
Dictaphone. You can record up to several hours of voice memos with the number of files being unlimited. The time restrictions for one recording are set by a user and can vary from 30 seconds to one hour in duration. All the files are kept in a separate folder in the memory. The dictaphone cannot record a conversation, since it only works in stand-by mode. Two types of equalizers are offered in the settings with one of them meant for noisy surroundings. The recorder can function well during lectures, conferences and presentations. The phone is a partial substitute for a digital tape recorder.
World time is displayed for two chosen cities. Everything is nice and simple here.
Alarm clock. The phone is equipped with three alarm clocks. One is meant for mornings and can be set for selected weekdays as well as for weekends. For each of the alarm clocks there is a selection of five melodies although mp3 compositions cannot be used here. It is up to a user to indicate in the settings whether the phone would turn on automatically in the time of the event or not.
Calculator. Everything is nice and simple here.
With a converter, you can operate with different units of measurements as well as with the currencies.
Countdown timer. The time can be displayed in both hours and minutes; the clock can be used as a background.
You can request the intermediate result with a stopwatch.
Funbox. All the 'fun' files, such as music, images, videos and sounds are kept here. All the downloaded files are also stored here. One disadvantage here is that sometimes the file is not immediately displayed in the general list and a user has to exit and open the list again.
Messages. Working with different types of messages is done through separate submenus. Let us begin with short messages. Up to 200 messages can be saved in the phone's memory; the phone supports the EMS standard compatible with Nokia Smart Messaging. The support of various encodings chosen by a user (GSM or Unicode) is a very nice feature here. Talking of a unique function, a 'black list' is available. The numbers from this list, up to ten, would not be shown. T9 functions very well and is quick and easy to use.
MMS. The interface for multimedia messages is very nice; the messages can be saved in several folders at once and right away. There are no size restrictions for a message to be received although a message should not exceed 295 KB. As for additional services, the rejection of advertising messages, the option of the message receipt in the roaming and the home network should be mentioned. The messages are saved in the general memory since there is no special memory for them.
Mail client. POP3/SMTP boxes and several tracking files are supported. Besides the title downloading, the phone can receive the letter itself. As for attachments, only the graphic files (GIF, JPEG) are supported. When sending out a letter, you can attach a picture from the integrated camera to it. Overall, the mail client is nice although it does not stand out with an immense number of functions. There is also an option of creating templates.
Organizer. Up to 400 events of four types - meeting, affair, anniversary and others, can be saved in the phone's memory. The day and the time as well as its end are indicated for each file. A signal can be set for the interval during which it has to go off; repetitive events are available for setting.
The weekly and the monthly calendar are very convenient with each type of the event having its own color.
WAP. There is a wap-browser version 2.0 similar to some phones by Nokia and Sony Ericsson using http protocol. That means in some networks operator's setting is required.
Bluetooth. The phone doesn't have any evident problems with this function. All the existing protocols are supported and work properly. Any information may be transferred to and from the phone via Bluetooth.
Implementation of security settings should be stressed as a peculiarity, the code is required when connecting for the first time. The second connection may be established without this procedure (if the device is kept in a list). With incoming inquiries and set to security mode, the code is always required, unless you put the device into the trusted list. This implementation is logical and causes no problems.
Data transmission speed via Bluetooth-connection is about 30-35 KBps and transferring 15 MB takes about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, low data transmission speed is characteristic for the phone and it doesn't allow loading much information at once. I'd like to note that the majority of phones by other manufacturers also have this limitation, information via Bluetooth and especially mp3 files are transmitted slowly.
Voice Clarity. The latest phones by Samsung provide a Voice Clarity function that may be activated from a pop-up menu during a call. The manual says the function improves voice quality considerably. If testing the function in a place where the other person is heard well, you'll be disappointed with it, as no changes will be noticed. It is intended for working in places with poor coverage where the caller is not clearly heard the phone tries to clear them away. The function is rather simple and banal.
Phones by other manufacturers do have some algorithms for improving the sound and they all start working without any actions from the user's side. Here a user may choose when to turn the function on and when to turn it off. That makes some advantages especially considering that standard sound optimization is present in the phone.
Camera. There is a megapixel camera integrated into the phone and the resolutions supported are the following - 1152x864, 640x480, 320x240, 176x148, 160x120 pixels. Compression quality may be Super Fine, Fine, Normal, Economy. Shutter sound may be turned off.
The quality of the pictures is higher outdoors on a bright sunny day, though the photos are quite bearable even on a dull day, however grain does appear.
The quality of the pictures really decreases indoors in the dark, which is quite understandable for a CMOS-matrix.
The device supports such effects as Gray scale, Negative, Sepia, Emboss, Sketch, Antique, Moonlight, Fog. Samples of various effects applied to photos taken indors, zip-archive, 1.31 MB.
Frames are supported for 320x320 pixels photos, new ones may be uploaded. Flash can work automatically or be set manually. Timer may be set for 3, 5 or 10 seconds.
Also there is a possibility to take 6, 9 or 15 photos in a series; you can set two types of speed for each case (normal and high). Finally, the device supports matrix photos (2x2, 3x3).
The same set of effects is provided when recording video. Four resolutions are supported- 352x288, 320x240, 176x144, 128x96 pixels. The quality may be set just like for photos (four levels). The video looks not bad on the screen; you can also switch sound off. You are not limited in clip duration, write as long as free space allows.
That is the first time the quality of the video is quite acceptable both on the phone screen and on a PC. You can see the clips recorded in a good quality, though the picture shakes when shoot (the samples provided here show the same because of your humble servant's walking). The device should be praised highly for the video quality.
Synchronization with PC. Synchronization can be through Bluetooth or a cable. Easy Studio 2.0 is a renewed software version. There are many changes comparing to the first version and we won't tell about all of them. I'll only note that this software is similar to programs for synchronization by other manufacturers in some kind (in a maximum configuration) but also provides its own capabilities.
PIM Manager allows loading all the contacts, messages, organizer entries and call lists to and from a PC. Here you may compose new messages on your PC and send them at once using the phone. The program provides enough capabilities for the majority of users. Synchronization with MS Outlook is not offered and thus many people may say the program looses its attraction. But it could be this way if a special phone and MS Outlook data converter was not included into the package, it works correctly and no problems appear, notebook, organizer, mail data is transmitted correctly. The mail program has strict limitations on the length of a letter and the number of attachments, which is quite clear.
The melody and picture editors are represented in separate programs. Here you may create whatever you like and send it all to the phone at once. File manager is also included in the package, it allows viewing internal memory and transmitting between a PC and the phone. I'll note that any files with any extension may be transmitted using the manager. That means the files that are not accepted from other devices are saved this way perfectly.
In fact, even when the software is absent, installing D500 rouses no troubles. The operating system offers a standard set of drivers that allows using all the capabilities of the phone, including viewing the file system on it (only dynamic memory).
The quality of connection is rather good and no problems appeared. The volume of the 64-tone polyphonic ring tones is the maximum for today and the phone may be heard in various sound conditions. The power of the vibrating alert is average or a bit higher and it may be felt in the majority of cases.
The disadvantages are the absence of voice dialing, not working during a conversation, no possibility to assign an mp3 melody to messages, alarm clock or organizer events. The last is even more of a pity, since one of the previous software versions supported these functions.
There are not many differences from the D500, the camera is a bit worse, though video is better. The camera can't be called ideal or the best in its class. On the other hand it provides stable quality, the picture is bearable and comparable to other manufacturers (or the picture is even better), in particular, Motorola and Siemens. Comparison with the D500 shows the model looses considerably in the quality of the picture. What is amazing is that the video quality is much better than on the D500.
In general the model seems well taken, even the absence of IrDA is not a significant minus. The device has no rivals in functionality; there are no such clamshells on the market. Potentially, the Motorola v635 may compete with the device but is will appear later on the market. With the fast fall of the price for Motorola V3 the models get into the same class. But V3 wins in a metallic body, unusual design, and great fashion constituent. The model looses to the E720 in functions. The conclusion is quite plain, the main competition will take place between these models, but I think soon Samsung will take the advantage. The reasons are an active marketing policy of the E720 sales and a wider set of functions, thus it is more interesting to a user.
The E720 should be expected on the market in the end of March and cost about 450 USD for the first time. After that the price will fall to about 400-410 USD. That is one of the strongest offers in its class; there aren't any similar devices on the market yet. Nokia can provide no similar solutions and the same about Siemens.
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Published 9 April 2005
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