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Review GSM communicator Samsung SGH-i750
Sales volumes of smartphones and communicators are growing by hundreds percent, news blocks are full of announcements of new models. The market growth rate won't be slower in near future, but even higher. The main struggle will be between operating systems based on Windows CE and Symbian kernels. Palm OS is living out its days, and Linux solutions are prospective directions (including Linux version of the next Palm OS), but only on paper, we don't see a global expansion outside the Asian region.
In the previous paragraph we mentioned two terms - smartphones and communicators. The distinction between them is too small, if there is any. I'm not to distinguish these two terms, but technically we define the communicator as the device with the open operating system (not in sense of source codes, but API), the QWERTY-keyboard or the touchscreen. The smartphone doesn't have it, except the open OS. I'd repeat the division is relative, and it will be no longer actual, as there will appear devices based on Windows Mobile and Nokia S60. Microsoft has officially announced that the next OS version Windows Mobile Photon won't be divided into Pocket PC and Smartphone, and Nokia confirmed that "in 2006 the S60 platform will get all functions of Nokia 7710", i.e. the support of touchscreens. But even after the final unification or merger there will be people to say that the X device is the smartphone and the Y device is the communicator and not otherwise. This reasoning won't be based on the logic, but on the own irrational idea on what's the communicator and the smartphone. For example, the following: "the communicator is the PDA with phone functions, and the smartphone is the phone with PDA functions". We won't start the term dispute again, a year ago we wrote about soon erasing of distinctions between communicators and smartphones and about the merger of various OS branches. The reaction then was ambiguous - the ones supported it, the others said this merger was impossible. Time has placed everything in order, but we've digressed from the main topic.
Currently the most prominent company producing Windows Mobile devices is the Taiwanese HTC. Other manufacturers appreciated the prospects of this direction and are preparing to expand to this market. Till the end of 2006 at least 15 (!) vendors will declare their intention to fight the place under the sun. Some of them already test strength with 1-2 trial models. One of the companies is the Korean Samsung. Let's see the way the company made to it, as we can't call the company a newbie on the market.
The first Samsung Pocket PC was the i700. When the early info was published in summer 2002, the model was interesting, and the public had been waiting for it with bated breath. However, by the moment of sales on the GSM market, it became morally out-of-date with its design and functionality. The steady low sales were due to the trademark and the lack of rival models in shops.
Then there appeared a CDMA slider Samsung i730 with the QWERTY-keyboard, a successful model at a due time on the market. I'd note that the CDMA-market got much more Samsung smartphones than the GSM market. The crucial moment took place at the CeBIT 2005 show, there was announced the model we review today, a GSM version of Samsung i730. The company's management swore that by the end of 2Q all announced models (Samsung i300, i750, D720, D730) would come out, as the company considered the segment commercially attractive. However the release had been delayed. During the data starvation period some media sources had cancelled Samsung i750. In fact, the model wasn't cancelled, but delayed till February 2006, a likely release date.
The delay of Samsung i750 makes the effect similar to other Samsung models. The models are very interesting during the announcement, they are discussed much, by the release the interest almost fades away. When the model becomes commercially available, it turns to be outdated, losing in functionality to its rivals. Should Samsung i750 be released in the beginning of 2005, it would have been a sales hit, but in the beginning of 2006 it is not that attractive, it would be easier to cancel it and offer something brand new. However, don't think the slider is bad, let's see together what it is and pass over to the review itself.
If we take into account the index of the model, so Samsung i750 follows the i700, but in fact they aren't alike, neither inside nor outside: smaller size, slider form, wireless adapters, other camera. The slider is based on the CDMA model Samsung i730, but here there are also distinctions: the digital keyboard instead of the QWERTY-keyboard, other screen, absent external antenna.
Due to shorter screen diagonal height and width are the minimal compared with other Pocket PC, but the device is somewhat thick, especially with the camera module (dimensions without prominent parts are 107.5x52.5x23.5 mm). This is one of the smallest communicators on the market. I'd mark the reaction of the users to the device. Those who know about communicators and deal with them found the device small and comfortable. This part of the audience (mainly men) estimated it positive. As for ladies, who used to ordinary handsets, they found the communicator big and unsuitable for them.
If we talk about personal impression, so the communicator turned to be smaller than it looks on the photos, you have to hold it in hands once to understand. The device turns to fit a man's hand. 155 g of weight is average for communicators. Taking into account recent trends on the market we may assume that the next Samsung communicator will be slimmer than its predecessors (16-17 mm). Dimensions of the model are slightly bigger than first Samsung sliders, later dimensions might get closer to Samsung D500/D600. Let's compare the 750i with other phones and smartphones.
When we compare it with Nokia N80, we see Samsung i750 is bigger, the difference isn't seen on the photos, but only when you hold it in hands.
Some dimensions of Sony Ericsson W900 are smaller or the same. The i750 is slightly wider, so it seems to be more massive than Sony Ericsson W900.
Qtek S110 (HTC Magician) is noticeably larger than the i750 in height and width, but it's thinner. If it wasn't for the thickness, we could call the model the smallest Pocket PC.
At last let's see it together with AnexTEK moboDA 3360 communicator by Wistron.
The shell color solution is the mixture of black and silver. The front panel is dominantly black, and the back panel is silver. The quality of materials applied is high, this is high quality expensive plastic. The assembly quality proves high, the model feels solid and expensive in hand, there is no hint at a backlash. Black plastic of the front panel is glossy and keeps fingerprints, however the dirtying are almost not noticeable. The rest parts are made of uneven plastic (side insertions, the keyboard), no fingerprints are left on them.
Top and bottom sides are beveled and rounded, except these details straight lines are dominating the design, we can call the model strict to some extent, there is no excessive angularity as well as excessive slick forms. In all, this is a business device for men. Now let's have a look at control elements.
At the top bevel we see an infrared port window, it is good to remotely control home appliances, there is a special built-in program for it, we'll talk about it in the Software part. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi LED is integrated into the infrared port. Here we also find a speaker for talks, its sound level is excessive.
The left side has a doubled sound volume control button. It features a tight feedback - you'll hardly press it accidentally. Near is a voice recorder button, the recording quality proved average, you can hear extraneous noise, you have to say something loud enough so to make out the sound file recorded within 2-3 meters distance. The voice recorder writes your voice as well as the voice of your talk mate, the file length depends on the memory available.
At the right side we see the following elements: the jack for a wire headset (only for Samsung headsets), the power/hold slider, the red camera button and the soft reset button. The bottom end has a microphone hole and a connector for USB synchronization and charging, like in Samsung i300. The back panel hides a camera lens, which is jutting out noticeably, a self-portrait mirror and a removable battery. At the angle we find a silo for the stylus pen. The stylus is telescopic with size lower than average, in all, it is comfortable. It rests in the silo tight, so you'll hardly lose it by accident.
The navigation button is comfortable with any applications, we haven't had problems with it. The action button is inside it. There is an extra speaker under it, which is averagely loud. Yes/No buttons are located by sides of the joystick, above them we see Menu and "C" buttons. And above there are 4 slim buttons to control the device without the stylus (more details on them read the Software part).
For the recent time we've got accustomed to the fact that the touchscreen size of Pocket PC communicators decreased from 3.5" to 2.8". 2.8" screens became an unofficial industry standard. On the one hand it allowed making smaller devices, on the other hand the screen surface got smaller and the info perception got lower as well. We can dispute for ages, what's the best, but the makers have already made their choice. However the 2.8" diagonal didn't turn out to be the shortest possible. For the sake of a smaller device the makers cut the diagonal to 2.4" like in case with our today's communicator (the same story is with GIGAYTE g-Smart).
Is such diagonal comfortable enough to work with the screen? To say the truth, I haven't noticed at once that the screen diagonal got shorter, there is no such striking difference as between 3.5" and 2.8". It is as comfortable to use the stylus with the touchscreen as with HTC Magician, for example. The number of dots remained the same - 320x240. As the size of the dot got smaller, the image looks slightly better. Other screen specs are typical for Pocket PC - a TFT matrix, 64K colors displayed, 5 backlight levels, good behavior under the sun, average viewing angles. If you do not plan to use the communicator much (organizer, checking e-mail from time to time, short Internet sessions), the small screen won't be a problem for you, but if you want to read much, surf web-pages for hours, watch full-length movies, so you'd better look for the communicator with a 2.8" diagonal or higher. However the final decision is yours, you'd better see the screen in a shop and decide whether it is good for you.
The back panel of the battery compartment is the battery at the same time. The capacity of this Li-Ion battery is the top secret. The capacity value isn't marked neither on the battery nor in the specs, we looked through the known codes, but failed to figure out the value. We suppose it makes up 1100 mAh. The sales package of Samsung i730 contains an extended capacity battery (1700 mAh) in addition to the standard battery, the pack of Samsung i750 is vague so far. The battery life tests offer inadequate results so far - they are much lower than they should be. Let's consider it the problem with immature software. We'll resume the topic with the battery life later (if the device won't be cancelled), when we get the pack with the commercial specimen, and now we won't make conclusions on the battery life.
The communicator is equipped with almost maximum interfaces. GPS and UMTS are only lacking, these interfaces aren't that popular, but they become the standard for the communicators in 2006.
In addition to data transfer and modem function the infrared port allows controlling home appliances within 5-7 meters distance. There is Remote Control program for this purpose, we'll speak about it below.
There is Bluetooth 1.2 module. There are Microsoft drivers involved, which are known to have poor functionality, especially those in the old Windows Mobile version. However the developers from Samsung tried to solve the problem by own forces and built up missing profiles: OBEX FTP (full value file transfer profile), A2DP (stereo sound), HID (support of Bluetooth keyboards). That is, the forces were spent to improve something Microsoft improved itself in the next version Windows Mobile 5.0 (it deals with the update with A2DP support). File transfer, talks using the headset, wireless synchronization Active Sync, COM emulation profile, work with the wireless keyboard - all these processes haven't any problems. The main reprimand so far is the quality of music transfer via A2DP profile. The quality is far from that achieved with the wire headphones. The problem has software nature, as there were no such problems with Samsung D600 phone and the SBH-100 headset. Let's hope the problem will be eventually solved.
It has become typical for the communicator to have Wi-Fi module. It's hard to believe that 1-1.5 years ago we needed just a couple of fingers to count all the communicators with built-in Wi-Fi (the same quantity was for delayed or cancelled models). Well, Samsung i750 comes with built-in Wi-Fi (IEEE802.11b) module, unlike the CDMA version Samsung i730 here you don't have to switch off the cell module to use Wi-Fi. There is the support of WEP and WPA safe standards. From the practice we know that there appear fewer problems with Wi-Fi than with Bluetooth. It just works or doest work. At the moment the module doesn't perform steadily: we faced permanent non-motivated connection breaks, we can't call it efficient. There are almost no doubts that the commercial version of the communicator won't have the problem.
All the modules can work simultaneously. There is the possibility of a fast handover. I'd provide a real example of the work of the modules, I tried it 30 minutes before writing this part of the review. I started downloading an installation file of Resco Radio (program to listen to the Internet radio) via Wi-Fi. In the middle of the process the Wi-Fi connection got broken, the communicator automatically switched to EDGE of MTS network (G icon got replaced by E icon quickly, during the active connection we see EG icon), the installation file got completely downloaded very quick, the application got installed to the i750. When I listened to the radio with Bluetooth headphones via EDGE network, camera test photos were transferred via Bluetooth simultaneously. When the Wi-Fi connection was resumed, the program was switched automatically to the other interface, the radio didn't stop. When the Bluetooth stereo headset received a call, the radio sound got mute. It sounds strange, though the key word here is automatically. The user doesn't see all these difficult actions and switches, they are hidden, he/she just uses the device. Not to mention the possibility to display the picture on a big screen. We haven't tested TV connection, as we didn't have the necessary cable, so we have another reason to resume the review later.
Well, let's stop talking about interfaces here, I'd say that everything is at a good level, though UMTS and GPS support is lacking.
Least of all I want to talk about productivity in case of Samsung i750. Not that it isn't comfortable to watch full-length movies and play arcade games on a small screen, but for most tasks done on a Pocket PC communicator with the QVGA screen 300 MHz productivity or higher is excessive. However we won't break the tradition and talk about the productivity.
The heart of the communicator is Intel XScale PXA27x 416 MHz processor, there is nothing peculiar about it. There is 51.3 MB of RAM available and 68.2 MB of ROM available. You need the latter for a backup first of all. However taking into account limited capacity of microSD cards, this volume doesn't seem excessive, you can also install most necessary programs there.
First of all we launch our standard test with SPB Benchmark package, we choose Pocket PC with similar functionality. Here we won't provide the platform index, as it is greatly distorted in the new OS version.
This index describes Pocket PC's CPU speed. The result is expected, the i750 ranked the second.
The results are not bad, though it won't do comparing it with a WM 5.0 PDA.
As for the speed of built-in applications we've got the same results - the second place.
Let's see the results of tests in real applications, they are closer to reality. At the playback of video the i750 performed well. We launched 4 clips at different stream intensity (without applying Wireless MMX optimization - the function of PXA27x processor), the index was formed on the basis of dropped frames. The less dropped frames, the higher the index is. 1000 index means no dropped frames at all.
As we see the result is quite not bad, in the top part of the table.
To test graphics productivity we ran tests of the PocketQuake game in the mute mode (turn the sound off by nosound 1 console command, leaving other settings unchanged), the i750 turned to be at the same level with most productive Pocket PC. There is an averaged figure by 2 tests (Demo 1 and Demo2).
If for any reason you need higher productivity, you can speed up your Samsung i750 (the only threat here is the hard reset with the loss of all data). For example, we sped up the processor with XCPUScalar utility and measured the productivity growth with BetaPlayer (Wireless MMX optimization on). The communicator worked stable up to 520 MHz. A further speed up was followed by unstable work and freeze up.
The productivity gained after the speed up is enough to cope with any task. Samsung i750 showed one of the best results in real tests among Pocket PC.
The main shortcoming of Samsung i750 is the old operating system. The old OS resulted inevitably from the prolonged development cycle. More than a year the developers tried to update the operating system by own forces, make single-handed control more simple, solve problems with the data loss at the strong battery discharge. Some problems had been solved and some not. You can read about basic opportunities of the OS in the respective review on our site, and today we'll try to assess the achievements of company's engineers.
Navigation, launch menu. Press the button left from the joystick to activate launcher menu. You can launch any application from here. This program was developed for a quick launch of any application without using the stylus.
In addition to "OK" button there are 3 buttons under the screen, to which you can assign double action. The most interesting is Smart Menu button. When you use it in built-in applications, you can do without soft buttons and the stylus (to launch the list of actions). Hold this button to launch standard context menu. Should this function come up a year ago, it would be a break-through, but now when we have WM 5.0 this function is of less interest. As the single-handed control is the basic function of WM 5.0 and not only for built-in applications.
ceMBackup. At low battery charge level the program saves all necessary data to ROM, so there won't be a loss of the data. This time again the developers managed to skip the limitation of WM 2003 SE, which naturally disappeared in Windows Mobile 5.0.
Ringtone Manager. This utility is of little interest, as it allows assigning melodies only in MIDI and WAV. You'll have to install some exterior program to set MP3, individual and group melodies.
T9. You can enter text symbol by symbol and with T9 as well. However T9 is effective only with the English language, moreover it's just nominal. For example, you can't choose an alternative variant (we enter "pay", but get "say" instead, instead "us" we have "up" and so on).
MMS. MMS client is intuitively clear, there is no problem with it.
These are 2 programs to operate your SIM-card, without any peculiarities.
Remote Control. This utility helps operating home appliances. There are preset profiles and the opportunity to "teach" the communicator. The best results can be achieved by changing existing profiles (add/remove buttons, teach anew).
Voice Signal. This is the second version of the voice control utility, it's quite popular. You can use it without teaching. The recognition quality is high.
The standard Windows Media Player 10 player involves own design with visual equalizer.
World Clock. The application displays time in requested cities. It's a simple program, you can't even set the alarm clock in it.
Picsel Browser. Picsel Browser displays office documents saving the initial format. We'll talk about this program in the updated review.
Well, the developers have done good work adapting and improving WM 2003 SE. But, firstly, not all weak points are removed (there is no support of photo contacts, the possibility to assign MP3 melodies for incoming calls), a single-handed control is implemented only in standard programs. All these improvements can be a full substitute to Windows Mobile 5.0.
The module of the 2-megapixel auto focus camera isn't covered with the shutter and sticks out much increasing the thickness of the communicator. Since then there appeared modules of a smaller size. The maximum image resolution is 1632x1224 pixels. Camera settings are typical for Samsung handsets. So we won't go into details.
Taking into account the quality of photos, we can say the camera is the best among Windows Mobile devices, only HTC Prophet comes close to it, but the latter hasn't auto focus. Many photos have the quality provided by Sony Ericsson K750, Nokia N90.
Video can be shot at 320x240 pixel maximum, in 3GPS format. The video quality can be considered as quite average.
There is an interesting function of the camera, it can recognize business cards with BCR View program by Hotcard Technology. The recognition quality is high, unfortunately the recognition isn't available in Russian. Under our forecasts the business card recognition will be an integral feature of phones and communicators in the second half this year.
The network reception quality is at a good level. The melody volume is limited with a relatively quiet speaker, which is integrated in the joystick. The vibrating alert is average. You have to install extra application, for example, Photo Contacts PRO, to assign an MP3-melody or a photo to the contact.
Should Samsung i750 be released in the beginning of 2005, it would have been a sales hit, but in the beginning of 2006 it is not that attractive. The main reprimand relates to the old OS version. Despite of the fact that developers applied much effort to update Windows Mobile 2003 SE, it won't completely replace WM 5.0. As for the weak points, they are a 2.36" screen (the charge for a smaller size), too thick side. We won't say anything about the battery life so far.
Positive moments: smallest dimensions on the market (except for the thickness), high assembly quality, rare form for the communicator (slider), high quality camera, card recognition, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, TV-out.
The model will come out in February 2006 at $650-700 without the contract.
The formula of the hit on the eve of CeBIT 2006 and 3GSM 2006. The formula is simple: take Samsung i750, make it slim (15-16 mm) and slightly lower, equip it with Windows Mobile 5.0 and serve it (to the market) hot!
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