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Review of GSM/UMTS-handset Samsung Z540

Live photos of Samsung Z540

Standard kit:

  • Handset
  • Battery
  • Charger
  • Users Guide

Having established the course for releasing more and more slim and sleek models, Samsung aims at extending its mobile line-up with more units; so almost each newcomer to the medium-end line turns out to be another thin handset. Almost simultaneously the market gets filled with a whole lot of similar models design wise, yet differing in details and functionality so much, that the entire experience of managing handset significantly changes. A striking example of this trend is a pair of handsets, namely Samsung Z540 and Samsung E780. And if the former phone has the support of 3G networks embedded, the latter one does not provide such capacity. However claiming that Z540 is superior to its brother-in-arms in all ways would be nonsense having taken a closer look you will see that it is armed with an inferior camera, less capable functions and takes up a larger casing. Thus this very model will appeal to the part of the audience seeking for a 3G device, and those who are not vitally interested in this technology should consider purchasing other members of this line-up.

Technology-wise this device differs from all other models in assembling region and the applied chipset (Suwon, Qualcomm MSM6250A). The most identical handset in the Samsungs product line is the Z300. On the whole the design seems more than just familiar: black trim, external mp3 player buttons of the same color, square framing of the camera window. No doubts there actually are some distinctions from the infamous RAZR, nevertheless the dimensions of both devices put them in the same boat. Though dont blame Samsung in attempts to clone a competitors device the majority of novel solutions by other manufacturers remind of the pioneer in this field, RAZR, each one to a certain extent. Measuring 9950.514.9 mm, and weighting 95 grams, the Z540 appears very handy in daily routine, since it can be carried wherever you desire. On the other hand the phone has got more rivals, flaunting even more compact dimensions and therefore looking more fetching size wise. Though against the background of UMTS-devices, the measurements of the Z540 are typical..

Video 1 (wmv, 4.88 Mb)>>>

The main material, the casing is made of, is high-grade plastic, which provides excellent surface quality, hardly gets soiled and not exposed to wear and tear much. The shell itself is quite soft, but again, scratches become visible only after long period of usage. The front plate homes a 1.3 Mpix CMOS camera and the external display beneath it. The screen possesses a resolution of 128128 pixels (1.07 inches, 2121 mm), and is capable of reflecting up to 65 K colors (TFT). The screen can show up to 4 text lines at the same time, while the two service lines feature icons standing for various modes, and current time. In spite of many other models by Samsung, when at the standby screen the status bar is not active, but turned off. It seems this was done in order to reduce energy consumption. Should you place the device on the way of sunlight, the information will remain well-distinguishable. Of additional settings, possibilities of setting own wallpapers and choose among three types of digital and analog watches and a greeting message are noteworthy.

The area located under the screen holds three mp3 player buttons, allowing you to manage music playback without opening the device. Two loudspeakers are also integrated into the front plate, though despite presence of two speakers, there is no way they can provide 3D sound effect, however it seems normal, as the very first attempts displayed that the consumers tend not to believe in providing 3D effect by this engineering. Further more, its almost and impossible task the only way to let the sound spread in three dimensions is placing two loudspeakers on the side plates.

The rocker key, intended for volume control is allocated on the left side, while on the right you will discover camera shortcut button and interface connector, which is also used for plugging in earphones. The upper rim holds the carrying strap holes.

Owing to the casings wideness, you wont experience any difficulties with opening the device single handedly. Flipping the clamshell open will reveal one of the most appealing features of the model its internal display, which provides QVGA-resolution of 240320 pixels (3347 mm), a diagonal of 2.3 inches and displays up to 262 K colors. The screen is an own development and is top-notch spec-wise. The picture you get is sharp, vivid and very bright. The screen does not fade in the sun much, so that information remains readable.

The screen can hold up to 12 text and 2 service lines at a time. In some modes, this value may be extended to 16 lines. The best application to run on this display is, without a doubt, OperaMini.

The secondary camera module used for capturing your image when running a video call within the bound of 3G networks, is located below the screen.

The keypad almost exactly copies that, applied in the recent devices and has the appearance of small plates, combined in horizontal lines. Considering all this similarity, it has acquired a very important advantage over it predecessors fairly good click sensation, which greatly enhances overall experience. I can hardly find a serious drawback which I would be unhappy with everything seems to be fine with the keypad. All keys are evenly backlit with white light and are clearly distinguishable in any conditions.

The model makes use of a standard Li-Ion battery having capacity of 800 mAh; the battery of the higher capacity is not provided. According to the manufacturer it works for 180 hours in the standby mode and up to 3 hours in the talk mode. In conditions of Moscow networks the device worked for about 2 days at 1 hour of calls and 20 minutes of other functions usage. The maximum life time appears to be nearly 3 days should you be not too heavy on calling. Full recharge time is 2 hours.

Menu

The main menu is represented in the only way - as a grid of icons. All submenus have the appearance of lists. You can pick certain functions and assign to the navigation button. In general, the menu lay-out seemed quite logical, navigation brings no problems. The device features 150 Mb of dynamic memory, yet lacks memory extension slots, so it looks very oddly in the range of similar models.

Video 2 (wmv, 3.59 Mb)>>>

Phonebook. By pressing the navigation key down, 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, other) may be kept for a contact with one number assigned as the main one (by default the first entered number). The data fields are not strictly fixed, so that you can create two mobile numbers, or even five everything is up to you. Of extra fields, there are birthday, which may serve as a reminder; text note, nickname, department and company data fields.

Each contact has two fields enabled for filling in for first and last names respectively (search may be conducted only by the former field), and when displayed in the general list, these fields are put together and first name fields comes first for example Eldar Murtazin is displayed only in this order. On the other hand in sorting options you may check manual and by last name in any case the list is re-built dynamically. Length of each field equals 20 symbols for any supported language. You are also at liberty to switch between languages when typing a name.

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 habitual by the example of computer programs. 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 a single contact. Besides phone numbers, an e-mail address (there may be several of them) 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 an entry. You can easily create necessary number of groups, set personal melody and image for each one. For SMS messages you can also set up your own tunes.

The handset can carry up to 1000 fully filled-in contacts. Even if all the available lines are not used, the number of available entries will remain the same (1000). It is possible to indicate in the settings where the new entries should be kept by default. There is an option for copying contacts from the SIM-card although not vice versa. As the developers claim, PC (MS Outlook in particular) is the best way to synchronize your data. Any file in the form of SMS/MMS, mail message or other text file can be sent quickly through Bluetooth to another device. There are no problems with sending and the phone book entry being transmitted to another device is precisely decoded without any trouble.

The phonebook may contain a business card as well, though its structure copies all the fields applied to a regular contact in 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.

When receiving a call, a picture takes up not the entire screen, but only a part of it, yet, still considerable one.

Call lists. Up to thirty 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, as well as duration can be seen for separate files. Calls from/to one number are summarized and the number against the call specifies the number of calls. Time for each of them can be obtained in detail menu. As always, the overall time of the calls and their prices can be viewed in this menu (this service has to be installed).

Messaging. Handling different types of messages is implemented 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. T9 functions very well and is quick and easy to use.

MMS. The interface for multimedia messages is very fetching; 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.

The built-in mail client is rather simple and provides no breakthroughs.

Organizer. Up to 100 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; repeatable events are available for setting up (at that repetition time is also adjustable as well as exclusion dates). The weekly and the monthly calendar are very convenient with each type of the event having its own color.

Tasks a standard list of tasks with the possibility of stating priority. Maximum capacity of this section is 20 entries.

Notes simple text notes, whose amount is limited to 50. For anniversaries the device reserves enough space to store 50 more entries.

WAP. There is a WAP-browser version 2.0 similar to some phones by Nokia and Sony Ericsson using http protocol. The browser automatically offers you standard prefixes and endings of the entered addresses. Although its feature-packed, it would make more sense if you replace it with Opera Mini.

Applications. MP3 player. An integrated mp3 player supporting shuffle, repeat and repeat modes 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. The bit rate of the tracks is not that important since the handset recognizes all the possible formats.

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 selection from classic, rock, jazz and normal). The tracks can be played through the stereo headset as well as through the speakerphone. The volume is of ten divisions. The user is welcome to create play lists of his/her own. Nearly 150 MB of the memory are kept for the mp3 compositions. The player cannot work in background mode. But availability of external keys partly eliminates this drawback.

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 to one hour in duration. All the files are kept in a separate folder in the memory. The recorder can function well during the lectures, conferences, and presentations. The phone is a partial substitute for a digital tape recorder.

Java World. The phone has only 2 pre-installed games on-board these are Powerinlinex, and The Last Age. Downloading of new applications and games is carried out only via wireless networks, at that size of a single JAR file cannot exceed the limit of 1 Mb. Though there are no caps on maximum amount of applications or storage, taken up by them. Each application may be adjusted to execute only certain actions.

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 and mp3 compositions can 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. A spartan set of functions for carrying out the simplest mathematical operations.

With a converter you can operate with different units of measurements as well as with the currencies.

Image editor is a plain editor, which allows simple image transformations and applying effects.

File Manager. All files, music, images, video clips and sounds are gathered here, as well as uploaded content. But even this simple application causes some nuisances when a file is not displayed on the list instantly, you have to close the app and call it up again.

Settings. That is traditional that you are allowed to choose font color in the standby mode, protect any section of the phone with a password (messages, short messages, organizer and so on). You may set the time for backlighting on and its brightness. Color and size of numbers appearing on the display when typing a telephone number are also available for adjusting a fetching function, which is incorporated only in a couple of models by Samsung so far. Security settings provide capability of locking certain sections of the operating system. s

The profiles content include settings regarding tunes, calls etc.

Bluetooth. The handset supports various profiles, namely, Headset, Handsfree, Serial Port, Dial Up Networking, File Transfer, Object Push, and A/V Headset. The Bluetooth realization is not ideal, often troubles with headsets having only a Headset profile appear, and work with a speakerphone is also incorrect sometimes. In general the Bluetooth is better than in Nokia phones, Siemens, but worse than in Sony Ericsson.

Camera. The camera module is 1.3 MP and equal to the majority of Samsungs last generation models. The camera is pretty typical build-wise and allows taking photos of fairly good quality. However the snaps are good for demonstrating on the handsets screen only, as they look not very appealing on a PCs screen.

The camera works in 6 different resolutions:

  • SXGA (1280x1024)
  • (1152864)
  • VGA (640x480)
  • QVGA (320x240)
  • QCIF (176x144)
  • Sub- QCIF (128 x 96)

The compression quality for JPEG pictures is set separately, several types are available:

  • Super fine
  • Fine
  • Normal

There are about 5 different sounds for the shutter, not counting the silent mode, when the process of taking photos won't draw everybody's attention. Default file name, the sensitivity of the matrix (Auto, ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400) are available for adjustment. I'd recommend using an Auto mode since it allows getting correct settings in majority of cases. The difference between sensitivity modes is quite hard to notice in normal conditions in fact you won't see any changes on a real photo.

The timer for self shooting is set for 3, 5 or 10 seconds.

The mosaic mode switches the camera to the lowest resolution (a final picture is 640 x 480 pixels) and you get a picture that consists of 4 or 9 items (2x2 or 3x3). A feature of some interest should you be willing to carry out some experiments.

In the multi shot mode it's possible to select some series, in particular that may be 6 photos with high speed (practically immediate pictures), with normal speed (the period between the photos is a second or less). Also modes with 9 and 15 photos are available. I'll note that the function is interesting as a photofinish at a competition, in real life if moving the camera the photos will get blurry in the majority of cases. The resolution is 320x240 in this mode.

Describing separate functions, we completely forgot to tell about switching into the shooting mode, which is done either by pressing the side button or via the menu. The screen of the phone serves as a viewfinder, using the navigation button you may change the contrast level and use zoom. When the resolution reaches the maximum level, zoom turns off automatically. The picture may be mirrored on the screen using side buttons.

  (+) maximize, 1280x1024, JPEG

  (+) maximize, 1280x1024, JPEG

  (+) maximize, 1280x1024, JPEG

  (+) maximize, 1280x1024, JPEG

  (+) maximize, 1280x1024, JPEG

  (+) maximize, 1280x1024, JPEG

  (+) maximize, 1280x1024, JPEG

  (+) maximize, 1280x1024, JPEG

  (+) maximize, 1280x1024, JPEG

  (+) maximize, 1280x1024, JPEG

  (+) maximize, 1280x1024, JPEG

  (+) maximize, 1280x1024, JPEG

  (+) maximize, 1280x1024, JPEG

  (+) maximize, 1280x1024, JPEG

  (+) maximize, 1280x1024, JPEG

  (+) maximize, 1280x1024, JPEG

There is a standard set of effects in the phone that may be applied in course of either shooting or editing. As for me, the second way is more acceptable just like applying frames to the photos. We'll just list the effects here, as you may get acquainted with them in a separate archive (Black & White, Negative, Sepia, Emboss, Sketch, Orange, Aqua, Red focus, Yellow focus, Blue focus). The last three effects distinguish the main colors of the composition but the function is mediocre in most cases.

The photos are kept in the album, where you may view the data on a certain photo. The list gets formed fast and indicates the phone name and a small icon. Any photo may be assigned to a contact in the phone book or set as wallpaper right from the album menu. There is a slide show mode, a basic editor that allows adding emotion icons, apply frames and effects to the photos.

The phone records 3GP video and you may choose recording with sound or without it. All the settings are comparable with similar for photos, the same 3 quality levels but the resolutions are different. The maximum resolution forms 355x288 pixels.

There is no any limit on the duration of the record and everything depends on the free memory. Specially for MMS a recording mode that doesn't allow to exceed 100 KB is provided.

Video sample (3GP, 427 Kb)

Synchronization with PC. Synchronization is made using Bluetooth and a cable. Easy Studio 3.0 is provided on the manufacturer's site.

Performance. The device demonstrates moderate performance, however all Samsungs solution possess nearly the same rates.

JBenchmark 1

Total Score: 2094

Details:
Text 562
2D Shapes 507
3D Shapes 341
Fill Rate 135
Animation 549

Screen Width 240
Screen Height 279
Color Screen true
Number of Colors 65536
Double Buffer true
Total Memory 2097152
Free Memory 331584

MicroEdition Configuration CLDC-1.1
MicroEdition Profiles: MIDP-2.0
Microedition Platform: j2me
Microedition Encoding: ISO8859-1
Microedition Locale en-US

JBenchmark 2

Total Score: 214

Details:
Image Manipulation 194
Text 283
Sprites 144
3D Transform 206
User Interface 271

Screen (canvas) Width 240
Screen (canvas) Height 279
Color Screen true
Number of Colors 65536
JPEG Support true
Transparency (Alpha Level) 256
Double Buffer true
Total Memory 2097152
Free Memory 948660

MicroEdition Configuration CLDC-1.1
MicroEdition Profiles: MIDP 2.0
Microedition Platform: j2me
Microedition Encoding: ISO-8859-1
Microedition Locale en-US

JBenchmark 3D

Jbenchmark3D HQ: 151
Jbenchmark3D LQ: 172
Triangles ps: 20773
kTexes ps: 1860

version: 3.1.0

Screen(canvas)width: 240
Screen(canvas)height: 297

3D Subsystem:
M3G Version: 1,1
Antialaising: false
True color: false
Dithering: false
Mipmapping: true
Perspective correction: true
Local camera lighting: false
Max lights: 256
Max Viewport dimensions: 1024
Max Texture Dimensions: 256
Max Sprite Crop Dimensions: 1024
Max Transforms Per Vertex: 2
Number of Texture Units: 2

Other properties
Color Screen true
Number of colors 65536
Transparency (alpha level) 256
Double buffer true
Total memory: 2097152
Free memory: 1530116

MicroEdition Configuration CLDC-1.1
MicroEdition Profiles: MIDP 2.0
Microedition Platform: j2me
Microedition Encoding: ISO-8859-1
Microedition Locale en-US
Microedition Communication ports: 1
Microedition Hostname: null

Impressions

The receiving quality is on a fair level, and doesnt cause any hardships. The volume of 64 tone polyphony is the highest one among all phones available on the modern market, therefore be sure, you wont miss a single call if all ring tones are on. Silent alert is rather average or even a bit stronger than that, so you can normally feel it in most of the cases. The settings affecting the silent alarm allow turning it on simultaneously with a ring tone.

As for disadvantages, impossibility of uploading files more than 5 Mb in size via WAP appears to be a serious problem, since the same operation is easily implemented with the help of Bluetooth. Of course I mean music content you can try to use it as an MP3 player, yet considering obvious lack of memory, I will rather call it a budget model, which is not meant to replace standard players.

Nevertheless there are several obvious strengths found in this device, like excellent external screen and internal display with sizeable diagonal. The phonebook seems to be somewhat improved as compared to the predecessors, as well as some functions have acquired minor improvements. Though, its not an easy task to find sharp distinctions between this model and other Samsungs devices.

In light of the fact the UMTS-market is already crowded with phones, armed with a 2 Mpix camera and memory extension slots, allowing consumers to apply them as MP3 players, the Z540 looks rather grey. Just for comparison, let us remind you of such models as Motorola RAZR V3x, BenQ Siemens EF81. And in case you dont need UMTS services badly, you may turn your sight to LG P7200, Samsung E780 against the background of these phones, the reviewed model only pretends to be a powerhouse, yet in reality its only a moderately feature-packed handset. Thus the device has turned out to be not very appealing, to cut a long story short, it is test of strength to some extent. In May the price for this handset in Russia will reside in the highest bracket, varying from 500 to 550 USD, though the products isnt worth the announced place. The times when UMTS support trumped all other functions, have passed into history. Should you need a new handset, I wouldnt recommend purchasing this one, as even the Samsungs line-up features comparable and even better solutions. So let us consider this model as just another addition to the model range.

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Oleg Kononosov (oleg.kononosov@mobile-review.com)

Published — 31 July 2006

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