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Review of Samsung Xcover 271 (B2710) Ruggedized GSM/UMTS Phone
Live photos of Samsung Xcover 271
In the Box:
Rugged phones are not very popular among the manufacturers. It looks like everyone forgot about them for a while after Siemens had left the market. After some time, a few models showed up and finally in 2008 Samsung decided to take the segment seriously. In 2010, Motorola joined the club with its Tundra clamshell for the American market and the Defy both for Americas and Europe. The companies are targeting different market segments, though. As a rule, Samsung builds up its portfolios from the very top – that is, they start with expensive models and then add cheaper ones until they hit the bottom. At some point, the more expensive models get upgrades and another loop begins. With its ruggedized phones, Samsung is doing exactly the opposite.
For the manufacturer, such devices are an excellent opportunity to try out a wide array of technologies that can be implemented in regular phones at a later date. Those include but are not limited to the case design, socket membranes, power consumption, and new battery types. They can be thought of as some sort of a proving ground where the latest features can be tested without any real effect on the commercial success of a particular product.
For the consumers, it is an opportunity to get a durable phone at a reasonable price. Moreover, the supply of such phones is extremely limited, which makes it possible for some small companies to sell those with enormous markups. Just take the example of Sonim offering several variations of rugged devices for EUR 400 and above. The premium is being charged for the shockproof casing, dust protection and ability to endure 30 minutes under water. At that, I did destroy one Sonim by dropping it on the floor once whereas another test unit, the Sony Ericsson K800, managed to survive. That is, formal ruggedness isn't everything; it is also luck that matters.
By releasing IP67 products, Samsung is effectively putting an end to Sonim. With the same class of protection, the Korean devices can offer much better functionality while bearing a more sensible price tag.
The Xcover 271 can be seen as the next logical step in Samsung's lineup of ruggedized phones. The familiar distinct design is there. Traditionally, there exist two major target groups for such devices. One of them is professionals working in extreme environments that need to be online all the time (e.g., road fettlers, steeplejacks) and the other one is young people doing extreme sports. The Xcover design appears to have earned some good reputation among young people, not without Samsung's efforts in being consistent in this respect across all of its ruggedized devices. If you are shopping for an affordable yet tough and functional phone, you simply have no alternatives.
The phone measures 120.7 x 53 x 17.9 mm (compare to the E2370 that is 112x49x19 mm) and weighs 115 grams. It is not that large after all. Unlike the earlier models, the Xcover 271 doesn't have rubber pieces on the sides but that doesn't seem to have any adverse effects on its durability. Instead, it has plastic reinforcement plates to help stand the beating.
You shouldn't be afraid of dropping the phone; the plates will keep it safe. But of course, if you try hard enough, you will be able to destroy it. For example, if you throw it from the tenth floor onto the concrete you can expect it to break down. Yet our unit did survive such a test. It all depends on how the phone lands and how lucky you are. In terms of shock protection, the model is very good and may even be among the best. There is only one opening in the case (secured with cover), which gives access to the headset jack and charger port (standard microUSB).
The model will be available in two color options: metallic orange and black noir.
On the top, there is a karabiner bracket (the actual karabiner is not included, unfortunately) as well as a flashlight that can be turned on by pressing a button on the side.
The battery cover is easy to open; you just have to turn off the screw and pull. The cover has a rubber membrane that keeps the battery dry. The memory card and SIM card slots are hidden under the battery.
The display is 2 inches wide, has a resolution of 240x320 pixels, and supports up to 262K colors. The picture quality is excellent and the colors are bright and vivid. Up to 9 text lines and 3 service rows can be displayed at a time. The font has an average size but is very readable, which is also true for the texting and dialer modes. In direct sunlight, the screen bleaches out but it's not that bad and you can still work with it.
The whole keypad is made from a single piece of rubber. The keys are soft, have a fairly long travel and are very nice in general. The navigation key is quite large and you shouldn't have any problems using it. The backlight is white, bright and uniform.
The Xcover 271 comes equipped with a 1300 mAh Li-Ion battery, which is claimed to allow for up to 19 hours of talk time (7 hours on 3G networks) or up to 600 hours of standby. With two hours of talk time, up to three hours of music playback and some occasional use of other features, the device could last for 10-12 days on average. The battery requires approximately 2 hours to charge fully.
If the phone is used more actively with about an hour of talk time per day, you can expect it to last for 5-7 days, which is very good in general and simply great for the class of ruggedized devices. Although, the E2370 can offer nearly twice as much (thanks to its 2000 mAh battery), it has a lower class of protection. Anyway, the battery life of the new model is significantly better than average.
Bluetooth. The phone supports a variety of profiles: Headset, Handsfree, Serial Port, Dial Up Networking, File Transfer, Object Push, Basic Printing, A2DP, Dual Profile Bluetooth. The integrated module is version 2.1 with EDR. It works with wireless headsets just fine. As a special feature, you can have the sound transmitted to two headsets simultaneously.
USB Connection. Two working modes are supported: Samsung PC Studio and Mass Storage. The device can also charge over USB.
In the Mass Storage mode, the phone doesn't require any drivers, which allows for hassle-free data transfers. The USB is version 2 and enables data transfer speeds of about 2.5 MB/s.
If you try to connect the phone to a desktop computer, it will ask you to turn off the Bluetooth module regardless of whether the interface is actually being used at the moment or not, which is not good.
EDGE Class 10 is supported on GSM networks.
The phone features a hardware GPS receiver but doesn't come with any navigation software except for the usual maps from Google. They use triangulation to determine your current location, which helps save energy and allows for a warm startup that takes only a few seconds. However, if you are going for precision, you can always use the fully fledged GPS. That is one pleasant surprise of this inexpensive, albeit ruggedized, phone.
The Xcover 271 comes with 40 MB of user available memory. The memory card is treated as a separate medium, and the built-in file manager can help you organize your files on the fly. Since the memory card slot is located under the battery, it is not hot swappable. MicroSD cards of up to 32 GB are supported.
The phone is equipped with a 2-megapixel camera. It is very basic, has no flash and you shouldn't expect anything special from it.
Video. The maximum video resolution is 128x160 pixels unfortunately. No need to say more.
In a word, I did my best. I turned the device into a block of ice and called at it. I was throwing it from the sixth and tenth floors. I trampled it down into mood and put it into a washing machine afterwards. Currently, we are running a promotion of the device and I will make my videos available with an article written as part of the project. Right now, you can take a look at what kind of abuse the phone took from my colleagues. A picture is worth a thousand words and I guess you won't have any equations about the durability of the device after seeing those videos.
In Samsung's handset portfolio, it is yet another model with the latest Slim UI (let me call it that way). It features Smart Home for the standby mode, which is similar to Active Standby in Nokia phones. Anywhere on the main screen, you can have quick access to some of your favorite contacts, calendar, to-do notes, put a clock (two versions) and program shortcuts. If there isn't enough room to accommodate everything on one screen, you will be able to scroll through the contents of your Smart Home. The new standby screen may appear strange to some of you but it is quite handy in the end. For example, by choosing one of your contacts in Smart Home, you can easily call that person or send him a text or email message. In general, by choosing an entry in Smart Home, you will be immediately redirected to a corresponding application, which is nice. Just click on a calendar entry – and you are already there. And that is true for any item you can see there.
In addition to that, the interface is fully animated now. There are three different animation effects in the phone. Each has a style of its own and is very nice in general. You can see them all in the video below. They are very high quality and work without delays, which is not that common among inexpensive devices. Nearly each and every interface element looks different now, adding to the more up-to-date general image. You can see it with your own eyes in the screen snapshots.
The main menu is represented by a matrix of icons (3x4). All submenus have horizontal lists in them but unlike the U900, a submenu cannot be displayed in the same list. Both in the main menu and all submenus, the last known position is automatically recorded and gets highlighted whenever you come back. For example, if you go to the call log from the main menu and then go back after a while, that entry will be highlighted. If some list entry is chosen, the font gets larger and it gets highlighted again.
Visual Themes. Three visual themes plus Living World are available by default. You can always use the theme editor to create new ones.
You can activate contacts by pressing the right soft key. You will see the list with all entries from the phone's memory and the SIM card. The picture of the contact is displayed in the general list.
In the line under the name you see the default number and you can select it yourself from the saved numbers. There is a quick search by first and family names. The model allows up to 20 of them irrespective of the language. Press ОК and you will go to the display menu of a separate entry where you can see an icon associated with the contact's name. Any graphic file, a picture or video can be used as a contact photo. For each contact you can record up to 5 phone numbers of different types (mobile, work, home, fax, etc) and one of them will be main (by default the first chosen will get this status). The fields are not limited and you can choose any type of phone number for every contact.
The phone has two fields for name and family name (with both fields searchable), which are displayed together. The field Name comes first. For example, Eldar Murtazin appears precisely in this way. The length of each field equals 20 symbols, for every supported language. During the name input you can interchange different languages.
In the general list opposite each name you see an appropriate icon.
The entries in different languages are sorted in the following order: first come all contacts in the local language (let's say, Russian) and then all contacts in English. It is quite convenient and common for computer software. Taking into account the possibility to switch languages during the search it is clear that entries in different languages can be easily handled in this phone. The sorting by name or family name is supported as well.
Let's go back to the contact entry. Apart from the phone numbers you can add an e-mail (more than one) or a short text note. Any sound file, including an mp3 track can be selected as a ringtone for a particular contact. You can create the necessary number of groups at ease, select a ringtone and picture for every group (by default you have three groups and "without group" option). For SMS you can also select a melody.
The phone memory hosts up to 1000 of entries with completed fields. If you don't complete all fields you will still get the same 1000 entries. In the settings you can select the default destination of all new phone numbers. The copying of entries from SIM card and back is available. The developers decided that the best synchronization option is the use of PC, in particular, MS Outlook. Any entry can be quickly sent to another device as SMS/MMS, e-mail or via Bluetooth. There are no problems with such a transfer and phonebook entries are moved to other devices without problems. Their recognition is not an issue either.
You can create a business card in the phone and its format completely corresponds with an ordinary phonebook entry.
Quick Dial List contains up to 18 phone numbers and also several numbers of one contact can be added here. In the viewing mode of the phonebook your speed dial numbers are marked with the special icon.
Any number of contacts groups can be created. Each group can be assigned a picture and a ringtone. A group hosts up to 20 contacts.
During the incoming call a picture takes up only a part of the screen. It doesn't look particularly impressive, especially taking into account the capabilities of the screen.
In each list you have up to 30 phone numbers. The united list of latest calls (90 entries) features an icon signifying a type of call. By moving the navigation key horizontally, you can quickly move from list to list. For a separate entry in a detailed view you can see the date and time of the call and its duration. Identical calls are combined with the number of calls given opposite every phone number. In the detailed display mode you can learn the duration of such calls. Traditionally in this menu you can access the total duration of all calls and their cost (if the service is available).
For separate numbers the black list can be created to block the respective calls.
Sent and received SMS have lists with contacts.
Similar to other manufacturers Samsung abandoned an artificial division of messages into SMS and MMS. You create a message and then depending on its content the message is considered as SMS or MMS (the editor interface was altered). You can hide shortcuts of pictures, emoticons, etc. from the screen. During the dialing numbers of the phonebook drop down. SMS display in the chat mode is also supported.
In the menu you have an option to turn a message into MMS in a compulsory way (when you need to send a text to an e-mail address and avoid the in-built mail client).
The phone memory can store up to 1300 messages, the model supports EMS and works with Nokia Smart Messaging. I have no complaints about T9 here. When sending a message you are allowed to choose the contacts from the phonebook, the list of the latest used numbers and groups. Traditionally, you have an option to create a black list for all types of messages and all messages from the appropriate numbers will be deleted automatically. The messages can be moved to your folders. For e-mail the blocking targets not only particular addresses, but the topics as well.
MMS messages are limited to 300 KB, while the incoming messages have no size limitations. Among additional settings we can mention the blocking of ad messages, the type of message receiving in the roaming and in the home network. The messages are stored in the dynamic memory. The same applies to e-mail.
There is also a useful feature of SOS messages. Once activated in an emergency you just have to press a volume control button 4 times and the message "I am in emergency. Please help me" is sent to designated contacts and the incoming calls from these numbers after the message is sent are received automatically. Contacts phone numbers (no more than 5) and the number of times this message is sent can be adjusted, while the text remains the same.
The inbuilt mail client is quite traditional without anything special. You can customize up to 5 accounts with the number of messages limited to 100 for each account. Attachments are enabled with the size of no more than 500 KB for outgoing and 5 MB for incoming files. Received files can be viewed with the help of an inbuilt browser.
There is no html support in messages, which disrupts the formatting of received e-mails, so they are not convenient to view. The mail client in Samsung models starts losing out to its equivalent in Nokia and Sony Ericsson devices.
In the phone memory you can save up to 500 different events: meetings or anniversaries. Each entry can be assigned time and date and its end period. You can select a signal and an interval for events. Repeated events option is also available (you set a repeat period and exceptions, which is convenient). The calendar can be easily viewed for a month or a week. Each type of event has a particular color, so everything is quite visible.
World clock shows time for 2 selected cities in a very simple way.
Calculator is as simple as they come.
Converter converts measurement units and currencies.
Notes are represented by ordinary text notes.
The phone memory stores up to 99 radio stations with the frequencies ranging from 87.5 to 108 MHz. Automatic tuning of all stations is available, but separate channels cannot be given particular names and are always displayed with the frequency and numbers. Radio also works in a speakerphone mode. Radio works normally and if not all stations can be received in general everything is arranged well and is comparable with other models from rival manufacturers. Radio also works in the background mode.
RDS feature shows not only the station title in the general list above and has no other options. Radio shows can be recorded in the phone memory.
There is a radio alert, which can be set for a particular time.
The phone has an inbuilt mp3 player, which supports random, consecutive and repeated playback. Mp3 files can be downloaded directly via Bluetooth or from the synchronization application. Files can have different names and tags, including the ones in Russian, and the phone easily handles them. Files bitrate is not very important and the model understands all popular formats. WMA, AAC, eAAC and eAAC+ are also supported.
During the playback you see the name of the current track and the overall number of tracks. The equalizer is not adjustable, so you get 9 variants only with the automated one, which takes into account the currently played track. Fade Out options allows the sound to fade at the end of the track. Music is played back via the headset (wireless or wired) and in a speakerphone mode. 14 levels are available for volume. Users may create their own playlists. The player works in the background mode. At least the screen shows tracks titles and tips for controls, which is convenient.
Visualization is represented by Album Art or by an animated equalizer. Tracks are filtered by all tracks, recently played, frequently used, performers, albums, genres and composers.
You can set a time period when the player switches off.
Dictaphone. You can record up to several hours of voice notes and the number of such notes is unlimited. In theory the length limitation can be chosen by a user and may equal 1 hour. In memory all notes are located in one folder. The recording quality during lectures and round table negotiations is decent. The notes can be transcribed afterwards. The model can be used as a digital dictaphone. It cannot be activated during the conversation.
Games. The phone has several games represented by demo versions and you have to pay if you want to purchase the fully fledged ones. The amount of time for Java apps is only limited by free space in the phone. You can uninstall any game. New games are downloaded via WAP or from the phone's memory. Heap size cannot exceed 2 MB, while apps are limited to 1 МB. Apps can be sent into a background mode.
Among preinstalled apps you have Palringo messenger.
Stopwatch and countdown timer are ordinary.
It is an offshoot of Jet built on webkit, but the version used here is 2.0 (The browser is called Dolfin). The difference from NetFront is startling: the user experience remains the same, but several unique features were added. Flash support allows viewing all web resources without any restrictions. This browser is also one of the first, which support s the standard ban on banner viewing. We tested this option on several websites and it worked well.
The model boasts 5 alarm clocks and each of them can be set for a particular weekday. Each alarm can use one of 5 tunes, but mp3 files can be used as well. In settings you have to set if the phone has to switch on when the event takes place or not.
Pace counter. Enter your weight and height to calculate calories. This app can be placed on the main screen and set a goal for a particular day, for example a number of steps. When the goal is reached the phone can produce a signal.
Electronic compass. The inbuilt compass has to be customized every time before usage. It works well and shows the direction properly.
Media browser. This app shows photos and videos in accordance with dates, tags or ranking you can set yourself.
Search. The utility searches by letters in phonebook entries, messages, e-mails, apps, etc. It is quite handy.
All files are collected here: music, pictures, video and sounds. All downloaded files get here first. One of the drawbacks is the fact that at times a file in the common list may not be visible straight away. You have to exit and open the list again.
Files can be viewed as a list and as icons. Select one or several files from the list. The following operations with files are supported: copy, delete and transfer (phone memory – memory card). The files can be sorted by time, type, name and size.
Traditionally you can protect any section of the phone by a password (e-mails, SMS, organizer, etc). The time of backlight and its brightness are set. For the dialing you can select the font of digits, their size and color (unfortunately you cannot use animation here).
Profiles offer fully functional support, including the flight mode support. In each profile you can choose a ringtone or message alert and set their volume.
Installation wizard allows customizing settings during the first run.
The connection quality is on par with other Samsung models. There are no problems here and everything is traditional for this segment. The volume is decent and you can hear the phone in all sorts of environment. The vibro is average.
We get a nice interface, modern features and an attractive price of €120. This protected handset has no rivals. You can think of Sonim, but it has a much higher price without an improvement in quality. We have to mention Motorola Defy, but it belongs to another segment and costs 3 times more. The level of protection is identical in both models though.
I liked many options in the menu, good implementation of several features ranging from the phonebook to the desktop viewing mode. Its hardware attracts by the presence of GPS (it's another question if you need it or not, but the feature is supported), high protection and an appropriate flashlight. The screen is compact, but unbelievably bright for such a model and all information is easy to read. You can scale the fonts by side buttons, which makes it unnecessary to take off the gloves in frosty weather. You can also enter short SMS in your gloves on. It is not very convenient, but it is still possible nonetheless.
As to the disadvantages I have to mention a camera. A better one would have been desirable, but I am only dreaming. Don't forget that it is an accessible model after all. I was also not happy with the necessity to select Russian every time to enter text if any other language is set as a default (the phone cannot remember the latest used language). There are no other serious weak points here.
Those who need a protected phone will find this offering from Samsung very attractive. Pace counter, compass, GPS and the maximum protection for a reasonable price will make this model popular. First weeks of sales show that the handset is quite interesting. Many people were anxious to read this review as well. Everything works well in the phone and it is truly unique in terms of parameters. If you need a protected model look no further. The phone has its soul and is very nice to use.
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Published 01 December 2010
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