There's a certain something we like about slider phones at ZDNet Australia -- perhaps it is the advantages that the relatively new form factor offers, such as the ability to have a relatively large screen while maintaining a small overall size. In the case of the Samsung D500, it has a 4.8-centimetre (1.9-inch) screen and still measures only 94 by 46 by 24 millimetres -- making it ultra-compact, albeit slightly plump.
In the past we've seen two other slide-up phones from Samsung, the popular E800 and its big brother, the D410. We are currently testing the Siemens SL65 so be sure to check back soon for the full review.
The D500 takes much of what we loved about the E800, adds a touch of sophistication and packs in a heap of extra features. Similarities to the E800 include an internal antenna and the same semi-automatic sliding function -- once you push on the screen section the top slides up effortlessly on its own.
Weighing only 99 grams, the D500 is the lightest megapixel camera phone we have tested so far. Samsung advertises the phone as a business model more than a fashion handset, although with its multimedia slant and slick all-back case, we think the latter category is more fitting.
With the D500 in the closed position, you have access to the left and right soft keys, the answer and end buttons, the clear key, a four-way navigation pad and the selection key in the middle. In idle mode, the selection key launches the WAP browser. On the left side of the handset is a volume switch and on the right is the camera shortcut key. With only limited buttons available when the slider is closed, it is surprising how many shortcuts Samsung squeezes in. Without opening the slider you can start the MP3 player, search for Bluetooth devices, bring up the calendar, open a new text message, start a new memo, access the menu, and bring up your contact list. Opening the slider reveals the numerical keypad, which is flat, sufficiently spaced out and easy to text with.
The D500 is the by far the smallest phone we've seen with a built-in 1.3-megapixel camera. This resolution is currently the highest available on the market, putting it in line with Sony Ericsson's S700i, Nokia's 7610 and Siemens' S65. Stills can be captured in resolutions ranging from 128 x 96 up to 1280 x 1024 pixels in a variety of modes. Using the numerical keypad, you can set frames for your photos, add special effects, zoom in, change the resolution, turn on the flash or swap to camcorder recording mode. After taking a photo, another couple of clicks lets you send it via MMS or assign it to a contact for photo caller ID.
For connectivity the D500 supports Bluetooth, infrared and USB, although Samsung doesn't include a cable in the package.
Another drawcard for the D500 is that it doubles as an MP3 player. There are three ways to get music files onto the phone: download them via GPRS, download them from a PC using EasyStudio II and a USB cable (not included), or send an MP3 file using Bluetooth or IrDA. The MP3 application shows an equaliser as well as multimedia control buttons (play, pause, forward, rewind, etc), which you select using the four-way navigation key. The D500 has a generous 92MB of internal memory, which is shared between music, photos, videos and voice recordings. Unfortunately there is no expansion port for memory cards so you are limited to about 15-20 songs stored on the phone at any one time.
Personalisation options on the D500 are plentiful. You can choose between four preset skin colours, set your own wallpaper and customise ringtones using 64-chord polyphonic tunes or your own MP3 files.
There are three games pre-loaded found in the FunBox menu option of the D500. There is a cute platform game called Forgotten Warrior, a soccer shoot-out game called Freekick and a shoot-em-up flying game called Arch Angel.
For messaging, the D500 can send and receive text messages, multimedia messages and e-mail (POP3/IMAP). T9 dictionary is onboard alongside the older multi-tap method of text entry.
Up to 1000 contacts can be stored in the phone's memory with multiple fields for mobile, home, office and fax numbers. As mentioned previously, you can add a photo to each contact and assign unique ring tones for particular callers or contact groups.
Organiser applications include an alarm clock, world time zones, voice recorder, calculator, calendar, converter, timer and a stopwatch. Samsung rates the D500's battery life good for up to 300 minutes of talk time or up to 200 hours of standby. We generally got three days of usage between charges, using the MP3 player minimally.
One of the little gripes we have we the D500's otherwise fantastic camera is that there is about a three second delay (or shutter lag) to take a photo. With the camera on the rear of the slider, you need to slide the top half up before taking a photo. But that doesn't bother us as it gives you a better grip on the phone.
Samsung provides a tiny external speaker that plugs into the mini-USB port on the side of the phone but we found the internal loudspeaker sufficient to use in place of the supplied stereo headphones.
Depending on available memory, up to 60 minutes of video can be recorded and are saved in the 3GP file format. Videos can then be transferred to PC, sent via e-mail or sent using MMS.
Scrolling through the D500's menu is fast and easy to understand. Samsung organises the menu in a 3 x 3 icon-based grid and the sub-menus support numerical shortcuts to speed up navigation.
The D500 is Samsung's first megapixel camera phone to be launched in Australia, but the company hopes to introduce 2- or 3-megapixel phones to the market by the end of the year.
In February, the Samsung D500 won the GSM Association Best Handset Award at the 3GSM Congress in Cannes.
However, we are disappointed that the Korean manufacturer failed to include a USB cable to connect the elegant handset to a PC. Considering Motorola bundles this and a Bluetooth headset with its super-thin V3 Razr, we find the D500 just slips short of receiving a ZDNet Australia Editor's Choice Award. Expandable memory would also have been nice to be able to store a decent amount of MP3s.
All things considered, the D500 is still an outstanding handset with a great design and a wide range of features for a phone in its class. The recommended retail price of AU$799 doesn't make it a very expensive handset either. We eagerly await to see how Samsung's next megapixel camera MP3-playing phone, the E720 , fares against Sony Ericsson's W800i Walkman phone when they are both introduced later this year.