Samsung SGH-i600

  • Editors' rating
    7.5 Very good

Pros

  • 3G/HSDPA support
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Front-facing camera for video calling
  • Ergonomically designed QWERTY buttons and mini-keyboard
  • Some useful software extras

Cons

  • Windows Mobile 5 rather than Windows Mobile 6
  • Slightly large in the hand and pocket

A little over a year ago we looked at the Samsung SGH-i300, a ground-breaking Windows Mobile Smartphone with a 3GB hard drive built into it. Samsung's latest foray into Windows Mobile territory is the SGH-i600. The SGH-i600 does not incorporate a hard drive, and is much less of a groundbreaking smartphone. However it has some attractive features, not least of which is the fact that UK customers can buy it with an Orange contract and get it for free. Our review sample came from Scancom.

Design
The SGH-i600 has a BlackBerry-like look and feel, thanks to its built-in QWERTY keyboard. In this case, the keyboard and ancillary buttons that sit directly beneath the screen make the display appear rather small. In fact, the display measures 2.3in. from corner to corner and provides a standard resolution of 320 by 240 pixels. This isn't much different to what you'll find in most candy bar smartphones, although in the SGH-i600 it's rotated through 90 degrees to provide a wide-format display. This orientation can make reading web pages and longer emails a little easier on the eye.

The QWERTY keyboard has been allocated a rather large space and as a result the individual keys are fairly large. Samsung has chosen to raise them significantly from their surroundings, which makes them easy to hit. The number pad keys are coloured grey, the remainder black and all keys have white markings for the characters they represent.

In between screen and keyboard is the area commonly found on Windows Mobile smartphones containing various shortcut buttons. buttons themselves are large and so finding them successfully is not a problem. The Call and End buttons are particularly big. In their centre the silver navigation pad is perhaps a little on the small side, but you're left in no doubt as to the function of its central button which is clearly marked 'OK'.

This handheld is one of several we've seen recently to resurrect the scroll wheel. At one time this was a standard feature of Windows Mobile devices. RIM also adopted the scroll wheel in its BlackBerry series (indeed it became the defining feature of BlackBerry hardware for many), although the company has recently abandoned it.

In this case the scroll wheel is on the right edge. You can press it to make selections and beneath it is a back button. The wheel sits in a small recess and we found it a little awkward to use and slightly stiff, but it is nevertheless superb for using the SGH-i600 one-handed. Above the scroll wheel is a covered slot for a microSD card, with which you can augment the built-in memory.

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On the left edge is a volume rocker. This edge also houses a covered slot that's shared by the mains power adapter, stereo headset and USB cable for PC connectivity. The slot is proprietary, which may irritate those who prefer to carry a single mini-USB adapter and/or PC connect cable for several devices.

The SGH-i600 is a sizeable device at 113mm by 59mm by 11.8mm thick. It weighs 105g.

Features
It may disappoint some users to learn that the SGH-i600 runs Windows Mobile 5.0 rather than the latest Windows Mobile 6, which has a number of business-friendly features that would be welcome on this hardware.

In other respects, this is a pretty high-end device. The phone is a tri-band GSM unit with GPRS/EDGE and 3G/HSDPA support. The 128MB of ROM and 64MB of RAM are standard fare, but, as already noted, it's easy to augment storage capacity with microSD cards.

The Internet sharing utility that's part of the most recent version of Windows Mobile 5.0 allows you to use the SGH-i600 as a modem with a connected computer. Both Bluetooth (2.0) and Wi-Fi (802.11b,g) are built in.

There is a front-facing camera, and the device supports two-way video calling. There's also a 1.3 megapixel camera on the back that shoots stills at resolutions up to 1,280 by 960. There's no flash and no separate side buttons for camera control, although you can set the side button beneath the scroll wheel to have a long press function, and this can be configured to start up the camera software. To take a photograph you need to use the centre of the navigation pad on the front. There are a few flashy extras such as a self timer, multishot mode and some photo effects (black and white, negative, sepia).

Samsung provides a number of applications that flesh out the standard Windows Mobile bundle. The Picsel document viewer will be useful for those interested in using this device for mobile email. Business travellers may also find the unit converter useful as it can handle currency as well as length, weight, volume, area and temperature. Some people will so find uses for the provided stopwatch.

The podcast manager and RSS reader can both take advantage of the SGH-i600's fast data speeds. One added extra we found rather underwhelming is called Voice Assist. In theory, you can use this to control the device by talking to it — opening applications, phoning people by name, and searching your contacts. Unfortunately it didn't understand our voice particularly well in an otherwise silent room, and ambient noise of any kind tended to confuse it.

Performance & battery life
Samsung suggests you will get up to 6.5 hours of talk on a 2G connection or 3.5 hours on 3G, and up to 300 hours of standby on 3G or 305 hours on 2G.

Our own battery rundown test involving asking the SGH-i600 to play music continuously from a full charge with its screen forced to stay on delivered 9 hours and 10 minutes of battery life. The second low battery warning came after 8 hours 55 minutes, and which point the device turned music playback off and also disabled the SIM to preserve the remaining battery life for as long as possible.

Overall, the SGH-i600 is a perfectly acceptable choice. It doesn't offer anything special, although some of the software extras are useful. The keyboard, 3G/HSDPA support and Picsel viewer may be enough to endear it to mobile email users.

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