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Samsung SGH-i640V

  • Editors' rating
    7.0 Very good

Pros

  • 3G with HSDPA
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • Bulky
  • Lacks Wi-Fi
  • Touch buttons on front are less ergonomic than physical buttons
  • Idiosyncratic user interface

Samsung's SGH-i640V is a Windows Mobile handheld that's exclusively available via Vodafone in the UK at the time of writing. Its feature list is reasonably strong and it comes with dual batteries, which provide a welcome boost to performance away from mains power. However, it's let down by some design issues.

Design
The SGH-i640V is a quite large slider-format handheld, and with the slide closed it measures 95mm tall by 61mm wide by 16mm thick. Open the slide and it becomes rather taller at 133mm. It's quite heavy at 126g.

Those with larger hands, who may find some handhelds a little too fiddly to work with, may be drawn to the size of the SGH-i640V, hoping that the QWERTY keypad hidden beneath the slide is more usable.

Although the tall, thin, lozenge-shaped keys are relatively large and well spaced, we didn't find them as easy to use as expected. We believe the key shape is the problem: the narrowness of each key means that a finger or thumb tends to obscure adjacent keys to the one you're seeking.

With the slide closed, the fascia contains several shortcut buttons and a navigation pad. The pad can be pressed up, down, left and right as usual, but can also be rotated. This allows for vertical scrolling through lists or menu options, and is quite a useful way of moving through on-screen information. It's particularly useful because the SGH-i640V does not have a touch screen.

The shortcut buttons comprise two softmenu keys, Call and End keys and a Windows Mobile Home and back button. All six are touch-sensitive rather than physical keys. We aren't fans of this approach: although the keys are responsive, it's all too easy to hit one by accident when moving the SGH-i640V from hand to hand.

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The screen, as already noted, is not touch sensitive. It looks a little lost on this bulky device, but measures a pretty standard 2.4in. from corner to corner and displays 240 by 320 pixels.

The Samsung SGH-i640V comes with an AC adapter, a USB sync cable, a headset that shares the same proprietary connector as the mains power adapter, a software CD, two batteries and a battery charger.

You also get two backplates, one of which provides a little extra 2mm of girth to accommodate the extended-life battery that complements the standard unit.

The battery charger accommodates either cell and requires the proprietary AC adapter. The space cell, charger and power adapter may seem like a lot of extra equipment to carry, but if you travel extensively for work, you may find that the extra battery life justifies the clutter.

Features
The Samsung SGH-i640V runs Windows Mobile 6.0 Standard, and our review sample reported 150MB of available storage memory fresh out of the box. A microSD card slot with a protective cover sits on the right edge of the device, ready to accept extra storage as required.

The device includes Bluetooth (2.0) but not Wi-Fi. The phone is tri-band GSM with GPRS and 3G/ HSDPA. There is a front-facing camera for two-way video calling and a rear-mounted 2-megapixel main camera whose lens and self-portrait mirror only become visible when the keyboard is slid out.

Although this is a Windows Mobile device, the default main screen does not look familiar, as Vodafone has chosen to implement a proprietary home screen and menuing system. In fact, it's the same one we saw in Palm's Treo 500V when this device was exclusive to Vodafone.

The main screen hosts a novel arrangement of menu items with group icons in a horizontally scrollable bar along the top of the screen. As you move through the groups, the central one is highlighted and its contents displayed beneath for you to scroll through vertically.

This is a reasonably effective system, although anyone coming to it from the standard Windows Mobile arrangement may find be a little lost at first.

You can choose between several Today screens, including the standard Windows Mobile offering, but they all seem to lead through to the proprietary menu system by default. You can access the regular Windows Mobile menu system, but to do this you have to be viewing the 'recent programs' group, as access to it is via a softmenu button whose function changes depending on the menu group selected at the time.

Interestingly, and rather worryingly, we installed an application during the course of writing this review and then removed it, but its shortcut remained in the menu system. It's possible to remove such shortcuts manually, but the procedure is not documented in the standard Windows Mobile user manual.

Performance & battery life
With two batteries at its disposal, it's not surprising that the Samsung SGH-i640V delivers excellent battery life. Testing the device by asking it to play music from a full battery charge it delivered 6 hours 59 minutes on its standard battery and 9 hours 22 with the extended-life battery. This gives a total of over 16 hours if both batteries are fully charged.

Conclusion
With 3G but no Wi-Fi, the SGH-i640V will not have universal appeal. The defining features of this device — its rotating navigation wheel, touch buttons, large size and idiosyncratic user interface — will also polarise opinion. For us, the touch buttons are the least attractive of these features.