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Samsung SGH-Z107 & O2 3G

  • Editors' rating
    7.2 Very good

Pros

  • Easy to navigate the features
  • large, tactile buttons
  • small and lightweight phone

Cons

  • No Bluetooth
  • internal memory is not expandable
  • wider Web access on O2 3G is not particularly slick

O2’s entry into the world of 3G was made with three phones -- its own-branded X4, Nokia’s 6630 and Samsung’s SGH-Z107. Recently, a fourth has bulked out the range, Motorola’s V975. Only two of these phones support video calling natively: the X4 has no capability at all for this, while the Nokia 6630 can manage it only with a separately available accessory. So business users who are keen on O2’s 3G service for video calls will need to choose between the Motorola and the Samsung handsets. Our review centres on the latter.

Design
The Samsung SGH-Z107 is a clamshell phone that, were it not for the protruding antenna, would feel very small and neat in the pocket. At 115g it's hardly noticeable in weight terms, and its dimensions minus the antenna are a svelte 48mm wide by 89mm deep by 25mm high. But the antenna adds another 20mm that can be annoying when the phone is carried in a pocket. The Samsung SGH-Z107 has a large front display, which delivers startlingly bright colours and offers the option of showing an analogue clock, wallpaper image or a text greeting. It also provides a number display for incoming calls when the clamshell is closed. A press of the button on the right edge of the casing will send an incoming call to voicemail. Above the display sits a light that blinks to indicate an incoming call and acts as a flash for the built-in camera. You have a wide choice of colours for the former task. A single VGA-resolution camera handles both video calling and still/video image capture. It sits in between screen and keypad, and is easily swivels to face forwards or backwards. However, the lens does not swivel enough to protect it inside the casing when the phone is closed. Within the clamshell the buttons are well spaced and easy to hit. Among the usual array of softkeys, navigator, call and end keys sits a button that can be used to switch from the current application to Call, Messaging or Internet, with the End Call button dropping you back into the application you were previously using. The Z107 is supplied with two batteries, one slightly thicker than the other and with a higher capacity. You also get a headset with a proprietary connector, a USB PC docking cable, PC link and modem software, and a charge cradle for the second battery.

Features
The data cable and PC software mean that business users can easily port their contacts and diary entries to the Samsung SGH-Z107. The synchronisation software, called Easy Studio, can also be used to backup the phone’s content to a PC. You can use the Samsung SGH-Z107 as a modem for a notebook system, and software is provided for this purpose. The connection between computer and phone must be via the provided USB cable, though -- Bluetooth is not supported. There is 14MB of available internal memory, and there's no expansion slot to augment this. So you'll have to fit all your data into 15MB -- email, contacts and diary entries plus any applications you add (Java is supported), images and videos you shoot, or 3G downloads you may make. The video calling features of the Samsung SGH-Z107 are impressive. The images were clear and sharp, and it's a simple matter to press a softkey button to switch between views, choose which image is the larger and which the smaller, or turn the smaller image off completely. The camera itself is VGA resolution (640 by 480), and includes a self timer, (20 seconds, 15 seconds, 5 seconds), multi-shot mode (3, 5, 7 and 10 shots), various effects (sepia, mono, night) and a brightness adjuster. O2’s 3G service is a mix of the music, entertainment and information services that characterise O2 Active, with some additions designed to make the most of the faster data speeds of 3G. These include things like film trailers, news clips and music videos. You can also break out of this 'walled garden' onto the wider Web. As far as pricing is concerned, you choose a standard O2 tariff, and on top of that pay 65p per minute for video calls. Browsing standard O2 Active content on 3G is charged at the same rate as over GPRS, with 3G-specific data elements charged separately. In our experience, extra charges were always made transparent.

Performance
The colours, on-screen visuals, ringtones and various other sounds give this handset a feel that may not appeal to all professional users. The absence of Bluetooth and the fact that the phone only has dual-band GSM capability will also detract from its appeal for business users. O2’s 3G services are more consumer-orientated than business-focussed. Not all video clips can be downloaded, which means you can pay for a stream without the ability to save and review a clip. In our experience, streaming sometimes delivered blocky graphics and poor-quality sound. We wouldn't want to be spending our own money on such a chancy feature -- although, to be fair, we’ve had similar experiences streaming with other 3G operators. Video calls, on the other hand, were of superb quality, the Samsung SGH-Z107 rendering sound and visuals very well. When it came to accessing the wider Web, we tested a 16KB page with a layout ranged across two columns of a table comprising plain HTML and a few small GIFs, and the much more complex ZDNet.co.uk home page. The former loaded quickly, was well rendered and easy to navigate, while the latter, although it also loaded fairly quickly, was a nightmare to navigate. Again, this is not an uncommon experience with phone-based browsing, but the lesson for end users is that the ability to access the wider Web via a 3G phone does not necessarily make it practical to do so. Samsung claims up to five hours' talk time for the SGH-Z107, and 130-260 hours' standby. We managed to deplete ours completely during a couple of hours of continuous 3G data access; under a more average usage pattern, phone survived a couple of days between recharges.

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