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Monolithix Reviews... The Samsung i620

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#1
Monolithix

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Introduction

Today I’m looking at one of the latest devices from long-term Windows Mobile handset manufacturer - Samsung. This mid-range slider handset sports Windows Mobile 6 Standard (that’s Smartphone to everyone else!), and while the spec’s aren’t ground-breaking Samsung has gone a long way to make some nice additions to both the software and hardware.

This is the first Windows Mobile 6 Standard handset I’ve used, so while basic interface is familiar I was interested to see how well services such as Exchange 2007 HTML e-mail worked on the smaller screen, along with PocketIE and Opera Mini (one of the useful apps included out of the box). It’s also nice to see the Joe-Bloggs-consumer-friendly slider format starting to make an appearance on a WinMo6 Standard device.

Price Comparison

First up – the competition. There are a number of fantastic WinMo6 Standard devices out there at the moment, so cost may be an important factor.

Samsung i620 – £259.95

HTC S730 - £274.95
ASUS M530W – £224.95
Samsung i600 - £229.95
Motorola MOTO Q9h - £269.95

Hardware Overview
  • Windows Mobile 6 Standard
  • GSM/3G/HSDPA/BT connectivity
  • 2.2" qVGA screen
  • 128MB/64MB ROM/RAM
  • 94.9 x 59.3 x 16.3 mm
  • microSD Slot
  • Slide-out QWERTY Keyboard
  • Touch sensitive home/back/call/soft keys
  • Scroll wheel mounted in the D-pad
Around the Device

The front...

The device itself has a rather nice matt finish glass or plastic facia and a chromed bezel surround. While a bit of a fingerprint magnet, I love the final look. Unfortunately the photos do not do it justice. The screen is a bright but smallish 2.2” affair which I had no issues using outside (although there isn’t much direct sunlight in December in the UK!), and finally the forward VGA camera for video calling is situated in the top right corner.

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Samsung have however added a number of nice touches to the device hardware. Most notably of course is the slider, covering a full QWERTY-format thumb-pad. The thumb-pad was perfectly usable and similar that used on the i600 (or Blackjack), however personally I have used better. This may just be the slightly “pointy” keys feeling slightly uncomfortable on my large thumbs. If you’ve used the i600 thumb pad and are happy with it, you should be fine with the i620.

As with a number of their other handsets, Samsung have included touch sensitive home/back/soft keys. While I liked the look of the touch sensitive keys and in general had no issues with them, in some instances I found them to be a little unmanageable. The sensitivity of the keys is fine, if a little off-set (although this may just be my large thumbs again!), so it took a little more getting used to than I was expecting. The D-Pad doubles as a scroll wheel, working in the same way as the jog-dial found on devices such as the Samsung i600/Blackjack. While a nice addition and convenient if you do a lot of web browsing, was just a little too sensitive for my tastes and I found it fiddly to be accurate with it. Overall all the keys worked flawlessly, their implementation was just a little weak at times.

The back...

Nothing much to report here other than the addition of stereo speakers, a nice feature bringing the device in line with Samsungs other high-end handsets. The standard 2Mpix camera is shielded by the slider and includes a self portrait mirror. Unfortunately I forgot to grab any sample pictures before returning the handset, however those that I did take (and didn’t save unfortunately!) seemed to be fairly on par for WinMo devices: passable but not great.

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The sides...

Here we see the external microSD slot and volume rocker, while the other side holds the proprietary Samsung charge/headset port and a function button, this brings up the quick menu for flight mode and profile selection on a quick tap and the camera when held down. This button functionality could be customised in the handset settings. Finally the top holds the power button, held down to power the device on or off, and tapped to activate the touch-sensitive buttons.

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Software

Hardware concerns aside, the tweaks and apps added by Samsung really make the i620 shine. First up: the Home Screen. Samsung provide a custom design vaguely reminiscent of a SBSH Facade layout. Left and right guide you through the Messaging, Appointments, WMP, Alarms and Call History menus, with up and down selecting the options. I found this home screen to be a refreshing change to the basic but functional default design by Microsoft, let down only by the slightly fiddly scroll wheel (which can be used for the left/right action).

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Next: the Start Menu. Here we see a tidy set of icons, with the eight options covering all the device content (other apps you install will be added underneath, obviously). Most icons will be familiar to anyone who has used a Windows Mobile device before and are pretty self explanatory, Samsung have added three folders: Entertainment, Internet Services and Applications, and a My Files explorer-type application.

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The Entertainment folder offers nothing too exciting, the standard set of WinMo apps and the Java midlet manager. Personally I am as yet to have found need to use a java applet over a native WinMo version, so didn’t try it out. Moving swiftly on, the Internet Services folder offers a few nice options – all preinstalled in-ROM. Opera Mobile is a nice touch and obviously offers an excellent alternative to PocketIE. There is also a Podcast manager and RSS reader, clearly Samsung is targeting the data-intensive user (that’s me!) with this HSDPA-enabled device. It’s also good to see this OEM device retains WLM!

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The Applications folder also looks to offer nothing too interesting until we drill down a little further. Firstly there is a File Manager, which is a little odd as there is a similar, but different, file manager application in the root of the Start menu. The File Manager here seems to add a little extra functionality but I don’t personally see the need for both. A nice touch in the My Files app is the animated zoom preview when picture files are selected. The Accessories folder provides a significant suite of options, notably Flash Lite, a unit converter app and a Stopwatch. OK, so these aren’t the most exciting apps in the world, but notably absent from the basic WinMo build where they’ve been a staple on dumbphones feature sets for years. The Document Viewer provides the excellent full Clearvue suite.

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In Use

I used the i620 as my primary device for two or three weeks, and in that time I had no issues with reliability, signal calls or any other of the basics, so well done Samsung for getting that right :) The keyboard did take some getting used to, and while I personally found it a little uncomfortable it was perfectly useable. I did feel like the handset felt a little unstable when typing though, it never came close to escaping my grip, but did seem to be teetering a bit.

The reasonable specs allowed the device to perform with no hitches, web browsing was fantastically fast over HSDPA as you’d expect, and the 416MHz PXA270 CPU from Intel happily kept up with my switch to and fro between applications and functions. The battery was slightly odd, the device was not new, however it did require a number of charge cycles to get the best battery performance. On forced-2G the handset managed a couple of days including 30-60mins of calls, a number of SMS, 14 hours of push email and the odd bit of web browsing. On 3G/HSDPA the battery gave up after around a day. Not fantastic unfortunately, but passable.

Finally here are a few screenshots of the camera app. The images were acceptable in daylight, and okish in low-light, much like we’re used to in the WinMo world, but the camera app itself was feature-packed and easy to use.

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Final Thoughts

The i620 is a great WinMo slider from Samsung, but only great in the same way as the i600/Blackjack was great. It’s let down is only in small things such as the smaller 2.2” screen and slightly fiddly d-pad and touch-sensitive buttons. Whether these are an issue to you or not is likely to be more due to personal preference rather than a functionality deficiency.

The application suite included in-ROM is fantastic though, and while they do eat into the available memory (there’s only 34MB available), they’re actually useful. I don’t think I’d remove any of them (other than maybe the Podcast manager...) if given the choice.

The i620 is just on par with its competitors in terms of features, however the lack of a defining feature such as Wifi, GPS or a decent camera means on the face of it, it struggles to stand out from the crowd of highly modern devices such as the Blackjack II or Moto Q9h.

Pros
  • Fantastic software suite available out of the box
  • Sexy slider design
Cons
  • Fiddly touch-sensitive buttons
  • Smallish screen
  • No WiFi/GPS/decent camera
Many thanks to Expansys for providing the review unit

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#2
SGH-i620

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(I don't know if its the use to reply to reviews on this forum, if not please forgive me...I just can't hold still :-)  )

I am using the phone for over a month now. Having had a lot of trouble getting used to windows mobile (coming from Windows CE 2.0) at first and struggling with network problems (I still do, often I get no Internet with full 3G reception) by now I have gotten used to the little thing, and as I really love the hardware I guess I'll keep it.

I think its an uncomparable device (hardwarewise) because of the slider-keyboard. The slider is fantastic and stable and makes it so small and elegant looking that people don't even notice you've got a smartphone :) that may be disappointing for some though...the iphone guys will get all the looks ;-)

Here's what came to my mind while reading your very good review:

The D-Pad doubles as a scroll wheel, ... was just a little too sensitive for my tastes and I found it fiddly to be accurate with it.

I found it to be the other way: not sensitive enough. Especially when rotating it very slowly it doesn't do anything. Only rotating it at a minimum speed makes any effect. Looks like the speed of scrolling is not equal to the speed of turning the wheel. Maybe that's what you mean by fiddly?

But all in all I think its a big speed improvement once you get used to it.

Opera Mini

I guess you mean Opera Mobile ;-) that thing needs to be customised to be usable IMHO...see my i620 Minisite(german only, maybe babelfish can translate it good enough)

The Document Viewer provides the excellent full Clearvue suite.

I found the PDF viewer of that suite totally useless, as it does not allow horizontal scroll in small steps. So at normal zoom levels you either see the left or the right half of the text...or am I missing something?

Final Thoughts

I must admit that Wifi and GPS are missing, but I think there is no
other wm-phone that features that size with full keyboard, right? 

Edited by SGH-i620, 16 January 2008 - 10:52 PM.

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#3
Monolithix

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Thanks for the feedback, we appreciate it and the resulting discussion!

The scroll wheel - yes and no, I had the same issues using it slowly, and a slight increase made it too responsive.

Opera Mini - yes, apologies, i'll update that :)

Clearvue PDF - I don't have the device any more, but checking it on another Smartphone it seems to work fine, and I don't remember having any issues when I used it on the i620

Wifi, GPS, Size - annoying that both Wifi and GPS are missing, and the size was one of my favourite first impressions of the device, especially coming from an M3100! The HTC S730 does come close in size (see the sizeasy comparison below and here!) and includes wifi too!

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#4
cerij

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Wouldn't mind that homescreen on my i600 if that's possible - anyone able to post it?

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#5
Monolithix

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Nope, as it is against forum rules :)

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