Samsung SGH-U100 Review

The slimmest mobile phone in the world

 
Samsung is one of the leading mobile phone manufacturers in the world and it perfectly proved that with the latest Ultra Edition Series. The majority of Samsung branded mobile phones integrate only the best high-resolution screens or cameras, dedicated music players and a wide range of connectivity options. Ultra Edition Series looks like the main challenge, Samsung trying to miniaturize its new handsets in every way possible. What is more difficult than to simply design a slim or small device is to fit in the necessary technology at the same proportions as the design. It seems that Samsung already possesses the nanotechnology needed for such small devices. Unlike Nokia, which concentrated its research on quality first, the Korean company, after reaching a certain level in quality, decided to start shrinking its own innovative technologies. The result of this process is the Ultra Series and specifically the SGH-U100 model which the slimmest mobile phone in the world at the moment.

Announced in February 2007 the phone has been made available on the market in April 2007. At the moment, you can buy one for about USD 380, but the price may vary greatly depending on the location.

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Design

Apart from the fact that SGH-U100 is the slimmest mobile phone in the world, there's not much else that will catch your eye. On the contrary, the phone is big and wide in sizes and if you're not too cautious when you carry it, you can easily crack it. Still, the phone has an amazingly slim aspect and will probably fit in any tight pocket. The only problem will be its height and width, which were wrongly listed on the Internet. The actual sizes of the handset are 115 x 50 x 5.9 mm, but most sites listed the phone with 105.5 mm height which is totally incorrect. At these sizes the handset is surely light, weighing only 57 grams (battery included), which will probably make it almost imperceptible in your pocket.

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The only external buttons that you'll notice are the dual volume keys on the left side and the camera key placed on the right side of the handset. Right above the latter, under a plastic stripe, you'll find an USB port that can also be used as a charge socket. Perhaps the slimness device didn't allow Samsung to fit in a microSD slot card for memory expansion, but this is no music phone so don't worry about it. The "huge" 3.2 Megapixel camera has been placed on the back of the phone and features self-portrait mirror capabilities. The keypad used is standard for all Samsung phones, but very flat. In fact, this may be a big problem for those that are frequently using SMS-texting. I don't know if it's a software problem or a technical one, but the middle key from the D-pad (Confirm button) is really a pain to use, especially if you have larger fingers. Backlighting is excellent and you'll be able to use the keypad with ease in dark areas.

The only accessory shipped with the phone and which is worth mentioning is a standard set of Samsung wired stereo headset.

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Display and Camera

Samsung SGH-U100 features a TFT screen that supports 262k colors and 176 x 220 pixels resolution. This may look obsolete as most manufacturers usually include QVGA displays into their new models. Still, this screen shows Samsung's capacity to adapt its LCD screen technology to such small sizes. The colors displayed are vivid, while contrast and brightness are both great. The only drawback of the display is the lack of visibility outdoors in the sunshine. Samsung thought about this and you can now use the Sunlight mode, that you can find in the Settings menu – Light settings. Unfortunately, this is barely enough to make it visible and the screen will suck up your battery energy much faster. Do not forget to turn off the Sunlight mode when indoors because the color contrast is much lower and the text is the most visible in normal mode.

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While not the best screen for gaming, the screen scored medium on Java gaming benchmarks, pretty much because of the low processor.

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As you can see from the screenshots, U100's display is behind the latest of the Nokia or LG models, but it was expected as this is another screen class.

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The 3.2 Megapixel camera is the strong point of the device in terms of quality and size. One of the few companies that could've developed such a small camera module, Samsung managed to shrink it without lowering the quality of the pictures taken. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the camera is speedy and that it features a wide range of settings. The maximum resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels is more than enough to ensure the quality of the images, but the low storage capacity of the phone may become a problem, as the pictures taken using the above specified resolution are very large in sizes.

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The camera lacks autofocus and flash capabilities making it unusable in darker areas. Colors and contrast are very bright in good light, but one thing remains no matter what settings you use – noise. This is very good camera and it can almost replace any cheap dedicated digital camera. The camera button offers you the possibility to choose between the camera or camcorder modes, as well as the gallery. The maximum resolution for clips is 352 x 288 pixels, which is again more than expected. There's no camera lag or any losing frames, so you can definitely use any resolution you like. CIF movies are captured in .mp4 file format and have above average quality.

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Menu and Software

Samsung's software is more complex than Nokia's, but neater than LG's or Motorola's. The menu has a medium learning curve and you'll find it very easy to understand. Moreover, Samsung's software is very stable and that includes the synchronization software (Samsung PC Studio) shipped in the sales package. The phone’s menu contains some of the usual stuff: Call log, Phonebook (1000 contacts available), Music player, Browser, Messages, My files (file manager), Calendar, Camera, Yahoo! Services (Yahoo! search, Yahoo! Mail and Yahoo! Messenger), Applications, Alarms and Settings.

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You can install any Java compatible third-party applications, as the handset includes a Java Midlet emulator. There are also some nice apps that can help you process your pictures or add some special effects to it. Image editor offers users the possibility of editing photos using various editing tools such as contrast, brightness, blur or color effects and much more. You can even crop, resize or rotate any picture, as well as set it as a wallpaper or caller image. Furthermore, Image stamp application makes an outline stamp of a photo and merges it with another photo, but be careful with that as results can be more than amusing:) If you load something into your phone's memory or on your SIM and you forget where you’ve put it, you can always use the Smart search which will make a quick search on your phone for any stored information by category. You can easily access all the results directly from the search screen. The Voice recorder will let you make recordings of up to 1 hour, and that's more than enough.

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Other pre-installed applications that will make your life easier include World clock, Calculator, Unit converter, Timer, Stopwatch and Memo. You can set as many as 5 alarms and attach any alert sound to them, even MP3 files. Same goes for the ring tones which are fully customizable and compatible with almost any media file. If you're looking for an Organizer, you'll find that the Calendar can be a great Planner. You can set alarms to notify you of any future events, or you can use the Calendar as a Task manager. This is one of the best and easiest to use organizers, but it's no wonder, since Samsung always managed to develop the best software solutions for their handsets. Samsung U100 offers the possibility of reading or editing PDF and MS Office files (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint). Perhaps the small screen will annoy you a little bit first time you open a document, but you'll soon find out that you can zoom and even rotate it for a better view.

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Communication

Samsung SGH-U100 doesn't feature any 3G capabilities which is understandable considering its slim size. You can still use GPRS class 10 (32 - 48 kbps) or EDGE class 10 (236.8 kbps) connectivities for data transfers or browsing the Internet. Tests revealed some mediocrity in EDGE technology with no more than 41 Kbps download and 17 Kbps upload data transfer speeds.

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Bluetooth transfers were a little bit better with up to 80 KB/s speeds. Furthermore, the phone supports A2DP, Bluetooth printing as well as DUN (dial-up networking). Samsung offers a cool communication software for its handsets called PC Studio that can help you synchronize your phone with Outlook. Transfers are made pretty fast and you'll find plenty of features and options. Messaging capabilities have no limits and the phone features full support for email client which can easily handle POP3, IMAP4 and SMTP with SSL and TLS accounts. You can store up to 1000 SMS messages into the phone's memory, but the option is limited to send attachments up to 300 KB sizes. In terms of communication, Samsung U100 offers exactly what a possible buyer would want, not too much, but also not too little.

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The tri-band (GSM 900 / GSM 1800 / GSM 1900) network compatible handset has an average GSM signal reception. Sound is a little bit distorted, but loud enough to be heard even in crowded areas.

Processor and Memory

The slimmest handset in the world features an ARM9 family processor running at up to 88 MHz speeds. This is a low-end CPU, but only specific benchmarks will show that as the phone works like a charm. Only gaming could probably reveal this weakness and maybe reading and editing large documents, otherwise you won't really notice that.

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Samsung's U100 only features 70 MB internal memory and lacks a microSD card for memory expansion. Could Samsung embed a slot card in such a slim phone? Does it really need it? There are different opinions on this aspect, but I believe that most users that will not buy the phone prefer to have some sort of a slot card to extend the memory or at least much more internal memory. 70 MB internal memory is just enough for some pictures taken at the maximum resolution, but if you intend to take more than 100 pictures you will be forced to transfer them through Bluetooth or USB cable.

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Multimedia

Even if the phone features Windows Media Player 10, don't expect it to be a great MP3 player. Samsung SGH-U100 simply does its job and offers users the possibility to play some files that they will probably set as ring tones. The music player is compatible with MP3, ACC, eAAC+ and WMA files and can run in the background.

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The quality of the sound is a little bit above average, but I don't think that this phone was meant to be used as an MP3 player because of its lack of storage space. The phone doesn't have an external speaker, but you'll be able to use the in-call speaker to listen to music. You can also view movies because the handset is compatible with MPEG4/H.263 media video formats. For a better audition, you can use the equalizer which features only 4 modes: Normal, Classical, Jazz and Rock.

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There's no FM Radio integrated, but that would only deplete your battery energy faster. Innovation comes with the territory, in this case Samsung adding TV-out capabilities which enable users to see the phone's display on a TV screen. The feature supports PAL and NTSC formats. The ring tones sound pretty loud and you'll be able to hear your phone as the vibration feature simply won't do.

Battery

A slim phone must always have a slim battery and (un)fortunately U100 features a Li-Ion 690 mAh slim battery. This is a low power battery which will force you to charge your phone every 2 days on a medium use. You may even run out of battery after only one day if you're using all the phone's features and also talk about 1 hour. This is the "weak link" for Samsung U100 as this low capacity battery simply won't do, especially for a person who likes to talk on the phone a lot.

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Impressions

It seems that Ultra Edition II Series has the slimmest phones in the world, but will it sell? Samsung SGH-U100 amazes us through its slimness and powerful camera, but that's about it. Some people would say that these are enough for the phone to sell very well, but then there are others ... I think the phone has a stylish look and that can make a good choice for people that are looking to impress.

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The Good

I'd say the best feature of the phone is the 3.2 Megapixel camera which shoots really well. I don't consider the 5.9 mm thickness of the phone an advantage, on the contrary, but that's just me. Another strong point of the phone is its versatile software which will please any user. There are lots of things that this handset can do and the more you use it the more it will surprise you. Samsung embedded a very good firmware that greatly improves the functionality of the phone.

The Bad

I don't think that manufacturing a phone that has a stated autonomy of only 2 hours and 30 minutes is a good idea. Maybe replacing the Li-Ion 690 mAh battery with a better one will ease the life of its owners. The keypad is very hard to handle and there's no way you can get used to it. Keys are hard to push, especially the Confirm button placed in the middle of the D-pad. Also, be careful where you keep the phone, since the screen scratches easily. Other than that, it's all good or standard.

Sales package

Samsung SGH-U100
Battery Li-Ion 690mAh
Charger
Stereo wired headset
USB Cable
User Guide

Photo: Tudor Raiciu for Softpedia.com

4 Comments

By    17 Aug 2007, 12:56 GMT