- HSDPA capable, design and looks, features list, 3.2 megapixel camera, good in-call quality
- User interface a little slower than previous units, touch sensitive buttons are a hit and miss affair, battery life
The U700 is a distinctive HSDPA capable phone. Beneath its flashy exterior is a more than capable handset that packs quite a punch in terms of features. If you can look past the sometimes frustrating controls, what remains is an excellent phone.
Price$ 675.00 (AUD)
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A flashy, stylish HSDPA slider featuring touch sensitive controls, a mirrored chrome finish and a 3.2 megapixel camera, Samsung's U700 has both style and features in spades.
The U700 is a HSDPA capable handset, so it supports downloads at speeds up to 3.6Mbps. Most impressive is call clarity; volume in particular is very loud at its highest setting, so much so that we had to regularly turn it down to prevent people close by from hearing our conversation. In noisy environments this is excellent, but for those in quiet places such as offices, the U700's sound leakage may be an annoyance. The hands-free speakerphone is also loud and clear, and it's easily switched on during a phone call by pressing the centre button.
The U700 is equipped with a 3.2 megapixel camera, and it features auto focus, a flash, macro mode and a new feature Samsung dubs Rapid Focus, designed to improve shutter speed. The camera also includes a self portrait mirror and can capture video in MPEG4 format. Performance is average; the shots produced aren't good enough for any sort of serious photography, but are more than adequate to use as background wallpaper or basic happy snaps. The camera has plenty of options including multi, mosaic and panorama shot modes, effects such as black and white, sepia and negative, 21 frames and a three, five or 10 second self-timer.
The U700's user interface is excellent, but there are a couple of small quirks that mean it isn't as good as previous handsets, such as the D900i, for example. The touch sensitive controls are a little slow to respond, and the navigational wheel isn't as snappy as we would have liked. These two issues combined mean basic navigation feels a little sluggish, and not as polished as we've come to expect from the latest Samsung units. The 'uPlus' feature remains though, offering intuitive navigation that responds to your environment. For example, when you dial a phone number, a picture of Sydney appears in the corner of the screen. This picture changes depending on your location. It also responds to the time of day and changes accordingly; at night the sky will be dark, while during the day it appears blue. Another cool feature occurs when dialling a phone number; upon pressing a number key a paper and pen animation appears and begins to write the numbers as you press them - it even includes sound effects.
The U700 allows you to create a personalised menu of shortcuts that sits on the main screen. This enables quick access to frequently used menu items, such as calendar, SMS messaging and email. The interface also highlights each selected menu item with a different colour scheme, creating a contrast with the rest of the phone. For security, Samsung's mobile tracker feature is present. When a SIM card in the U700 is replaced, the mobile tracker sends an SMS message to an earlier nominated phone number, revealing the mobile phone number of the new SIM card.
The U700 has Bluetooth and USB 2.0, and the A2DP profile for wireless music streaming. The MP3 player is compatible with MP3, AAC, AAC+ and WMA files, and features basic play list support, repeat and shuffle play modes, a preset equaliser and 3D sound effects. A new feature is what Samsung has dubbed CEpower technology, by Bang & Olufsen - designed to offer enhanced acoustic capabilities and sound quality without affecting battery life. We did note that the U700 sounded better than most other mobiles on the market, but the included proprietary headphones aren't up to scratch and there is no adapter to use regular 3.5mm headphones.
Other features include standard POP3 and IMAP4 email access, SMS and MMS messaging with T9 predictive text input, polyphonic and MP3 ring tones and a voice recorder. There is no document viewer, but a range of PIM features such as memo, task, world clock, calculator, converter, timer stopwatch and RSS reader.
The U700 is really a sight to behold, weighing just 86g and measuring 102.5mm x 50mm x 12.1mm. This handset is a guaranteed head turner thanks to its glossy, mirrored, chrome finish, and touch sensitive buttons that are camouflaged when the backlight isn't active. A trade off in terms of design is that the unit is a fingerprint magnet. This is made even worse by the fact that the best way to slide the handset open is by resting your thumb on the display.
The controls are a hit and miss affair, despite their superb looks. The navigational scroll wheel isn't smooth, and it's difficult to accurately turn it without missing the menu you're after. Thankfully, the scroll can be used as a regular five-way navigational pad too, so the versatility is good in this regard. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of the touch sensitive buttons; two selection buttons, answer and end call keys and dedicated buttons for video calling and shortcuts; we often had to press them more than once to register. Furthermore, when the backlight turns off, so do the buttons, and they only show up again by either opening the handset, or pressing on the navigational scroll wheel.
Despite the U700's diminutive frame, it generally feels solid and well built. The spring operated slider is firm, yet easy to slide. The 2.2in screen is capable of producing 262k of colour and has a resolution of 240x320 pixels. It's bright and clear, although its glossy surface means it does suffer in direct sunlight. Samsung includes a microSD card slot on the right side (in addition to the 40MB of internal memory) along with a dedicated camera button. The keypad is flat, but keys are well separated and easy to press, so punching out long messages isn't a problem. The soft white backlight is superb for night time use.
Unfortunately, battery life is poor, with just 2.5 hours of talk time and up to 235 hours of standby time on a 3G network. We found ourselves charging the handset every two nights, although if you use the music player and some other extra features, be prepared to recharge almost every night.
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