Samsung BlackJack II review: Samsung BlackJack II

For messaging, the BlackJack II ships with Microsoft's Direct Push technology, so you get real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. There's support for other e-mail solutions, such as Good Mobile Messaging and AT&T Xpress Mail, and there is continued compatibility for POP3 and IMAP accounts. As part of the Windows Mobile 6 upgrade, you can also view HTML-formatted e-mails and more easily search your Outlook in-box. And good news for instant-messaging fans, as the device comes preloaded with AIM, Yahoo Messenger, and Windows Live Messenger clients.

We set up a review unit to access our Gmail account, and after a simple process of entering our username and password, the BlackJack II downloaded all our messages and retrieved new e-mail every 15 minutes. We also used the included USB cable to synchronize the BlackJack with our PC but ran into some connection problems with ActiveSync. We talked to Samsung, which identified it as an Outlook connection error, so we had to remove our installed copy of ActiveSync v4.5, perform a Detect and Repair process in Outlook, and then reinstall ActiveSync, which solved the problem.

Voice features are pretty standard. The quad-band BlackJack II offers world-roaming capabilities, a speakerphone, speed dialing, three-way calling, conference calling, and text and multimedia messaging. It's also the carrier's first smartphone to support AT&T's Video Share service, which allows you to make video calls. (Plans for Video Share start at $4.99 per month for 25 minutes.)

Unfortunately, there are no voice dialing capabilities. The address book is limited only by available memory (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts), and each entry can accommodate up to 12 numbers, several e-mail addresses, IM handles, job titles, and additional details. For caller ID, you can assign a contact a photo, a group ID, or one of 27 polyphonic ringtones.

Like the first BlackJack, the BlackJack II continues to work on AT&T's HSDPA network for a broadband-like connection on your mobile device. HSDPA has the potential to transmit data at up to 14.4mbps, but you'll most likely average speeds of around 400kbps to 700kbps. Still, we're talking about some pretty darn fast Web surfing and downloads.

In addition, you can use the 3.5G speeds to enjoy streaming music and video via AT&T Music and AT&T Video. These add-on services enable you to access content, such as streaming XM satellite radio, music videos, MusicID for identifying song titles and artist, and video programming from CNN, ESPN, and NBC, among other channels. The BlackJack II does not, however, support over-the-air song downloads.

Other wireless options include Bluetooth 2.0 and the addition of GPS. There is no Wi-Fi connectivity on this device. You can use the Bluetooth technology to connect to mono and stereo headsets, hands-free kits, Bluetooth peripherals, wireless file transfers, and others. The built-in GPS radio lets you use your smartphone as a handheld navigator. This, coupled with a mapping application or location-based service like Google Maps for Mobile or TeleNav GPS Navigator, can provide real-time tracking, text- and voice-guided directions, business searches, and traffic information.

The BlackJack II has an upgraded 2-megapixel camera located on the back of the smartphone.

The BlackJack II gets an upgrade in the camera department with a 2-megapixel lens. It continues to offer video-recording capabilities, and it features a 4x zoom and a self-timer. For still images, you have your choice of five sizes, four quality settings, and three shooting modes. Sadly, there's no flash, but you can adjust the white balance. Once you've captured your image, you can add various effects and frames. As per usual, options are a bit limited in video mode with just two sizes and two recording modes. Picture quality was subpar, not because images were blurry but rather because the colors were washed out in our photos.

Picture quality was disappointing with its faded colors.

Finally, for other multimedia content, you can enjoy more streaming-video content with MobiTV, and there's the standard Windows Media Player 10 Mobile to check out your library of MP3, AAC, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, and WMV files.

We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE; UMTS/HSDPA) Samsung BlackJack II in San Francisco, using AT&T service, and call quality was quite good. We enjoyed clear audio with minimal background noise and ample volume, and we had no problems interacting with our bank's voice-automated voice response system.

Our friends also reported similar results and had no complaints. The speakerphone, however, didn't fare as well. On our end, we could hear a slight but noticeable background hiss, and voices sounded a bit garbled. Meanwhile, callers said they could tell that we were on the speakerphone and heard a bit of an echo.

The bright side is that none of this prevented us from continuing conversations, and there was plenty of volume. We were able to pair the BlackJack II with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.

Powered by a faster 260MHz processor (the original BlackJack had a 220MHz processor) and with the increased memory, we found the Samsung BlackJack II to be a responsive and better-performing device than its predecessor. There was very little lag, even when we had numerous applications open, and we didn't experience any system crashes during our review period.

To test the GPS capabilities, we used Google Maps for Mobile, which, by the way, downloaded super quickly, thanks to HSDPA, and it took about 5 minutes for the BlackJack to get a fix on our location, but it did a decent job of tracking our position. Multimedia performance was mediocre. As with the speakerphone, there was plenty of volume, but the sound quality was a bit tinny and lacked richness. Videos were always synchronized with audio. When the picture is blown up to full-screen mode, it's almost unwatchable, as images looked pixilated and blurry.

The Samsung BlackJack II's 1,700mAh lithium ion battery is rated for 7 hours of talk time and up to 14 days of standby time. We are currently still conducting our battery drain tests but will update this section as soon as we have final results. According to FCC radiation tests, the BlackJack II has a digital SAR rating of 1.2 watts per kilogram.

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