Samsung Eternity II SGH-A597 (AT&T) review: Samsung Eternity II SGH-A597 (AT&T)

Features
The Eternity II has a 2,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, e-mails, and URLS. You also can add a street address, a company name and job title, a nickname, a birthday, and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can save callers to groups, and you can pair them with a photo and one of 10 polyphonic ringtones. Fortunately, you can use your own audio files and MP3 tracks as tones.

Organizer essentials include a calendar, a calculator, a notepad, a task list, an alarm clock, a world clock, a timer, a stopwatch, a currency and unit converter, and a tip calculator. You'll also find a speakerphone, full Bluetooth with a stereo profile, PC syncing, a voice recorder, USB mass storage, speaker-independent voice commands and dialing (via Nuance), and a sketchpad. Wi-Fi is one feature we were hoping for, but you won't find it here.

Besides the usual text and multimedia messaging, the Eternity II offers instant messaging and AT&T's Mobile E-mail app. The full HTML browser is nothing special. Though it should default to the mobile version for most sites (if one is available), it's still rather tedious to browse on such a small display. Also, at times it was difficult to accurately click links on crowded pages, and it can't handle Flash animation.


The Eternity II has a 2-megapixel camera and no flash.

Though the original Eternity had a 3-megapixel camera, the Eternity II gets only a 2-megapixel camera. Granted, that's not a huge change, but we can't fathom why Samsung felt the need to downgrade that feature. As we said earlier, a sequel should improve on the original product rather than come up short. The camera takes pictures in five resolutions, including a special 400x240-pixel "wide" resolution that uses the full expanse of the Eternity's display. Other editing options include four quality settings, exposure metering, a 2x zoom, a night mode, brightness and white balance, a self-timer, four color effects, and a multishot mode. You also can use three shooting modes (continuous, panorama, and mosaic), 12 fun frames, and a "smile shot" mode that promises to detect when a subject is smiling. If it "sees" a frown it will shoot again. Unfortunately, there's no flash, but photo quality is decent.


The Eternity II has satisfying photo quality.

The Eternity II's camcorder shoots clips with sound in two resolutions (320x240 pixels and 176x144 pixels). Camcorder options are fewer than on the still camera, but it's a decent assortment. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at about 45 seconds, but you can shoot for much longer in the standard mode. The Eternity has a generous 512MB of internal memory, but you can use a microSD-card up to 16GB for more space. The camera menus are simple and easy to use.

Armed with Assisted GPS, the Eternity II includes an AllSport GPS app, and AT&T Navigator and TeleNav services for turn-by-turn directions. Other carrier-specific applications include AT&T Social Net, AT&T Mobile Music (wireless song downloads through a variety of partners), AT&T Mobile Video (streaming video content), AT&T Family Map, AT&T Video Share, and AT&T Mobile TV (live TV service that uses Qualcomm's MediaFLO technology).

The Eternity II also comes with a variety of third-party apps like Where, YellowPages Mobile, Loopt, Fun Screenz, MobiVJ, WikiMobile, Power Chat, My-Cast Weather, and Mobile Banking. Two unusual apps are Tumbling Dice , which lets you roll a pair of virtual dice right on your display, and Pic Dial, which shows your contacts' Facebook and MySpace profile pictures and status messages during calls. Keep in mind that some apps do require data use, which results in extra charges. Gamers also get a fix with demo versions of four games--Brain Exercise, Bubble Bash 2, Diner Dash, Luxor Quest, and The Sims 3. If you'd like more titles, you can visit AT&T's AppCenter.

Performance
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Samsung Eternity II world phone in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was just average. The volume only gets moderately loud and we heard some static on our end. We also heard the audio cut out on a couple of occasions. Fortunately, voice clarity is good--our friends' voices sounded as they should--but we couldn't escape those few niggling issues.

On their end, our callers also mentioned some static and audio gaps. They also could tell that we were using a cell phone. Though the latter issue would be fine by itself, our friends had trouble hearing us if we were calling from a noisy place. We suggest that you try the Eternity II before buying. Speakerphone calls get quite loud, but the audio was somewhat distorted on our end. Bluetooth headset calls were a bit better, but still not spectacular.

The Eternity II is equipped with multiple 3G bands (UMTS; HSDPA 850/1900/2100) so it will get data service outside North America. When using AT&T's 3G network, however, the connection was somewhat slow. Mobile sites usually took more than 30 seconds to load, and streaming video had its share of hiccups.

The Eternity has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 10 days standby time. It had a tested talk time of 6 hours and 11 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Eternity has a digital digital SAR rating of 0.97 watt per kilogram.

What you'll pay

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    Where to Buy

    Samsung Eternity II SGH-A597 (AT&T)

    Part Number: a597-EternityII Released: Aug. 9, 2010

    Pricing is currently unavailable.

    Quick Specifications See All

    • Release date Aug. 9, 2010
    • Combined with With digital camera / digital player
    • Service Provider AT&T
    • Weight 5 oz
    • Diagonal Size 3 in
    About The Author

    Senior Managing Editor Kent German leads the CNET Reviews and Download editors in San Francisco. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he still writes about the wireless industry and occasionally his passion for commercial aviation.