Samsung SGH-P300 (Unlocked) review: Samsung SGH-P300 (Unlocked)

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Samsung SGH-P300 offers Bluetooth, an MP3 player, and a megapixel camera in a compact, eye-catching package. It's a solid performer too.

The Bad The Samsung SGH-P300's button layout takes acclimation. It's also saddled by tinny music quality, unintuitive speakerphone access, little memory space, and patchy Bluetooth call quality.

The Bottom Line Like all other designcentric phones, the Samsung SGH-P300 is not for everyone, but its powerful features, admirable performance, and compact form factor give it a perverse appeal.

7.6 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 8.0

Although it looks a lot like a calculator you'd get for free by opening a bank account, the Samsung SGH-P300 can do a lot more than just help you balance your checkbook. Sure, it has a calculator, but inside the small if somewhat plain package, you'll also find a feature-rich GSM cell phone that delivers admirable performance. Granted, the SGH-P300's credit card-size form factor does have its drawbacks--the button layout is odd, there's no external memory slot, and audio quality fluctuates--but with Bluetooth, a megapixel camera, and an MP3 player, Samsung made a serious effort to cram as much as it could into this insanely tiny handset. The SGH-P300 won't be for everyone, and the lack of a supporting U.S. carrier will mean a high price (around $550 on Dynamism.com), but for the cell phone fanatic, it could dethrone the Motorola Razr as an it phone.

You have to wonder exactly what Samsung was thinking when it designed the SGH-P300. In the ever-growing frenzy to shrink the cell phone, the company produced an eye-catching yet somewhat polarizing handset. On one hand, it is one of the smallest phones we've seen to date, and Samsung gets credit for not churning out another blatant Razr imitation, as it did with the Samsung MM-A900. Yet on the other hand, the resulting silver and black design is far from flashy, if not downright dull. Despite our gripes, however, the story here is the diminutive size, and it's in that area where the SGH-P300 blows other phones out of the water.

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The lilliputian SGH-P300 is one of the smallest cell phones around.

If you ever get your hands on the Samsung SGH-P300, a neat trick is to place it behind a standard credit card. You'll notice immediately that at 3.44 by 2.14 by 0.45 inches, the SGH-P300 disappears almost completely behind your plastic. But even more impressive, the phone is thinner than both the Motorola Slvr L6 and the Samsung SGH-T509. You'll have no trouble slipping it into a pocket, though you may find you have to fish around for it in a purse or a bag. Surprisingly, at 2.8 ounces, the SGH-P300 is heavier than it looks. Although that's still extremely light as cell phones go, it weighs a bit more than the trim SGH-T509. On the upside, however, the heft gives the SGH-P300 a sturdy feel, and it was relatively comfortable to hold in our hand while talking. Keep in mind, though, that it's near impossible to cradle the phone between your ear and your shoulder.

We were very impressed with the Samsung SGH-P300's sharp display. At 1.75 inches diagonally, it's large for a phone of this size (it takes up almost half of the total area), and we thought the landscape orientation was a nice change. Also, it shows off its 262,000 colors and graphics beautifully. As with most Samsung phones, the display disappears in direct light, but it was great for scrolling through the attractive menus, viewing photos, and playing games. You can change the backlighting time, the brightness, and the font color, but you can't alter the font size.

As with most slim phones, the Samsung SGH-P300's navigation controls and keypad come with a few quirks. The former group consists of a navigation toggle, two soft keys, a Clear button, the traditional Talk and End/power keys, and an OK/Web-browser shortcut control. You also get a dedicated button for activating the MP3 player. Now you're probably asking what we meant by quirks--trust us, they're readily apparent on closer inspection. The navigation toggle works four ways, which means there's no OK button in the middle. Instead, your finger must trail over to the left soft key or just below it to the aforementioned OK/Web-browser shortcut button. Also, while it is raised above the surface of the phone, the toggle is a bit hard to manipulate; we struggled with it for more than a few minutes.

The Samsung SGH-P300's keypad layout is strange as well. Although the raised keys are tactile, brightly backlit, and spaced far enough apart, both the star (*) and the pound (#) keys are located to the left of the numbered keys rather than below them. The 0 button was also moved to the right of the main keypad. We understand why Samsung made this choice, but the button layout does take some heavy acclimation. Our fingers kept moving to the bottom of the keypad to hit 0, but we got the hang of it eventually.

Completing the outside of the Samsung SGH-P300 are a volume rocker on the left spine and a dedicated camera control on the right spine. Directly above the latter is the port for the charger and a headset. Of course, since they share the same port, you can use only one device at a time. Moreover, while the presence of Bluetooth will eliminate this problem for most users, the SGH-P300 uses a proprietary headset jack. As a result, most wired headsets won't be compatible with the phone, but fortunately, one is included. On the back of the handset is the camera lens and the flash but no self-portrait mirror. The SGH-P300 uses a unique but user-friendly battery-cover mechanism. A small slider control on the bottom of the phone actually locks the battery cover in place. Make sure you set the lock in the correct position, or the cover falls off easily. The SGH-P300 also comes with a nifty leather carrying case that flips open like a book; the bottom of the phone would form the spine. In a cool design touch, the case includes a small James Bond-like hole for taking pictures, and we like the fact that you can place calls when the phone is in the case, which makes the SGH-P300 even more comfortable to hold for long conversations. The case has a razor-thin extra battery that powers the phone if your primary power source runs out. When the phone is inserted, the charger juices up both batteries.

The Samsung SGH-P300 has a generous and accessible feature set that should please most users. But first, we'll detail the basics. The phone book holds an impressive 1,000 contacts, with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, and notes; the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts. The SGH-P300 supports caller groups and photo caller ID, and you can pair contacts with one of 30 polyphonic (64-chord) ring tones or an MP3 file. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a stopwatch, a timer, a calculator, a unit converter, an alarm clock, a world clock, and a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Worker bees will get use out of the PC syncing for their contacts, their calendar, e-mail support, full Bluetooth, PC modem capability, and a speakerphone. The speakerphone could be more intuitive, though. While it can take up to three clicks to turn it on after you've made a call, only one click is needed to turn it off. There's also a voice recorder that can record messages up to an hour in length. Alternatively, a multimedia-message setting will limit recordings to just a few minutes.

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