Samsung SPH-M300 review: Samsung SPH-M300

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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Samsung SPH-M300 features a stylish and compact design. The cell phone also offers integrated Bluetooth and good call quality.

The Bad The M300's VGA camera produced poor pictures. Speakerphone volume is weak, and there's only 8MB of internal memory with no expandable media.

The Bottom Line If you're looking for a basic and affordable cell phone for just making calls, the Samsung SPH-M300 delivers with style. However, if you want a good camera phone, look elsewhere.

6.3 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 6.0
  • Performance 6.0

In addition to the launch of the multimedia-centric Samsung SPH-M510, Sprint also introduced the Samsung SPH-M300 this week for customers looking for a more basic and budget-friendly camera phone. The stylish and compact flip phone is equipped with a VGA camera and a speakerphone, and it even manages to throw in a couple of nice extras, including voice dialing and integrated Bluetooth--all this for $29.99 with a service agreement. The phone offers good call quality, but it's disappointing as a camera phone. As such, we think you can get a better camera phone and more for your money with the Samsung SPH-M500. However, the M300 is a fine and stylish choice if you just want a cell phone for making calls. The Samsung SPH-M300 is available in red or silver; our review unit came in red.

Design
A cell phone doesn't have to be flashy or superthin to be considered stylish; there's beauty in simplicity and the Samsung SPH-M300 is proof of that fact. Plus, it's got some sass of its own as the entire front flap has a cool mirrored face and you can choose from two color choices: dark silver or misty-rose red. At just 3.6 inches by 1.9 inches by 0.7 inch and 2.6 ounces, the clamshell M300 is compact, light, and functional. And despite the featherweight design, the handset has a solid construction and is comfortable to use as a phone.


The Samsung SPH-M300 features a sleek and stylish design.
Hidden behind the mirrored face, there's a 1-inch, 65,000-color screen with a 96x96 resolution that shows the time, date, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). You can switch between a digital and analog view, but there's no way to change the font size or the screensaver of the external display. You can, however, use it as a viewfinder for self-portraits; the camera lens is located just above the screen. There is a camera activation key on the right spine along with a 2.5mm headset jack and a power connector port, while there's a volume rocker on the left side.

The Samsung SPH-M300 features a smallish 2-inch diagonal internal screen with a 128x160 pixel resolution. Colors are bright and we had no problems reading text or numbers on the screen, even under sunlight. We do wish the screen's resolution was slightly higher, as images looked very pixilated. Unlike on the external display, you can change the font size, color, screensaver, and backlighting via the Settings menu.


The M300's navigation controls and alphanumeric keypad are easy to use.
You shouldn't have any problem mastering Sprint's menu system; everything's clearly identified and you can choose from three menu styles. To operate the M300, there are two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, a back button, and a navigation toggle with a central OK/Menu key just beneath the display. Most of the controls are large and easy to press. The only one that may give some users problems is the Back button, since it's squished between the toggle and the dialing pad. Now, we'll fully admit that we were skeptical about the Samsung M300's alphanumeric keypad. The lacquered buttons are completely flush with the phone's surface and there is no separation between the keys, so we thought they'd be slippery and hard to press. However, we were pleasantly surprised, as the buttons were tactile and quite spacious. They're also adequately backlit for dialing and text messaging in darker environments, but the lack of separation between keys will make it hard to dial by feel.

Features
The Samsung SPH-M300 has a 299-contact phone book with room in each entry for five numbers, an e-mail and Web address, nickname, and memo. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a photo, a group ID, and one of 29 polyphonic ringtones to your contact. Sprint includes a couple of extra utilities on the M300. First, there's a service called Wireless Backup that automatically saves all the information in your contact list so you can transfer it when you get a new phone. Be aware that this is an add-on service and it costs $2.00 per month. Next, a feature called VoiceSMS allows you to record and send a voice message to a contact without ever having to call them. It's a nice option if you know someone is in a meeting and can't get to their phone; each message is charged as a text message.

Other phone features on the M300 include a speakerphone, voice commands and dialing, a scheduler, a memo pad, a task list, a countdown timer, an alarm clock, and a calculator. In addition to text and multimedia messaging, the M300 also offers e-mail and instant messaging support for popular clients, such as AOL, Yahoo, and MSN, via the phone's Web browser.

The Samsung M300 has integrated Bluetooth, which you can use to connect to wireless headsets and hands-free kits. You can even use the phone as a wireless modem for your laptop. However, without the support for Sprint's EV-DO network, you're not going to get broadband-like speeds, so that takes away a lot of the appeal of this functionality.


The M300 is only equipped with a VGA camera, which...
The M300 is equipped with a VGA camera with no video recording capabilities, which is pretty disappointing. You do have your choice of three resolutions (640x480, 320x240, and 224x168), three quality levels (fine, normal, and economy), five shutter sounds, and a self-timer. There are also controls to tweak the brightness and white balance, and while there is no flash, you do get a night shot mode. Once you're done snapping pictures, you can save them as wallpaper, assign them to a contact for photo caller ID, share them with friends via Sprint PCS Picture Mail, or send them to a compatible printer via PictBridge. Be aware of how many photos you are taking (there is a photo counter), as the phone only has a meager 8MB of internal memory and no expansion slot. We expected mediocre pictures from M300's VGA camera, but we didn't expect it to be so poor. Image quality was really blurry and the color was dull with a brownish overtone.


...led to some pretty poor-looking photos.
You can personalize the Samsung SPH-M300 with a number of tones, wallpapers, screensavers, and applications. Unfortunately, the phone does not come with any games, but again, you can download titles via the phone's Web browser. To find more add-ons for the M300, check out our cell phone accessories page.

Performance
We tested the dual-mode (CDMA 800/1900) Samsung SPH-M300 in San Francisco using Sprint service and call quality was good. There was very little background interference and plenty of volume as we chatted with our friends or listened to an automated phone recording. Our callers also said audio was good on their end. Unfortunately, speakerphone volume was very weak, even at its highest level, so we had a hard time hearing the conversation. On the upside, we had no problems pairing the M300 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.

The Samsung M300 is rated for up to 3.2 hours of talk time. In our battery tests, we got a talk time of 3 hours and 18 minutes in our tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the M300 has a digital SAR rating of 0.99 watts per kilogram.

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