Samsung's D600 updates an earlier model, the D500. With sleek colouring and clean lines, this is a nice-looking phone, but get under the hood and there are plenty of goodies awaiting your attention.
We found this handset available for free from the big four operators in the UK on a wide range of tariffs, with the least expensive being £29.99 on T-Mobile and £30 on Vodafone, O2 and Orange. We also found it for as much as £100 on £25 tariffs from T-Mobile and Orange, and SIM-free from online retailers for around £330.
The Samsung SGH-D600 is a slider, a format people seem to either love or loathe. A well put-together slider is small to fit in your pocket and offers many of its features without the need to open the casing. The D600 achieves this thanks to having plenty of outer buttons. These lock automatically, but two presses unlock them ready for use. When you do need to use the number pad, the sliding mechanism is smooth and nicely sprung, so you don't have to push too hard or too far.
There are smaller sliders around, but this one is still quite tiny, measuring just 47 by 96 by 22mm when closed. At the risk of sounding like a designer furniture catalogue, we have to note that the D600's black casing, with its mix of matte and gloss finishes and minimalist chrome highlights lend classic good looks to the unit.
When you open the slider you're greeted with a number pad that is as large as it can be and keys that feel positive under the fingers. In darker lighting conditions the full array of keys light up when one is tapped.
One of the standout features of the D600 is its screen. It's right at the top of the list in terms of specifications, offering 240x320 pixels and 262K colours. It's clear, bright and pin-sharp. The best way to see this in action is to take a photo with the built-in camera then set it as the wallpaper. We got wows all round when we did this. The single connector on the right edge of the casing doubles up for both the provided headphones and AV cables (which can be used to send photos and videos you shoot to a TV).
When connectors like these are left uncovered they are prone to damage, but often the covers used are silly rubber blobs that are all too easily lost. Samsung has come up with a far better solution –- a sliding cover. We love it, and we expect future phones to sport this simple but clever idea.
Also on this edge is a button that launches the camera. The lens on the back of the casing is flanked by a large self-portrait mirror and an LED flash unit. The left edge of the casing has a volume rocker and on the upper parts of both edges are speaker grilles.
This is a quad-band handset, so anyone who travels often should find it works wherever they go. There is 81MB of user memory, which is healthy at first glance, but if you start taking lots of pictures or you want to feed the built-in MP3 player you'll undoubtedly want more.
You can have your wish if you invest in microSD cards (you may also see this format referred to as TransFlash). Samsung has done the right thing and put the card slot on the edge of the casing, so you can swap cards very easily.
The built-in music player can handle both MP3 and AAC formats. The quality of output to the handset's stereo speakers is not bad, but not the best we've heard. There isn't a lot of volume, but sound is clear and fairly sharp.
The four equaliser settings (normal, classic, jazz and rock) have a notable effect, and there is a 3D sound setting, although this is unimpressive. Through the provided stereo earphones it made our test tunes sound like we were in an echo chamber.
Two more things of note about music playback: the earphones use a proprietary connector, so don't lose them, and this being a Samsung handset, the MP3 player is visually rich and bold -- we might even go so far as blingy -- and there are a couple of skins to choose from.
The phonebook can cope with 1,000 contacts, which is a sign that this handset is designed as much for work as play. If you use desktop software you can synchronise contacts and your diary, and copy Word and Excel files across to view -- if you can bear to look at files like these on the tiny screen.
The camera is easy to use. You start it running by pressing the button on the right edge, then use the navigation key to control the zoom (maximum 4x) by pushing it up and down, and the brightness by pushing it left and right. It's a convenient system, and you can do it all without opening the slider, but you may want to turn off the accompanying sound effects as they become irritating.
Ease of use does not equate with simplicity of features, and the camera has quite a range of these, including the ability to fiddle with the ISO settings, choosing between 100, 200 and 400, or leaving things automatic. It's unusual to see this degree of control on a phone camera. There's also a mosaic shot mode -- you choose a template then take as many shots as are needed to fill it.
There are a couple of annoyances with the D600. It is irritating that it doesn't have infrared. Bluetooth is present for wireless connection to other devices, but we like using infrared for beaming things like images to other devices, because you don't need to go through a pairing procedure.
More important for many perhaps is the absence of voice dialling. If you are upgrading from an earlier handset and have enjoyed this feature in the past, you'll almost certainly be annoyed that it isn't on the D600.
The D600 impressed us at almost every turn. From the hardware slider to the on-board features it did well. The music player isn't bad and with the slider closed the camera is beautifully easy to use, and capable of taking good-quality snaps.
Call quality was fine too. Volume was okay -- though perhaps we'd have liked slightly more at the top end, and we didn't experience any dropped calls during testing. When you dial a number or write a text message, digits appear on screen rather larger than you might be used to, making seeing what you are doing easy.
We weren't let down by the battery either. We managed to avoid charging the handset for a couple of days at a stretch.
Edited by Michael Parsons
Additional editing by Nick Hide