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Samsung A561 review: Samsung A561

Samsung A561's not-too-flashy subdued looks will suit anyone who is after a phone that handles calls well with some additional features that will help while away time when commuting. It's great for business users and consumers alike with its Next G capabilities and ease of use.

Irene Mickaiel
When Irene's not finding reasons to go globetrotting, with a camera almost permanently fixed to her face, she's reading up on all the latest gizmos and gadgets or trying her hand at adventure sports.
Irene Mickaiel
4 min read

Design
With a depth of 14mm, Samsung's slim clamshell mobile phone brushed in gunmetal grey is a subdued looking phone that can easily slip into your pocket. Its design is incredibly similar to the RAZR2 V9, which confused many people into thinking it was a Motorola.

7.0

Samsung A561

The Good

Battery life. Ease of use. It does a little bit of everything.

The Bad

Video calls aren't very clear. 2-megapixel camera. Difficult to hear recipient in noisy areas.

The Bottom Line

Samsung A561's subdued looks will suit anyone who is not after a flashy phone that handles calls really well with some additional features that will while away time when commuting. It's great for business users and consumers alike with its Next G capabilities and ease of use.

While it may look like the RAZR2 V9, the A561 has a different tactile feel to the keyboard and a reshuffling of the keys in and around the five-way navigation key at the top. The circular grooved five-way navigation key looks like a shiny 10-cent piece embedded at the top of the keypad, which gives quick access to the usual apps. The soft keys surrounding the navigation keys are additional shortcuts to the camera and applications.

Samsung has taken a minimalist approach by making ports and devices do multiple things. On the left side of the phone is the volume control, which also works as up and down keys when perusing the menu. Across the phone's hinge is a nifty VGA camera that can be rotated to face outwards or inwards depending on whether you want to film yourself or your surroundings. Along the right side is the proprietary three-in-one port that is used for headphones, charging the phone and hooking up to your PC with the included hands-free headset, AC adapter and USB cable respectively.

It's a very sturdy phone and in no way feels fragile, but if you have short and stubby fingers, flipping the phone open one-handed may be a little tricky.

Features
The Samsung A561 runs on Telstra's Next G allowing you to watch Foxtel TV on the go, and BigPond for your internet needs. We won't go any further into this, but if you wish to learn more click here for Telstra's Next G plans and here for Telstra's Foxtel TV plans.

Now to the nitty gritty stuff: the A561 uses Samsung's native operating system and is compatible with GSM (900/1800/1900MHz) networks when roaming. During our tests, the phone was very smooth at switching between applications and, while browsing websites, there was barely any lag. Although, it's important to note that strength of signal is dependant of the area you are in.

The A561 plays the popular MP3/WMA/AAC music formats as well as AMR/AAC+/e-AAC+, and MPEG4 video files. Using the included headphones, music and video quality sounded reasonable (though slightly tinny), but struggled with music that had a lot of bass.

The 2-megapixel (MP) camera is a bit of a disappointment, with other mobile phones on the market having 3MP and higher these days. Its digital zoom didn't pick up a lot of detail, but you can't really expect much from a mobile phone camera.

You're not stuck with the measly 40MB internal phone memory — the A561 has a microSD card slot which can add up to 2GB should you wish to store an extensive music playlist or videos.

Connection-wise, the A561 is Bluetooth and WAP capable as well as USB.

Performance
The 2.2-inch glossy screen displayed images very well, but became highly reflective when viewing it outside under a bright sun. Although, should you need rescuing, you can use the screen as a mirror to reflect the sunlight at the helicopter searching for you.

When watching video, the screen's viewing angle is limited to around 45 degrees making it difficult for a friend to watch over your shoulder. Also, the flip-top can't be adjusted to remain open at a particular angle to view the screen when it's resting on a table.

With HSDPA up to 3.6Mbps, surfing the net was very smooth and viewing Foxtel TV shows only took 10 seconds to buffer — images were rarely pixellated. Also, the 262K colour TFT screen with 176x220 pixels had no problem handling fast-moving action scenes. Our only complaint is that the screen wasn't big enough to display subtitles at a legible size.

Calls came through clear and crisp in a quiet environment; however, in busy areas we found the phone wasn't not loud enough, even with the volume on max. One reason may be the small earpiece on the wide phone — so if you don't have your ear perfectly placed you won't be able to hear clearly. We tried making video calls, and the recipient (using a Sony Ericsson) said that the calls sounded distorted at their end, but video came through clearly. On our end, it sounded like we were speaking into a walkie talkie rather than a mobile phone and the image was blocky. We tried it with a Nokia mobile phone, but the Samsung still gave the same result.

Our review unit came with Samsung's PC Studio software which lets you sync your phone to the PC, unfortunately it refused to connect to the mobile phone after numerous attempts on various PCs. After discussing the problem with Samsung's product manager, we discovered that there was something wrong with the handset. Should you have a problem similar to this, Samsung highly recommends you take the A561 back to the retailer.

Battery life with minimal use lasted for approximately seven days, and when viewing Foxtel TV or non-stop talking (not a difficult task when chatting with a friend!) the battery lasted an impressive three hours. It's an excellent result that concurs with Samsung's estimated times of three hours talk time and up to 250 hours on standby. However, after using the phone for as little as 10 minutes, the battery's heat could be felt on the back of the phone which may get slightly uncomfortable if you were to keep it in your pocket.

Overall
With its average looks, average performance, and average price, the most we can say about the A561 is that it's ... average. Mind you, average can be a good thing, it's perfect for someone who wants a fuss-free and non-flashy phone that has a little bit of everything.