The most notable thing about the E590's design is its simplicity. There are no glossy surfaces. There are no touch-sensitive keys. There is no floral embossing. This lack of festive flair doesn't make for a boring phone though -- the phone has a clean, utilitarian design, but then so does a little player called the iPod.
The candy bar E590 comes in black or white, and at 66 grams almost floats on the palm. Grasping it in your hand, you feel like a giant meddling with the mobile of a standard human -- the footprint is about the same as a second-gen iPod nano.
A 220 x 220-pixel, 262k colour display sits atop a grid of refreshingly normal number keys and navigation buttons. All are the same shape -- think the cross-section of a Tic Tac. A stubby joystick handles the on-screen menu movement.
On the back of the phone is a 3-megapixel camera in a solid cylindrical housing that protrudes from the main casing. There is no lens cover, and the cam is in just the right place to get in the way of your fingers when holding the phone upright.
The sides of the E590 are punctuated thrice each with an array of elegant buttons and ports. On the left are a volume rocker, a multi-purpose connection port (headset, USB and charging), and a microSD slot. The right face houses a dedicated camera zoom key, a shutter button and a Mode key that switches between applications when the camera is enabled.
We weren't huge fans of the headset design; the plug sticks out too far to the side of the phone and you can't substitute standard headphones because it's a Samsung proprietary port.
The spotlight feature on the triband E590 is the 3-megapixel camera, which oddly does not come equipped with a flash, LED or convex self-portrait mirror. To be fair, these omissions are redeemed in other areas: the cam is equipped with autofocus and the dedicated zoom rocker is a rare and welcome inclusion.
A basic image editor allows you to adjust colour settings and apply effects, frames and clip art to your snaps. It's not Photoshop, but it is diverting enough to hold your interest on the train ride home.
The Java World menu option features an array of trial games such as Cannonball, Forgotten Warrior and Midnight Pool. Our handset came with Paris Hilton's Diamond Quest, a simple gem matching game with an utterly ludicrous premise. A pixelated version of the lazy-eyed heiress pops up on screen with a speech bubble that says "I've got a hot idea for a jewellery line and I need the best gems for it. That's where you come in, babe". Cheers darl!
A music player, voice recorder, FM radio and Web browser round out the features list. The player has a simple interface but offers quite a few customisation options such as repeat, shuffle, equaliser presets and a rainbow of visualisations.
We were a little concerned that the teeny proportions of the phone would result in it being difficult to handle. Fortunately, these worries came to naught. The keys may be small, but their widely spaced placement precludes any accidental fat-fingered button mashing.
The camera performed nicely at higher resolutions, but didn't do so well at the lower end. Shots taken at the minimum resolution looked grainy and shapes were ill-defined. The autofocus was a blessing though, and the plentiful shooting modes -- including panoramic -- offer a lot of flexibility.
All up, the E590 is a solid phone that performs well, and goes back to the basics instead of relying on gimmicks. There's no fuss, no superfluous decorative fancy bits, and no performance problems to speak of. We liked it a lot, but if you prefer your gadgets a little more flashy, you might find the look a little bland.