If you're after a slick and shiny looking handset in the mould of the LG Chocolate, but don't want to shell out a small fortune, then the Samsung J600 may be the phone you're after.
Its touch-sensitive buttons and glossy exterior means it looks reassuring expensive, yet it's available on Virgin Mobile and other selected pay as you go networks or SIM-free for the bargain price of around £70.
Cheaper handsets generally have a tendency to feel rather plasticy, leaving you with a serious lack of confidence in their reliability, but thankfully there are no such issues with the J600. Both the casing and the slider mechanism feel remarkably solid, yet this is no clunky brute. Instead, its curved silver edges and glossy finish make it one of the best looking handsets in its price range.
With the slider closed, only the directional pad control is visible on the front, but once it's open, four extra touch-sensitive buttons light up. Unlike those on some of Samsung's high-end handsets, the touch controls on this one feel very responsive and as a result are easy to get used to.
Hit the menu button and you're presented with a grid of icons much like the menus found on Nokia or Sony Ericsson handsets. On the whole, the phone's menu system is easy to get to grips with, but there are certain areas, such as the music player, that aren't as intuitive as they could be.
Call quality was very good, though, with speech sounding crisp and clear and when you switch on the speakerphone, it's loud enough to be useful in all but the noisiest conditions. Reception was also impressive and the battery life is above average. You can expect to get nearly four hours of talk time out it and it'll keep running on standby for around 12 days.
Like most of Samsung's handsets, the J600 has a built-in music player, but unfortunately it's got all the friendly charm of a traffic warden. This is real shame as its easy to get tracks onto the handset via the supplied USB cable and the sound quality from the stereo headphones is excellent. Samsung really needs to wake up and redesign its music player applet because music features are becoming increasingly important on phones like this.
The handset is also not a great choice if you're looking for a phone with a really good camera. Its snapper has a limited 1.3-megapixel resolution and while it does have a micro mirror for taking self portraits, it lacks a flash for shooting in low light.
The screen isn't exactly from the top drawer either as its relatively low resolution means that text can look blocky. On the plus side, however, colours don't look washed out like they do on some of Nokia's budget handsets.
It's certainly not the most advanced phone in the world, but we still can't help liking the J600. It doesn't cost the earth at around £70 SIM-free or on Virgin Mobile and other selected pay as you go networks, yet it looks a million dollars and boasts good battery life and call quality. If you're looking for a stylish phone at an affordable price, it's a great option.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Jon Squire