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Samsung MM-A940 (Sprint) review: Samsung MM-A940 (Sprint)

The MM-A940 has a full-featured camera with a flash and an optical zoom.

The MM-A940's is Sprint's second 2-megapixel camera after the Samsung MM-800. You can take pictures in five resolutions: 1,600x1,200, 1,280x960, 800x600, 640x480, and 320x240. Other options rival those of a stand-alone camera. The 2X optical zoom is a welcome camera phone enhancement. Other camera features include a flash; a 10X digital zoom; autofocus; a self-timer; two multishot modes (in a series or divided into frames); six color effects; five picture modes, including a macro setting; white-balance and brightness adjustments; three quality settings; three shutter sounds, as well as a silent option; and light-metering options. As we mentioned earlier, the side-mounted camera lens presents a learning curve. If you take a picture with the display in the standard flip position, it is difficult to frame your shots due to the quirky orientation of the lens. To compensate, we suggest you always take pictures with the display flipped 90 degrees. We find it annoying, however, that when activating self-portrait mode, the default image orientation is upside down. You can change it with a flick of the navigation toggle, but it is an unnecessary step.

Though the Samsung MM-A940 has a 2-megapixel camera, we were disappointed by its photo quality.

Still another use of the MM-A940's camera is a business card reader, a feature we first saw on the Samsung MM-A800. It works relatively well, but it's not particularly impressive. Video clips with sound have similar editing options and are limited to the available memory (more than an hour at the longest), but they are of alarmingly poor quality. When finished with photos or videos, you can send them in a multimedia message or directly to a printer via the included USB cable over Sprint's PictBridge service, as well as save them to the phone's liberal 70MB of embedded memory. Of course, you can use a TransFlash card, but our test phone didn't come with one, and TransFlash cards currently top out at 512MB.

You can personalize the Samsung MM-A940 with a variety of screensavers, menu styles, animations, and clock styles and sounds. This being a Sprint phone, the Samsung MM-A940 doesn't come with full versions of any Java (J2ME) games--just demos of Jamdat Bowling, Ms. Pac-Man, and Tetris. There are, however, three somewhat useless applications called Dice Game, Random Ball, and Beat Box that work when you shake the phone. The first allows you to throw an animated pair of dice, the second randomly selects a groups of numbered balls, and the third plays music like a drum. Trust us--they're not as cool as you might think. One feature we like is a glossary of the possible screens icons that indicate the phone's status. Usually, you have to dig through the manual for such information, so it's a welcome addition.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/900; EV-DO) Samsung MM-A940 in San Francisco using Sprint's service. Call quality was generally good with solid volume and clarity. We rarely had trouble getting a signal, and though callers could tell we were using a cell phone, they said we came through loud and clear. Occasionally on our end, the audio quality had an echoing sound, but it was nothing bothersome. Calls using the speakerphone were surprisingly loud, and clarity hardly diminished. We tried a few calls with the Mustek MBT-H120 Bluetooth headset. We had no problem connecting, and call quality generally was fine.

If you had any thoughts about ditching your digital camera upon hearing the words 2 megapixels, think again. Although the larger print size will be a blessing to those who like to tinker with their photos, we found picture quality to be disappointing, with washed-out colors and a lack of sharpness. And because of the long lag between the time you press the button to take a picture and the actual taking of the shot, you have to hold your hand perfectly still to avoid getting a blurred image. Because of this lag time, it's best to activate the shutter sound effect. Otherwise, you'll have no idea when or if you've taken a picture.

Sprint's EV-DO service proved zippy indeed on the Samsung MM-A940. Streaming video clips downloaded in just a few seconds showed admirable video quality with no freezing or restarts. EV-DO coverage was good within the city, even in buildings, but understandably grew spotty in outlying areas. Videos were a tad grainy but, for the most part, were quite clear and viewable, a huge improvement over Sprint's 2.5G 1xRTT network. Remember that this is a cell phone, and the display can't compare to your living room television. Music files took longer to download--about 2 minutes--and while browsing was usually fast, it was noticeably slow in some instances. For example, when using the on-demand GPS mapping application, it took up to 10 seconds to pan between map sections.

The Samsung MM-A940 has a rated talk time of four hours and a promised standby time of 12 days. In our tests, we beat the talk time by 45 minutes and eked out 8 days of standby time. Globe-trotters, beware; the phone comes only with a clunky desktop charger. According to FCC radiation tests, the MM-A940 has a digital SAR rating of 0.9 watts per kilogram.

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