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The Samsung S5600 is the spiritual successor to the company's popular Tocco Lite touchscreen phone. This update uses the same TouchWiz menu system, but the innards have been upgraded to support HSDPA for faster data downloads. That's good news when you want to download music tracks or videos. The other plus point is that the phone is available for free on a £15-per-month, 24-month contract with Orange or Vodafone, so it won't break the bank. You can also pick it up SIM-free for around £140.
Cheap but classy
Two versions of this handset are currently available. One is called 'Preston' and is available on Orange, while the second is known as the 'Blade' and can be bought from Vodafone. Both models are identical apart from the fact that the direction pad on the front of the Blade is diamond-shaped, while it's square on the Preston.
Although the case of our Preston review model was made mainly of plastic, it felt reasonably sturdy, and the glossy finish and flush-mounted screen gave the handset a surprisingly upmarket feel. Measuring 55 by 103 by 13mm, the phone is small (at least by the standards of touchscreen models), and it's light too, at just 96g.
As with all of Samsung's touchscreen phones, the S5600 uses the company's TouchWiz interface. The TouchWiz home screen is divided up into three panels that you access simply by swiping your finger back and forth across the screen. There's also a pull-out tab that opens to reveal a column of icons for the phone's various widgets. You can drag these out from the widget tab to position them anywhere you like on any of the three panels. There's a decent line-up of widgets provided as standard, including an instant-messaging one and an RSS news reader.
There are also shortcuts at the bottom of the screen for quick access to the dialler, address book, message inbox and main menu. From the main menu, you can access all the phone's key settings, but also rifle through music and photos in your media album, or search for contracts by picture in the carousel-style interface of the contacts menu.
Speedier than you'd think
For a budget handset, the phone feels quite speedy in use, which is partly due to its impressive touchscreen. Unlike the HTC Hero and Apple iPhone, which have capacitive touchscreens, the S5600 has a resistive touchscreen, but it's very responsive to touch input. Also, while its resolution is relatively low, at 240x320 pixels, the comparatively small dimensions of the display mean that images and text still look reasonably sharp. The display is also very bright, which is a bonus when you're using it outdoors in direct sunlight.
The S5600's browser is limited but does the job, and the faster data download speeds offered by the HSDPA support are very noticeable when you compare this handset with the older Tocco Lite. This is especially true when you're downloading music or video files.
Call quality was also impressive, and battery life wasn't too bad either. We got around two days of use out of the phone, which is pretty much par for the course with a touchscreen handset.
Some corners have had to be cut to keep the price down. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the fact that the S5600 lacks Wi-Fi connectivity. This means you're completely dependent on the mobile-phone network for all data downloads, which is fine when you've got good reception, but less so if you're in a non-3G area. The camera is also rather weak, with a resolution of just 3.2 megapixels. Although it has an LED flash, it lacks autofocus. This, combined with the rather long shutter lag, means plenty of shots come out looking rather blurry.
The Samsung S5600 can't compete with the likes of the iPhone or the Hero, but one look at its price tag will tell you that it's not aimed at the same market. Instead, it seeks to offer a decent touchscreen experience at a rock-bottom price. Thankfully, it succeeds admirably.
Edited by Charles Kloet