At 4.4 by 1.9 by 0.27 inches, the Samsung SGH-X820 lives up to its razor-thin promise. It slips comfortably into pockets, and at 2.4 ounces, it won't weigh you down. The internal antenna ensures there's no deviation from the phone's smooth lines, though the camera lens causes a slight but hardly noticeable bulge at the top of the SGH-X820. The handset also has a solid construction, but we're beginning to notice that the thinner a phone gets, the more awkward it feels to hold against your head for extended calls. Also, the slim shape means it can be hard to feel the vibrate mode when the phone is in your pocket.
The 1.8-inch diagonal (176x220 pixel) TFT display lives up to Samsung's usual standards. With support for 262,000 colors, it's bright and vibrant and richly displays photos, games, and the user-friendly menus. Yet it's hard to see in direct light. You can change brightness, backlight time, and font size, style, and color.
Below the display is the navigation array, which we didn't care for. While we understand that tricky controls and thin phones tend to go hand in hand, the SGH-X820's five-way toggle is just too difficult. The OK button in the center is flush with the rest of the toggle, and there's no clear separation between the two controls. As a result, we made several mistakes when attempting to navigate through the menus and select functions. The toggle doubles as a shortcut to four user-defined functions. You also get two soft keys, the talk and end/power buttons, and a dedicated clear key. Though they are flush with the phone as well, their large size makes them easier to use. We also liked the design of the alphanumeric keypad. The individual buttons are large and well spaced, and they're lit by bright backlighting. Like all other controls, however, they're also completely flat. Completing the exterior of the SGH-X820 are a volume rocker on the left spine and a covered headset/charger jack and an unmarked camera shortcut on the right spine.
The SGH-X820 comes with a generous 1,000-contact phone book (the SIM cards holds an additional 250 names). Each entry holds four phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and notes. You can organize callers into groups and pair them with a phone and one of 20 polyphonic (64-chord) ring tones (the phone also supports MP3). Basic features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a world clock, a calculator, a currency and unit converter, a timer, a stopwatch, an alarm clock, and a calendar. Higher-end offerings include a speakerphone, a voice recorder, TV-out functionality, PC syncing, e-mail support, and full Bluetooth with a stereo profile. We were hoping for voice commands and dialing as well, but sadly they're not onboard the SGH-X820.
The 2-megapixel camera is feature rich and easy to use. You can take pictures in a whopping seven resolutions (1,600x1,200, 1,280x960, 1,024x768, 800x600, 640x480, 320x240, 220x176) and choose from three quality settings. Other features include a night mode, brightness and white balance controls, an adjustable ISO setting, multishot and mosaic shot modes, a self-timer, eight color effects, 30 fun frames, and a digital zoom that's usable even at the highest photo resolution. There are also a fair number of shutter and camera functions sounds, but you can turn them off completely. There's no flash, however, and self-portraits are tricky without a mirror. The camcorder takes clips in two resolutions (176x144 and 128x96) with sound. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 1 minute, 48 seconds; otherwise you can shoot for as long as the phone's available memory permits. Speaking of which, the 80MB of integrated shared memory is impressive, but we were hoping for a multimedia card slot as well. Photo quality was about average and less than we expected from a 2-megapixel camera. Though colors were relatively sharp and there was adequate lighting, objects tended to be blurry.
The Samsung SGH-X820's digital media player supports MP3, AAC, and WMA files and is similar to the minimalist but serviceable player found on other Samsungs. The primary user interaction is done through the toggle, with a few other keys acting as shortcuts to different functions. The interface is minimalist. There's no album art, and only the track name scrolls across the top of the display. You can choose from six skin types, but none are too fancy, and there's an onscreen icon showing the toggle's functions (which direction is Play and so forth). The player comes with a number of functions, including playlists, repeat and shuffle modes, and four equalizer settings, as well as 3D sounds, which didn't seem to make much of a difference. As for getting music on the phone, you can transfer tracks from a PC with the included USB cable, send them via Bluetooth, or download them from the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser.
You can personalize the SGH-X820 with a variety of wallpapers, colors, skins, background colors, and alert tones. If you want more options or more ring tones, you can download them through the Web browser. Gaming options include two Java (J2ME) titles, Freekick and Bobby Carrot, but you can always get more if you want them.
We tested the triband (GSM 900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) SGH-X820 world phone in San Francisco using Cingular's service. Call quality was surprisingly good, with sharpness and little static or interference. Volume was a tad low. While not a problem for us, it may be troublesome for users with hearing impairment. The speakerphone was satisfying overall. The sound was muffled at higher levels, but that's standard for cell speakerphones. Bluetooth headset calls were decent as well, and though the SGH-X820 lacks external stereo speakers, tunes from the digital music player weren't half bad for short stints.
The Samsung SGH-X820 has a rated battery life of 4 hours of talk time and 10 days of standby time. However, we managed to eke out an impressive 5 hours of talk time in our tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the SGH-X820 has a digital SAR rating of 1.19 watt per kilogram.