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Samsung SGH-ZX10 (AT&T) review: Samsung SGH-ZX10 (AT&T)

Samsung SGH-ZX10 (AT&T)

Kendra Wall
6 min read
Samsung SGH-ZX10
While hardly a design marvel, especially when compared to other 3G phones, such as the Samsung MM-A900, the Samsung SGH-ZX10 does have a certain je ne sais quoi. The handset's approachable form factor will appeal to a broad range of users while masking the real strength of the phone: a multitude of data, media, and voice features on a split-fast new UMTS network. We are, however, impressed with the performance of North America's first commercially available UMTS handset and look forward to the next iteration later this year, the Samsung SGH-ZX20, which promises even faster connectivity with HSDPA. The unassuming two-tone black and silver Samsung SGH-ZX10 has nice curves. With dimensions of 3.9 by 1.9 by 1 inches and a weight of 4.1 ounces, it has a familiar feel in the hand. This handset has a very short external antenna, which helps it fit comfortably into a pocket. In typical Samsung style, the construction of the flip is solid, opening and closing with ease. The flap, however, is a little short, causing it to rest awkwardly on the ear.

The postage stamp-size, grayscale external display shows the time, the date, battery life, signal strength, several icon indicators, and your choice of a number of grayscale pictures. When receiving a call, the name or the number of the caller appears but with no picture ID. We could not modify the brightness or the backlight timer on the external screen.


Samsung SGH-ZX10 (AT&T)

The Good

The Samsung SGH-ZX10 is the first (UMTS) phone in North America. It's a quad-band world phone that has a 1.3-megapixel camera with a rotating lens and an LED flash; 50MB of internal memory; and an expandable TransFlash memory slot.

The Bad

The Samsung SGH-ZX10 suffers from a monochrome external display, a lack of Bluetooth, and poorly located navigational buttons.

The Bottom Line

The feature-rich Samsung SGH-ZX10 combines an unassuming design with the latest technology in Cingular's first 3G UMTS cell phone.

The SGH-ZX10's minimalist design doesn't fit its action-packed feature set.

One of our favorite design features of the Samsung SGH-ZX10 is the adjustable camera lens, which swivels from the front to the back of the handset. This design coup allows us to take self-portraits using the internal screen and alleviates the need for a dedicated camera button on the exterior of the phone. A flash is also included; it's just below the camera lens and above the external LCD.

The headset jack, with a convenient sliding cover, is located on the top left of the Samsung SGH-ZX10's spine. Farther down the spine, you will find a volume rocker and the infrared port. The button on the right side of the spine backlights the sub-LCD and also activates a menu that then allows you to change the profile of the phone with use of the volume rocker. The expandable memory slot is also located on the right spine. The power jack is located on the bottom of the phone.

The interior of the Samsung SGH-ZX10 has a bright, rich 262,000-color display with excellent clarity in both dark and light conditions. The four-way navigational toggle is small and has flat edges to accommodate a poorly placed dedicated camera key and programmable menu-shortcuts key above. Unfortunately, we found our minds trained to use these two buttons in place of the correct soft keys because of their location at the top of the phone, an adjustment we had trouble making. The actual two soft keys are backlit and large, though. The control in the center of the toggle launches the Web browser in standby mode, then acts as an OK button when in the menus. Also, each direction of the toggle is conveniently programmable as a shortcut to a user-defined function. The keypad buttons are large, easy to read, and well spaced, but we do wish they were slightly more raised.

The phone book on the Samsung SGH-ZX10 holds 1,000 unique contacts. Each contact stores five numbers, two e-mail addresses, a Web address, a birthdate, a company name, a job title and department, a nickname, and notes. Contacts can be assigned to three predefined groups--family, friends, and business--and paired with one of 15 polyphonic ring tones. There's also photo caller ID but only for the internal display. The handset contains 50MB of internal memory for shared use of all applications. There is also an expandable TransFlash card slot.

The other features on the Samsung SGH-ZX10 includes a calculator with a unit converter; an alarm clock; a calendar; a to-do list; a 5-minute voice recorder; a speakerphone; text and multimedia messaging; AIM, ICQ, and Yahoo instant messaging; POP3, SMTP, and IMAP4 e-mail support; PC syncing; and Java (J2ME). Though an infrared port is included, we were disappointed to see no Bluetooth, especially on a 3G phone. Its exclusion just doesn't make sense.

As Cingular's first 3G handset, the Samsung SGH-ZX10 comes equipped for the carrier's new multimedia service: Cingular Video, which allows users to customize a home page with streaming content in categories such as comedy, news, weather, and entertainment. Programming includes CNN; Fox Sports and Fox News; HBO Mobile; Access Hollywood; Adult Swim, which is billed as Cartoon Network's adult programming; TV Guide Channel; ESPN; Speed Channel; NBC; the Weather Channel; and the Disney Channel. You can also get movie previews through iFilm and TV show clips from such programs as Lost, The Tonight Show, and Jimmy Kimmel Live. And don't think kids are left out, as you can watch clips from the Cartoon Network and the especially enjoyable Muppets Mobile. Cingular Video requires a $19.99 Cingular Media Net Unlimited data package, while HBO is an additional $4.99 per month. Music Choice is also $4.99 per month, and music videos are 99 cents for one 24-hour period.

If you'd rather just listen to some tunes, the Samsung SGH-ZX10 has a music player with support for MP3, AAC, and RealOne files, which you can store on the TransFlash card.

The SGH-ZX10 has a swiveling camera lens.

The Samsung SGH-ZX10 has a 1.3-megapixel digital camera. You can take pictures in four resolutions (1,280x1,024, 640x480, 320x240, and 176x144) and use such features as a 4X zoom; multishot and mosaic-shot options; four quality settings; white-balance effects; spot metering; three lighting effects; 50 fun frames; and a self-timer. Take note, however, that zoom is not an option at the largest resolutions. Once taken, a picture can be sent via a multimedia message, e-mail, Bluetooth, and infrared, or it can be set as wallpaper or a caller-ID photo. Video capabilities on the phone are decent, including a full hour of recording time. Video can be recorded with a Sepia, Black and White, or Night effect, with or without a flash, and in four different quality settings.

We like the SGH-ZX10's photo quality.

The preloaded Java (J2ME) games--Powerline X, The Last Age, Asphalt 3D, and Bowling 3D--are engaging, and gameplay is intuitive and enjoyable. Cingular offers its MediaNet service on this handset, although content for downloadable ring tones, games, wallpaper, and screensavers currently is very limited.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS) Samsung SGH-ZX10 world phone in San Francisco on Cingular's network. The phone received a decent signal, better than that of other phones we have tested on the Cingular network, which tends to be spotty in some areas of San Francisco. The handset itself has solid sound quality, and while callers did know we were on a cell phone, they commented on the clarity of the call. Interference from other electronics was minimal, but the phone did tend to get warm when in use for an extended period. The speakerphone quality is very good, although the streamed content on the video player does not use the full capability of the speakers, even when set at the maximum level.

The data speeds on the Samsung SGH-ZX10 are impressive. We were able to download games and stream media with little wait time--less than 5 seconds. The menus load quickly, and the content streams with relative ease and much faster than that of most previously tested phones. Some of the longer clips, however, needed to buffer again toward the end of the clip.

In our tests, we coaxed 5 hours of talk time from the Samsung SGH-ZX10 and six days of standby time. According to FCC radiation tests, the SGH-ZX10 has a digital SAR rating of 1.38 watts per kilogram.


Samsung SGH-ZX10 (AT&T)

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 8