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Samsung Ultra S (S7350) review: Samsung Ultra S (S7350)

The Ultra S is the best Samsung phone in this price range. Anyone looking for decent phone features and an excellent camera should check out the Ultra S, especially lovers of pink.

Joseph Hanlon Special to CNET News
Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies.
Joseph Hanlon
4 min read

Design

We approached the opportunity to review a candy pink handset with some trepidation. We like to think we rise above low stereotypes that might suggest a pink phone is only for girls, but we definitely caught our share of raised eyebrows in Sydney's CBD as we tugged the musk-stick-coloured Ultra S out of the shimmering Chanel-style phone tote that Samsung generously include with this mobile.

8.1

Samsung Ultra S (S7350)

The Good

Well designed, inside and out. Excellent 5-megapixel camera. Decent music player. Fake call and mirror-mode.

The Bad

Below average battery life. Small keypad lacks definition.

The Bottom Line

The Ultra S is the best Samsung phone in this price range. Anyone looking for decent phone features and an excellent camera should check out the Ultra S, especially lovers of pink.

So this reviewer, feeling slightly inadequate, turned to his most tasteful and stylish female friends for assistance. The final verdict was a resounding thumbs up. These friends turned the Ultra S over slowly in their hands examining the brushed metal finish on the front face and the herringbone texture in the stainless steel surrounding the 5-megapixel camera. Generally speaking, the Ultra S shares the same size and shape of many Samsung handsets, especially the Ultra Touch, but these subtle textures give the Ultra S an elegance often lacking from Samsung's range.

This beautiful styling carries over into the phone's menus and font. Its six pre-installed themes are gorgeous, each with its own personality shining through the wallpapers and menu animations. The phone also features three fonts to select from, which then carries over throughout the phone, not just in menus but also in applications — it's quite weird to see the text on CNET's mobile site displayed in a gothic handwriting style.

Its keypad is very familiar, Samsung opts here for the same flat-as-a-tack keypad configuration we've seen on so many of its range in recent times, from the G600 through to the S7330. We almost always complain about this keypad design being hard to use, and this is never as true as it is with the Ultra S. The keypad here entirely lacks definition between keys and each key is slim and curved, adding an extra element of difficulty. We predict many people new to this design will struggle to type on the Ultra S accurately until they retrain themselves to do so.

Features

We were glad to see that the pretty pink style of the Ultra S didn't mean it was devoid of decent specs internally; all too often we see phones with external highlights lacking to deliver the same experience. The Ultra S features HSDPA data speeds (up to 7.2Mbps), a GPS receiver, DivX video playback, and a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash and a reflective portrait mirror.

It also features a few quirky extras that impressed our control group of aspirational young women. One such feature is fake call; you turn this option on by discreetly pushing down on the nav-pad and a moment later the phone rings as if you were receiving a real call — you can even play a pre-recorded sound-bite for added authenticity. As sneaky and cunning as this feature may seem, one of our friends commented that all girls need a feature like this to save themselves from tedious dates with boring boys. The Ultra S also includes a mirror mode, using the front-facing camera to give you a quick look at your hair and make-up before you dash out the door.

Adding to the aforementioned DivX video playback, the Ultra S is also capable of playing MP4, H.264 and WMV video files and MP3, AAC and WMA audio files. It's a decent range of media file support, but it's a shame that Samsung doesn't support it with a bundled microSD memory card in the box or a 3.5mm headphone socket on the handset, though there is a 3.5mm headphone adapter included with the phone.

Performance

Considering the way most people will use the Ultra S, this handset holds its own with aplomb. The quality of sound during calls isn't fantastic, we found it to be more shallow, or tinnier, compared to other phones, but the clarity is excellent. Switching the phone to speaker mode during a call is equally loud and clear. Using the phone for messaging is predictably simple, though Samsung's predictive text is a little cumbersome to use.

Perhaps our major concern is with this phone's battery life. When we read Samsung's estimations of four hours talk time and 350 hours standby we thought these numbers seemed low; however, we noticed it was completely plausible to drain the battery with only a few long phone calls. Taking two or three 30-minute calls was enough to drain the battery over only two days, and this is without significant use of other features, like the web browser or camera.

The 5-megapixel camera, though, is an absolute gem; it's probably the best camera in a phone at this price point. We took a range of photos (tested under natural sunlight and fluorescents) and each image turned out well above average for a camera-phone. We saw sharp focus and good colour reproduction, even if the general tone of the images was a little washed out. Compared with the 8-megapixel LG Viewty Smart we reviewed last week, the Ultra S stands out for having taken much cleaner, less noisy images in a phone costing half the price.

Overall

The Samsung Ultra S is an alluring package for anyone seeking a sexy phone with a decent camera. It doesn't nail all aspects of a converged device, but Samsung seems to have focused on the aspects it thinks will be most desirable to the targeted twenty-something market. The design is strong, both externally and in regards to the software, the music player is adequate and the camera is superb. It's not the best web browser or personal organiser, and battery life could be better, but we don't find this detracts from our experience of the handset too much. Fashionable females will love this pretty pink number, and anyone looking for a cheap-ish but excellent camera phone need to check this one out.