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Samsung Widescreen review: Samsung Widescreen

The wow-factor of mobile TV aside; the Samsung Widescreen is an underachiever that sacrifices basic phone functions for all the glamour Telstra's Next G network has to offer.

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Joseph Hanlon
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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.

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4 min read

Have you ever been hanging out to watch a movie only to be left desperately disappointed when you saw it? After watching all the trailers you rushed to the cinema and realised that all the promise was squandered into 90-miuntes of boring story, shirtless wrestling, and growled one-liners? Damn you 300!

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5.2

Samsung Widescreen

The Good

HSDPA. Foxtel and BigPond Mobile TV. Dual-flip design.

The Bad

Tiny QWERTY keypad. Phone has cheap plastic feel. Low quality internal speakers.

The Bottom Line

Cheap build quality and the tiny keypad spoil this fast and ingeniously designed handset from Samsung.

The Samsung Widescreen has promise too. It is, after all, one of the fastest HSDPA phones available -- capable of speeds of up to 7.2Mbps -- and features an ingenious dual-flip design for viewing the screen either in profile, like a standard clamshell, or in the titular "Widescreen" for when you're watching videos or typing long messages and e-mails. However, ingenious design is met with equally poor design, and the result is a clumsy-feeling handset that performs well as a mobile TV, but is much more difficult to use for basic phone functions than it should be.

Design
We've seen a few funky moving screens lately, the swivel screen of the Nokia Xpress 5700 comes to mind, and there's no doubting the dual-flip design of the 2.3-inch Widescreen is a great idea. The concept is extended with context-sensitive buttons on the keypad, some of which are only functional when the screen is opened in one of the directions, and others having dual functionality depending on which screen mode you are currently in.

But the keypad is also the great letdown in the Widescreen's design. In the space provided the hybrid QWERTY/numeric keypad is a terrible idea. The alphabetical keys are absolutely tiny; the same problem we saw with the Sony Ericsson W880i, but with the Widescreen there are twice as many miniature keys to navigate around. Using the QWERTY key layout in Widescreen mode is particularly awkward because the keys lay vertically. This makes it especially difficult for typing with your thumbs, which feels more natural when holding the phone lengthways.

At 115g the Widescreen feels slightly heavier than phones of a similar size, but not considerably. The dimensions of the phone keep it portable, though the plastic fascia makes the device seem cheaply constructed. The user interface and menu structure, while practical and simple to navigate, are lacklustre and unattractive.

Features
HSDPA broadband should be the saving grace of the Samsung Widescreen. You can definitely see the speed of the connection when watching Foxtel or buying music off the BigPond Web portal, but surfing the Web on the built-in browser is similarly excruciating to using phones with 2.5G connections, which seems ridiculous. As well, several of our favourite sites -- namely CNET.com.au -- failed to open: the Widescreen offering a variety of excuses and not a lot of joy.

The 2-megapixel camera is a highlight; even though the focus in the pictures is slightly soft it seems to reproduce colours nicely -- perfect for those impromptu happy snaps of kids and vomiting friends. It even has a cool panoramic photo option that connects three separate pics into one long super-photo, a feature that works surprisingly well. Do be aware that the camera has no flash so you'll want to avoid snapping your photos at night time. There's also a second front-facing camera for video-calling.

The Samsung Widescreen supports stereo Bluetooth. The MP3 music player is functional and the stereo headset in the box sounds good. Music player controls on the front of the handset allow you to control your playlist without having to flip open the phone. There is a microSD memory card slot on the side of the Widescreen, and with only 25MB of internal memory; you'll want to have a card ready to store your photos and music as no memory card comes provided.

Performance
We'd like to say that while we were underwhelmed by the design of the phone at least it works well; but we can't. Low quality internal speakers make it hard to hear during voice calls -- even with the volume setting pumped up to full. Messaging using the mini-keypad is cumbersome and arduous leading us to abbreviate our messages and sink lower than we ever have before, sending texts like "c u soon" and "I am l337 hackzor who pwns in WoW lol". Needless to say we are terribly, terribly ashamed.

The Widescreen does play mobile TV well. Testing out Foxtel on the Widescreen was fun and we enjoyed several episodes of Family Guy and Jerry Springer free of lag or stream buffering. Viewing and downloading sites using the BigPond Web portal is lightning-fast, as we can hope all mobile Web browsing will be in the near future.

Battery life is below average; Samsung predict three hours talk time and 250 hours standby and we saw similar results during our testing which included moderate usage including some Foxtel and BigPond TV. The battery shares the same port as the headphones so you'll have to be content with listening through the external speakers if you watch Foxtel while the phone is charging.

Overall
The mobile phone market is way too tight for a device like the Samsung Widescreen to fall short in some really basic, key areas -- like call quality and messaging. Not that the functionality is lacking, but both areas are let down by poor design and poorly performing components.

BigPond and Foxtel Web content is great, but it's expensive, and with over 30 handsets available on Telstra's Next G network, you definitely don't need the Samsung Widescreen to take advantage of it.

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