The SGH-Z500 was launched in 2005 and, at the time, was one of the smallest 3G phones available. The design was based on the popular SGH-E700, with the addition of a 1-megapixel camera, 3G support and a microSD/TransFlash memory expansion slot. One year later and the Z500 has been made over in pink, exclusively for Vodafone. Is it a case of mutton dressed as lamb, or can the Z500 still hold its own in 2006?
Since there's now an abundance of different coloured phones flooding the market, we were sceptical when the pink Z500 landed on our doorstep. This feeling wasn't improved by the press release that boasted 'ladies will love the pink Z500... [it] is the ultimate accessory for any woman's handbag'.
That said, we weren't immediately put off by the pink panels which cover the front panel, the battery and the keypad. The rest of the phone is matte silver and the text on the pink keypad is white, which can be difficult to see at certain angles in bright light. Overall the colours compliment each other well, and although the Z500 has been criticised for looking like the E700, we like the classic styling and simple layout.
Aesthetics aside, the Z500 is a clamshell handset that weighs 95g and measures 89 by 45 by 25mm -- it's still petite for a 3G phone. Despite being small it feels solid, even when it's open, and it's comfortable to hold and use.
The front section of the phone houses an external screen and a 1-megapixel camera. The external screen is divided into two halves. The top half is an OLED screen that stays permanently on and displays signal strength, the time and battery life in blue text. The bottom section is an LCD, 65k-colour screen that displays notifications of text messages and calls, and an analogue clock. It can also be used to take portrait photos. Above the screen is a basic 1-megapixel camera that, as well as missing a flash and portrait mirror, doesn't have a cover, meaning it can be easily scratched.
On the top left of the handset there's a volume button and a proprietary headset port with an obligatory Samsung fiddly cover, and on the bottom left there's an infrared port. Opposite the volume button on the top right of the phone there's a dedicated shutter button, and further down on the bottom right there's a TransFlash memory expansion slot that's also covered. The bottom of the phone houses the charging and USB port, which again is burdened with a standard Samsung cover that feels like it's not well attached.
Luckily, the fiddly design stops at the covers and the inside of the handset is well laid out and practical. The keys are large enough to press comfortably and clearly defined by silver dividers that separate each one. There are also two soft keys at the top that activate the 3G video mode and a shortcut menu that lets you access calls, messaging and Vodafone live. Beneath those buttons is the navigation key that is well sized and feels just right, giving you enough space to press in each direction without feeling too confined.
The internal screen displays 262k colours and has a 176x220-pixel resolution. It's bright and clear and we found it easy to see in all conditions. Underneath the screen is the 0.3-megapixel (VGA) camera that can be used to take portrait photos or for video calls. Our only niggle with this section of the phone is the hinge that holds the screen in place but sticks out like a pair of shoulder pads, an unfortunately ugly feature on an otherwise decent-looking phone.
For a phone that came out last year, the Z500 still feels very up to date. Its best feature is its 3G support that lets you make video calls and download multimedia. We tested the video-calling feature out and found it worked well, although the audio was sometimes out of sync with the image and movements weren't smooth due to the low refresh rate. In contrast, the WAP browser was very fast and loaded pages quickly, which is great if you need to check something out in a rush.
Another bonus feature on this phone is the 50MB of internal memory and TransFlash expandable memory slot. This means that you can store around 350MP3s or 3000 photos on the Z500 if you buy a 1GB TransFlash card, which is great if you like listening to music or snapping lots of photos. The built-in media player will play MP3, AAC, ACC+, Real One, H.263 and MPEG4 files.
We also like is the option to use Bluetooth or infrared. This means that aside from being able to send files to a greater number of devices, you can also can use the Z500 as a modem via a USB, Bluetooth and infrared connection.
Unfortunately the 1-megapixel camera with 2x digital zoom does show the Z500's age -- for a phone with so many great features, the entry-level camera is a disappointment. With phones such as the Samsung D600 toting 2-megapixel cameras and models with 3.2-megapixel cameras entering the market, the Z500's camera just doesn't cut the mustard. We liked the fact that there was a dedicated shutter button and that you could adjust ISO levels and white balance levels, but we weren't overly impressed with the images, which were dim and pixelated.
The Z500 also has SMS and MMS messaging, a voice recorder, calendar, calculator, world clock, polyphonic ringtones and Java games.Performance
The audio on calls was clear and loud, as was the sound quality on the media player, and the proprietary headphones were actually comfortable enough to use as an MP3 player. The camera was easy to operate using the dedicated shutter button, but the poor quality images let it down -- although they were good enough to view on the camera, they weren't good enough to print out.
The battery life was good and lasted for around 250 hours on standby and 3 hours' talk time. That was without using 3G though, which cut the standby time to 200 hours and talk time to around 2 hours.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield