Dubbed 'the world's smallest 3G mobile' by its maker Samsung, this phone is nevertheless an extremely usable little nugget of goodness. But it'll get outdated quickly.
This is a device that will immediately feel comfortable in your hand and your pocket. The small form factor of the Z500 is definitely a plus, and is well balanced out by its thickness. The textures of the outside case are also satisfying.
Unlike clamshell phones such as the NEC N600i, the two halves of the Z500 fit nicely together, and the hinge mechanism is solid and robust. It doesn't seem likely the hinge would break after a hard night out on the town, and the whole thing seems pretty watertight.
Perhaps the next most visible feature of the Z500 is its large external, colour display. This screen displays the time as well as customisable pictures, but you will also discover it's used for a variety of other phone functions -- which you will gradually discover as you use the phone over several weeks.
For example, you can use it to take photos with the in-built camera without opening the clamshell itself. Great for taking shots of yourself if there's no convenient third-party around.
Internally the Z500's keypad is of a fairly standard design, with the numeric keys below and a cross arrangement above. The keys are of a decent size for a small phone.
This phone's internal screen is a little small for prolonged reading or multimedia viewing, but it's fine for checking out photos you've taken and other basic tasks.
Most of the Z500's features come standard on all mid-range phones. It comes with Bluetooth, infrared and USB options to connect up to your PC.
A couple of minor positives are the 50MB of included internal memory -- which isn't tiny but not huge either, and the ability to support TransFlash media cards for portable storage.
However the phone is let down by its inability to play MP3 audio, and will only support 64-chord polyphonic ringtones. It will play several media types including midi, WAV and several other unpopular formats such as i-melody and SMAF.
The software that comes with the phone and is loaded on your PC is a pretty basic little package that will nonetheless do the job. You can transfer and store files -- extremely slowly -- and synchronise your contacts.
The first standout feature is the phone's in-built camera. It takes more than passable photos and decent short videos with sound.
The user interface of the Z500 performed extremely well. It's a cinch to use and the feedback noises it makes will remind you of your childhood days playing Super Mario Brothers. You'll grow tired of them after a while and turn the volume down -- but turn it up every now and then to reminisce.
The audio quality is also excellent -- on all calls the Z500's speaker was very clear.
The Z500's great design made the battery easy to remove and the SIM card easy to replace. Switching it on is a quick process, and the same for shutting down for the night. That battery did run out a bit quicker than expected, but we took a lot of photos so that could be one of the causes.
Taking shots with the phone is a simple operation -- just press a button on the side and you're away. Once you're in the photo screen it's easy to take multiple photos in either black or white or colour, zoom in, or add any number of frames or customisations to the shot. In short, the camera interface is excellent and definitely a strength of the Z500.
And if you like to keep ahead of the curve, you'll get frustrated quickly as you're unable to use the Z500 as a slick content delivery platform for data in formats like MP3, or quality video. In addition, in a market which already has a 3-megapixel camera phone being sold, the Z500's own 1-megapixel camera will quickly be superceded.
In short, we loved carrying around this phone and most consumers will too -- unless you're looking for bells and whistles.