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Sanyo Katana DLX 8500 review: Sanyo Katana DLX 8500

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When Sanyo and Sprint launched the Sanyo Katana a year ago, we called it yet another Razr competitor and couldn't help but compare it to the infamous skinny flip phone. Indeed, the Sanyo Katana had a slim silhouette that looked remarkably like the Motorola Razr V3m. That said, it only offered basic features--a VGA camera, Bluetooth, and not much else--so it wasn't quite the Razr-killer we expected. Fast-forward a year later, and Sanyo and Sprint have launched two new Sanyo Katanas. The Sanyo Katana DLX is an amped-up version of the original Katana, with multimedia and broadband offerings aplenty, while the Sanyo Katana II only has a few minor upgrades.

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Sanyo Katana DLX 8500

The Good

The Sanyo Katana DLX has an attractive and slender flip-phone design, plus an impressive multimedia feature set with good sound quality.

The Bad

The Sanyo Katana DLX has skinny side buttons, and the speakerphone quality was so-so. We also would've liked external music player controls.

The Bottom Line

The Sanyo Katana DLX is the best Sanyo cell phone to date, with a fashionable design, plenty of features, and good performance.

In this review, we'll concentrate on the Sanyo Katana DLX. The Katana DLX is definitely a huge improvement over the original Katana, with a megapixel camera, a music player, EV-DO support, and more. With such an impressive multimedia feature set and great design to boot, the Sanyo Katana DLX is probably the best Sanyo handset we've seen to date. The Sanyo Katana DLX comes in pink, champagne, and silver. The Sanyo Katana DLX is quite pricey, though, at $129.99 each with a two-year contract.

Design
The Sanyo Katana DLX looks remarkably like the Sanyo Katana II, with the same streamlined look and sleek exterior, but with slightly rounder corners and a glossier finish. It has the same measurements as the Katana II as well, at 3.7 inches tall by 1.9 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep. It fits in the hand quite well and is comfortable when held next to the ear.

We're pleased to see that the Katana DLX retains the external display of its predecessor. It measures about 1 inch diagonally, and since it supports 65,000 colors, it can also be used for photo caller ID and act as a camera viewfinder for self-portraits. The screen also displays the usual signal strength, battery life, and date and time information. Sitting on top of the screen is a camera lens plus flash LED. On the left spine, there's a volume rocker on the top flap plus a charger jack on the bottom flap. The right spine is home to a dedicated camera key on the top flap, with a microSD card slot and headset jack on the bottom.


The Sanyo Katana DLX has a 1.3-megapixel camera lens.

Flip open the phone and you'll find a lovely 2-inch diagonal display with 262,000 colors. This is far better than the display on the other Katana handsets. Images looked sharp and saturated with color. You can change the display's backlight time, font size, and contrast. It has a pretty menu design, too, with colorful and animated icons. There's also an Sprint On Demand theme option that displays four shortcut icons to the Main Menu, On Demand information, Music Player, and Text messaging right on the phone's main screen.


The Sanyo Katana DLX has a microSD card slot.

Underneath the display is a navigation array that consists of two soft keys, a four-way toggle, a middle OK key, a dedicated camera key, a back button, the Talk and End/Power keys, and a speakerphone key. When the Sprint On Demand theme is turned off, the four-way toggle also acts as shortcuts to contacts, the wireless Web, the My Content folder, and Sprint TV. The keypad feels a little slippery, but the keys do have enough texture so it's possible to dial by feel.

Features
By far the most significant aspect of the Katana DLX lies in its rich multimedia feature set. A huge upgrade over the other Katanas, the Katana DLX actually has EV-DO, a megapixel camera, and more. But first, the basics. The Sanyo Katana DLX has a 500-entry address book, and each entry can hold up to seven numbers, an e-mail address, a Web site URL, a home address, and a memo. You can also assign your contacts to a group, a photo for caller ID, and one of 19 polyphonic (72-chord) ringtones. Other essentials include text messaging, instant messaging, voice commands, voice recording, a calendar, an alarm clock, a countdown timer, a stop watch, a world clock, a calculator, a vibrate mode, and a speakerphone. On the higher end, there's also stereo Bluetooth, EV-DO support, a wireless Web browser, and a built-in GPS with access to location-based services such as the Sprint Navigator.

Thanks to its EV-DO support, the Sanyo Katana DLX has full access to Sprint's mobile broadband network plus an array of 3G services like Sprint's Power Vision. There's also Sprint TV, which offers movie trailers and programming from channels like MTV and Comedy Central. There's also Sprint Movies, which lets you view full-length, pay-per-view movies on your handset. One of our favorite Sprint services is the On Demand service that provides you instant access to localized information, like news, sports, stocks, and weather updates.

As with other Sprint Music phones, the Sanyo Katana DLX's music player is closely tied to Sprint's Music Store. You can simultaneously download songs to your PC and to your phone for only 99 cents. You can also use Sprint's Sync Manager software and USB cable to transfer songs from your computer to the Katana DLX if you wish. Of course, you can also transfer songs directly to the microSD card if you have the correct adapter. The music player interface is similar to that of other Sprint Music phones--songs are automatically grouped by title, artist, and genre, plus you can create your own playlist. The interface is pretty generic, but that also means it's simple to use. There are also repeat and shuffle playback modes. We did wish there were external music player controls, though, since in order to change tracks or pause music, we had to open up the phone to do so.


The Sanyo Katana DLX took pretty good pictures.

Another great update that the Katana DLX has is a 1.3-megapixel camera instead of the VGA camera of its predecessor. Picture quality was pretty good, though low-light photos seemed pretty washed out. You can take pictures in three resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240), three quality settings, and five picture modes. Other camera settings include multishot, color tones, fun frames, 12x zoom, brightness, white balance, sharpness, contrast, and three shutter sounds (with a silent option). There's also a camcorder feature. You can record video in two different resolutions (176x144, 128x95), and three quality/length settings (Normal--35 seconds, Fine--25 seconds, and however much the microSD card can hold). You can also turn off the sound and record a silent movie or activate one of three different "cue sounds" (there's also a silent option). Video quality was not that great, with a lot of blurry outlines and washed-out imagery.

Personalization options are pretty good with the Sanyo Katana DLX. You can customize it with a variety of screensavers, graphics, ringtones, and more from Sprint via the wireless Web browser. As for games, the phone comes with a demo of Brain Juice, Ms. Pac-Man, and Tetris, and full versions of Diner Dash and Platinum Sudoku. You can always get more from Sprint as well.

Performance
We tested the dual-band, trimode (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800) Sanyo Katana DLX in San Francisco using Sprint's service. Call quality was very impressive without the speakerphone--callers could hear us loud and clear, and voices certainly sounded sharp on our end as well. Speakerphone quality, on the other hand, was so-so. While we could hear our callers well, they reported some background noise and heavy echoing. We successfully managed to pair the Sanyo Katana DLX with the Cardo S-2 stereo Bluetooth headset.

Music quality sounded pretty good as well--though sound quality was predictably thin, it didn't sound as tinny as other music phones. Of course, music heard through the headset sounded much better. EV-DO speeds made browsing a dream. Downloading songs took mere seconds, and streaming video loaded quite quickly without much rebuffering. The video quality was a little grainy, but it wasn't unwatchable.

The Sanyo Katana DLX has a rated talk time of 4 hours and a tested talk time of 4 hours, 58 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Sanyo Katana DLX has a digital SAR rating of 1.21 watts per kilogram.

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Sanyo Katana DLX 8500

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8