The Katana series of phones have changed quite a bit since the original Katana, which was nothing more than a Razr clone with its slim and wide style. Two years and a couple of Katana models later, it appears that Sanyo has decided to go in a very different design direction with this year's crop. The Sanyo Katana LX, for example, has a much more compact look, complete with a smooth reflective surface. However, it was only an entry-level device with not a lot of advanced features. The Sanyo Katana Eclipse, on the other hand, is the Katana with all the bells and whistles. Features include a 1.3-megapixel camera, a MP3 player, EV-DO speeds, stereo Bluetooth, and more. The highlight of the Eclipse, however, is in its dual LED indicators that can set off as many as 40 lighting effects for different functions, so you can dazzle your friends whenever you have an incoming call. The Katana Eclipse is now available for $99 after a two-year service agreement.
With its reflective mirror finish, dual LED indicators, and silver chassis, the Katana Eclipse almost looks like a miniature space ship masquerading as a cell phone. Measuring 3.6 inches long by 1.9 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick, the Eclipse is a slim and compact clamshell with slightly rounded edges and a streamlined yet futuristic look. It's lightweight at 3.4 ounces, and it fits comfortably in the hand as well as in the purse or pocket.
On the front of the Eclipse is a camera lens at the top, followed by a speaker in the form of a thin cutout strip, and then the external display. The 64,000-color 1-inch display is used to view date, time, battery, and signal strength information, as well as caller ID. The display also supports photo caller ID. You can also use it as a self-portrait viewfinder when the phone is closed. When the music player is activated, you can use it to navigate the player and see the currently playing track. You can adjust the display's screensaver, the backlight time, the background color, the animation that appears when you close the phone, the font size, the clock format, the sleep mode timer, and whether you want the next calendar schedule to appear on it.
Underneath the display are three music player controls, which are the two track shuttle keys (rewind and fast-forward) as well as the Play/Pause key in the middle. Pressing the Play/Pause key will activate the music player. Though we appreciate having external music player controls, we did find the keys to be rather small and difficult to press, especially since they are pretty close to the surface of the phone.
To the left and right side of the display are two LED indicators in the form of angled lines. These two LED indicators are used to provide illumination and lighting effects for certain functions. In fact, the Eclipse comes with 40 different lighting effects, and they range from periodic flashing to subtle pulsing glows in all colors of the rainbow. You can have different lighting effects for incoming calls, incoming messages, calendar alarms, active calls, whenever you play music, whenever you press a key on the keypad, and you can assign lighting effects to certain contacts as well. It seems a little gimmicky at first, but we can see its playful appeal for teens or the young at heart who want something flashy to show off to their friends.
On the left spine are the charger jack, the volume rocker, and the dedicated camera key, while the right spine is home to a headset jack and a microSD card slot.
Flip open the phone and you'll find a decent 2.0-inch 65,000-color internal display. It's certainly not the best screen we've seen because of its size and lackluster menu interface, but text looked clean and legible, and images appeared bright as well. You can adjust the screen's backlight time, the contrast, the font size, the clock and calendar format, the sleep mode timer, as well as the animation that appears for outgoing calls and when it's searching for service.
Underneath the display is a navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a circular toggle with a middle Menu/OK key, a dedicated camera key, and a Back key. The toggle also doubles as shortcuts to four user-defined functions. Below the array are the Talk, speakerphone, and End/Power keys. We didn't quite like the Eclipse's keypad. The navigation keys were all right, but the numeric keypad felt too slippery and flat for our tastes.
The Katana Eclipse has a 500-entry phone book, which seems a little small, but each entry is able to accommodate up to seven numbers, two e-mail addresses, a Web address, a home address, and a memo. You can then organize the contacts into caller groups, pair them with a photo for caller ID, or any of 32 polyphonic ringtones. You can also pair each contact with alert tones for incoming text messages, picture mail, voice SMS, and e-mail. You can also assign a specific illuminating or lighting effect for each contact's calls and messages as well.
Other basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a scheduler, a to-do list, a world clock, a calculator, a stopwatch, an alarm clock, and a countdown timer. More advanced features include voice command and voice dialing support, voice SMS support (the capability to send each other voice messages), wireless backup support for contacts, stereo Bluetooth, GPS functionality for use with Sprint Navigation, a wireless Web browser, instant messaging, and e-mail (POP3, IMAP, AOL Mail, AIM Mail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Gmail. You also have the capability to check work e-mail as long as your office uses Outlook Web Access for Exchange).
Since the Katana Eclipse is an EV-DO device, Sprint has also granted it access to Sprint's 3G services like Sprint TV, which has a wide array of live television programming from content providers like CNN and Fox Sports, Sprint Radio with more than 150 channels, plus the Sprint Music Store, which lets you download songs over-the-air for 99 cents per track. The price also includes another copy of the song to download to a Windows PC.
The music player is pretty generic, and it's tied to the Sprint Music Store interface. You get to see the album art, plus the song and album title, and of course, there are controls for rewind/previous track, play/pause, and fast forward/next track. Music player settings include song repeat, shuffle, and the capability to create and edit playlists. The Eclipse has a microSD card slot that can take up to 8GB of additional storage, so you have room for plenty of songs.
Another step up from the Katana LX is the Eclipse's 1.3-megapixel camera. You can take pictures in three resolutions (1280x960, 640x480, 320x240), three quality settings, and five picture modes (Normal, Beach/Snow, Scenery, Mirror Image, Night/Dark). Other settings include brightness, white balance, sharpness, contrast, a self-timer, multiple shots, shutter sounds, fun frames, color tone, and up to 12x zoom. Photo quality was mediocre for a megapixel camera. Colors looked dark and overcast, and images appeared slightly blurry. There's also a built-in camcorder that can record video in two resolutions (176x144 and 128x96) in three different quality/lengths (Normal is 35 seconds, Fine is 25 seconds, and up to available storage). Other camcorder settings are similar to that of the still camera.
You can personalize the Katana Eclipse with a variety of graphics and sounds for wallpaper, screensavers, alert tones, and more. If you want more, you can always download them via the Sprint browser. The phone also comes with five games--Diner Dash 2, a demo version of Galaga, a demo version of Platinum Solitaire, and a demo version of Sims 2. Similarly, you can download more via the Sprint store.
We tested the Sanyo Katana Eclipse in San Francisco using Sprint's service. We were very impressed with the call quality, as were our callers. Callers reported that they could hardly tell we were on a cell phone, and our voice sounded natural, loud, and clear. On our end, we could hear them loud and clear as well. Speakerphone calls were also quite admirable; callers had no problem hearing us. We did think they sounded muffled and on the tinny side, but that's typical for most speakerphones.
Music quality was quite decent as well. It was lacking in bass, but other than that, the songs sounded crisp and clear. Of course, we recommend using a stereo headset to get better audio quality.
Download speeds were admirable. It took us an average of 40 seconds to 45 seconds to download a typical 3-minute song. The video quality of the streaming TV wasn't too bad, but it's hard to tell with such a small screen. Quality worsened noticeably when we were watching high-action sports though. That said, there was little to no buffering time, and the sound quality of the stream was good.
The Sanyo Katana Eclipse has a rated battery life of 4.6 hours talk time. The Eclipse has a tested talk time of 5 hours and 10 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Sanyo Katana Eclipse has a digital SAR rating of 0.912 watts per kilogram in the PCS mode.