Sanyo continues its streak of solid performers for Sprint PCS with the RL-4920. This Ready Link-capable phone is designed to appeal to those looking for an alternative to Nextel's Direct Connect offerings. With its utilitarian design and its lack of camera features, the Sanyo RL-4920 is geared toward the business user who wants a functional handset free of fancy trimmings. But with a price tag as low as $19 with a two-year service agreement ($199 with no contract), Sprint is hoping this handset will find a wider audience. There's not much to say about the Sanyo RL-4920's appearance. It's a candy bar-style phone with an all-silver casing that's neither fancy nor gaudy. At 4.2 by 1.8 by 0.9 inches and 3.8 ounces, it's the average size for a Sprint candy bar-style model, and it somewhat resembles the company's . It's longer and bulkier than, say, Siemens's stylish line of handsets, but some may find the extra girth more comfortable when holding the phone during conversations.
The 1.6-inch-diagonal, 65,536-color display is vibrant and easy to read in both dark rooms and bright outdoor environments. Below it, you'll find six control keys and a four-way navigation pad. The control keys are a bit cramped, but we never had a problem with hitting the wrong button. Likewise, the backlit dial keys are well spaced, with the numbers slightly raised off the body of the handset.
On the Sanyo's left spine, you find two volume-control buttons, and below that is a larger key for the Ready Link functions. We wish Sanyo had ditched the external antenna for an internal model, which would have cut down on the phone's size.The Sanyo RL-4920 includes a 300-entry phone book. Each entry can store up to seven numbers and includes room for e-mail and Web addresses. You save Ready Link numbers in a personal list, which can hold up to 200 contacts (businesses that establish a PCS Ready Link server can create company lists, which only the server administrator can maintain). When you press the Ready Link button, you see a display of all the contacts stored in your personal list. Scroll down to select the proper contact, then press the Ready Link button again to make a walkie-talkie-style call. The contact and personal lists are completely separate, so when you save a number to one, it won't show up in the other.
Contacts can be paired with any of 11 polyphonic (32-chord) ring tones; though the phone takes picture caller ID, it doesn't have a camera, so you must have pictures sent to you. You also get voice-activated dialing, a calendar, a world clock, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, WAP 2.0 wireless Web access via Sprint's 1xRTT next-generation network, and a speakerphone that you can activate anytime during a call by pressing the left soft key.
A voice recorder allows you to make up to 20 recordings or a total of 50 minutes of voice data (this works in standby mode only, so you won't be able to record conversations). Unfortunately, there's no button on the phone itself that provides quick access to this feature, which means you have to wade through the menus. The RL-4920 can be personalized with a variety of screensavers, many of which are available from Sprint. It doesn't come with any games, but you can download titles and additional ring tones.We tested the dual-band/trimode (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800) Sanyo RL-4920 in the Chicago area using Sprint's service. We found the call quality to be very good, and callers said they couldn't tell we were speaking from a cell phone. Ready Link calls were also clear, although there was a conspicuous lag of about five seconds in the initial link. Once the connection was established, however, communication was nearly instantaneous. The speakerphone is exceptionally loud, which is a good thing for those who use the Ready Link feature on a construction site, for example, but it could be off-putting, depending on your surroundings.
As for battery life, we reached 4 hours of talk time, falling well short of Sprint's rating of 5.5 hours, but we met the seven days of standby time. According to the FCC, the Sanyo RL-4920 has a digital SAR rating of 1.13 watts per kilogram and an analog SAR rating of 1.13 watts per kilogram.