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Sanyo SCP-8400 review: Sanyo SCP-8400

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The first time Sanyo designed an EV-DO phone for Sprint, we weren't terribly impressed. Not only was the Sanyo MM-9000 unattractive, but also it lacked Bluetooth, a necessary feature on a 3G phone. Yet it appears Sanyo has learned from some of its past mistakes with its new Sprint EV-DO handset, the Sanyo SCP-8400. It's still not the sexiest phone around, but it's more stylish, and it offers a series of colors and design accessories. The feature set is worthy of a multimedia phone, with Bluetooth and a Mini SD card slot, and we like that Sprint packed in support for its Ready Link push-to-talk service as well. The only real stumble was on the performance side; photo and video quality were mediocre. The SCP-2400 is $99 with service--a fair price indeed.

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7.0

Sanyo SCP-8400

The Good

The Sanyo SCP-8400 offers a decent range of features in a satisfactory, customizable design. Call quality is good, too.

The Bad

The Sanyo SCP-8400's display is average, and its picture and video quality were unimpressive.

The Bottom Line

The Sanyo SCP-8400 passes the mark in design and features, but its multimedia performance doesn't quite measure up.

Sanyo phones tend to be pretty standard when it comes to design, and the SCP-8400 is no exception. At 3.4 by 1.8 by 1.0 inches and 3.4 ounces, it's neither big nor small; in fact it shares almost the same dimensions as the recent Sanyo SCP-2400. Also, like most handsets from the company, it comes in multiple colors (electric blue, midnight black, and powder white), it has an extendable antenna, and its front face is dominated by the camera lens, speaker grille, and a postage-stamp external display. The camera lens includes a flash and a tiny macro switch (best if you have sharp nails), while the display supports 65,000 colors and 96x64 pixels. It shows the time, battery life, signal strength, and photo caller ID, and it doubles as a viewfinder for self-portraits. You can change the backlighting time but that's it. The overall shape is unremarkable, but the phone feels comfortable in the hand.

One of the SCP-8400's unique features is that it supports changeable "face masks." Different from changeable faceplates, the face masks are not needed to complete the exterior of the phone but are simple add-on accessories that snap onto the front face. Each MM-8400 will come with one face mask (our blue handset came with black), but more are available for purchase. It's a bit of a gimmick, yes, but it's an added touch of customization.


The SCP-8400's face masks add a touch of personalization.

Inside the phone is a standard Sanyo display. It measures a roomy 2 inches diagonally (240x320 pixels) and supports 65,000 colors. Though that's not as high a resolution as we'd like to see on multimedia phone (we prefer 262,000 colors), it's a decent display for viewing photos and scrolling through the menus. And speaking of which, the SCP-8400 is one of the first handsets from Sprint to feature the carrier's Themes interface, which allows you to customize the appearance of the main menu, standby display, and a list of shortcut options. It's a cool feature that fits nicely with the phone's broad personalization options. The display has an adjustable backlighting time and font size.

The navigation controls on the SCP-8400 are signature Sanyo. A five-way toggle includes four shortcuts to the phone book, downloads menu, media player, and Power Vision services. Surrounding it are two soft keys, a dedicated camera shutter, and a Back button, while a speakerphone key and the Talk and End/Power sit just below. All controls were large and tactile, so we had few misdials. The keypad buttons are brightly backlit, and though they are flat with the surface of the handset, it was easy to dial by feel. Back on the outside of the phone are a voice recorder/Ready Link and a volume rocker on the left spine, while dedicated shortcuts for the camera and voice dialing and a covered Micro SD card lot sit on the right spine.

The SCP-8400 has a 500-name phone book with room in each entry for six phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, a Web address, a street address, and a memo. You can organize contacts into groups, assign them a photo that will show up on the external display, and pair them with one of 17 (72-chord) polyphonic ring tones. And in case you ever lose your SCP-8400, Sprint's Wireless Backup allows you to store your contacts with Sprint for safekeeping. Basic features are about what you'd expect from a phone like this. There's a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a voice recorder, instant messaging and e-mail, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a countdown timer, a world clock, and a calculator. More-demanding users can take advantage of the voice dialing and commands, modem capability, support for Sprint's Ready Link PTT network, Bluetooth, a speakerphone, USB connectivity, and PC syncing.

As an EV-DO phone, the SCP-8400 comes equipped for all of Sprint's 3G services including the Sprint Power Vision video programming, the carrier's On Demand service for news and sports headlines, weather reports, movie showtimes (tailored to your zip code), and the Sprint Music Store. The video player and music player interface are similar to those of other phones that support the carrier's 3G services; the phone supports MP3, AAC, and AAC+ files. And for listening to your tunes in the air, the SCP-8400 has an airplane mode that will disable the calling feature.


The SCP-8400's camera includes a flash.

The 1.3-megapixel camera is more or less a standard Sanyo design. You can take JPEG pictures in three resolutions of 1,280x960, 640x480, and 320x240, with three separate quality selections (Fine, Normal, and Economy). The camera also features a 12X zoom; a 5- to 10-second self-timer; four fun frames; a flash; seven color filters; brightness, sharpness, and contrast controls; white balance with six settings; and three shutter sounds. In an added twist, you also get four picture modes including beach/snow, scenery, mirror image, and night/dark. On the video side, the camcorder takes MPEG-4 clips with sound in two resolutions (176x144 and 128x96) with a set of editing options similar to those of the still camera.


We weren't crazy about the Sanyo SCP-8400's photo quality.

Once you take a photo, you can attach a caption and send it to a phone number, an e-mail address, or to an online Sprint account. The phone's internal 60MB of memory holds up to 123 high-resolution pictures or more than 1,278 at the lowest resolution. Alternatively you can use a Micro SD card to save even more of your work. Video clip length ranges from 35 seconds to up to 2 hours depending on the available memory. Pictures are mostly clear, though some object outlines were a bit fuzzy. Also, while colors were good overall, orange overpowered all other hues. Video clips were somewhat better though they showed a heavy amount of pixilation.

You can personalize the SCP-8400 with a variety of screensavers, animations, color backgrounds, themes, and alert sounds. If you don't like what comes on the phone, you can download more options and additional ring tones via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Gamers get demo versions of four Java (J2ME) tiles--Midnight Pool, Ms. Pac-Man, Tetris, and World Poker Tour. You'll have to buy the full versions for extended play.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Sanyo SCP-8400 in San Francisco using Sprint's service. Call quality was quite sharp with great clarity and volume. We had no trouble understanding our callers, and they reported no real issues in return. Noisier environments made things a bit harder to hear, but we were pleased overall. Reception was good as well, and we experienced no interference from other electronic devices. The speakerphone was quite loud, and we had decent calls from a Bluetooth headset.

Music quality was somewhat improved over the LG LX550, but not quite as good as on the Samsung MM-A900. The volume was loud, so we could hear our tracks plainly, and it lacked the hissing sound we heard on the LX550. We wish, however, that the SCP-8400 offered stereo speakers. Music tracks took just over a minute to download and took a few seconds to load.

Streaming video quality was unimpressive. Our continual complaint about EV-DO phones is that they're not at their best with lower-resolution displays. Video screams for at least 262,000 colors, and the SCP-8400 is no different. Sure, videos are acceptable for short stints, but they were somewhat jerky and showed a good deal of pixilation. On the upside, however, they didn't require any pauses for rebuffering.

The SCP-8400 has a rated talk time of 4 hours, and our tests revealed a talk time of 4 hours and 4 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the SCP-8400 has a digital SAR rating of 1.1 watts per kilogram.

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7.0

Sanyo SCP-8400

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 6