For some days now, I'm using the lately officially announced Samsung SGH-i300 Windows Mobile Smartphone, Samsung's latest Windows Mobile product the the first Smartphone which makes it to the European market, after the company announced their first Windows Mobile Smartphone, the SGH-i250, which - however - never made it to the market.
Unlike the SGH-i250, which was a clam-shell phone, the i300 is a candy-bar device and what makes it so unique is the fact that it has a 3 GB hard disk drive to store all type of files and applications as well a mechanical navigation wheel. In addition, for sure, it has the built-in memory as well as a microSD (previously known as TransFlash) memory card slot. Also it features a 1.3 megapixel camera with photo light, Bluetooth (but no W-LAN), a navigation-pad which also can be used as scroll wheel, a 65K color - QVGA (240x320 pixel) screen and is a tri-band GSM/GPRS (GSM 900/1800/1900 MHz) phone but misses support for GSM 850 MHz as well as UMTS WCDMA support.
Unlike announced before - for instance on Microsoft's Windows Mobile 5.0 launch event - the current SGH-i300 devices which will make it to the market soon doesn't features Windows Mobile 5.0 but the older Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition version only!
What's in the Box?
The sales package comes with everything you expect and even more:
- Standard battery
- Extended battery
- Stereo headset with microphone (not on the photo)
- 3.5" jack stereo-adapter with microphone (not on the photo)
- USB to phone/cradle synchronization cable
- USB to cradle synchronization cable
The Smartphone itself is a bi-color (black and silver) device which looks noble and feels good in your hand. It's clear structured and the keypad (black keys with white symbols) is straight and not kittenish. Left and right from the navigation-pad, which also acts as a mechanical wheel (similar to the first generation iPods), you have the typical Windows Mobile Smartphone buttons:
On the top, you have the speaker with LED left and right from it. These LEDs can be used in user-selectable colors for different events like signalizing incoming calls, missed call, new SMS, MMS and E-Mail messages etc. You can assign different colors per event.
On the left and right side of the phone you have many more buttons to launch applications without navigating through the menu. On the right side you have (from top to down) the Quick List button, a dedicated key-lock button (since the normally used hang-up button is the on/off switch also), the camera button which also acts as shutter and the microSD slot (protected with a flap):
On the right side you have (from top to down) the headset adapter (protected with a flap), a button which starts the voice Notes application, a media button which starts Samsung's own media player application and the volume up/down buttons:
On the top of the device you have the infrared port:
On the bottom you have the power and synchronization jack (also protected with a flap):
This connector acts in two ways since it either works as a standard Windows Smartphone connector which lets you synchronize your device via ActiveSync or it works as a USB port which lets you access the memory of the device (every memory, from in-built to microSD to the hard disk) and mounts your device as an external storage space in Windows XP.
On the backside of the device you have the 1.3 megapixel camera with the photo light bellow, left of the camera the mirror for self-portraits which also protects an antenna jack as well as left and right from the camera the stereo speakers:
While de i300 is a little bit bulkier then other Smartphones as well as it is a little bit heavier it's not as bigger as you might expect and if you keep in mind that it includes a 3 GB HDD, stereo speakers and a 1.3 megapixel camera with photo light, it's a more then acceptable size, compared with an i-mate SP3i:
On the other hand, the screen is pretty small (especially because it is a QVGA screen), even smaller than the SP3i screen which makes it - on the other hand - sharper then any Windows Mobile screen I have seen so far.
Together with the standard battery, Samsung also delivers an extended battery which makes sense, if you heavily use the device as your MP3 player and you store all your tracks on your HDD. While it looks like the extended battery has doubled capacity (unfortunately Samsung isn't reveling the mAh of the batteries) it also doubled the size which makes the devices bulkier and less nice looking:
However, Samsung made sure you can also charge the second battery even if it isn't on your Smartphone and therefore the included cradle makes even more sense. Unfortunately you can not charge the second battery while your device is in the cradle:
On the backside of the cradle, you have two ports, one for the charger (or the standard USB cable) and one for the dedicated USB to cradle cable. Unfortunately, the device isn't charging with the standard USB cable, if connected to a PC (which it does if it is connected direct) and therefore it's always a good idea to use the special cradle sync cable plus the charger (while you take the standard USB cable with you since - with a USB charger - it can be used to charge the device from various sources.
What makes me really wonder is the color of the cradle! As good looking the device is, as ugly grey is the cradle which matches - interesting enough - 100 % the color of the cables. Looks like the cradle designer saw the cradle more as part of the cables than as part of the device. Makes sense but makes the cradle an ugly thing on your desk.
Final Conclusion Hardware
Hardware-wise, the Samsung SGH-i300 is a great device. It looks good, feels solid and not cheap, everything is in place and has a little bit more than other Smartphones: a 3GB HDD, a mechanical navigation wheel, more buttons to directly start applications and the option to use it as an external storage device right out of Windows XP. On the other hand, the plugs and the extensions are the problem of the device: instead of using a standard mini USB port, Samsungs is using its own propriety connector; instead of using a standard port for headsets, Samsung is using a propriety connector, instead of using SD or mini SD, Samsung is using microSD (which is - on the other hand way more used in the mobile phone world than SD or miniSD).
Also the screen size is a little bit too small. It super sharp and bright, not the problem at all but it is a little bit too small if you use the Pocket Internet Explorer or other applications with small fonts.
The navigation wheel adds a real benefit to the device since it makes navigation easier and faster, together with the classic method of pressing up, down, left, right. While it's not useful to use it in every application, it's great to scroll through web pages, to scroll though your playlists, etc. The keypad itself works like a charm and I haven't faced any problem with dialing number or using it for navigation. The additional buttons left and right of the device adds another benefit since you have a dedicated button to lock/unlock the keyboard, pressing and holding the Quick List button switches the device into the Flight Mode without selecting it from the Quick List and turns of the Flight Mode again.
Using different blinking LED colors for different events makes it easy to stay up to date if you missed a call or you have received different types of new messages.
The stereo speaker on the backside of the device lets you perfectly listen your music, even without a headset. For sure it's not your Hi-Fi at home but it works great on trips, in hotel rooms and your office. This can seriously replace my Portable Media Center I'm often using for the same (listening music without a headset) while I'm traveling.
Thanks to Samsung for giving all the accessories with the standard sales package. I've often missed cradles with my Smartphones since a cradle gives a convenient storage place on my desk and keeps the device synchronized and charged all the time. Also it's a real benefit to have a second battery, especially if you use the Smartphone as your MP3 player and out of the box, you have enough cables and chargers to connect the device at home and in the office without carrying the cables every morning and evening with you.
For sure, the i300 is a little bit longer, thicker and heavier than other Windows Mobile Smartphones but the value it has makes it worth - hardware-wise. In addition it looks good, solid and not kittenish. Just the hardware makes the device a worth buy but what's about the software and the features? This I will review as next, stay tuned for part 2 of the Samsung SGH-i300 review.
Cheers ~ Arne