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Samsung F210 review

Stick thin but some meaty memory for music

Our Verdict

A handbag-friendly number that will turn heads with a decent performance to boot

For

  • 1GB onboard memory

    Excellent call quality

    Innovative design

Against

  • Small screen

    Sluggish scroll wheel

    Poor camera

There's always room for a phone that's a bit quirky, offering something a bit different, and the swivel-screen F210 is bound to attract plenty of attention.

And not just because our test model came in this season's Quality Street-wrapper pink (it's available in a variety of colours - including purple and blue - depending on the operator you buy it from).

One look and it's clear that Samsung's latest foray into fashionista territory is essentially a follow-up to the Samsung SGH-X830 (aka the Blush), with added musical va va voom to win over a new audience. It's easy to guess from its colourful casings whose pockets - or rather handbags - this phone is primarily aimed at...

The tall, slim styling and swivel screen of its predecessor remains, but joining the party is a generous 1GB of onboard storage, MicroSD card support and a decent lanyard-style headset. Build quality is excellent, while its solid metallic feel and elongated dimensions make it difficult to put down.

Push the screen to the left and it swivels open eagerly, revealing a keypad that's surprisingly well spaced given real estate is at a premium.

Samsung has obviously learnt that cheap and nasty keys make for a cheap and nasty phone, so the buttons on the F210 maintain the metallic swagger of the rest of the handset - even texting isn't the headache it would first appear.

Tiny screen

Unfortunately one thing that will probably be an issue is the size of the screen. At a time when big screens are in vogue, Samsung's decision to go with the opposite will certainly help the F210 stand out from the crowd, but in use things don't look so rosy.

The menu has been adapted slightly to meet the needs of the slimmed-down screen, and initially things don't seem to bad when opting for the block view.

Get down to the nitty gritty of the sub-menus, though, and it's like watching Sky Sports' videprinter scrolling past. All this would be a minor gripe, were it not compounded by the sluggish thumb wheel used to navigate the menu lists.

True, you could just press the up and down sections of the wheel, but the iPod generation will feel put out if their thumbs don't get the requisite exercise. It's fair to say that most areas of the phone are compromised slightly by the miniscule screen, but on the whole the F210 copes better than we thought it would.

Contacts are perfectly legible and not subject to scrolling, although good eyesight is required, and even texting isn't too much of a problem. WAP is pretty much a non-starter, though, and pages just don't translate well to the long narrow display.

With no 3G, this is even more of a problem. Samsung has attempted to improve things by including the option to navigate pages via the Page Pilot, which shows a series of - even smaller - thumbnails, and offering the ability to rescale your pages into Large, Normal and Small page sizes.

It's a nice try, but unless you're desperate to know the football scores we wouldn't bother. One area where screen size is immaterial is the handset's music playing credentials. The interface itself is fairly basic, but it does the essentials and is easy to operate.

For such a small phone, the F210's got a whopping memory as well - 1GB onboard, to be exact, and room for a further 2GB with the addition of a MicroSD card (you'll have to buy that as an extra, though).

Tracks can be added and managed using the bundled Samsung PC Suite, transferred by Bluetooth, loaded onto a memory card or downloaded with WAP. If you use Windows Media Player on your PC, you can also sync with this via the supplied USB data cable.

Listening options are also varied, and Samsung has once again proved its calibre in pushing traditional design boundaries by including a clip-on lanyard that acts as an extension to the bottom of the handset. It's an interesting idea, and if you're the active type it's great, but we fear that the necessity to remove the bottom cap to attach it will eventually result in the loss of one part or other.

It's definitely worth experimenting with, though, as the audio quality is pretty good. For those who can't be doing with the faffing around, you can always use the bundled 3.5mm adaptor cable to hook up your own set of headphones, or make use of the A2DP support to pair a wireless stereo Bluetooth set.

The other in-demand multimedia app of the moment is, of course, the camera. Again, with such a small screen this function was never going to be high on the list of selling points for the F210 - but nevertheless it's there in all its 2-megapixel glory.

Well, we say glory, but in this case it's just making up the numbers - as is the video app. Images lack sharpness, and the camera struggles with contrast; dark colours are under-exposed, while light areas are on the murky side.

Fun snapper

Still, we've seen worse and it's perfectly adequate as a fun snapper. Minor quirks aside, where it really counts the F210 comes good. Call quality is nothing short of excellent, and the odd shape doesn't feel so odd in use.

The handset also does well to maintain good signal strength even in poor areas of reception, and likewise the battery puts in a sterling performance for such a little fella.

Of course, this phone is going to sell more on looks than usability, so potential buyers are unlikely to be perturbed by the foibles of the screen. In that respect, by concentrating on performance and style Samsung has got it spot on.

Throwing in the carrot of a half-way decent music collection is just the icing on the cake. If you can get over its fiddliness, the F210 is definitely one of the classier fashion handsets on circuit.

Looks 8

Ease of use 6

Features 7

Call quality 9

Value 8

NETWORK AVAILABILITY (for Cinergy):

Orange, O2, Vodafone, T-Mobile, Virgin, Mobile