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Samsung SGH-X820 review

The world's slimmest handset is skinnier than a supermodel

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Our Verdict

A wonderful all-round phone with an abundance of features. Let down by un-expandable memory

For

  • Strikingly thin design

    Tough construction

    2-megapixel camera

Against

  • Memory not expandable

    No camera flash

    Front view rather plain

Samsung's new Ultra series handsets test the limits of design by being so thin you might even forget you're carrying one! With clamshell, slider and candybar styles available, there's something to suit everyone.

With a depth of a mere 6.9mm, the astonishingly thin Ultra Edition 6.9 (or X820) steals the honours in the world's thinnest phone contest from Motorola's now ubiquitous RAZR and SLVR, but Samsung hasn't skimped on features or build quality.

The company has used Smart Surface Mounting Technology (SSMT) to reduce the number of components necessary within the handset and to reduce the noise between them; basically meaning they can pack a heck of a lot into a tiny space.

According to the company's philosophy, the Ultra series' aim is to 'embody the perfect combination of comfort, simplicity and sophistication'. It looks the part, but let's see how well it lives up to such a bold statement.

Features

Front on, the design of the X820 isn't the type to set pulses racing. It has a pretty straightforward look in black that only really gets heads turning when it's seen from the side (though there is very little of the phone to see from the side, it's that thin!).

The front houses a 1.9 inch, 176x220 pixel TFT display capable of showing 262,114 colours. It is good quality, with images and video both looking clear and crisp. Keypads on such slim phones often let the side down by being impractical to use, but the X820 has comparatively large navigation keys and sensibly spaced numeric ones, thanks perhaps to its extra width (it has a few more millimetres than an average handset).

Not only does its wider body and bevelled surface make it a tactile phone to hold, but it also facilitates comfortable texting.

External details are few, with just a volume key on the left and the camera quick-launch button and headphone socket on the right. The 2-megapixel camera lens is built into the back of the X820's slightly raised top section and is covered to protect it from damage. The handset is made from fibreglass-infused plastic to make it extra durable as well as extremely light (it weighs just 66g).

The inside of the X820 is packed with all the features we expect of a top quality handset and has EDGE capability as well as being tri-band. This may not affect UK-centric users much, but it could have an impact if you need to access Wap services abroad, since it will increase 2.5G surfing speeds to something more like 3G.

Before moving on to essentials like the camera and music player, it's worth mentioning that this handset packs a hefty 80MB internal memory to store your files. You can't expand this though (there's no memory card slot) so if you intend to save lots of pictures or music you should use less memory-hungry formats and settings.

The 2-megapixel camera can function in still and video recording modes with a choice of quality and size settings. In stills mode, image size ranges from a maximum of 1600x1200 down to 220x176 pixel resolution and you have three shooting options: single shot, multi-shot and mosaic shot.

Various picture effects and frames are on offer to experiment with, along with a timer, viewfinder settings, brightness and zoom controls, white balance settings and a night mode (there is no flash).

For video recording many of the options are the same as for still images, including normal, fine and superfine quality settings, but there are only two recording modes: normal (352x288) and limit for MMS (176x144). The quality of both still and recorded images is impressive.

Colours are reproduced well in both too but if shooting video in an environment with changing light conditions the exposure can be a bit lively until it can readjust.

The music player facility is housed within the applications sub-menu but it can also be called up by going to 'my files' and selecting music tracks. The functionality is generally good, with the ability to add tracks and select albums, while shuffle, repeat and override playback options are included along with a four-preset graphic equaliser.

Audio tracks will need to be listed on an album playlist in order to access them directly from the music player app. If not, you can only access them through the 'my files' music menu. Files supported include MP3, AAC, AAC and WMA.

Sound quality via the onboard speaker is OK and with volume being on a 14-point scale it can go really quite loud. The Digital Power Amp gives it an edge in quality over previous Samsung models but the treble detail can still be harsh.

Plug in the supplied headphones however and the sound becomes more balanced and richer in tone, giving any decent standalone MP3 player a run for its money. The only potential problem is stacking up the memory - the 80MB will give you only about 25-30 tracks worth of average MP3 files.

Another useful application included along with the music player is a document viewer which allows you to view email attachments or other documents in a variety of formats (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, PDFs and text files) and pan or zoom to scale them up.

Also lined up are a calendar with appointments/written memos, a voice recorder, world clock, alarm, converter, stopwatch and calculator. Only two Java games come with the X820: the excellent Bobby Carrot plus Freekick Fiesta. Extra games can be downloaded using the Wap browser, which can store bookmarks and saved pages for convenience.

Messaging options include the usual SMS and MMS, plus email for up to fi ve POP3/IMAP4 accounts. Templates are available for SMS/MMS and in terms of storage there is space for 200 text messages and 3072KB each of MMS and email in addition to the capacity of your SIM. The phonebook can store up to 1000 entries, and each record can hold multiple details for each person.

Last but not least is connectivity, and Samsung has provided Bluetooth plus a TV output should you wish to hook the phone up to a TV via a proprietary cable to view videos and pictures in the handset's memory.

Performance

In our tests the battery gave us 93 hours standby with 40 minutes of voice calls and time spent playing with all of the phones features, particularly the camera and music player. Speech quality on calls both made and received was excellent with no interference or loss of signal. The phone also had no problem finding a signal and held on well in known areas of poor reception.

All round, the X820 is an excellent performer and it is remarkable how Samsung has managed to cram so much into such a slender frame. The company has already announced a range of super-thin 3G Ultra phones for release shortly - and given the way the X820 lives up to its billing so impressively, we're looking forward to seeing more of them.

Super slim: At a waif-thin 6.9mm the X820 grabs the title of the world's slimmest mobile phone

Camera: Despite its ultra-thin dimensions, Samsung still manages to squeeze in a 2-megapixel camera on the back

Keypad: Nothing too tiny about the key arrangements - they're comfortable to use and easy to get around

Display: A decent sized display gives a good rendition of content you shoot or copy over to the phone