You want 3G multimedia downloads to arrive faster, or mobile internet surfing to be swifter? Samsung's pace-setting SGH-Z560 has arrived in the UK as the first HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) equipped consumer handset, promising '3G broadband' speeds over four times faster than standard 3G mobiles.
While a sprinkling of Windows Mobile Pocket PC devices and data cards supporting HSDPA have demonstrated the potential for professional users, the Z560 is something different - a mobile that's essentially a stylish flip phone on the outside with 3G supercharging on the inside.
An HSDPA logo on the outside is the only real hint at what lies beneath - and as far as most consumers are concerned, that's probably how it should be. HSDPA is the next speed-hike evolutionary change for mobile technology, initially ramping up download data rates for 3G devices to a potential maximum of 1.8Mbps, compared to 384Kbps max on regular 3G (in practice, though, speeds are initially likely to be between 1Mbps and that headline max figure).
As 3G networks are upgraded, HSDPA and HSUPA (the U is for Uplink, for uploading data) will be cranked up to even faster speeds - 3.6Mbps top speeds are expected to be available on UK mobile networks during 2007, with step ups to 10Mbps and beyond over the next few years.
Like GPRS before it, HSDPA will become standard issue on all new 3G phones before long, but for the moment it's still something worth shouting about.
Thankfully, Samsung hasn't taken the route of clunking up a familiar handset design to bolt on HSDPA. The Z560 bears a strong family resemblance to the Ultra-series slimline D830 clamshell, and its footprint is almost identical. It's only in the depth department that the Z560 expands the dimensions slightly over its stick-thin stablemate. At 98g and measuring around 97(h) x 51(w) x 16(d)mm, this is a very pocketable, RAZR-sized piece of 3G kit.
While HSDPA is always going to be the headline-grabber here, the Z560 is kitted out with a respectable mobile spec. Perched on the front of the clamshell is a 2-megapixel camera with autofocus facility and video recording capability. As is standard for many clamshells, an external display doubles up as a viewfinder for self-portraits while the phone is closed, and providing caller info or track info while the phone's media player is whacking out tunes.
Underlining its music player aspirations, under the front LCD display are three touch-sensitive playback control keys while the player supports MP3, AAC, AAC , eAAC , Real and WMA file formats. Some 30MB of internal memory isn't going to make you chuck the iPod any time soon, but memory expansion via microSD cards is a very worthwhile option.
The menu navigation system is pretty intuitive, with an icon-driven main menu taking you to detailed numbered sub-menu options.
Of course, when you're talking 3G, multimedia becomes a key element - not least for the operators trying to sell their music and video content. The Z560 does a good job with video calling, thanks to a secondary video camera tucked away below the large 262k-colour main display inside the shell.
You get the options of seeing who's calling with yourself picture-in-picture or not, or you can swap the caller's view to your external camera. Usefully, you can also adjust brightness levels and video quality when making faceto- face calls - so the person at the other end doesn't just get a dark blur if light conditions are poor.
This phone's HSDPA spec puts the spotlight though firmly on its downloading, streaming and browsing potential. That's not to forget that it can also be used as a 3G/HSDPA modem when hooked up to a laptop running Samsung's supplied software.
Having a T-Mobile version of the Z560, we had links for T-Mobile's Web'n'walk service already set up, so accessing the mobile internet on this handset is a straightforward experience. Web'n'walk is preconfigured as one of T-Mobile's out-of-the-box softkey options and is also in prime location in the main menu (accessed by pressing the keypad's topcentral OK button in the heart of a four-way navigation pad - very intuitive).
Its Access NetFront browser takes delivers you to T-Mobile's home page, which is helpfully set up with a Google search option perched at the top of a page which has quick links to around 20 popular websites, and a further link to over 100 more popular sites. This will no doubt save countless time tapping in elongated URLs.
The browser is set up to adjust page viewing to suit various site set ups and your tastes. You can opt for a full desktop view or go for a 'Smart-fit' small screen rendering option, running text and images down the page to fit. In addition, the size can be tweaked (large, normal or small) to aid navigation and for viewing text and images.
Unsurprisingly, the boost from HSDPA speeds gives a faster, more satisfying browsing experience - you can flick through pages quickly and don't have to wait for ages for them to load up. Scrolling through web pages is reliably straightforward, although sometimes it can be a touch slow and frustrating clicking up and down more complicated pages.
Where broadband 3G also earns its corn is in cranking up the speed of downloading content, and here the HSDPA technology really shines. To give an example, a 792KB track ( Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis) downloaded from T-Mobile's portal via standard GPRS trundled down in a finger-drumming five and a half minutes; the same size file delivered via regular 3G took around 35 seconds, while 3G with HSDPA sped through in a mere 9 seconds. Now that's fast.
Similarly speedy are video downloads - a typical T-Mobile 290KB video clip offerings took a mere five seconds to download with HSDPA. With that sort of rapid-fire content delivery, mobile users can get almost instant gratification, so impulse buying is bound to increase (operators hope so, at least).
Downloading music or video is only one way of adding to your listening and viewing pleasure. You can copy content easily to the handset via a memory card or directly from a PC through the supplied USB lead. The media player delivers a decent enough quality audio performance through the supplied stereo headset.
Unfortunately you can't opt to improve quality of the plug-in cans as the headphone socket is a Samsung proprietary connector rather than a standard 2.5mm or 3.5mm jack. As it doubles up as a charger socket, you can't top up power while listening to tunes through these. You can, though, pair the Z560 with a set of optional stereo Bluetooth wireless headphones, as it supports the A2DP Bluetooth protocol.
The media player lines up regular MP3 player controls, plus you can use the outer shell touch sensitive pads. You also get a better than average performance through the built in stereo speakers - they give a surprisingly enthusiastic playback - though, as you usually find on mobiles, there is a tendency towards the tinny if you play through these rather the headphones.
As well as video downloads and streaming support, the still image quality the Z560 delivers is particularly good; the 2-megapixel camera doesn't have a flash included and relies on digital compensation for tweaking low-light images, but it does have an effective, fast autofocus built in.
Generally shots taken on the handset were fine quality, with a good colour balance and crisp definition when transferred to a PC screen. You can choose a multi-shot option that captures up to 12 frames in rapid fire for a sequence of images, and a variety of effects - black and white, sepia, negative, solarize and night mode - can be added. You can also adjust white balance and brightness settings. Video capture is 176x144 pixel resolution - average for a mobile cameraphone.
Among the other applications on this device are an email client for receiving and sending mail from your regular POP3/IMAP4 accounts. Samsung has once again included Picsel's excellent document viewer software that allows you to rapidly zoom into or out of and scan across files in a variety of formats, including PDF, Word, Powerpoint and Excel documents plus JPEGs and text files.
Whether you've copied over a file on a card or via USB or had an attachment emailed, one click on the file opens it up automatically, while the volume control on the side of the phone zooms you in and out smoothly.
Usefully (if you travel regularly in one of the cities) Samsung has included a Tube map app for London plus other metro guides for Paris, Milan and Berlin, where you can zoom in and out as above, or tap in station names you're hunting for.
Perhaps less essential is an 'mPet' virtual pet/game application (where you adopt your own 'cyber dog') that can take up your spare time if the couple of preinstalled Java games - skate racing game Power Incline X and sci-fi-robot shoot 'em up The Last Age - aren't compulsive enough for you.
T-Mobile has also set up quick links in the main menu for setting up news, entertainment and info text alerts. You can also record voice notes, there's an extensive organiser - with calendar, schedular, tasks, memo, and so on - a calculator function and a hand convertor package.
Samsung deserves plaudits for packing in high-speed broadband 3G technology into such an attractive and svelte clamshell. This ground breaking model sets the standards for performance-enhanced handsets with its sheer speed advantage complementing a fine set of features and good looks. Its music, video and camera capabilities are all very much what you'd expect of a class handset. Voice calling produces more than acceptable results, with strong signal maintenance and consistently crisp, clear audio at both ends.
Battery power can however be squeezed with all this functionality pumping away in the background. Regular juicing up is necessary if you're going to make use of the multimedia capabilities, browser and camera. Daily powering up could be a necessity if you're really working it. T-Mobile supplies the Z560 with a spare battery pack, which is handy.
As a first for HSDPA consumer handset technology, this phone hits the right notes, with the headline-generating technology boosting the package but taking a backseat to an overall quality performance. As they say, it's performance that counts, and this phone delivers. Charles Cooke