The latest ruggedised mobile from Samsung, the B2700 is designed for outdoors active lifestyles, with toughened plastic bodywork that's water-and dust-resistant to the ICE IP54 standard.
While that doesn't mean protection from heavy-duty damage or total water immersion, it does offer more defence against the elements than the average handset - whether you prefer you're outdoors activities up a mountain or on a beach.
Samsung has certainly beefed up the specification from its earlier, relatively basic, Solid M110 active lifestyle handset. The B2700's features roster is mid-range 3G, with a few outdoorsy features – such as compass, altimeter, pedometer and flashlight – to go with familiar multimedia gadgetry such as music and video players, video calling, and online functionality. Shooting duties are taken care of by a run-of-the-mill 2-megapixel camera on the back panel.
Initially available on 3 in the UK for around £127 on pre-pay, or from free on contracts, it's an affordable way to toughen up your mobile act.
The muscly build of the B2700's casing is part protective sealing, part rugged chic. Measuring 115(h) x 52(w) x 18(d) mm, and weighing 115g, it's hefty for a regular candybar phone but is pocketable and feels comfortable in-hand. The moulded rubber-feel casing is grooved for solid wet-weather holding and no-nonsense, solid button pressing. As well as side keys for camera and volume, there's a dedicated button for activating the flashlight – a powerful lamp built into the top edge of the phone.
A spoiler-alike loop is moulded into the top, too, which can be used with a supplied plastic snap-hook for fastening the phone to your clothing or other gear. Our review sample came in sober black with grey edging, though versions with red edging or blue with black trim are also made.
The number pad and D-pad navigation should be satisfactorily usable in the cold or wet, with the amply sized keys adequately defined for a one-piece panel. It's finger-friendly enough for pacey texting – unless you're an outdoors type who insists on gloves.
The D-pad is prominent enough for easy clickability, and various shortcuts are pre-defined and easily user swappable for a host more. On the 3 optimised version we tested, the regular standby softkey options are re-designated for Favourites (access to numerous online services and social network sites) and Planet 3 content and services.
Samsung hasn't gone overboard with the display; it's a modest 1.9-inch, 262k-colour 176x220 pixels resolution screen. This takes care of business for the standard-issue Samsung menu navigation system employed here, a fairly straightforward set-up with an initial grid-based main menu spreading into a familiar variety of sub menu lists.
Above the display is the phone's secondary front-facing camera, principally for video calling. The main shooter is on the back panel, without any cover to protect it.
While the B2700 is more robust and resilient to weather than most mobiles, it's designed to be water-resistant rather than fully waterproof. Still, we were able to submerge the phone briefly in water several times with no problems (though we'd advise against this in normal use, just in case).
Similarly, it passed the shower test, and just to test that tough-guy bodywork, we gave it a few short drops with no visible damage. It's not built to be smash-proof, so we didn't batter it as we would a hardcore industrial phone like the Sonim JCB phone.
The camera is an ordinary 2-megapixel shooter that puts in an unexceptional performance. It's fired up by a dedicated side camera button, but by default it shoots in portrait mode rather than rotating to a landscape viewfinder. Full screen shooting means you'll miss what's being shot at the edges – so you get more in your pics than expected. You can choose a full picture 'standard ratio view' option, but that shows you the viewfinder image squashed into a letterbox view. It's not particularly satisfactory.
There's no autofocus or flash, and the settings adjustments are the usual array of phone standard options - white balance, colour effects, multi-shot options and so on. The phone produces limited results, lacking in finer detail but adequate for basic casual camera phone snapping. In decent light conditions, colour rendition looks pretty good. In low light indoors, image quality deteriorates significantly, looking soft and grainy, and with no flash you can forget about shooting in the dark.
Don't expect much from video capture either; the B2700 shoots at 176x144 pixels resolution, producing low quality footage at 15 frames per second.
The B2700 does up its game for music playback however. Its music player supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, and WMA file formats, and users can download tracks speedily over the air from suitable mobile network services, or copy over to the phone from a PC. Bluetooth transfer is also supported.
Only 26MB of user memory is onboard, however, so if you want to load up with tunes, you'll need to use a MicroSD memory card. Samsung doesn't supply one with this phone, but cards up to 8GB can be used, slotting in under the battery pack, inside the water-sealed back cover rather than in a side slot.
The player software is typical Samsung fare, with a familiar roster of categories in simple lists, and a straightforward user interface. A pair of regular Samsung earphones are supplied, which are reasonably good at producing clear sound with enough detail. This normal in-ear pair may not be ideal for more active users; we'd have liked something that could hook on our ears for those more adventurous moments.
There's no standard 3.5mm headphone socket for replacing Samsung's with your own, just an ordinary multi-connector side socket. Still, out-of-the-box sound quality is OK, with some nice bass in there. An FM radio is another welcome feature.
A handful of active lifestyle features are included for outdoors types – an accurate compass that can be re-calibrated by movement, a pedometer, which gives a rough but not spot-on measure of steps taken and calories burned; and an altimeter, which didn't appear to work too well accuracy-wise.
Google Maps is supported on 3's optimised version of the phone, as well as the standard issue Google search and mail apps. The onboard browser delivers a typical 3G web browsing experience for this class of handset – solid and reasonably fast at rendering and getting around pages, but not particularly slick. The low res screen doesn't help either.
The phone does have an RSS reader app for viewing regular updates from blogs and websites. There's also a decent supply of regular standard organiser features, including a calendar, memo and tasks functions, calculator, world clock, convertor, alarms, stopwatch and timer. Naturally, email is supported too, with a document viewer for files received as attachments or otherwise copied over to the phone. A selection of games and/or trial games are pre-loaded, depending on the version you get.
Outdoors active users will be pleased with the B2700's battery life and voice call performance. The phone basics deliver reliable and good quality calling, while Samsung's figures for optimum battery life are up to 480 hours of standby time or 640 minutes of talktime between charges. We got a good three days-plus with our average usage.
The B2700 isn't in the same category as the few industrial-strength bruisers of the mobile world that are armour-heavy but feature-light. It may not be the most high-spec of 3G handsets, but this active lifestyle phone will cope well for work, rest and hard play, with some decent mid-level features inside to keep you entertained. If you're looking for something affordable that'll survive the great outdoors intact, this could be well worth exploring.
Looks - 7
Ease of use - 8
Features - 6
Call quality - 9
Value - 8
Network availablily: 3, others TBC