Samsung U700 review: Ultra fit

Jiř Kuruc, 21 July 2007. Read the original review at MobilMania.cz
Pages: 1234

Brilliant QVGA display, HSDPA, 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus, memory card and many other functions in a fashionably slim shape.

Key features

  • sleek looks and high quality body construction
  • touch-sensitive keys beneath the display
  • Up to 3.6 Mbits/sec download speed over UMTS + HSDPA
  • scroll navigation
  • camera with 3.2 megapixel resolution and autofocus
  • QVGA display
  • microSD memory cards
  • seamless synchronization with Outlook and Outlook Express
  • good software for PC

Main disadvantages

  • the glossy surface of the display reduces legibility
  • records video in the inadequate QCIF (176 x 144 pixels) resolution only
  • no FM radio
  • no call filtering
  • a single black, non user-configurable theme in the main menu

Samsung U700, a.k.a Samsung Ultra 12.1, is one of the four slim models in the Ultra Edition II Series. The number indication 12.1 refers to the body thickness in millimeters. The U700 model is the slimmest slider ever to support high-speed data transfers over HSDPA.

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Samsung U700 or Ultra 12.1

Before we start our review, one fact cannot go unmentioned: Samsung altered the original design of Samsung U700 at some point between the official announcement and the actual market launch - an unusual move, indeed. The phone we explored at this year's 3GSM congress had a dark-colored body and a completely different keypad. Ultimately, the overall design of the body remained untouched, but black became silver, the keypad went completely the other way, and the display was covered with shiny glass.

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The initial design, presented at 3GSM 2007

Tempting splendor

One should be careful labeling the Samsung U700 a fashion phone, given its rich functionality and remarkable options. Yet, as it usually happens, its design will be the first thing to grab the attention. The model we tested proved a real eye-catcher wherever we went. If you think the pictures in this review manage to convey the beauty of the Samsung U700, be warned that in reality, the phone looks even better.

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Samsung U700 looks spectacular even though it's all made of plastic

Samsung U700 owes its smart and elegant looks to a combination of a number of important elements: sliding construction, slim and solid body and glossy finish. In addition, to follow suit with the design features of the phone's front panel, Samsung has replaced the standard mechanical buttons with touch-sensitive keys.

But let us now stop singing praises of the new Samsung beauty and put it to our keen and ruthless scrutiny. Samsung U700 looks great and feels solid and comfortable to handle. The constructional work is worth the highest praise. The sliding mechanism works reliably; no creaky sounds can be heard. When the phone is opened, its both parts hold together as if they are a monolith piece. When closed, however, it does show an insignificant unsteadiness.

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The body of the phone with the sliding mechanism demonstrate perfect constructional work

To slide the phone open you'll only need to push halfway; the rest is taken care of by a spring mechanism. There is no jut to push and slide; instead, your finger inevitably slides down the area of the round navigation key leaving unpleasant prints. By the way, fingerprints will always cause a grumble. The front plate is made of glossy mirror-like material, which elegantly encloses the navigation key to reach the top of the phone. The sides look polished chromium. The only matt area is the dark silver back plate.

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Loudspeaker and video-call camera at the top of the mirror-like plate

Samsung chose to use plastic materials but managed to achieve exclusivity in the stylish design. The main shortfall, as in all other glossy-surfaced phones, is the inevitable fingerprints.

Scroll of the ring

The most attractive part of Samsung U700, when closed, is the round navigation key beneath the display. There's both an aesthetic and practical function behind the choice of shape. The navigation key can be scrolled both ways notably easing the browsing of phonebook, messages or Internet websites. There's a four-directional press too. The center of the navigation key confirms selected options; when pressed, it gently sinks beneath the ring level.

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The four-way navigation key with a confirming center can even be scrolled both ways

A surprise lies in stock for the unsuspecting user. On the sides of the navigation key, the essential red and green receivers are placed. Yet, Samsung, inspired by the recent boom of touch-sensitive keys, has hidden no less than four keys under the hood. These are marked by pictograms of video call, application switch plus two context keys and appear illuminated in white as soon as the keypad is unlocked (to unlock the keypad use the center key). "Application switch" is kind of misleading, though. Samsung U700 does not feature real multitasking and the key can only switch to only three available applications - Calls, Messages, and Internet.

It takes longer to get accustomed to the touch-sensitive keys. Successful "presses" are acknowledged by a twinkle of the backlight of the respective key. The touch-sensitive keys react to the touch of fingers, as skin is a perfect electricity conductor. A key will not respond to the touch of a rubber, for example. The keys are automatically locked during a call, to prevent the user from unintentionally hanging up by simply touching the phone panel with a cheek.

Samsung U700 offers a secondary camera for video calls. The lens is located above the display. Right next to it is the curved etching of the loudspeaker. The top side of the phone only holds the switch on/off button.

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Switch on/off button audio input for the microphone

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