Saturday, October 10, 2009

Samsung Instinct HD SPH-M850

It offers a sleeker design, a brighter display, and more features. We are a bit ambivalent about the much-hyped “high-definition” support, but it remains a compelling multimedia phone that does a lot of things well. The HD camera is cool, but we’d pay for real productivity than flashy multimedia.

3 things we like about the Samsung Instinct HD SPH-M850

• Attractive user interface
• Brilliant display
• Photo and video quality are sharp

3 things we don’t like about the Samsung Instinct HD SPH-M850

• Call quality isn’t the sharpest
• Memory card slot is located behind the battery
• Quite expensive

Samsung Instinct HD SPH-M850 Review

The smooth & curve angles give it an appealing shape & we like the simple silver & black color process. What’s more, we welcome the extra heft (4.63 inches by 2.29 inches by 0.5 inch; 4.01 ounces) as it gives the phone a solid & comfortable feel in the hand.

You’ll notice the upgrade immediately; the colors are bright & vibrant & graphics pop right off the screen. Though 3.2 inches is on the cusp of what we consider the maximum size for a touch screen, the Instinct HD’s display is easy on the eyes. You can amend the brightness & the backlight time, but the tiny text size cannot be changed.

Scanning through long lists & using scroll bars was a tad sluggish, but nothing bothersome. You can amend the touch sensitivity & switch between a right- & a left-handed orientation. The vibrating feedback should be helpful for most users; you can change its intensity or deactivate it . The display also has a proximity sensor.

The menu interface is similar to the previous Instinct models. On the top level there’s two menu pages (”Main,” “Fun,” & “My Stuff”) where icons are arranged in a list or tile format according to their themes. The tile design is more visually appealing, but the list design offers more commands for each individual feature. For example, you can see thumbnails of your photos without opening the photo gallery. There is & a fourth page called “Faves” that you can populate with your selected features. For more personalization you can delete menu choices & rearrange them.

The “Web” menu offers choices for the browser, Microsoft Live Search, & various widgets (we’ll list them in the Features section). Games, GPS, & customization options can be found in the “My Stuff” menu, multimedia & social media apps like Facebook & Twitter are in the “Fun” menu, & standard options like messaging & the organizer are in the “Main” menu page. It’s an intuitive arrangement twice you give it a go.

below the display are two touch controls: a Back key, a Home button, & a calling key. The Home button will take you back to the main screen & the calling key opens yet another menu with your phone book, your speed dial list, the recent calls menu, the visual voice mail feature, & the phone dialer. The latter features giant alphanumeric touch controls & the ability to activate the speakerphone & access contacts right on the display.

The Instinct HD offers a full QWERTY keyboard with giant buttons. The vertical keyboard is more spacious than you’d think, but we’d recommend against using it since the keys are not arranged in the standard QWERTY format. You can switch between keyboards by tipping the phone (the Instinct HD has an accelerometer) or by pressing a touch control. You can hide the keyboard to show more of the writing area.

The power control rests on the top of the Instinct HD next to the 3.5mm headset jack (lovely!). On the left spine you’ll find the microSD port for the charger/USB cable, the TV out jack, & a camera shutter. The volume rocker & voice-dialing button are on the left spine. Though you can find the rocker when on a call, we’d prefer it to be a bit larger. The single speaker sits on the rear of the handset below the camera lens, flash, & self-portrait mirror. Though most of the controls in a convenient place on the handset, the memory card slot is inconveniently located behind the battery cover.

The Instinct HD’s 600-contact phone book is tiny, as far as touch-screen handsets go. Each name holds one phone number types, an e-mail address, an instant-message handle, a street address, a URL, & notes. You can organize callers in to groups & pair them with a photo & one of 26 128-note polyphonic ringtones. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text & multimedia messaging, a calendar, a calculator, an alarm clock, a timer, a stopwatch, a world clock, a full duplex speakerphone, & a notepad. Fortunately, the calendar & world clock are not as difficult to use than on the Instinct.

The Instinct HD is not a smartphone, but you’ll find a fair number of features beyond the basics. We were also glad to see that Samsung added Wi-Fi to the Instinct HD.

It quirks, but it works fine for basic communication. If you have set up your work e-mail, you’ll also be to sync your Outlook calendar & contacts. The same is not true for Outlook Notes, however.

The Opera 9.7 browser lets you view Web pages in their full HTML glory, but it will default to a mobile site if one is available. Compared with a normal WAP browser, Opera 9.7 is slick & , but it’s not without its faults. Sure, we get that Opera is trying to make mobile browsing not as difficult to use, but the whole experience gets cluttered & redundant. For example, you can save Web pages as bookmarks & as “Speed Dial” pages.

You’ll get used to it, but it takes some practice to understand how to use the browser intelligently. This is the first time that we had to read the relevant section in the phone’s user manual. The browser does not support Flash Lite or the Opera Turbo feature.

You can zoom in by double tapping the screen, & we like that you can amend the zoom percentage in the Settings menu. Other features on the browser are respectable. You also receive a list of saved pages, but that appears to be another method for saving selected pages.

In addition to the standard camera features, you can record videos in high definition (1,280×720). Since most mobile phone cameras are not worth their weight in plastic, we weren’t sure at first if a mobile phone was the best place for an HD camcorder. After some thought we figured that if Samsung could make it work in a compelling way, then there is no reason the phone should not offer it. We’ll save our firm assessment until we run a thorough test, but as of now it should be a fun & useful tool. It may not compete with the best HD camcorders out there, but it doesn’t have to.

If you need to view the video in high-def, you’ll need to transfer the video to an HD-capable monitor. That is understandable, but we wish that Samsung included the required cable in the box than making it an optional accessory. You’ll receive a 4GB card in the box, but the phone can accommodate cards up to 32GB.

You also can set a self-timer. Videos for multimedia messages are capped at 6MB, which is between 40 seconds & 2 minutes long, depending on the resolution (HD videos cannot be sent over the air). In the normal mode you can record for as long as the available memory permits. The flash is bright; you can pick between an automatic & an “always on” setting.

Photo quality was lovely. Colors were bright, details & faces were sharp, & there was no picture noise. Non-HD video was better than we have seen on lots of camera phones. With photos you also can assign them to a contact or transfer them off the phone by Bluetooth, a memory card, or a USB cable. The photo/clip gallery is intuitive. You can move between shots with a finger swipe or you can play a slideshow.

As the Instinct HD is a 3G device, you can connect to Sprint TV, which includes live & on-demand programming from a wide variety of channels. You also can access the NFL Network & Sprint Movie. In all, it’s an exhaustive selection of programming with much of it exclusive to Sprint. Since you’re using the phone in horizontal mode, the Back button is facing down.

The music player MP3 is relatively similar to that on the previous Instinct phones. You can access the Sprint Music Store for simultaneous downloads both to your PC & wirelessly to your phone. The player interface is nothing fancy. Though you get album art, the features are limited to repeat & shuffle modes, & you cannot use MP3s as ringtones. When a call comes in, the music will pause automatically & will resume again after you hang up.

The Instinct HD also offers a fair number of widgets for MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, & Facebook. We used the latter one & found them to be quick & easy to use. We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Samsung Instinct HD in San Francisco.

Speakerphone calls were fine, but not great. The volume does get loud, but the audio on our finish was grainy. We had to sit close to the phone if we wanted to be heard on the other finish. Bluetooth headset calls were satisfactory, but your experience will vary by headset.

A support (we still cannot understand why the S30 dropped back to Rev. 0). We could even get strong EV-DO service in some buildings & when underground.

Final Words and Conclusion

What is more, we are pleased that the frame size uses the entire display. The quality was also good; there was tiny pixilation and the sound matched the image. Only a couple times did they see some distortion between scenes. As of this writing, our review model is not equipped to purchase songs from the Sprint Music Store. One time they get that activated we’ll document back on the download speed and music quality. The handset also froze for a few seconds on multiple occasions and it took time to back out of media features as well.


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