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Samsung SGH-D900 Ultra Edition 12.9
The Samsung SGH-D900 is the third in the Ultra Edition series of phones which has the 6.9 (X820), 9.9 (D830) and this 12.9 (D900). Those numbers represent the thinness, so this actually makes the D900 the thickest in the Ultra Edition series. But fear not—this is still the slimmest phone once you take a look at the features!
Basics and Ergonomics
Getting the basics out of the way, the D900 is a quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE handset. There’s no 3G or HSCSD, which can be a negative given the price of the phone, but there’s still a long time before India warms up to that technology, so you won’t be missing out on anything.
The D900 is, as mentioned before, 12.9mm or 1.29cm thin. This makes it slimmer than the RAZR’s 1.39cm. It’s almost as wide as the RAZR and just a wee bit longer, but overall more compact. Since you don’t need to slide open the phone to make or receive a call (if you don’t dial), the phone is smaller.
The display is a bright QVGA (320x240) TFT showing off 262k colors. The display is sharp and vibrant, but in sunlight however, it goes a bit dull.
The keypad is has pretty large keys that are comfortable to use, but the lowest row (*, 0, #) is not, since its got a thick wall-like rim right below it. So, while you can use the rest of the keys with the center of your thumb, you’ll need to use your thumb-tip for the lowest row keys. On the top, the soft keys and call/end keys are very spacious, very comfortable, but the ‘C’ key has the same problem as the D820—it’s a very narrow strip that again requires thumb-tipping. The five-way navigation pad is roomy, but the down key will need a little care because the 'C' key is right under it.
The menu system called 'uMenu' in the D900 is slightly upgraded from earlier Samsung models. The main menu items pop up a small sub-menu, which can be activated by clicking the right key. While this is an effort to save one step of actually opening an item to see the menu inside it, it actually comes in the way of browsing the main menu itself, since the sub-menu is displayed on top of the other items. The main menu display style can be switched from the standard list to icons, but there seems to be no way of turning off the sub-menus. This pop-up sub-menu style is carried beyond the first level, so if you open the first item (instead of using the sub-menu), you’ll get a sub-sub-menu pop-up.
There are a number of shortcuts available in the D900 UI. Hitting the up key in stand-by mode pops up a small 'My Menu', which has five configurable shortcuts that you can choose from, instead of going via the main menu. Strangely, even though the icons have numbers from one to give displayed above them, you can’t just key in a number to activate a shortcut. You need to use the left/right keys to browse the row and select one. Numeric access would make the 'My Menu' a lot more convenient. 'My Menu' can be assigned to any of the four direction keys.
The other method is 'Advanced Shortcuts' that are accessible once you key in any number, taking you to the dialing screen. The four navigation keys can instantly take the typed number and open an SMS, set an alarm (i.e. 0240 for 2:40), convert currency and add a scheduler item. In addition to this, the navigation keys each have their own assigned shortcuts when clicked from the stand-by screen. That’s twelve shortcuts at your disposal!
The Ultra Edition phones have a new ‘vivid’ message display which takes certain words such as 'car' and 'home' and shows animated icons in place of those. This is purely a gimmick and it’s not something you’d keep enabled for too long. The messages get drawn letter by letter, much slower than a 10 year old can read, so it’s best left disabled.
In previous Samsung phones, you could either have wallpapers or a dedicated calendar wallpaper for those totally dependent on their day planners. In the new UI, the calendar can be overlaid on any chosen wallpaper, giving you the best of both the worlds. There is one feature missing here—the ability to zoom into portions of a big images and set those as wallpapers instead of the whole image, which is available in the Ultra Edition 6.9 X820.
Another new feature of the UI is the 'Living World' theme that shows you an animated wallpaper depending on your location. Since we're in India, we get a wallpaper with the Taj Mahal and a sunny sky or night sky depending on the time. You can see birds flying in the sky and comets at night. If you have a missed call, you'll see an airplane flying by during the day, and fireworks at night. Even the sky will appear either cloudy or clear, depending on your network signal strength! The location of the wallpaper is taken from your network, so you can’t just change your time zone and expect the Arc de Triomph (Paris) or the house of parliaments (London) to show up, you'll actually have to travel out of the country to get a local wallpaper. This sounds like a negative point, but it's actually what makes this feature so dynamic. One certain downside to using the ‘Living World’ theme is that the 'Advanced Shortcuts' (when you key in a number) get disabled. Unlike the 'vivid' message display feature, 'Living World' offers something more usable, apart from being fun.
During the day
During the night
The phone book lets you search by first name and/or last name, so you can type 'A' and 'G', and it will show you results that include 'Aalaap Ghag'. This sounds useful, but it always puts the second letter you type into the last name box, so if you usually type the first two letters of a first name to find a contact, i.e. 'GA' for 'Gagan', now you’ll have to type three (i.e. 'GAG'). I think it would have been more convenient if you’d have to press the right key to go to the last name box and then enter a few characters of that.
The D900 has a 3.15-megapixel digital camera, complete with auto-focus and timed shot features. It comes with the usual settings for exposure metering, white balance, brightness, digital zoom and effects (such as sepia, emboss and fancy frames). The quality of the pictures in daylight is very good, but it obviously doesn’t come close to a standard 3-megapixel camera. When phone cameras were still circling around one and two megapixels, this was acceptable, but when we’re talking about three whole megapixels and a price tag that almost touches a great quality 8-megapixel Pentax camera, this comparison needs to be made.
Auto-focus works good as long as the lighting is good. Even low-light pictures come out quite good, but there seemed to be a focusing problem. There’s a short one second delay when the focusing takes place, which can make you miss a fleeting moment. If you set it to 'pan focus', which is essentially turning off auto-focus, it behaves like a regular phone camera. It still captures a few frames ahead of what the preview shows you when you lock on, but we’ve all gotten used to this.
Video recording is also possible, with email/MMS resolutions (120x96, 176x144) or standard VCD-quality (320x240, 352x288). The length is only limited by the memory.
The music player remains the same, although it now lets you fast forward and rewind tracks unlike some of the earlier Samsung models. You can have up to four playlists and all of them can be loaded at the same time. The music player can be sent to the background so you can continue using the phone while the music plays in the back. The music player supports MP3/AAC files, which can also be set as ringtones.
This is more of a multimedia phone than a business phone, but still you have the Picsel Viewer in the D900 that lets you open Microsoft Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations and also PDF files. Even large files are handled fine by the phone, only taking a couple of seconds longer. Longer documents can be scrolled and the text can also be searched for.
The phone comes with around 60MB of internal memory and there’s a microSD/TransFlash expansion slot to add more. Memory Status shows you details about the memory usage, including all smaller applications such as Calendar and Memo and even the Java applications. This makes it easier to find out what section of the phone is taking up memory if you’re running out of it.
Connectivity and Applications
The D900 comes with Bluetooth 2.0 along with stereo A2DP for use with wireless headphones. One interesting improvement in the Bluetooth feature is the ability to select multiple files from a folder and send them all at one go. This saves a lot of time and effort.
There is USB support as well, but it’s limited to 1.1, so transfers are extremely slow. In USB mode, you can choose between regular mass storage, for drag and drop, PictBridge, for printing directly to compatible printers, and modem, for using the GPRS/EDGE modem in the phone. Speaking of which, the phone comes with a WAP/XHTML internet browser as well.
The phone supports TV output and you can choose between PAL and NTSC.
The battery is expected to last around 250 hours in stand-by or 3 hours 30 minutes while talking. With regular usage, the phone lasted me around three days, including basic camera usage and a little music playback. Without using the camera or playing music, you can probably get another day’s worth, but then why would you want to spend so much money on a phone with a 3.15-megapixel camera!
The Samsung Ultra Edition 12.9 D900 costs around Rs. 23,000, which is a little steep, but we’re talking about a phone with a nice large QVGA display, a good quality 3.15-megapixel digital camera, fast Bluetooth 2.0 including stereo A2DP, an office document viewer, the interesting 'Living World' theme and of course, the 12.9mm thinness. The slim profile alone deserves the extra premium, but the D900 does have minor UI and ergonomic quirks, slow USB 1.1, and no 3G. Given these issues, I would wait it out for the price to drop to at least 18k before I can hold the D900 up and say 'This is value for money.'