Samsung Ace Review

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Introduction and Design
This is a CDMA phone offered from Sprint.
Introduction:
The Samsung Ace is a dual mode CDMA/GSM Smartphone that replaces the IP-830 for Sprint.  It has unlocked SIM slot for usage in any 900/1800 MHz GSM/GPRS network overseas and utilizes CDMA EV-DO domestically.

Unlike the IP-830, Ace runs Windows Mobile 6 Standard (Smartphone) and doesn’t have touch-sensitive display. It is very similar to the BlackJack (AT&T) and features a full QWERTY keyboard in a slim profile, but includes slight changes in the design. Included in the box you will find:

  • Lithium Ion battery
  • AC adaptor
  • 2-prong Euro and 3-prong UK plug adaptor
  • Sprint SIM card
  • Stereo headphones
  • USB sync cable
  • Software CD and user manual


Design:

The Ace relies heavily on the design cues of the original BlackJack. The dimensions are nearly identical, with the Ace being slightly taller.


You can compare the Samsung Ace to many other phones, using PhoneArena's Visual Size Compare tool.

The phone has a slight V-shape to it, and is narrower than the Motorola Q family. This makes for a better in hand feel, especially for those with smaller hands, but also means that the keypad is more cramped.


The keys themselves are odd shaped; they are a three dimensional V, with the top and bottom slanting outwards to meet at a point in the middle. They are narrow and tightly packed, making typing more difficult than it needs to be. The V-shape means that your fingers naturally rest between the rows, as opposed to on the keys, which makes typing harder than it needs to be. It would be much easier to type if the Ace had retained the oval keys found on the BlackJack.

Above the keypad is the cluster of navigational and control keys. In the middle is the square, chrome trimmed 5 way directional pad. On either side of the d-pad are two keys each; to the left is the left Soft Key, with Home below it, and to the right is the right Soft Key on top of Back. These two sets are slightly concave, and have a chrome separator bar inbetween. On the far left and right are the Send and End keys, respectively. These are not concave, and this subtle design difference makes blind navigation of key group easy.

The 2.3” landscape display sits atop the face, and like most WM Smartphones is 320x240 pixels and 65k colors. Samsung typically has excellent display panels, and this one is no exception. Despite nearly identical specs to the Motorola Q9c screen (the Q is 2.4”,) the display on the Ace is noticeably crisper and brighter. It can be easily read even in direct sunlight and has an admirably wide viewing angle.

On the left side of the Ace is the volume rocker, at the very top, and the proprietary charging/headset port just below. On the right the microSD slot sits at the top. Below that is a jog wheel that can be pressed to select a highlighted object, with a back key just below it. The power button is on the top of the phone along with a lanyard loop, the bottom is empty.


The back of the phone features the 1.3 megapixel camera, prominently displayed at the top. It is flanked by a self-shot mirror to the left and the single speaker to the right. This cluster sits on a raised hump. Below is simply the battery door, which hides both the battery and SIM card.

Samsung has always prided themselves on design, and in general we like the Ace. The fit and finish are impeccable as always, and the phone has a good weight and in-hand feel. However, we were underwhelmed by the keypad design and the camera hump on the back isn’t our favorite feature. We always appreciate smaller design, but in this case Samsung probably have gone with a SureType-style keypad given the narrowness of the device. It’s not that the keypad is impossible to type on, it’s just not as easy as it should be.


Samsung Ace Video Review:



Samsung Ace 360 Degrees View




Interface:

Since it does not have a touchscreen, the Ace runs Windows Mobile 6 Standard edition. It is similar devices we have reviewed in the past, such as the HTC Vox and Motorola Q9h/m/c, but there are some unique twists to the Ace

The default home screen shows system information, shortcuts for recently used applications and other information, such as upcoming calendar appointments. There are several default home screens preloaded on the Ace, but since they are relatively easy to write the possibilities for personalization are almost endless.

The Start Menu can be viewed in either a list or grid view. In grid view there can be as many as 8 icons (4x2) on the screen at any time, but there are several pages. List view offers 7 icons on screen at any time, again with multiple pages. List view also numbers the menu choices so that the dialpad can be used to make a selection. Advanced users can reorder and consolidate the menu by modifying the Windows/Start Menu folder, just as they would on their PC.

Phonebook:

Searching and dialing a number from the phonebook has never been easier. From the home screen you can begin typing the name (either first or last) and it will begin to match with your contact list. If you begin typing a number it will also match with your contact list, displaying the matching names as well. You can also search within the contact application as well, but only by name and not by number.

Adding a contact is easy as well. Simply select a number from the call history, or type the number in with the dialpad and press save. You can add it as a new contact, or as an additional number for an existing one. There is room for ten numbers per contact, and you can also add three emails, three IM names and other info, such as the contact’s company, address, anniversary and birthday. If that is not enough fields you can always add a note with any other information. The size of the phonebook is limited only by available memory on the device.

Organizer and PIM:

Samsung has made a logical move and consolidated all of the PIM options into the Organizer folder. Here you will find Alarms, Calendar, Notepad, Tasks, Voice Notes and World Clock.

The calendar is full featured, as you would find with any Windows Mobile phone. Like the phonebook, the number of appointments it can hold is limited only by memory, and is for all intents and purposes limitless. The appointments options are plentiful; you can add Location, Attendees and Notes as well as set reminders at different intervals and set the appointment to recur every day of the week, every day of the month or every specific date. You can also set your status to be Free, Busy or Tentative. This allows you to add items such as birthdays and anniversaries as all day events, and by setting the status to Free it does not conflict with other appointments on that day.

The calendar can be viewed by day, week or month. You can choose the starting day for the week as well as the duration (5, 6 or 7 day week). At the top of the daily view is a small time bar which allows you to easily see your free time at a glance. This is one of the new things of WM6 compared to WM5.

The Tasks menu allows you to create to-do items. For a given task you can set subject, priority (normal, low, high), start/due date, reminder, category (business, holiday, personal, seasonal) and note. Like calendar appointments, a task can be set to recur, and you can also assign a sensitivity level to them (normal, personal, private, confidential.) The list view allows you to easily see which ones are finished and which are not. Tasks can be sorted by status, priority, subject, start date, due date or filtered by all, recent, no categories, active, completed.

The remaining items, Notepad, Voice Notes and World Clock , do exactly what you would expect them to and nothing more. Notepad is not the same as the Notes section you will find in Outlook, and the two do not synchronize.

File Explorer is the mobile version of Windows Explorer and allows you to explore the content of the phone and storage card memory. By changing the options the user is even given access to the system folders and files.

The Accessories folder contains some other useful tools, such as Calculator, Smart Converter and Tip Calculator. The calculator is a simple calculator with no advanced functions, and the tip calculator allows you to not only calculate the tip based off of bill percentage, but also allows you to split the bill between a user-definable number of people. In this folder you will also find some important items such as Speed Dial and Task Manager.


Messaging:

Like other Windows Mobile phones, both email and text messages are in a common Messaging menu. The QWERTY keypad is used to input any text, but Windows Mobile will attempt to predict what you are typing. This comes in handy for longer words, but can also be an annoyance at times. For instance, when typing a web address it tries to finish off .com, thinking you are trying to type a bigger word, such as “compared” or “complete,” and the only way to ignore the suggestion is to add an unneeded space or wait 2-3 seconds, if you try to scroll up or down to the next field it will scroll through the selections. This feature can be turned off altogether.

Email setup is easy, and you can add any POP-3 or IMAP account. Windows Mobile 6 supports HTML formatted e-mails, allowing for a realistic view. The client is similar to Outlook on a computer; you can filter your inbox to see certain emails, view different folders, reply to a message or forward messages to another recipient. Attachments can be downloaded or viewed as long as there is a program on the phone that can handle it (such as a PDF viewer or mp3 player, more on those later,) and you can also attach files to outgoing email. Windows Mobile 6 also allows synchronization with your company Exchange Server.

The only email you cannot set up through the standard Messaging menu is a Hotmail/Live account. When trying to set up those accounts it will redirect you to windows.live.com. Interestingly (but refreshingly,) the MSN Messenger client is not preloaded on the phone.

Connectivity:

As an international device, the Ace has support for both CDMA and GSM. On the domestic side you have support for Sprint’s 800/1900 MHz CDMA, while on the other side of the pond you will find 900/1800 MHz GSM support. In the States the phone zips along at EVDO Rev 0 speeds, but in international mode you’re stuck with GPRS 2G data.

Locally you’ll be able to use Bluetooth 2.0, with support for the HSP, HFP 1.5, OPP, FTP, PBA, A2DP, AVRC, BPP, PAN, HID profiles. We easily found and connected to the Samsung WEP500 headset, although we were not able to use Voice Command over Bluetooth.

The data, headset and charging port are all one-in-the-same. This is pretty common for Samsung, but unfortunately they do not include the usual 2.5mm adaptor.

Internet:

The Ace ships with Pocket Internet Explorer (PIE) for web browsing. PIE is a capable browser and certainly better than a WAP browser, but it definitely has its limitations. The user can go to full screen mode, and can set the view to One Column, Fit to Screen or Desktop. It is our strong recommendation that you use One Column, as it eliminates horizontal scrolling.

Unfortunately Java is not onboard, so we cannot use other browsers such as Opera Mini. Opera Mobile is a better option than PIE, but it is not a free program. If you were lucky enough to get a beta invite for Deepfish or SkyFire you can also run these.

Browsing itself is generally fast when on the EVDO network. We were able to load PhoneArena in a matter of seconds. PIE does not support Flash, so our animations did not run, but otherwise everything displayed properly and was easy to read and navigate.

The Ace also comes with an RSS reader, letting users keep abreast of the latest news. Searching for and adding new feeds was simple. We really like to see this, and have always wondered why RSS has not incorporated better into the cellular arena.


Camera:

The 1.3 megapixel camera will also record 320x240 pixel videos, good enough for YouTube. The camera takes crisp pictures with decent color representation, but pictures turned out a bit dark. Options include White Balance adjustment, Self Timer, Black and White, Sepia and Negative Effects and the several shooting modes (single shot, multi shot, mosaic shot, frame shot and night shot.) Digital zoom is available up to 4x.

Sprint PDA device do not support MMS, so picture and videos must be sent via email or Bluetooth. Messages are received as a text, with a URL that will take you to the media via PIE.

Multimedia:

The Ace ships with Windows Media Player 10 Mobile, which handles both audio and video playback. It will search your device and storage card for any multimedia files and add them to the library. It is further sorted by Artist, Album and Genre for easy access.

WMP does not support album art, so during audio playback the interface is mostly empty though clean. At the top right is the song, with smaller text below that rotates between artist, genre and bitrate information. To the right is the song rating, on a scale of 0-5 stars. On the bottom left is the time (which can show either elapsed or remaining,) in the middle is Previous Track, Play/Pause, and Next Track and on the right is the volume level. Playback is controlled through the d-pad. The player has options for Shuffle/Repeat and it is capable of creating Playlists.

Video playback uses the same interface, with the video being displayed in the middle. The added memory makes video playback smoother than we have seen in the past, especially when multi-tasking with other applications.

Windows Media Player 10 is capable of playing the following files:
AUDIO: .MP3, .WMA
VIDEO: .WMV, H.263 - .3GP and .MP4

Also along for the ride is SprintTV and Radio. It runs the same new interface found since the Muziq and RAZR2, there isn’t anything new here. The larger, landscape screen is tailor-made for TV viewing, and like the Q9c it looks very good.

Software:

Inexplicably, Office Mobile is not included with the Ace, nor is Adobe PDF viewer. Instead it has File Viewer, which is actually Boratech File Viewer v2.04. The program is adequate at best; it does indeed let you view Office documents and PDF files, but you have to zoom in about ten times when launching a file before you can actually read it, and it does not support Office 2007 documents, which are ending in .***x. Needless to say, it does not support any document editing either. For a device targeted to the international business traveler the lack of Office Mobile is a bitter disappointment.

The phone comes preloaded with Live Search and Sprint’s On Demand applications, and there are countless other programs that can be downloaded both for free and for purchase. Documents to Go is one we would recommend, given that Office Mobile is missing.


Performance:

The Ace has 96MB of RAM and 192MB of ROM which makes it run noticeably smoother than the Q family.  The menu navigation is quick and snappy, and there is no lag after button presses.  While this may be the norm for Samsung devices, it is a welcome rarity in the Windows Mobile world.  It also supports microSD expansion up to 2GB.

We were pleased with the reception on the Ace.  We had no issues making and holding calls, and voice quality was good.  Voice reproduction was realistic, and the caller on the other end sounded natural and reported the same of us.  Bluetooth performance was not as stellar, as users complained that we sounded “distant and faint,” to the point they could not hear us at times.  We achieved a few minutes more than the battery’s rated 4.3 hours of talk time.  It is rated for up to 10 days of standby, but as with any Smartphone this can be drastically impacted by things like email and other data intensive applications.

Unfortunately our budget doesn’t allow for miscellaneous trips to Europe, so we were unable to test the GSM service.  Switching between CDMA and GSM is extremely easy however, simply go to Service Mode from the Start Menu and toggle modes.  For users opting to use Sprint’s international plan there is an Internal Usage shortcut in the Start Menu, giving users a quick rundown of what they need to do.

Conclusion:

Overall the Ace is a very strong entry from Samsung, but the exclusion of Office Mobile is very curious and it loses some points for the keyboard design.  Other than that the Ace stacks up well with other Windows Mobile 6 Standard devices.  Being a world phone is a major bonus, with even more points for an unlocked SIM slot.  As we have come to expect from Samsung the build quality is top notch.  While we did not care for the keyboard, those with small hands and fingers may appreciate the narrowness.  For those looking for a Windows Mobile world phone the Ace is a good bet, though we don’t expect it will steal many sales from the BlackBerry 8830.


Pros

  • Dual mode CDMA/GSM for international use
  • Small form factor
  • Bright, crisp screen
  • Unlocked SIM
  • More memory than most WM6 Standard devices
  • Ultimate customization and endless third party support for WM6

Cons

  • Keyboard is cramped and keys are odd shaped
  • No Office Mobile
  • No GPS

PhoneArena Rating:

7.0

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