Samsung SPH-M520 Review

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Introduction and Design
This is a CDMA phone offered from Sprint.
Introduction:

The Samsung m520 is Sprint’s first conventional slider since 2005, and the first in their PowerVision family of phones. This mid-range device features a 1.3 megapixel camera, microSD expansion, stereo Bluetooth and EVDO data all wrapped up in a slim package. As a PowerVision phone the M520 offers support for SprintTV, Radio and Navigation.

Included in the box you will find:

  • Lithium Ion Battery
  • AC Charger
  • 64MB microSD card
  • 2.5mm headset adapter


Design:

The M520 is a slim, sleek slider in the vein of the D900 and T739 (Katalyst) In reality the phone bows gently out in the middle and is shaped like a set of parenthesis that is slightly more open at the top, but its angular lines- especially with the slide open- gives it the appearance of a V. Its clean lines, minimalist design and chrome trim add an elegant touch.


The M520 is two-tone silver; the sliding top piece is mostly shiny chrome whereas the rest of the body is painted flat silver. The entire phone is constructed of plastic, which is how it manages to weigh in at an ultra-light 2.75oz. We felt this was a bit too light actually, and would not have minded if the chromed material were actually metal, thus giving the phone a more solid feel.


The build quality is excellent though, and despite its light weight the slider has a very reassuring spring to it. The slide offers initial resistance in both directions, but once it is sure you want to move it the spring almost does the work for you. We obviously were not able to do a long-term test, but we saw no reason to think that the 10,000th slide will not be just as smooth as the first.

Chromed plastic rings the outer edge of the face, frames the 2.1” 176x220 TFT display and acts as the outer ring of the directional pad and its inner Menu/OK key. The display is 262k colors, and while we prefer a QVGA screen it is plenty crisp and can be seen easily in all lighting conditions. At the top is a small hole that serves as both the earpiece and speaker. The d-pad is large enough to prevent accidental presses, and there are three keys on each side of it. To the left (from top to bottom) is a soft key, Speakerphone and Talk key, on the right is another soft key, Back and End. These six keys are the same matte silver color as the rest of the body. The Menu/OK button has a unique backlit ring around it. By default it is yellow, but can be orange, red or green depending on the application or process. One slight issue we noticed is that, when closed, the keypad backlight does not activate even when the phone is unlocked and the buttons are being used.

Sliding the phone open reveals a very simple 12 key dial pad. The keys are silver and set on a gray background, which actually appears as a slightly darker shade of silver. Each key is individually raised and offers a reassuring yet soft click when pressed. We usually feel the keypads on sliders are cramped, often resulting in mis-presses, but the keys on the M520 are plenty large and well spaced, making typing easy.

The rest of the phone is fairly minimal. The left side features a volume rocker and the proprietary charging/audio port, the right has the camera key and microSD slot. The back of the phone is nearly bare. The battery door slides off (though not without some effort) and simply features an embossed Samsung logo. Near the bottom is a same-color cutout that is stuck on and serves to hide screws; the average user would have no reason to take this off. The camera is on the back of the slide, but is only visible when slid up. It has a self-shot mirror, but no flash.

Overall we are very pleased with the M520 design. The build quality is exceptional, the slide is solid and the design compact. It fits nicely in both the hand and pocket, the keypad is easy to use and the display crisp and clear. The only issue we ran into is that we found ourselves using the d-pad to slide the phone open, which would in turn launch a program since we were actually pressing the button. This is a minor gripe as it’s plenty easy to just place your thumb on the display to slide it up, though you will be wiping off fingerprints more often.


Samsung SPH-M520 Video Review:



Samsung SPH-M520 360 Degrees View



Interface:

The M520 runs the uiOne interface found on all Sprint dumb-phones at this point. It supports themes, and comes preloaded with the Sprint Ahead theme, but the standard Samsung interface is also available. Main menu is a familiar 3x4 grid and features Web, Call History, Sprint TV, On Demand, Missed Alerts, Music, My Content, Messaging, Tools, Pictures, Contacts and Settings. Unlike previous Samsungs, the user cannot change it to a list view. As we have grown accustomed to with Samsung, the UI is one of- if not the- fastest UI we’ve ever used. The Samsung theme has received a minor visual makeover, for instance the menu font is slightly larger and some options menus are silver instead of black, but overall it is the same style as other m-series Samsungs. This UI is not perfect, but overall we are pretty pleased with it and we greatly prefer it to other carrier interfaces, such as Verizon’s Dashboard.

One of the short comings of the UI is customization, but to be fair there is not much we would change about it. We would cut down the top level from 12 to 9, and would love to be able to rearrange it, but these are relatively minor issues. The menu corresponds to the keypad, so any folder is just two clicks away.

Inexplicably the My Content folder is not numbered, but the rest of the submenus are. The left soft key is also hardcoded to Favorites, which gives the user two-click access to 12 user-definable shortcuts such as applications, submenus or contacts. The right soft key is hardcoded to Contacts, but the four d-pad directions are also assignable shortcuts.

Contacts and PIM:

The contact list can store up to 500 entries, and each contact can have 5 numbers and 1 email address and 1 URL. It should be noted that it holds 500 entries, not necessarily 500 contacts, so a contact with two numbers and an email would take up 3 entries. The user can set a personalized ringtone to a contact, and contacts can be assigned to and sorted by groups.

The phone has some PIM functionalities, but they are very basic. The user can schedule events, tasks and countdowns using the calendar. Recurring events are available, and the user can customize the reminder and link events to contacts, but there is no software to synchronize it to a PC so for most users the PIM will see very little use. You’ll also find standards such as an alarm, calculator, world clock, voice memos, and a memo pad.



The phone supports over the air firmware downloads, a Sprint standard for years, but for the first time the user gets an option to check for PRL updates as well. It is much better than Sprint’s previous system of calling into Customer Service to have your account flagged for one, and then calling back to trigger it. We actually like it more than the codes other carriers use, which inevitably the average customer forgets.

Applications:

The M520 can run Java applications, and runs all your favorites such as Sprint Navigation and Sprint Mobile Email. Like the UpStage, Muziq and Katana DLX the M520 has the ability to multi-task, running several Java applications. The user can send an application to the background and continue to use the phone as normal, for instance they can load up the music player and listen to music while sending a text message or browsing the web. Unlike previous Samsungs, the user has access to the full phone menu when an application is running in the background.

It comes loaded with a wonderful Live Search application made especially for Sprint. Similar to the Windows Mobile/BlackBerry Live Search, the application allows for voice based search. Furthermore, it quickly accesses your GPS location so as to provide accurate local results. The user can also type in their search terms, or change cities, so the application is flexible. A list of results is displayed, and once one is selected the user has the option to call, map, get directions to or share the result (via text message.) It does not give you moving maps, or voice guided direction, but for a free application we were pleasantly surprised with its robustness. In our use it worked very, very well and we think Sprint should be advertising the crap out of this.



Multimedia:

TheM520 has the full gauntlet of Sprint software, including SprintTV,Sprint Music Store, On Demand and Sprint Radio. It is the first Samsungto run the new SprintTV interface, which we have also seen on the RAZR2V9m and Muziq, but in general these applications work exactly as wehave seen them on previous devices. It is a very comprehensivemultimedia set, and as always our only criticism of it is the MusicStore interface. It has good codec support, with the ability to playMP3, AAC, AAC+, and 3GPP files.





The1.3 megapixel camera performed admirable. Color representation wasgenerally good and pictures were crisp, if not a little dark. Still, wewould have preferred to see a 2 megapixel camera, even for a mid-levelphone. There are a few options the user can adjust, such as WhiteBalance, Brightness and Resolution, and there is a Night Shot mode,which really didn’t do much. The camcorder can record 30s clips forVideo Mail, or longer clips limited only by storage space.





The WAP 2.0 browser is poweredby Obigo and serves as a good portal to quick news, weather and sportsinformation, as well as downloads. It can handle HTML pages, but asalways not very well and we would recommend downloading Opera Mini forthat.



Performance:

The M520 held its own in terms of signal and reception. Even in fringe areas we had no issues with signal quality or dropped calls. Callers on the other end reported that we sounded “very good” and on our end they were loud and clear. The speakerphone, however, did not perform as well. On our end it was soft though clear, but callers said we sounded distant even when we were next to the phone. It might be fine to use on a desk in a quiet office, but beyond that it was pretty much useless. The M520 quickly found and paired with the Samsung WEP500 Bluetooth headset, and users said we sounded fine but a bit crackly. The M520 is rated at 4 hours of talk time, but in our testing we fell short and were only able to achieve 3 hours and 34 minutes.

Conclusion:

We really like the M520; it has a good form factor and we are excited to see a slider return to Sprint. For a mid-range phone it has a full feature set, and the build quality is top notch despite its plastic housing. It will appeal to average and advanced users alike, thanks to its classic good looks and powerful software. In fact, we would really like to see Samsung beef up the phone with a better camera, display and materials for a premium version. All in all, we think Samsung and Sprint have a real winner on their hands.


Pros

  • Small form factor
  • Strong feature set and price point
  • Solid phone performance
  • Live Search application
  • Elegant design

Cons

  • A metal housing would have been nice, though the plastic does not feel cheap
  • Relatively low resolution camera
  • Battery did not live up to rating, though still should be plenty for the average user

PhoneArena Rating:

8.0

User Rating:

6.1
26 Reviews

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