Samsung Saga Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

With all the attention Verizon given the BlackBerry Storm this holiday season, the Samsung Saga i770 as slipped under the radar by most people. It replaces the i760, which came out a year ago, but is more advanced and comes in a slimmer form factor. It is designed for those business professionals that require a Smartphone that is capable of CDMA 800/1900 MHz and Quad-Band GSM for international roaming. Additional features include Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional operating system, full QWERTY keyboard, 2.55” display, Opera browser, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.

The retail package includes the Saga phone, stylus, 1300mAh battery with cover, wall charger with 3 adapters (Australian, European, and UK), USB data cable, SIM card, CDs, and user manual.


Design:


The overall construction of the Saga is solid, with dark blue plastic used throughout. It is only slightly taller than the Omnia, so it feels comfortable in your hand and isn’t too noticeable in your pant’s pocket. Located on the left side is the volume rocker and lock button, with the camera button and charger/data port on the right, and the power button and 2.5mm headset jack across the top.  Removing the battery cover reveals the hidden microSDHC slot, which accepts up to 16GB cards, and the SIM slot with a pre-installed Verizon/Vodafone SIM card. The display isn’t anything to write home about, being only 2.55” diagonal and with a resolution of 320x320 pixels. Unlike the Omnia that has both automatic and manual backlight adjustments, the Saga only contains manual, and even with it turned up to the highest setting, the display can be difficult to view while in direct sunlight and will look darkened-out. Alternative navigation methods are the large optical mouse (located under the resistive touch display) and the retractable stylus. The mechanical QWERTY keyboard consists of four rows, instead of three on the i760, but it is fully visible with smaller keys and less space between them. For short messages, this isn’t a problem, but it can become difficult to use if you need to type a full e-mail. They do provide good tactile response and “click” sound when pressed, and they are raised from the surrounding plastic.


You can compare the Samsung Saga with many other phones using our Size Visualization tool.







Samsung Saga Video Review:



Samsung Saga 360 Degrees View:



User Interface / Programs:

Just like the Samsung Omnia, the Saga comes with Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional operating system, but unfortunately the unique Widget today screen is not included. Previous users of WM 5 and 6 will not have issues migrating to 6.1 since little has changed with the overall layout and functionality, and there are still several themes and today screen choices to allow for customization. Included is a Main Menu feature that appears to be carried over from the Omnia, but it is hidden under the Programs screen, and only allows for 9 icons to be shown. The graphical Phonebook that we liked on the Omnia is not present, with only the standard Contacts program available.


The Calendar is standard on all Windows Mobile devices and is where you can enter your appointments. You can enter the subject, location, start and end date/time, all days, occurs, reminder, categories, attendees, status, sensitivity, and notes. Viewing the calendar can be done by day, week, month, year, and agenda, as well as setting the week to 5, 6, or 7 days. The appointments for the day are clearly shown in their time fields, so you can see them at a glance. Separate from the calendar is the ability to set 4 Alarms, including a Wake-up alarm. There is also a World Clock where you can view 3 times at once.


Other standard programs include Office Mobile (Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, Word), Acrobat Reader, two games, standard and tip calculator, file explorer, notes, search, and tasks. Windows Media Player has to be used to playback all audio and video files, as Samsung’s Touch Player is not included.



Messaging
hasn’t changed since the i760, allowing you to send and receive Text, MMS, and HTML e-mails including attachments. Most people will find the QWERTY keyboard the easiest way to compose a message, but other options include block recognizer, letter recognizer, and transcriber, all of which use the touch screen for input. One missing feature here is Verizon’s Mobile IM, which is included on the Omnia, and allows text messaging with people on your AIM, Windows Live, and Yahoo buddy lists.

The standard 2MP camera is very basic and does not allow for as many settings as the higher-end 5MP camera on the Omnia. Images taken outside have a tendency to be blurry and overexposed, with colors looking dull and lifeless. These problems become more noticeable when taking pictures indoors, with them looking even more out of focus. There is also no flash, so low light images are near impossible to take.



Connectivity:

The Saga is capable of operating on the Verizon CDMA 800/1900 MHz voice and EVDO Rev A data networks within the US. While roaming outside the US it can also connect using GSM 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, but UMTS 3G is not supported. The device comes with Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g) that can be used in areas that offer Wi-Fi access, and Bluetooth 2.0 is also supported.

For web browsing, most people will opt to use Opera Mobile 9.5 instead of the weaker Internet Explorer. While using Opera, you can flawlessly view complex HTML pages with ease. Panning around is fluid and simple, full-screen mode is automatic, and tabbed browsing is supported. To zoom in or out on a page, you can move you finger up and down the right side of the screen, or you can tap twice (finger or optical mouse) on an area of the page to zoom directly to it. Tapping twice again will zoom out. While panning around the page, there is a small “minimap” thumbnail shown in the top-left corner, so that you can tell what area of the page you are viewing.


Pressing on the small arrow at the bottom of the browser will turn off the full-screen mode and show the address bar across the top, and icons for Back, Bookmarks, Tabs, Home, and Menu across the bottom. Naturally, you can enter in web addresses using the QWERTY keyboard. Our only complaint about the browser is that embedded flash files in pages are not shown. Thankfully, it does support the Mobile YouTube site and can stream videos, which are played in the Windows Media Player and can be viewed in full-screen mode.

Just like the Omnia, the Saga uses VZ Navigator for GPS guided directions, which of course is $10 per month if you choose to install it. It allows you to plan your trip and even will re-route you if there are traffic congestions while on the road. Other features include the ability to find local movie theaters and show times, restaurants, gas stations, ATMs, hotels, hospitals, travel (airports, bus, car rental), parking lot/garage, and Verizon stores. It is an excellent program with a lot to offer, but we whish the (free) Google Maps program was also included.

One application that is unique to the Saga and Omnia is the VZAppZone, wherein you can access news and weather, and download a variety of other programs (entertainment, productivity, utilities, ringtones, games, security, and wallpaper). The ringtones and wallpapers are only a few dollars each, but games and utilities can cost $20-40 to download. This is supposed to be a Windows Mobile version of VCast Downloads, but it is poorly implemented, and doesn’t offer a lot of content. Naturally, you can use a microSDHC memory card and transfer pictures, videos, ringtones, wallpapers, and Windows Mobile applications directly.



Performance:

The Saga’s processor is only 500 MHz, compared to 642Mhz on the Omnia, and some programs and large files take longer to process and open.  The internal RAM and ROM memory used for programs and storage is comparable, but the Saga lacks the additional 8GB of internal storage offered with the Omnia.

Another area where the Saga seems to mimic the Omnia is in regards to the reception and call quality, with voices on both ends sounding clear and natural.  Unfortunately, the reception is still disappointing, with only 1-2 bars showing in high coverage areas.  When traveling into fringe areas, several calls were dropped.  There was even times when using the browser we would get a message saying that there was low signal strength.  Our testing was performed in South FL using Verizon’s CDMA network.  We are not sure how the reception and call quality would be while using international roaming.

The 1300mAh battery is rated by Samsung to provide 5 hours of talk time or 13 days of standby time on a full charge.  We were able to achieve almost 6 hours of talk time by fully charging the battery, calling a landline, and keeping the phone connected until the battery was depleted.

Conclusion:

The only two Smartphones to be released by Verizon this season that offer CDMA and GSM global roaming are the BlackBerry Storm and Samsung Saga.  While the Storm offers more entertainment and multimedia programs, the Saga’s operating system is more stable and reliable, without the problems that we experienced with the Storm (even after the software update).  At this point, we would recommend the Saga over the Storm, due to the more stable software, but would like to see the Omnia offered with global roaming capabilities for those customers who require it.



Pros

  • CDMA and GSM global roaming
  • Large optical mouse
  • Opera Mobile 9.5 browser
  • Call Quality
  • Wi-Fi

Cons

  • Reception is lacking
  • Mediocre camera quality
  • Display is difficult to see in direct sunlight
  • Not as many entertainment programs as the Omnia

PhoneArena Rating:

7.5

User Rating:

7.4
14 Reviews

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