Samsung U100 Ultra 5.9 Review

Introduction
After the fever for slimmest-possible phone was started, we say many phones which we thought are the thinnest possible, but every time the next generation proved that the limit is still not reached. In the first Ultra series, Samsung announced the X820 which was only 6.9 mm thin phone and got the “World’s slimmest” title, but not for long. The Ultra II shows the Ultra 5.9 U100, which strips a millimeter off, reducing the thickness by about 15%! And the good thing is that it doesn't come at the price of functionality - the U100 upgrades its predecessor in most directions.


The first thing most people think and say when they see the U100 is "how thin it is!", because it is extremely thin. In dark, unsaturated blue and black it looks classy and keeps the attention to the slim profile. It is made of math plastic and doesn't have the popular glossy finish, which helps for keeping it clean. Very slim and light weight, the U100 is held comfortable but is also put in any pocket without a hitch.



Model

Dimension (Inches)

Dimension (MM)

Weight (OZ)

Weight (Gramms)

Samsung SGH-U100

4.15" x 2.0" x 0.2"

105.5 x 50 x 5.9

2,3

66

Samsung SGH-X820

4.4" x 2.0" x 0.3"

113 x 50 x 6,9

2,3

66

Motorola SLVR L9

4.5" x 1.9" x 0.5"

113.5 x 49 x 11.5

3,4

96

Latte Slim11b

4.2" x 1.7" x 0.4"

107 x 43 x 11

2,2

62



The U100 feels steadily in the hand, and its construction is excellent. The most frequent problem, the movement of the battery door, is lacking and it stays in its place unless you want to remove it.

Like in the X820 and other sibling models, the display here is oriented in landscape mode and uses resolution of 220x176 pixels. It has realistic and saturated colors, but the transition from one hue to another is not very smooth as they are 262 thousands and not 16 million. The display remains visible in most conditions, but in very bright direct sunlight it will be harder to see what is on it.

A slightly raised line differentiates it from the flat keyboard below. All the keys look as if they are in one surface, slightly divided by glossy black lines between the rows. The two software keys and the answer/reject are big enough, press soft and untypically for such flat phone have tactile response. The clear key is smaller but still usable. The 5-way d-pad is small and pressing the directions is not very convenient, but still can be done. Although the central key is not relief, it presses very accurately and we rarely made mistakes when we wanted to "confirm" in the menu navigation.



The numeric keys below are smaller but press in the same way. When you look at them, it is easy to dial a number or type a message. The whole keyboard has bright white backlight and only the call-managing keys have green and red color. We are happy that this model uses standard type keyboard, and not touch-sensitive keys (U700) or the flat and hard to push keyboard of the U300.

On the left side is the slim volume rocker and on the right is the camera shortcut. Above it is the connector for charger/cable/headset. We don’t encourage using proprietory connectors like this one and prefer standard ones like miniUSB and 2.5mm jack.



Interface:

The software of the U100 is similar to other Samsung phones but its main menu is in 4x3 grid instead of 3x4, due to its screen orientation. This means that the numeric keys won't exactly match the icons, although they are still shortcuts to them. The menu can also be displayed as vertical list, and like previous phones, but unlike the U700, has options for two color skins - black or white. The dial-pad can be personalized with animated interface.

Like other recent phones of the brand, when you open the main menu, it points the last used icon. Also when you open the Settings menu, it points the lastly used sub-menu. The sub-menus visualize as list and if a field has sub-options, they show as another list.


The phonebook saves up to 1000 contacts. It is similar to the one of the D900 and unfortunately not like the U700. When a new contact is added you see all the available fields, including 5 numbers, email, personal ringtone/image, and note. Unlike the U700 you cannot add additional fields and have for example a few mobile-personal phone numbers, you can use only the preset fields. Searching is done by directly tapping letters when you look at the contacts list, but the results will look only in the first word of the First Name.

Organizer:

The organizer is very similar to other Samsungs. The calendar can be displayed in month/week/day view, you can set the start day of the week and the default view mode. With a few steps one can add an appointment/anniversary or task to a day. The Tasks are not a separate item in the Applications menu on this phone. Here like in the U700, you can find the World Clock, Calculator (but without scientific options), Unit Converter, Timer, Stopwatch and Memos. The latter don't have stupid limit of 100 characters as it is with the U700 but 10 times more (1000 characters).


Here also is the voice recorder, which can record notes up to 1 hour. We played the test memo immediately and found out that the played back voice is very quiet even from minimal distance, which makes the recorder not very usable. The most interesting applications in this menu are the ones we will explain below:

Smart Search is application that can search through: the whole phone / menu / my files / messages / calendar / games / phonebook / log. This reminds us of the search application found in Nokia's Enterprise phones (E-series) and on Windows Mobile Pocket PC phones. Unfortunately it doesn't search through the messages' text body.

The Image Editor has color effects, filters, and other tools to manipulate an image directly on the phone.


Messaging:

In the messaging menu one can find the text/multimedia messages and the email client. Predefined are multimedia templates, but you cannot manipulate them or add new ones. The text templates are empty and one can add them on his own. As on all other Samsung phones, T9 is the system for predictive text input.

For the email client, you can set up to 5 POP3/IMAP4 email accounts. For keeping the data down, one can set downloading limit of 100/300/500KB but there also is an option for automatic polling of emails at interval of 0.5/1/3/6/12/24 hours.

Connectivity:

We are not happy that the U100 doesn't upgrade its predecessor when it comes to connectivity - it is still tri-band 900/1800/1900 MHz GSM which limits its usage in America to only some locations, featuring the 1900 MHz band. Probably we will see its version for the States, as it was with the X820-Trace. The internet speed is not improved, and still uses EDGE instead of 3G, which is times faster.

Locally, it connects through Bluetooth but another disappointment is that the version supported is 1.2 instead of the newer 2.0. The older version means that the transfer speeds will be lower.

Our unit came with neither cable nor CD with software, so we were not able to test the PC connectivity options.

Internet:

The internet browser of the Ultra slim U100 opens the pages as you’ve used to see them on a computer. Not optimized page will open in its full size but due to the small resolution of the display, lots of scrolling will be required. Also some problems occur with visualization (not correct rendering).




Camera:

In a slight bulge on the top of the back side is where the camera module is situated. Here are the lens, the 3.2 MEGA label and the small mirror, but any kind of flash is missing. The interface starts for 5 seconds, which is not a good result but we can live with that if it the camera's picture quality is worth the waiting. It has more options than the U700 and we appreciate the setting for ISO, setting it to the minimum value available - ISO100.

Three seconds after the central key is pressed the image is shown on the display. The funny thing is that now you cannot go back to the viewfinder fast - in the U700 the right soft key goes back to the viewfinder, although it is more logical to be the central key, which is used for capturing. In the slimmest phone on the market, one must use the left soft key (Options) go down to the second row and choose Viewfinder - too much movements, wasting another 3-4 seconds and making total of 6-7 seconds between two images. It is faster than U700's 12 seconds, but is still slow on the global scale. Unfortunately the U100 lacks auto-focus and flash, which will be useful at close distance when it is dark.

The images produced are with mediocre quality and large size, thanks to the 3-megapixels resolution. Best results are obtained outdoors in strong light, but even then some problems occur with incorrect exposure and white balance. There are lots of artifacts and the detail isn’t as much as we would have liked on a 3MP camera.




Indoors the quality goes even lower and the less the light is, the lower the quality is and more noise appears. Don’t try to shoot dark objects in low light, as there won’t be any kind of flash to help you.

We are happy that the camcorder isn't with very limited quality as it is with the U700. This one captures videos in maximum CIF (352x288) resolution but can also capture in QVGA (320x240) which is the most used size on the internet (for example YouTube uses this size for output). The duration of the clip is limited only by the free memory.

Samsung SGH-U100 sample video at 320x240 pixels resolution
* Note that due to codecs support, you may not be able to play the file.

Their quality is not like from a stand-alone camcorder, but can do the deal. The colors aren’t realistic but the main drawback is the sound of the recording, which is totally dull.

Music Player:

The music player used in the slim U100 is very similar to the one of the U700 but with slightly redesigned interface. One can browse the library filtering by the following criteria: all/recently played/most played/artists/genres/albums/composers/playlists like on most modern advanced music players found on phones and other pocket devices. Creating playlists on the phone itself is easy and it is not a problem to re-arrange the songs in it.

During a playback the interface is almost exactly the same as the one of the U700, but optimized for landscape screen. On the top is displayed the album cover and below follow the file name, the Artist, rating, settings, duration and keys function. In the menus you can rate the track, set the repeat/shuffle on or off and use options like Equalizer (Normal/Classical/Jazz/Rock) and 3D sound. The last two are missing in the U700.

Software:

The phone comes preloaded with a few games: trial of Asphalt 2, Bobby Carrot, Freekick, Midnigth Pool, Minesweeper, Minigolf Las Vegas. You can add additional ones using JAVA MIDP 2.0 techology.



Like the U700, the Ultra 5.9 can open Microsoft Office documents straight out of the box. Previewing a Word document is not a problem.



Performance:

As you have noticed, the U100 is very slim, and very elegant, but in order to be reduced the size, some features are cut, some are with reduced quality. As you cannot put large display on a small phone, it is hard to put strong antenna in a phone that small and slim. In our test for reception level, the U100 scores the lowest results among the Ultra series, and one of the lowest ever. We rate it 2 out of 10, which means that if you are in a fringe area, consider other phone with stronger reception.

But if you have strong signal will experience superb sound quality, which seems to be typical for Samsung phone, even thin ones. The microphone does excellent job for the voice conversations and deliver strong sound, realistic and crystal clear, but with a minor decrease in the high-frequencies of the voices. The incoming sound is stronger and the voices sound very realistic. We definitely like how the U100 sounds in both directions.

Conclusion:

If you are on the market, searching for SLIM phone – this is the phone you should look at. Keep in mind it is tri-band only, and is not fully usable in the States. The slimmest phone in the world, this one is way slimmer than rival models of other manufacturers, like the SLVR of Motorola for example. Still, Samsung has managed to pack a decent browser and camera (plus camcorder) and nice functionality, but we are sorry some of its features (like the Phonebook) are older version with less functionality than the new ones (that of U700). Still, one should compromise for the slim and sexy design of the U100, which is worth it.



Pros

  • Slimmest on the market
  • Usable keyboard, way better than the one of U700 and U300
  • Solid construction, although very thin

Cons

  • Tri-band means it won’t be fully usable in America
  • Camera lacks autofocus and flash
  • Lack of memory Card slot limits you to the internal memory

PhoneArena Rating:

7.0

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