Samsung Blackjack Review
Samsung Blackjack Review

I have been playing with the Cingular Samsung BlackJack (aka SGH-i607) for some time now, so I’ll tell you what I think of it. The device has a great design and is one of the smallest Windows Mobile Smartphone with a QWERTY keyboard. Size is usually a compromise over performance but thankfully the Samsung BlackJack is a powerful, fast, 3G-enabled phone with Push-Email capabilities. The battery life is decent for such a thin device – it blows the Motorola Q out of the water and Samsung has even included a higher capacity battery that almost doubles the standard battery life. Finally, 3G is no joke here: in real life tests, we hit 731kbps. (See video in the full post). Does this sound too good to be true?

Phone
The BlackJack voice functions work very well – the sound is loud and clear. Things like the contact list, voicemail and call logs are quite easy to use, although it takes some time to get used to the Windows Mobile interface. It is better thought out than on the Treo 700w in my opinion.

The display is not a touch screen, so everything has to be done using the joystick and the buttons. The user interface (UI) is fairly good for the day-to-day use (call, send SMS, and search a contact…), but the interface is a bit annoying when navigating heavily populated menus (settings/options). Fortunately, most frequently used applications are one or two clicks away.

The only voice function that I have a problem with is the lag that happens when I answer a call (1 to 2 seconds).

Text/Email
Thanks to its QWERTY Keyboard, the Samsung Blackjack is very proficient at text messages / emails. Compared to the Treo 700w, I like the fact that SMS and email are clearly separated in the user interface (in the Treo 700w, you had to go into Outlook, then select a different “Inbox” depending on what you want to send.

There are several ways to get the Push-Email feature. I’m using an Exchange Server (hosted – costs $7/mo or so) that I can access from my phone, desktop, laptop or web browser.

Keyboard
Talking about the keyboard, I think that Samsung could have done a better job. The keyboard has a design flaw: the secondary characters (* ( ) * & ^ %..) have the same size and color then the main characters (Q W E R T Y …). That makes the keyboard not very readable. The Treo 700w still has the best keyboard of all the Windows Mobile devices and it’s hard to understand why Samsung has not been able to extract the strong points of the Treo keyboard.

Samsung Blackjack Review

Data Connect
The Blackjack is a 3G device (UMTS), and as such, I was expecting real-life speeds of about 450kbps. When I tested the unit (using mobile Internet Explorer on dslreport.com), it exceeded my expectations: it hit 731kbps on average (see video) and as high as 900+kbps. That compares to the average 450kbps of my Treo 700w (Verizon). While browsing the web on mobile IE, I noticed that there was little latency, making the page refresh faster than the Treo.

Another important factor to take into consideration is that the Blackjack can be used as a 3G modem on the Cingular network without any additional software and without breaking the terms of use. I think that Verizon still forbids their customers to use their 3G phones as modems. As a 3G modem, the Blackjack will connect your laptop at 520kbps (down) / 210kbps (up), which is fairly decent. I was expecting something faster.

Battery Life
Conditions under which the unit was tested: 

  • Default brightness level 
  • Infra-Red OFF
  • Bluetooth OFF 
  • 30mn of talk time per day 
  • Push-Email on 24/7 
  • Moderate Web Browsing

The battery life is good for such a thin device – the small battery lasted exactly 48 hours before dying on the first charge. However, after one month of use, it came down to 24 hours. The bigger battery (provided in the box) lasts almost twice as long, at the cost of a slightly bulkier and heavier phone (still lighter/small than the Treo 700w). Note that even with the extended battery, the Blackjack is still much smaller and lighter than the Treo 700w. I regret that Samsung chose not to use a mini-USB to charge and synch the device. Also the blackjack does not charge on a generic 12V USB car adapter – which is a pity.

Anyhow, this is exactly what the Motorola Q should have been (read review).

Web Browsing
Everything worked well until Pocket Internet Explorer (IE) gets buggy. Every other day, Pocket IE will stop downloading pages, displaying instead a blank screen. I tried to kill IE and restart it, but a reset (remove the battery) was required to get it back to normal. I got that a lot on mobile.palm.com.

Conclusion
The Cingular Samsung BlackJack is my new favorite Windows Mobile Smartphone. It has a good deal of improvements that I wanted over my Treo 700w and beats it in every aspect that are important to me: smaller, lighter, faster, GSM – it has it all.

Update 5/24: If you use the integrated MSN messenger on Cingular, each message will be considered as an SMS and charged as such. Consider it before starting a long conversation Samsung Blackjack Review

Update 5/28: I installed Google Maps and it works perfectly (traffic info included). A number of people told me that the BlackJack did not support Google Maps fully or at all. What’s the problem?

Update 10/23: We played with the Blackjack 2, and we like it a lot.

If you have suggestions or additional questions, leave a comment, I’ll try to reply as soon as I can

This article was filed in Homepage > Cellphones and was tagged with Hands-On.
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