We take a look at Sprint’s most powerful phone yet. Is the Power Network any more powerful with this powerful phone? Read more to find out, and see how it stacks up against the Sanyo M1 (previously reviewed).
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The Samsung M610 is meant to replace the Samsung A900 as the highest-end of Samsung’s lineup. Modeled after the A900, the Samsung M610 inherits much of its design and function based on the A900. As such, it makes some significant improvements based on feedback from problems with the A900, and also carries over some of its flaws. Because of this, we’ll be comparing the two devices throughout the review.
The M610 builds on the A900 by adding Bluetooth 2.0 and a microSD card slot. It also improves the display with a larger 2-inch version, and replaces the external TFT LCD display with a 2-line OLED display.
We also noticed, much to our dismay, that Samsung again replaced the data port on the device. The new data port corresponds with other new devices such as the BlackJack and A707 (SYNC) on Cingular. With mini-USB becoming more and more of a standard (endorsed by Motorola, HTC, and others), this change results as a net-negative for the device. When the competition never makes customers buy new accessories… we can’t overlook the disparity.
First Impressions, Basic Phone Functionality
Coming from a Samsung A900, the device has some great changes, and some not-so-great changes. The phone’s material is no longer cheap plastic, but grip-friendly plastic as seen on other mainstream phones. This makes the phone much less likely to slip out of your hand, and also less likely to have cosmetic paint loss. Another welcome change is the microSD slot, something that the A900 was universally attacked for lacking. Having no significant mass storage beyond a paltry 52 MB… the front-facing MP3 controls didn’t get much use.
Unfortunately, Samsung engineers apparently thought that the lack of memory meant that people didn’t want to use the functions that the A900 had on the front. While an OLED display was nice, it isn’t as nice as being able to watch Live TV with the flip closed. It isn’t as nice as having front-facing MP3 controls. It isn’t as nice as the Sanyo M1.
Samsung usually has the basics handled, and the M610 is no exception. Reception performs well in standard and fringe areas. Audio quality is also of high quality, beating the M1. The phone’s speakerphone also works fine, though enabling it can be a bit quirky at times. When you tap the speakerphone during the beginning of a call, it won’t always enable until well into the call (meaning, you have to try again and again to enable the speakerphone… not good when driving).
Advanced Phone Functionality
The A900 had stepped away from Samsung’s past tradition of great hardware marred by buggy software. Thankfully, the M610 continues this tradition. The M610 is relatively bug free in higher-order features (Web, Java, etc). MI-UI performance on the device is excellent… if you don’t like uiOne, you really can make it go away. Samsung’s user interface is not inhibited in any way… something that Verizon customers have to put up with on a daily basis with the draconian VZW UI.
However, there are some high end features that are absent. Still no ReadyLink. That’s starting to be a pain in Samsung’s side considering the Sanyo M1 takes advantage of being both a high end phone, and a high end phone that has Push to Talk.
Music playback is simple and works well with microSD. A2DP support is excellent, especially for a first-generation A2DP product from Samsung. Bluetooth file transfers is as before.
However, as a playback device… it’s lacking. You have to flip the phone open to have full control. That might seem like a small order, but this phone has a massive flip to support its extra-large display. Flipping open and closed to control media becomes a hassle when compared to the M1.
Thankfully, there is one thing that rings through crystal-clear on the M1, and that’s Bluetooth 2.0. No other Sprint phone has it, and everything it talks to in Bluetooth 2.0 is amazing. Phone as Modem without the need for a USB cable to get full speed, refined headset and audio quality. If you’re a Bluetooth nut, this is the best CDMA phone in the world right now for you.
The only problem we had with Bluetooth was during the pairing process on a Mac. It would not sync up passkeys until several run-arounds in what appeared to be a Catch-22 in the M610’s wait process. It wouldn’t wait long enough for the Mac to generate a key, and then let us enter it, before it dropped the connection with the Mac. However once paired successfully this is not an issue. And no, the M610 does not support SyncML, you’ll have to turn to the Motorola V3m, K1m, or L7c for iSync on Sprint.
The Samsung M610 performed very well in camera tests. You can compare to the Sanyo M1, but it isn’t really necessary… the M610 floors the Sanyo M1. The auto-focus is instant, and light sourcing is adequate for a CMOS. We would have loved to have seen a CCD on Sprint’s most powerful phone… but with the A800 fading far away, the M610 is certainly bests the current lineup.
Click to enlarge… and, compare with the Sanyo M1…
We did notice that the images were a bit darker than the standard camera, but once brightened a bit look pretty good. Is that good enough? That’s for you to decide… we still can’t stand the lack of a CCD camera on these high end phones. While that would make for an unsightly hump on the front of the phone… it would make for picture-perfect quality.
In the end, the M610’s only claims to fame is that it’s thin and has Bluetooth 2.0. While it executes both functions without any problems, we just have problems justifying this expensive phone when there are mid-range EV-DO phones that do everything else.
Another concern in EV-DO Rev A. Though released within the past 90 days, Sprint’s EV-DO network is already on Rev A, and this phone is only Rev 0. People that are going to buy this phone want the best Sprint’s network has to offer in both voice and data. Unfortunately no Sprint phone does this yet… though Sprint will be launching Rev A handsets in the next few months.
Probably the worst thing about the M610 is its battery. Like the A900, data sucks the life out of this battery. With the Samsung BlackJack, customers got a free extended battery. Forcing M610 owners to pony up $60 to $70 for the same treatment simply isn’t acceptable. High-drain thin phones that are at the top of a carrier’s lineup should bundle both standard and extended batteries.
Picking up this phone now might wind up leaving you with serious regret in a short period of time. With handset upgrades now requiring 24 months for a full rebate, you might want to hold off or pick up a cheaper EV-DO phone.
Granted, this is an excellent phone, but it also is hampered with a bizarre feature mix of an OLED display, no media controls, but with A2DP. In everyday use, the Sanyo M1 just is easier to get the most out of content. With the Motorola RAZR, KRZR, Samsung A900M, and Sanyo M1 all in Sprint’s lineup, this phone doesn’t quite reach complete excellence by only slightly standing out from the rest of the pack.
Pros: Bluetooth 2.0, stable software, reliable performance
Cons: Limited external display, no external controls, poor battery life, another new data port
Final Score: 4/5