Sprint’s M510 aims to bring high-end functionality to the mid-range. The phone builds on the previous M500 with a refined design, keypad, and improved software. But, is the M510 a more perfect RAZR, or a M500 with a new paint job? Read more to find out.
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First Impressions, General Phone Functionality
The M510 is an evolution of the M500, as such, it keeps a lot, yet tweaks a lot of the original design. The phone is slimmer and appears a bit wider than the M500. Unfortunately, one of the first things we noticed was yet another new charging port. That’s right… all your M620/M500/BlackJack accessories won’t work with the M510. We just don’t understand why Samsung is constantly re-tooling their charging/data port. Meanwhile, Motorola and HTC remain committed to using a pure USB port, and only recently have switched to a micro USB port, which can be used with legacy mini USB devices… simply with a readily-available adapter.
Unfortunately, the M510 gets its worst start from the keypad. The keypad tries to one-up the elctrochromatic keypads of Motorola by being fully flush with the phone’s plastic. Unlike past Samsung phones, there’s a total lack of guide/grid lines, a lack of surfaced directional pad… everything is flat. And no, that’s not a good thing. It makes the phone extremely difficult to use without looking at the keypad. One of the worst key presses is when you try to press up, or right on the directional pad… and wind up hitting the right softkey. Happened daily for the better part of two weeks before we finally got the hang of it. Not good.
However, the M510 makes some clear improvements. Gone is the slippery plastic of the M510, which has instead been replaced with rubber-like plastic. This dramatically improves the grip of the device, and is similar to devices like the Motorola PEBL, proving protection against accidental slips.
But what really surprised us was the feature set of this small and rather-inexpensive phone. The phone takes on every feature that the most high-end Sprint phone delivers: Bluetooth (with A2DP), GPS Navigation, Megapixel camera, Sprint TV, and EV-DO. And while the phone lacks some high-end features like Bluetooth 2.0 and large internal memory, it also outpaces phones like the Samsung M610 with a color external display.
Reception on the phone was very good, and the M510 adopts Roaming Triangle support (so you can tell if a roaming provider supports data services or not). It also supports PRL-pushes, so you won’t have to call *2 to get your roaming list updated.
Advanced Phone Functionality
The M510 tries to be a powerful music phone, at a minimal price. This puts it in direct competition with the Motorola V3m RAZR, which carries the same task. Like the RAZR, the M510 has no front-facing music controls, but bundles a headset adapter. On Sprint, both phones use the Sprint Music Store, but the M510 also has the benefit of Samsung’s advanced media player.
On one very positive note, Sprint has returned full access to the Samsung Media Player. The Samsung Media Player was slightly hindered on the Samsung M620 UpStage, preventing access to playlists and resulted it in being buried under Menu > Tools. Now, it’s back on the main menu, providing access to both Sprint TV, and your own content.
Bluetooth is close, but not quite perfect. The phone has some pairing issues with laptops, such as with Mac OS X. Often times, the phone will forget the passcode for the pair, requiring you to manually re-create the pairing. This became a real pain when using the M510 for phone-as-modem over Bluetooth. However, once pairing has been taken care of, the M510 performed great with Bluetooth. A2DP performance was excellent, as was phone-as-modem support with the DUN profile. Sending and receiving files has also been improved with better OBEX support.
Overall, as a music phone, the M510 shines through as the best budget music phone we’ve ever used. It’s cheap, handles stereo bluetooth, and lets you chose between Sprint’s music player, or Samsung’s… both work great with A2DP stereo bluetooth, or headphones. This is a big asset considering the poor look-and-feel of the Sprint Music Store player.
In terms of bugs, the phone only has a few crashing bugs. We did notice the phone crash infrequently while watching Sprint TV, and more frequently while using streaming video from third-parties (like, Orb). Java performance was acceptable, and Sprint Navigator functioned adequately. Granted, Sprint Navigator isn’t on-par with VZ Navigator on Verizon, but that does not appear to be any fault of the Samsung M510. The M510 handles Java apps just fine, and worked with every typical application we threw at it.
Another nice feature inherited from more-recent Samsung phones was the ability to suspend Java applications. This has been on many GSM phones for years, but you can now toggle back and forth between multiple Java applications… so you can pause your music, check the traffic in Google Maps for Mobile, and then jump right back to listening to music.
GPS on the phone worked very well, with Sprint Navigation, it performed better than any Sprint PCS phone we’ve used previously. Still, without the benefits of BREW, Verizon’s VZ Navigator remains the most reliable GPS navigation software on the market.
A couple of obligatory shots… the M510 does step above the Motorola RAZR, but still doesn’t raise the bar on mid-range phone cameras. The quality is still poor in low-light situations (as shown in the second shot).
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But, for the first time, we’re including video clips for your review. The video was taken at the same time as the first photo, to give photo-quality versus video-quality.
Click to view…
The Drop Test
As usual, we give most phones a pant-pocket-level drop onto typical sidewalk. After all, if a phone breaks on a simple drop like that… it probably isn’t a phone a typical user will want to carry around.
The phone bounced several times during the drop… in fact it hit the pavement, bounced up, and hit the pavement again more than any phone we’ve ever dropped. However, the only damage found on the device was a millimeter long scratch on the bottom of the phone’s black plastic surface on the back of the device. Well done.
The M510 is both an improved M500, and Samsung’s modern response to the Motorola RAZR. It aims to take the high-end feature set, pack it into a thin package, and sell it to the masses. In short, if you’re not sure what phone is right for someone, the M510 is probably the answer… it can handle the basics, and has room to grow with a user’s usage of a phone. Even advanced users will be well at home with the phone supporting everything from A2DP, to GPS Navigation, to Sprint TV.
However, the M510 also tries to reinvent the wheel in places that are downright unnecessary. A funky keypad and yet another new charging/data port knock the M510 down from being a perfect phone, and send a message to existing M500 owners that they may want to hold off on upgrading.
Pros: Brings high-end functionality to the mid-range, cheap but powerful.
Cons: Sub-par keypad, yet another new data/charging port.
Final Score: 4/5