Samsung BlackJack Review

March 27, 2007

Having spent 4 months with this device (and that’s a long time for me people), I feel I can certainly serve justice on the goods and bads. The recent switch by Chris Leckness from the BlackJack back to the PocketPC based Treo 750 gave me some pause and I have flirted with the idea of picking up the Cingular 8525 (primarily so I could load WM6 as downloaded from XDA-developers.com), but then the thought of parting with the SGH i607 becomes to much for me, and I think it’s going to be that way for a while because I love using this phone!Wow I am still smitten every time I hold her like this

Let me first say that like Leckness I was won over to the Windows Mobile Smartphone platform pretty quickly after thinking it would never be enough for me. It is so much easier to navigate and use the device as a phone than PocketPC devices have been for me. (even the Treo, though notably a very Smartphone like implementation of the PocketPC platform by Palm, and is what they did just an early version of Photon when the two Windows Mobile platforms will finally merge?).

Speaking of using the device as a phone, reception on Cingular’s network has been nothing less then stellar. I’ve literally had one dropped call and it was with no service bars displayed (which was the first time that had ever happened). That dropped call occurred in my family’s house in Columbus, GA where I’ve always had reception challenges (no matter the phone or the network). But in Atlanta where I live and work, my 3G cup runneth over! Call quality on the Blackjack has been pristine and there’s nothing much better to a mobile warrior than being able to use the near wifi like data speeds that are possible when using the phone as a USB modem connected to my laptop (and lately my Q1Precious), AND be able to take or make a clear call simultaneously!

How’s the Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR (and A2DP by the way) you ask? Well, recently while I waited for an oil change and emissions test to be completed on my car, I tried to get some real “work” work done, and made a bluetooth network connection to the Blackjack (running the AKU3 buld of WM5 so the “internet sharing” app is present which replaces Bluetooth DUN with so called PAN or Personal Area Networking and it’s exceedingly easy to use). Of course, as soon as I got setup and made a VPN connection to my work network I was called out to the garage so they could explain to me why I needed more than just an oil change (stupid me for expecting to spend less than $100) and I with BlackJack in pocket carried Precious out to the garage expecting to lose my network or at least my VPN connection. Not so, and the speeds were in the 500kbps range consistently.

How’s the keyboard you wonder?

It’s not great, but it’s as good as the Treo’s and I’d rather feel a little cramped typing to enjoy the slim and narrow form factor I’ve been enthralled with for 4 months now.

I do have to add though that I find the keyboard tremendously useful when navigating through the WM Smartphone menus. It really beats the Pocket PC way of menu navigating via various combinations of dpad/stylus usage.

The 1.3 megapixel mini humpback camera on the SGH i607 has been a pleasant surprise.

It disrupts the sleek lines of the device, but in good lighting it takes better pictures than any cameraphone I’ve ever used, including the 2 megapixel equipped Nokia N70.

This is a shot taken from said Samsung cameraphone of my Samsung camera (what did you expect me to have, a Casio fool?)


Patience is required for saving pictures though. The “My Photo” app included as a soft key option in the camera app is a solid way to browse your pictures. Unfortunately, it’s not the default picture viewer and in order to use it, you’re required to either open it from within the camera app, or navigate to “My Stuff” in the program list to open it from there. Simply navigating to a picture file within the file explorer app will open the Picsel Viewer picture viewer (say that just 3 times real fast, much less 10). Picsel Viewer is a great application for viewing Adobe or Office files, but with a series of pictures your forced to open them one at a time, unlike the My Photo app which takes you to the next or previous picture in a folder by clicking the left or right on the dpad.

Speaking of the dpad, it is the only real complaint I have about this device. It’s positioned flush to the surface of the phone which looks sleek but functionally sucks. Samsung also chose to put the green and red call buttons right next to it (unlike it’s European cousin the i320), so in my first week of using the device I was constantly either starting the phone app or ending whatever I was doing by hitting red button. It would have been a deal breaker were it not for the convienent placement of the back button which would immediately take me back to whatever app I had accidentally closed. Once I learned to use my finger nail to operate the dpad, I became much more adept at avoiding this frustration.

As an email device it more than gets the job done via the Exchange Activesync “push” capabilities (which once you figure out how to configure with some approval and help from your IT dept, works very solidly). Also provided is a Cingular branded version of the push email application by Seven and though it can’t seem to push my Gmail to me, it does do a regular “pull”, and as infrequently as I look at my personal email during the work day, it feels as a good as “push”. Like I mentioned before the keyboard is somewhat cramped, but I type email replies on it surprisingly well nonetheless.

All things considered the BlackJack is the best overall smartphone, or for that matter, phone I have ever used. It weighs and almost feels like a normal (but quite sexy) candy bar phone, but packs a serious punch. It’s a serviceable PDA, a serious web browser (especially because of the speed with which you can browse and did I mention how nice the QVGA screen is?), a terrific email device, a bonafide MP3 player, a decent camera, and the best phone as a modem solution currently available in America. Is it perfect and will I use it forever? Noooo, I’m a neophiliac people! But it remains to be seen which device will usurp this one in my daily grind, and though there are some devices on the release horizon that certainly have me interested, there is nothing currently available that trumps the BlackJack!

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