Samsung Beat SGH-T539
“The Samsung Beat is a solid device, but the more sophisticated music phones out there make it seem clunky.”
- Low price; easy music transfer; light weight
- No frills; occasionally confusing controls; less memory than other music phones
Samsung, like other manufacturers, is trying to create music phones that are more user friendly. The new Samsung Beat isn’t as physically robust or as musically pleasing as other recent phones, but the light weight, easy music transfer and low price definitely make it a contender.
Features and Design
The first thing you notice about the Samsung Beat is the weight – as in it doesn’t have any. The frame, fully loaded, weighs about 3 ozs. The model we tested was a fliptop, a smooth black shell on the outside and an equally silky silver inside. It has a flat radial menu control at the top of its keyboard surrounded by two menu buttons, a T-Mobile T-Zones hotkey (the equivalent of the Internet), a programmable hotkey, the standard start (green) and stop (red) buttons and a convenient clear/backspace key. There are no keypad buttons per se, just a touchpad, and the numbers themselves are separated by a tiny little bump a la Braille. It is perfectly responsive, but, like using a touchscreen, it will take a few minutes to adjust.
The phone has a plethora of buttons on the sides. Headphones go into the top hole on the left side, the ring volume is represented by two up/down buttons below the headphones. On the right side is a music quick key that will transfer you to the current album lists and a photo button that will take you to the respective mode. Flip the top down and there’s a tiny, yet colorful monitor with the time and current music selection. Above it is a nearly invisible camera lens. Below the monitor is a radial iPod-inspired control.
Setup and Use
Plenty comes standard with the Samsung Beat, including a 1 GB microSD, headphones and a USB cord to connect the phone to the computer. According to Samsung, the Beat is also fully compatible with Bluetooth accessories.
To transfer music, the Samsung Beat requires a PC with Windows Media Player 10 or higher, which is available for free from Microsoft’s website. (The manual says nothing about Mac compatibility.) Once the USB is connected, Windows Media Player will automatically search the PC for compatible songs. The Beat can confidently play MP3 and Windows WMA formats. (Apple’s AAC iPod/iTunes format isn’t included.) After it creates a compatible list, drag and drop your favorite songs into the area below the Samsung Beat icon, then press “Sync”. Each song is transferred in seconds.
Overall, the music presentation is solid. The circular menu pad controls your play, pause, fast forward, rewind and stop functions. Close the phone and the music will appear on the little top monitor. The speakers are good, particularly for such a light phone, but there are some design hiccups. First, the earphone power is unusually weak: it’s as if they are all tweeter, no bass. Music aficionados should just factor in a pair of real headphones into the retail price (and, because of the outlet shape, they’ll have to be a proprietary pair from Samsung or T-Mobile). Second, once you close the phone, it’s difficult to control the actually music selection. The radial controls on the front work fine, but the actual menu options aren’t available. Even pressing the music hotkey won’t make them reappear. As far as we can tell, you have to reopen the phone to access the deeper music menu options – which defeats the purpose of having controls on the outside in the first place.
The flashless 1.3 MegaPixel camera is okay. On the upside, Samsung can automatically upload your new photos onto a personal album website or shoot the photos to another person as an attachment. It makes it easy. The other multimedia features were consistent, but unremarkable.
Image Courtesy of Samsung
The suggested retail is $199.99 USD, which is low to average for a phone of its caliber. However, for the time being T-Mobile has a great $100 instant rebate and a $50 mail-in rebate, dropping the price to $49.99 USD. There are no known special data plans for the Samsung Beat, but it really isn’t a smartphone, anyway.
The internal memory is weak, but it comes with a 1 GB microSD card, which is enough to store hundreds of songs. It is still less space than competing phones.
The Samsung Beat is a solid device, but the more sophisticated music phones out there make it seem clunky. Still, the phone’s price makes it a bargain – and for $50 after rebates, you’d be hard pressed to find a better music device out there.
• Great price
• Easy music transfer
• Light weight
• No frills
• Occasionally confusing controls
• Less memory than its competitors
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