Samsung SCH-u620 Review

Samsung SCH-u620

“The u620 is a bit more compact and easier on the pocket, and is average or above average in most of its functions.”
  • V CAST Mobile TV and Music; 2-inch LCD screen; stereo Bluetooth; microSD memory card slot
  • Short TV battery time; no Bluetooth stereo for TV; no external music controls; poor camera
MSRP $69.99

Summary

Along with the LG VX9400, the Samsung SCH-u620 is one of two phones compatible with Verizon Wireless’ V CAST Mobile TV live TV service. (For information about this live TV service, see our LG VX9400 review). But this oval sliding Samsung lags behind its rival from LG in several prominent aspects, including screen size (2.2″ vs. 2″), TV battery life (6 hours vs. 3.5 hours), TV picture quality, Web speed, camera image quality, and the admittedly subjective “cool” factor. Samsung is superior in only one area — price. The u620 is priced at $149.99 USD with contract and rebate, $50 USD less than the LG. But that’s not to say that the u620 is a bad phone. You wouldn’t notice many of these shortcomings if you didn’t match the two phones head-to-head like we did. The u620 is a bit more compact and easier on the pocket, and is average or above average in most of its functions.

Features and Design

Instead of going with a unique design for its first live TV phone, Samsung went with the familiar oval slider. At 3.76 x 1.86 x .85 inches and 3.7 ounces, the black u620 is smaller and a bit lighter than the LG, and its rounder edges make it a bit more pocket-friendly.

Under the 2” screen are two soft keys bracketing the navigation array. Nestled below the nav array are the Send, Clear (back), and End keys. Under the slider are black alphanumeric dial pad keys with white backlit characters. With the slide up, the phone becomes a bit top heavy. When dialing, your hand is down lower, creating a higher center of gravity, so be careful that the phone doesn’t slip out of your hand while dialing one-handed.

On the phone’s left spine, the volume toggle sits between the 2.5mm headphone jack and the microSD memory card slot. On the right spine are the TV antenna, the speakerphone and camera keys, and the TV button. All these buttons have hard-to-see etched icon identifiers. On the rear is the 1.3 MP camera lens, which sits between the flash and the self-portrait mirror.

For TV viewing, you’ll be constantly switching the phone position from vertical to horizontal. To activate the TV, for instance, you pull out the side antenna (which juts out to the right when you’re holding the phone vertically, but juts up when watching TV full frame), then press the TV button — no need to open the slider. But although you’re supposed to watch TV while holding the phone horizontally, the program guide appears vertically, which means you’ll only see listings for an hour’s worth of programming for each channel. In comparison, the program guide on the LG aligns itself correctly depending on whether its screen is swung up or down; swung up in widescreen mode, you can see an hour and a half’s worth of programming. Once you choose a program on the u620, the picture appears in portrait mode; pressing “Full Screen” re-orients the picture to be viewed horizontally.

Samsung SCH-u620 This means you’ll be constantly moving the entire u620 to get the correct screen orientation. In full screen mode, the control buttons are at the right of the screen, but maintain their vertical orientation. In other words, while watching TV in widescreen and holding the phone horizontally, you’d have to press what is now the right or left nav key (what had been the up-down keys when holding the phone vertically) to move to the next program. This is more disconcerting than bad; if not for the presence of the LG, which always maintains the correct screen and control orientation because its screen swivels, none of this would be worth mentioning.

Oddly, both phones have stereo Bluetooth, which is restricted to wireless music listening. For some reason, Bluetooth stereo doesn’t work for TV listening on either phone, an annoying quirk considering that stereo Bluetooth headphones offer superior sound to wired cell phone headphones.

(One solution for both V CAST Mobile TV phones: the Plantronics Pulsar 260 stereo Bluetooth earphones. Instead of compact headphones, these use a Bluetooth dongle that you plug the comfortable, in-ear earphones into. When not using Bluetooth, the great-sounding phones can be used as regular 2.5mm wired earphones with an in-line mic.)

Like the LG, the u620 is an EV-DO phone with V CAST Music phone and the mobile Web. The u620 duplicates the LG’s copious contact fields in its phone book and has the same set of PIM and application tools, plus a stopwatch, but the LG’s tip calculator is missing.

Testing and Use

Like the LG VX9400, both picture and reception of the V CAST Mobile TV service on this phone are excellent. But LG’s reception is a bit more consistent, and the colors and black levels of the actual TV picture are both superior on the slightly larger LG LCD.

Also like the LG, when a call comes in while you’re watching TV, you are asked if you want to answer or ignore the call. But after the call, the u620 asks you if you want to resume your TV viewing; the LG just assumes you want to continue watching and automatically switches you back after around five seconds.

As a phone, calls over Verizon’s EV-DO network are actually a bit crisper and clearer on the u620, with plenty of volume and less of the ambient noise problem from the other end of the call that we experienced with the LG. Ringtones are not as loud as the LG VX9400, but are still loud enough. TV sound through the speaker was shrill and scratchy compared to the LG.

As with most Samsung camera phones, the camera shutter on the u620 seems to operate on its own inner clock. There’s a seemingly interminable chasm of a couple of seconds between the time you push the button and the time the picture actually gets snapped. Indoors, this is a good thing, because the camera will have stopped moving post-button pushing when the image is actually captured, resulting in less blur. But you’re just as likely to move the phone — thinking either there was something wrong with the device or the picture already got snapped and you missed it — before the image does get captured, resulting in a poorly-framed, blurry image requiring an “Erase” and re-shoot.

After you have waited patiently for the shutter to click, the resulting pictures from this phone compare unfavorably not only to the LG, but to most 1.3 MP camera phones. Images are bleached with no contrast and inaccurate colors, both indoors and out.

Like the LG, getting pictures out of the camera is a challenge. Neither phone lets you transmit images from the camera to a PC via Bluetooth.

This phone also lags behind the LG in EV-DO Web access. Access time is two to five seconds slower on the u620, and pages fill two or three seconds faster on the LG.

Rated battery life on the u620 is 210 minutes (3.5 hours) for talk, a bit less than the LG, and 250 minutes (8-plus days) standby, a bit more than the LG. But while the LG let us watch TV for six hours on a single charge, the Samsung ran for just about its rated talk time, a little less than three-and-a-half hours.

Conclusion

If this were the only phone with V CAST Mobile TV, we’d have lots of good things to say about it. It’s an above average phone, which is good. But for $50 more, you can get a truly superior and much cooler phone, the LG VX9400.

Pros:

• V CAST Mobile TV capable
• Slider design
• EV-DO connectivity
• Stereo Bluetooth
• External microSD slot

Cons:

• Constant vertical/horizontal orientation issues
• Poor camera images
• Short TV-watching battery life
• No stereo Bluetooth for TV listening