|Review of the Samsung SCH-T300|
It’s been a while since I tested a Samsung phone, and after my huge disappointment over the 8580, I wasn’t really expecting much from them. The T300 has been receiving generally positive remarks from the people who own them, and so I was confident that the T300 would be markedly better than the 8580.
Last Updated: 07-Nov-2001
Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.
The T300 supports both 800 and 1900 MHz CDMA. There is quite a bit of disagreement over the correct term for this, but the industry seems to have settled upon Tri-Mode. While this is slightly incorrect, no other term is any more accurate, and many of those other terms are a huge mouthful, such as Dual-Band, Dual-Mode. However, that name implies that it actually has 4 operational modes instead of 3, so take your pick. Note that the 3rd operational mode is analog at 800 MHz.
Menu System and General
The first thing that struck me about the T300 was the build quality. The fit and finish on this phone is virtually beyond reproach. When one examines the way that each physical part of the phone mates with its associated part, one has to marvel at just how well designed the casing is on this phone. Even though the 8580 was a fairly solid piece of work, the T300 is just that much better. Quite literally, no other phone manufacturer makes products that look as solidly constructed as the T300.
Having said that however, I don’t believe the keypad is anything to write home about. Although it is well constructed, it is ill conceived. The keys are mostly flush, and they don’t really press as easily as other phones. The keypad works well enough, but I found it rather annoying to use.
Like the newest Motorola phones, the T300 includes a 4-way nipple that also acts as an “Okay” button if pressed straight down. It works fairly well when used to navigate the menus, and it is implemented quite uniformly throughout the phone. My only gripe is that they display what appear to be softkey definitions on the bottom line of the screen during a microbrowser session, and you end up wanting to press the menu key instead of the nipple for options shown on the left side of the screen.
The menu system seemed a bit odd at first, but I quickly found that it worked extremely well. Each menu and sub-menu has a clearly defined numeric shortcut, so that getting to virtually any function in the phone is as simple as pressing the menu key, and then a series of numbers. This is very similar to what Nokia offers on many of their phones. Unlike the new Motorola’s however, you can’t customize these numeric sequences. In fact, the phone wasn’t very big on customization, so you’ll either have to love the way it does things, or lump it.
For example, it doesn’t offer anything similar to the “Styles” concept that was pioneered by Nokia, and is now offered on many other phones. A Style is a quick way to change various settings in the phone with one simple command. Typically, a Style would change ring tones, volumes, etc. Each of these phone features must be adjusted separately in the T300.
The menus were generally well arranged, and were quite extensive. I wasn’t too happy with the way it display secondary menus though. In an effort to make the phone look more like Microsoft Windows, secondary menus are display in small pop-up boxes. This means that the font sizes are quite small, and thus harder to read than if the menu was displayed on the entire screen. To Samsung’s credit though, all secondary menu items also have numeric shortcuts.
The Phonebook is reasonable well conceived, but I found the manner in which they display it for editing purposes to be shockingly difficult to read and work with. All of the information is stuffed onto one screen using widely varying font sizes. To change one of the attributes, you must use the four-way cursor toggle to position the highlight to the correct piece of data. You must then tell the phone you want to edit this information. The selection doesn’t seem to follow a logical pattern when you move left to right, or up and down.
The screen is fairly large, supports 4 gray scale levels, and has fairly high resolution. However, unlike many other manufacturers, Samsung does not offer the user a choice of font sizes. All sizes are fixed, and some are annoyingly small, whereas others are large and easily read. The odd mix of big fonts and miniature fonts is often rather distracting, though fortunately, the fonts are usually very handsome.
The phone supports a reasonably good implementation of T9, and you can access this input method at most prompts. The phone includes a user dictionary, so words that you use commonly (but aren’t in the primary dictionary) can be added.
The T300 supports a number of ring tones and ring melodies. It also offers 10 slots for “downloadable ring tones”. However, nowhere did the manual say how one would go about downloading these ring tones (such as, can this be done over the air, or is a data cable required). I couldn’t find any information on this out there on the Internet.
Unfortunately, the ringer volume is among the worst I’ve heard in quite some time. The phone’s ringer is so faint at full volume, that I had trouble hearing it in a noisy environment. I experimented with all of the available tones, and while some were better than others, none were especially good.
Three games are included with the T300, and they all have definite Gameboy appeal to them. Most were a lot of fun to play around with, but none offered any real intellectual challenge to keep them interesting over a long period of time. This will depend upon your outlook on the games, of course.
The phone also supported a fairly capable calendar feature. It was fairly similar to the one found in the 8580, and it is probably among the test of its kind available on a cell phone.
I wasn’t able to perform any reliable battery life tests, but the T300 seemed to last a goodly long time on a single charge.
Sound Quality and RF Performance
I was quite impressed with the RF performance of this phone. In areas where the Telus signal became weak, it did a good job of hanging on to the signal, and producing error-free reception. However, this phone is perhaps the worst for putting into shirt pockets of any phone I’ve ever tried. In areas where I was receiving a fairly solid 2-bars of signal (you can talk with no bars showing) the phone would fail to ring when I put it in my shirt pocket. I strongly recommend that you get a belt carrier for this model.
The real disappointment is the audio quality. Even though the T300 is an improvement over that muddy mess they called audio on the 8580, it still has a long way to go. It sounded very hollow most of the time, and with some callers it also sounded tinny or boomy, depending upon the type of voice. It often had an annoying peakiness to it that really made it uncomfortable to listen to people for more than a minute or so. Turning the volume down helped, but then the calls were often too faint.
Outgoing audio is slightly better, but most of the people I tried it on described my voice as sounding either tinny or as though I’d plugged my nose. No one thought it sounded especially natural.
In the end, this was a huge disappointment for me personally. After all is said and done, a phone is all about talking and listening. If a phone can’t do that well, then it isn’t really a great phone. Some may find the audio quality to be acceptable, but they could do so much better by opting for a different Telus model.
Here is how I rate the T300 for various classes of users:
Heavy Duty Phone Users
Simply because of the atrocious audio quality, I don’t believe users of this type would want the T300. There are just too many other phones out there that sound markedly better. Still, the phone does possess excellent RF characteristics.
Although this phone supports circuit-switched data, that's hardly going to be of much interest to a data use with existing GPRS and soon-to-be-released 1xRTT packet-switched data around.
There just aren’t enough bells and whistles on this phone to excite anyone, so I feel that this group should give the T300 a miss.
If it weren’t for a few slight curves on this phone, it would be nothing more than a rectangular block of plastic. That isn’t to say it doesn’t look handsome in its own way, but it has no real attraction to someone looking for a phone that will accent their clothing choices.
Heavy SMS Users
The T300 does support two-way SMS, but outgoing messages are not yet supported by Telus. They are supported on Bell Mobility, and so you’ll at least get to use full power of SMS on that network. However, the T300 is no better than most CDMA phones, which is to say, rather disappointing.
This is a fairly inexpensive phone, and it seems to be solidly built. That’s a great combination for Joe User. If Joe also doesn’t mind the awful audio reproduction, then this might be a phone worth considering. However, if Joe wants a phone that sounds better, he’ll definitely want to look elsewhere.
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