Smartphone Review: The Samsung i760

The dual carb Wi-Fi/EV-DO engine on this phone is a plus, but there are still some design flaws.
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The Samsung i760 from

Verizon

(VZ) - Get Report

adds a sleek sparkle to an already bright market for -- do you dare call them mobile phones? -- this season.

With a faster processor, new operating system, bright touchscreen, a full slideout keyboard and quick Net connections, Samsung's i760 gives fans of so-called multifunction devices a gem to consider.

The Samsung i760 looks like a winner right out of the box, at least until you hold it.

Somehow, this newest smartphone from Verizon has a surprising heaviness that most phone makers have been staying away from for the past couple of years.

It is 3/4 of an inch thick and weighs 5.3 ounces, which is more than a quarter inch fatter and about a half ounce heavier than the new standard in slimness, Apple's (AAPL) - Get Report iPhone.

The i760, which hits stores next week priced at $300 with a two-year contract, is the first of a crop of new Microsoft Windows Mobile 6 phones from Verizon due out before the crucial holiday selling season.

What's Hot

Despite its slightly cumbersome form, the phone has two great design features that give it an edge for those rare unconverted types who find they're not totally enamored with the iPhone or

Research in Motion's

(RIMM)

BlackBerry: The i760 has a slide-out qwerty keyboard and a bright color touchscreen.

The keyboard is ideally sized for thumb typists and the raised rubber backlit keys were exceptionally easy to use.

For big emailers and texting fans, the i760 keyboard provides a less compressed and compromised pecking process than you get with the BlackBerry and the iPhone.

As tools go, the touchscreen and accompanying stylus prove to be excellent additions to enhance tasks like scrolling and clicking.

The touchscreen gives you the kind of navigation power a mouse does. The screen, while durably protected and smudge resistant, however, does not have some of the new generation features found on devices like the iPhone. There's no fast flicking through files, nor is there a haptic or vibrating-touch confirmation.

Another area where the i760 outshines the competition is speed.

The wireless connection options include 3G and Wi-Fi, which is superior to most smartphones currently available.

There is the fast EV-DO cellular access on Verizon's network and an option to use Wi-Fi for even swifter download speeds. A

Google

finance page took all of four seconds to load on Wi-Fi, for example.

The EV-DO network, while fast, does require a few seconds for the phone to first set up the initial broadband connection. Once that's established, most pages loaded in about 14 seconds. The iPhone and BlackBerry's Curve operate on

AT&T's

(T) - Get Report

EDGE network, which usually takes twice as long to load a page.

What's Not

Unfortunately, EV-DO is a big pig on power.

Like its slim sister the Samsung BlackJack, the i760 comes with two batteries for a reason. Fortunately, one is an extended-life version that provides about a day of moderate use.

The phone has three wireless radios (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular) that can be shut off to conserve energy. The device can also be sent into sleep mode by pushing a button at the top.

Web viewing, while plenty fast, is also unnecessarily trying thanks to Windows Mobile.

Let's face it, for connections to your Outlook email, Windows is huge. For syncing with your desktop calendar and contact list, it's gigantic. But for viewing the Web, Internet Explorer is almost worthless.

In addition to the all-too-familiar freezeups, mobile Internet Explorer can't render many pages for small-screen viewing. Even viewing adjustments like "one column," "fit to screen" and "desktop" fail to make some very common pages like

Yahoo!

and even sites like Gizmodo less tortuous to scroll through.

Other annoyances include a ridiculous amount of side buttons that can get pushed inadvertently. The i760 has four buttons running up the right side of the phone and two on the left, a veritable minefield of misfiring opportunity.

Would it kill the phone-designing braintrust to maybe recess some of the outside toggles so us ham-handed types aren't constantly initiating voice-command prompts and levering up the ring volume?

Like all phones over $50, the i760 comes with a camera. It is a bit odd that Verizon and Samsung chose a 1.3-megapixel version when most phones in the upper price zones go 2 megapixel or better. But the pictures and video, while grainy, are suitable by yesterday's cameraphone standards.

Overall, the i760 is a decent Windows Mobile device.

Typists will cheer the superior keyboard, and Net speed fiends will not be disappointed with the performance of the dual carb Wi-Fi/EV-DO engine.

Once you get beyond the lame browser and the heavy-in-the-pocket feeling, the i760 is a solid gem.

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