November 21, 2006

Cingular Blackjack vs SMT5600 – 1st Look

Cingular BlackjackMy shiny new Cingular Blackjack (Samsung i607) arrived today!!! The Blackjack is Samsung’s latest foray into the Windows Smartphone category, meant to compete head-to-head with the Motorola Q. As a Cingular customer, I’ve had serious phone envy for a long time. When Cingular announced its new G3 phones, I could not wait to order. Cingular started selling them last Wednesday online, so I ordered mine at 1:00AM to make sure I was 1st in line. My conversation with the Cingular activation guy tells me this was a good move, because these phones are seriously constrained. If you want one, get your order in soon, but be prepared to wait.

For those not familiar with Microsoft-based cell phones, there are basically 2 flavors: 1) Pocket PC Phone; 2) Smartphone. The key to choosing between the two is to decide whether you need a PDA or a cell phone. Pocket PC phones are full function PDAs with touch screens and a large range of applications. Smartphones are phones 1st, with a more limited set of PDA applications. Smartphones do not have touch screens, and are optimized for 1-handed operation.

I’ve been a fan of the Smartphone edition since Microsoft first released it. I was an early adopter of the Motorola MPx200, and upgraded to the Audiovox SMT5600 a couple of years ago. To me, the Smartphone has 3 distinct advantages over the Pocket PC phone: 1) Because it does not have a touch screen, you can carry it in your pocket, with your keys, and not damage the screen; 2) You can quickly dial the phone with one hand while driving by spelling the person’s name on the keypad; 3) The smartphone gets significantly better battery life. My SMT5600 can go for 2 days of solid use without a recharge. My friends with Pocket PC phones are lucky to make it 12 hours.

front_small.jpgThe SMT5600 (on the right) is a good phone, but I’ve been desperate to get a new phone. The SMT5600 does not support high-speed Internet via EDGE or HSDPA, so browsing is a painful experience. The T9 keypad is great for phone dialing, but it is hard to use for e-mail and text messaging. My criteria for a new phone was: 1) Smartphone edition; 2) QWERTY Keyboard; 3) Broadband Support; 4) Cingular phone (since I was locked into a contract). This week, the Blackjack delivered!

First impressions are important in any relationship. At first glance, the Blackjack is gorgeous. The phone feels solid. The backlit keyboard is easy to read, even in a dark car at night. Navigation is simple. The controls are well placed for one-handed operation.

screens_small.jpgCompared to the SMT5600, the screen on the Blackjack is amazing. The screen is clear bright and easy to read. To make room for the keyboard, the screen dimensions are wider and shorter than the SMT5600. This makes it easier to read e-mails, but displays less information on the home page without scrolling. At first, I thought this would annoy me, but the Blackjack has a thumb wheel on the right side (similar to a blackberry) which makes scrolling the home page fast.

sides_small.jpgThe Blackjack is similar in dimensions to the Motorola Q. Compared to the SMT5600, it is longer, wider and thinner. A phone should feel comfortable when held against the ear. Most Pocket PC phones feel clunky, requiring the use of a headset for comfort. The Blackjack feels like a phone, and was comfortable against the face. Because it does not have a touch screen, you don’t need to worry about your cheek accidentally starting a 3-way conference call.

The first thing I noticed that I did not like about the Blackjack was the charger/data port. The Blackjack uses a non-standard USB port that is wider and thinner than the microUSB on the SMT5600. I liked the SMT5600 port because it was common to many other devices, including my Creative Labs MP3 player, my 6 in 1 media card reader, and my previous Motorola MPx200. This meant when I upgraded to the SMT5600, I could re-use my older travel charger and car adapter, and when I travel, I only needed one USB cable for most of my peripherals.

parts_small.jpgThe Blackjack charger/data port is on the left side, just below the volume buttons (see photo above). This is unfortunate because it makes it difficult to talk on the phone while it is plugged in. The SMT5600’s data port was on the bottom, making it easy to plug in a car adapter to use during long drives, without getting in the way. The good news about the Blackjack power is Cingular was nice enough to include 2 batteries and a travel charger. This lets you charge one battery while you talk on the other. The bad news is the battery cover on the phone is so tight, that I was worried I would crush the screen when I pinched the back of the phone, trying to remove it. I suspect I will end up keeping the 2nd battery around in reserve until I wear down the 1st one, rather than doing frequent battery swaps.

speed_small.jpgThe best part of the Blackjack is its connectivity. The Blackjack supports HSDPA and EDGE. I hit the bandwidth speed test page several times, and averaged > 400Kbs. On my old SMT5600, the connection was so slow that it could not complete the speed test. Compared to Verizon’s broadband support for the Q, HSDPA supposed to be 1.5x to 2x as fast, and HSDPA supports simultaneous voice and data access. No more losing calls to voice mail because your phone is synchronizing. Also, unlike the Q, the Blackjack is a quad-band G3 phone, making it ideal for global cellular support. The Blackjack lacks wifi 802.11 support, but with HSDPA, it is really not needed.

UPDATE (11/21/2006) Apparently the 400KBs speeds I was getting last night were pretty sad. At work, I average 1.7Mbs with a peak of 2.2Mbs!!! HSDPA is awesome!

UPDATE (11/27/2006) I spoke with a friend who is a senior network engineer at Cingular. According to him, Cingular rate limts the bandwidth to 1.8Mb/s in most geographies, except Las Vegas where it is close to 3Mb/s. He said the theoretical limit is ~8Mb/s for HSDPA/UMTS. He also said that jitter and latency have a big impact on the synthetic bandwidth tests, so you will see big variences between them. I used www.bandwdithspeedtest.com for my initial tests. As of this morning, I was getting results as high as 2.9Mb/s. On www.dslreports.com/mspeed I saw results in the 1.2Mb/s range. No matter what, it is better than EVDO because it is faster AND you get voice and data at the same time.

I always encourage users of Microsoft Exchange 2003 to forgo Blackberry or PalmOS devices, because of the strong partnership between Windows phones and Exchange using wireless activesync. It took less than 2 minutes to connect my phone to my Exchange server, and I instantly had all of my e-mail, contacts, calendar items, and tasks. Over the HSDPA network, syncing took less than 4 minutes for >250 contacts, >200 calendar items, and 2 weeks worth of e-mail. The initial sync on the old SMT5600 took almost 45 minutes. Did I mention that EDGE and HSDPA rock?!?

Ultimately, time will tell whether the Blackjack can live up to the hype, but at first glance, it looks like a winner. I really only have two complaints. The data port on the side would be better located on the bottom. The data port would be better if it was a microUSB port so it used the same cables as most other peripherals, saving me money and cable clutter. The only other annoyance is that the Blackjack uses microSD for its additional storage rather than the miniSD slot on the SMT5600 and the MPx200. This means I can’t reuse my old 1GB card, and I can’t use the card to transfer files and ring tones from the old phone to the new one. These issues are minor compared to the better screen, full QWERTY keyboard, and high-speed Internet support. If you are looking for a new phone with quad-band global cellular support, high-speed HSDPA and EDGE, Microsoft Exchange synchronization, a QWERTY keyboard, and smooth one-handed operation, then this is the phone for you.

-Bill

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Editor’s note: I apologize for the image quality. I don’t have the best setup for close-up macro photography. You can get better pictures of this phone from Cingular.com.

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23 Comments »

  1. The Gadget Workshop » 2.1Mb/s download on a PHONE?! said,

    November 21, 2006 @ 9:59 am

    […] Bill over at edgeblog has a new phone… The Cingular Blackjack (2.1Mb/s baby!) […]

  2. geo said,

    November 24, 2006 @ 7:10 pm

    Why is WIfi not needed if I use the 3G network?
    geo

  3. bill said,

    November 24, 2006 @ 7:37 pm

    With speeds up to 2.2Mb/s and an unlimited data plan, there is little need for wifi. The HSDPA speeds are likely faster than anything you’ll get from a wifi hotspot. Yes, wifi has speeds of 11Mb/s – 54MB/s, but the hotspot likely has a DLS or T1 connection to the Internet, meaning you are sharing at best a 1.544Mb/s connection with everyone else.

    Thanks for reading my review.

    -Bill

  4. Dave said,

    November 24, 2006 @ 11:31 pm

    -reat review. I have one question, I read somewhere else that you can use T9 input with this phone. I usually like it and use quite often, even when I have a qwerty keyboard. So my question is, how do you use it on the Blackjack since the 3 letters associated with each digit are not marked on the keys?
    do you have to use your memory to know which digit corresponds to which letter?

  5. Joel said,

    November 25, 2006 @ 5:25 am

    This phone is awesome. I did the same thing and ordered mine on that Fryday. I love it..though I wish the directional keypad was a little bit bigger. I keep hitting the other keys around it when I press it. I loaded opera mini brouser. It works great as well.

    /r

    joel

  6. bill said,

    November 25, 2006 @ 10:46 am

    Dave,

    If you turn on T9, you still use the full keyboard, but the phone attempts to guess what words you are typing. I am using this now, with mixed results, and will probably turn it off.

    -Bill

  7. Chuck said,

    November 29, 2006 @ 10:27 am

    I just got my blackberry 2 days ago and LOVE IT! The only question is is there any
    screen covers for this phone?

  8. william said,

    December 1, 2006 @ 9:40 pm

    Hey Bill, great review! I have a question for you, I’m planning on purchasing the Blackjack as early as tomorrow with the unlimited data plan. Question, my friend somehow uses his Moto Q to connect to the Internet on his PC. Its like a mini-modem, is that possible with the BJ? I’m just wondering since I travel alot on the road with my Laptop and was hoping I could somehow use it as a broadband service for my laptop too. Please send me an email back, thanks alot!

  9. bill said,

    December 1, 2006 @ 11:11 pm

    The BlackJack can be used as a modem, although I have not yet tried it. The necessary Samsung drivers are included on the CD that comes with the phone.

  10. SPARTAN 117 said,

    December 2, 2006 @ 9:39 am

    Like Doooooood… The Phone is frickin amazing. Like Dooooooood…..

  11. SPARTAN 117 said,

    December 2, 2006 @ 9:42 am

    Like someone like write me back who’s on the website…Like dooooood….

  12. mike said,

    December 2, 2006 @ 10:11 am

    I’ve setup internet sharing with my PC using the Blackjack and Bluetooth. It Rocks! You have to launch the Internet Sharing app from the file manage (I’m sure it can be added to the menu, but I haven’t tried) and pair the Bluetooth. With an unlimited data plan you can surf the intenet all you want at no additional charge. Even in an Edge only area the speed is comparable to older DSL (fast enough to not piss you off). I also have an Option GlobalMax PC Card and using the Blackjack is just as fast or possibly faster. This makes the unlimited data plan worth while since the addition is cheaper than a plan for a dedicated card.

  13. James said,

    December 3, 2006 @ 6:00 pm

    Is there an SSH client for the blackjack that works?

    Thanks,

    James

  14. bill said,

    December 3, 2006 @ 6:17 pm

    James,

    I have not yet had time to try it, but you might try zaTelnet: http://www.codebrowser.org/main.php

    -Bill

  15. geoff said,

    December 3, 2006 @ 11:42 pm

    Bill,

    I had a HTC TMobile Pocket PC, and am ready to get this blackjack or cingular’s 8525 phone. I use the terminal services client alot on the TMobile. I saw it inculded in the 8500 serries phone, but not the blackjack. do you know if Terminal services is available on blackjack?

    geoff

  16. bill said,

    December 4, 2006 @ 2:55 pm

    I do not believe term services is available yet for the Blackjack.

    -Bill

  17. sibanez said,

    December 4, 2006 @ 4:07 pm

    You can use your Blackjack as a modem or use ICS if you want to use it to connect to the Internet. Pretty powerful stuff either way . . the modem instructions can be found at http://forums.cingular.com/cng/board/message?board.id=samsung&message.id=16800

  18. Doug said,

    December 5, 2006 @ 8:03 pm

    I have a new BlackJack too. My complaints, sound quality is poor (distorted and too much mid and low range), key pad looks like it won’t be long until the characters will wear down and become difficult to read, upper keys are too easy to hit by mistake causing disconnects or menu function errors, scroll wheel is hard to operate with the left hand (right free for button pushing), selecting with the scroll wheel is requires a very hard push (causes unintended scroll before selection), can’t figure out how to save contacts to SIM, Cingular video has never worked. I’m trying to give it a chance but think I will be returning the unit. A smartphone is all I need at a quarter the price.

  19. edgeblog said,

    December 11, 2006 @ 9:27 pm

    Cingular Blackjack for $49.99!!!…

    Amazon is running a special on the Cingular Blackjack for $49.99 after rebates! CLICK HERE. The special is obviously only good for a limited time, and requires activation, but this is an incredible deal on arguably the best Windows Smartphone available…

  20. bill said,

    December 11, 2006 @ 9:28 pm

    Amazon is running a special on the Cingular Blackjack for $49.99 after rebates! CLICK HERE. The special is obviously only good for a limited time, and requires activation, but this is an incredible deal on arguably the best Windows Smartphone available today.

  21. edgeblog » Cingular Blackjack for only $9.99??? said,

    January 21, 2007 @ 1:50 pm

    […] As we’ve discussed, this is a great phone. For only $9.99, how can you lose? Order today. […]

  22. billie said,

    July 7, 2007 @ 8:39 am

    Oh man it was such a pain to remove the battery cover on the blackjack I felt like I was going to break it!

  23. Ordercingular phone | ChristianWarner said,

    March 5, 2011 @ 11:06 am

    […] Cingular Blackjack vs SMT5600 – 1st Look | edgeblogMy shiny new Cingular Blackjack (Samsung i607) arrived today!!! The Blackjack is Samsung’s latest foray into the Windows Smartphone category, meant to compete … For those not familiar with Microsoft-based cell phones, there are basically 2 flavors: 1) Pocket PC Phone; 2) Smartphone. The key to choosing between the two is… […]

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