What a concept - the Beat DJ is touch-screen music phone with possibly the world's most awesome add-on, a virtual turntable you can scratch music on. No, it doesn't work like a dream; yes, it is ridiculously fun.
Look and feel
First off, the phone just looks laidback and cool, like you'd be friends with it if it were to sit up and live. It's one of the first elliptical phones we've seen in awhile, in a fresh looking silver and purple chassis. It's a full touch-screen with just three buttons - call, hang up, and back - and along its side, dedicated buttons for switching between home and music player, snapping images, and volume control/camera zooming.
The user interface is a grid-style menu and a toolbar at the bottom for direct access to the number pad, phonebook and widget homescreen.
There's no QWERTY keypad at all, just a soft number keypad that pops up for dialling, messaging and internet fields.
The customisable widget screen is already one of our favourite features. Tap a tab to the side of your homescreen and a widget toolbar will pop out with more widgets than we've ever seen on a phone, from the usual - Google Maps, Facebook, favourite contacts - to the quirky, including a ‘stop eating' one that counts how many days you've been on a diet. There's a maximum of three widgets you can add to the homescreen however.
Under the hood
It doesn't look so high-end, but the Beat DJ boasts audio by Bang & Olufsen, and the quality through the provided in-ear headphones is top-notch, with full, rich sound and excellent bass. The on-board speakers aren't so hot, but when are they ever really?
here's a 3.5mm audio jack, and on top of that, an adaptor so you can plug in your own set of cans if the bundled ones just aren't good enough.
The big thing here is its track-scratching feature, which is probably the coolest use of touch-screen technology we've seen in a while. Just head into DJ mode, and you're presented with a virtual turntable where you can scratch the track, drop in samples, and add filters. It doesn't work perfectly, as the touch-screen sometimes lags, but it is a huge amount of fun. Strangely, you can't actually mix from one track to the next, but you can record whatever madness you chop and sample.
Other features include A-GPS and a 3.2-megapixel camera with flash and autofocus. Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done, with settings for white balance, brightness and where you want exposure to be centered. Plus you get the usual fun Samsung photo editing suite, with filters, warps and partial blur, as well as the ability to adjust contrast, which managed to turn our office into a shadowy recess of film noir coolness. Once snapped, you can upload a picture directly to any one of preset photo sites, but there's no option to send it either by MMS or email.
Connectivity-wise, the Beat DJ is Wi-Fi, HSDPA and Bluetooth enabled.
Ease of use
Surprisingly, this isn't Samsung's best touch-screen. It's one of the less responsive resistive variety and you have to press quite hard sometimes for a touch to register. It's most noticeable in the games, but occasionally frustrates when just navigating the UI too.
The lack of a keypad is an issue in the internet browser. Lack of a QWERTY keypad is already frustrating when it comes to emailing; in the browser, you have to double-tap a text field to be taken to a whole other screen, where you're then limited to predictive text to type what you want. We wish Samsung had seen fit to include a soft QWERTY, seeing as you're redirected to a next screen anyway.
The phone excels at what it's billed at - a music phone with the innovative feature of being to cut, create and record your own tracks. We'll go more in-depth into its entertainment and connectivity features in our full review, up soon.
In the meantime, why not check out our video demo?