Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 3:49:29 PM
The F300 is expertly built and its music player sounds dynamic.
A weak phone, temperamental touch-sensitive controls and an unintuitive music player interface blight this striking handset.
Samsung has racked up more than a few milestones since breaking into the UK mobile phone market: the first MP3-playing phone, the first dual-display clamshell, the Ultra range of the slimmest phones available.Now the Samsung F300, part of the Ultra range, is the first dual-face music phone. One side is the phone, but turn it over and the full music/multimedia player is revealed.
Samsung's Ultra handsets have always oozed quality and the F300 continues with this tradition. Just 9.4mm thick, it's completely enclosed, with limited moving parts (including no battery cover), so it feels solid but lightweight and well constructed. It is coated in a soft-paint finish, with metal fenders lining the sides for added protection. With no access to the battery, the SIM card is fitted into an easily accessible side slot, right next to the hotswappable microSD card slot. A phone/MP3 button switches between the two main functions (there is a slight lag, but nothing too annoying). The phone half of the Samsung F300 looks quite bland and the narrow display doesn't help. We assume that Samsung couldn't justify two high-resolution screens, so the music player side received the spoils.
Navigating the menu is fine on the slender, two-line screen, but for reading texts and looking through contacts, it's restrictive. As a result, Java gaming support and email have been given the elbow. Otherwise, the phone is fine to operate. The keys are bold and spacious if slightly mechanised. The black user interface is identical to other Ultra handsets and easy to work around and master.A two-megapixel camera can be fired up from either side of the phone. It doesn't feature auto-focus or a flash, but you can tinker with the settings and add effects. It performs well for its spec but lacks focus, especially on close-ups, and is prone to overexposure. When it does hit the spot, colours can be very vivid. It also shoots video in a QVGA resolution.
On to the music player. You can access a lot more from this side of the Samsing F300, including the camera, photos and videos, FM radio, web browser and voice recorder. There's no simple main menu like the iPod, instead you get multiple sub-menus. It's not the most intuitive of systems, and the erratic touch-sensitive keys exacerbates this. The keys are volatile; over sensitive one minute, unresponsive the next. It makes for an irksome experience. You can transfer your music from your PC via a USB cable or Microsoft Windows Media Player, and proprietary software lets you organise your music, photos and videos. The F300 doesn't have the simplicity of iTunes, but once you get to grips with its methods, it's quite simple. You can even tag your tunes via the online Gracenotes CD database. Once your tunes are loaded onto the 2GB microSD card (this can hold around 1,000 MP3 files encoded at 128Kbps), we fiddled with the equaliser and listened through the supplied earphones. This wasn't great, but once we hooked up our trusty Sennheisers via the 3.5mm adapter, they really gave the sound some depth and drive.
We were impressed with its battery life: testing the Samsung F300's player independently of phone usage and from a full charge, we got around 11 hours of playback. Of course, if you use the phone as well, it seriously eats into the time, but an auxiliary battery wallet comes in the box, which doubles the juice. It's not ideal, but handy nevertheless.