Click here to find out why the Samsung F400 claimed the award for Best Music Phone at the annual Mobile Choice Consumer Awards.
The dual sliding mechanism adds a novelty value to the F400, and its movement is both fluid and secure. The glossy black fascia complements the clean metal body.
With a slide-up speaker boasting Bang & Olufsen ICEpower audio technology, two headphone ports and HSDPA connectivity, the F400 also has room for a three-megapixel camera.
The turn-wheel proves to be a very useful navigational tool, and the menu interface is a cinch to master. However, the video call, cancel and menu shortcut keys interfere when using the keypad.
Music wise, the F400 can hold its head up high in the music phone market. Unfortunately the overall performance is let down by a poor camera.
Despite boasting a huge standby time of 620 hours, the talktime scores badly at only 270 hours.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:52:56 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
With Bang & Olufsen lending its ICEpower audio technology to the F400, the audio experience is of the utmost quality.
The three-megapixel camera produces nothing more than average pics.
Samsung has a history of teaming up with experts from other fields to partner them with the launch of its handsets. The manufacturer has teamed up with Italian fashion giants Armani, for the devilishly handsome Samsung Armani, Adidas added its fitness nous to the Samsung miCoach, and one of the longest-running partnerships that Samsung has endured is its relationship with audio experts Bang & Olufsen. First we saw the Samsung Serene back in 2005, which was followed in 2007 by the oddly shaped Serenata. Both failed to really make their mark in the popular market, though their music capabilities couldn’t be faulted. With the launch of the Samsung F400 it would appear that the two companies are very much the best of friends.
Assembling our Samsung F400 we were alarmed to find that the battery was loose. When we held the phone upside down without the back of the handset in place, the battery fell to the floor with an almighty crash. Not the kind of incident that fills you with confidence on the craftsmanship of a phone, which is a shame as when assembled the F400 is quite striking. A dual slider – think Nokia N95 – the F400 sports a glossy black fascia that adorns a clean metal body.The sliding mechanism feels secure and fluid. Sliding the front up will reveal the keypad, and when sliding the front down you will be met by the pièce de résistance, the Bang & Olufsen ICEpower audio technology enhanced speaker, more of which later.
Underneath the 2.2-inch screen are four hard keys, including a call and call end button (this doubles up as the power button although there is no indication of this function) that surround a turn-wheel that encircles the confirm key. Although the turn-wheel feels a little loose it actually works really well, which is a relief as it is an integral part in navigating the handset. There is a dedicated music key on the right-hand side of the phone, which takes you directly to the music player, and next to that is a dedicated camera key, which surprise surprise will take you to the camera function. Apart from the function of the keys, the main difference between the two buttons is that the music key requires a gentle quick push, whereas the camera key needs to be held down for a couple of seconds.
The keypad feels great to touch, but we are a tad baffled by Samsung’s decision to include three additional buttons above keys ‘1’, ‘2’ and ‘3’. The three buttons in question are a video call button, cancel key and shortcut menu option. Due to the unusual positioning of these keys, we found that our thumb was instantly drawn to them and we often found our own mug staring back at us in preparation for a video call, when in fact we were just wanting to press the ‘1’ key.The fact that video calling has never really taken off in this country only adds to the surprise that Samsung has included a dedicated key for such a function. In spite of these discrepancies, we were quite taken with the design of the F400, a vast improvement on the cumbersome Serenata.
However, as good as the look and feel is, it is its music credentials where the F400 really stands out. By sliding the Bang & Olufsen speaker out you are immediately transported to your three music media options; music player, FM radio and video. The quality of music when played through the loud speaker was excellent, but it’s a shame that there is no way of resting the phone upright to project the sound towards you, rather than placing it flat on its back.
The music player provides a number of various sound effect options, ranging from classic to dance. While many music-focused handsets offer a similar feature, the difference in acoustics is often marginal; however, this is not the case with the Samsung F400. Switch to the rock function for example, and you’re greeted with a massive crescendo of drums. Critics may point to the lack of visual backgrounds – there’s only three, all of which are much the same – but the music ability is beyond question. Samsung has even gone against form and included a 3.5mm headphone port. This is found conveniently on the top of the phone, which means Samsung doesn’t restrict you from using your own high-end headphones. Samsung has in fact still included its own headphone port on the right-hand side of the headset that comes with a 3.5mm adaptor and its own-brand 3.5mm headphones. Confused? Well the long and short of it is that you can use your own headphones and can even buddy up with a friend and both listen to the same track without disturbing anyone.
All your music can be categorised into various genres, artists, albums, playlists and podcasts, and if you have it, album art will also be displayed. The music player can be played while using all of your functions, apart from the camera. However, be warned that you will only be able to change the volume when you are using the music player, as the volume keys (found on the left of the device) double up as a scrolling facility, which is a bit unnecessary as that is already the job of the turn-wheel. The turn-wheel also comes into play when using the FM radio, acting as a tuning dial much like you would with an old-fashioned wireless. The FM radio can be played through the Bang & Olufsen speakers by connecting the adapter lead, although we found that you were more likely to encounter static when doing so in comparison than when played through headphones.
The Music Recognition facility is a welcome addition and will not only identify the song and artist with any 10-second music clip, it also downloads the album art, before giving you the option to buy it for £3 from the Samsung Mobile library, which has 4,000 tracks.Samsung has very kindly bundled in a 1GB memory card to store your media content (although this is expandable by up to 4GB), with the slot found conveniently on the side of the handset, which means you don’t need to turn the phone off and remove the battery before loading it up. Thanks Samsung.
Music phones are often accused of neglecting other on-board features, most notably the camera. The Samsung F400 sports a three-megapixel snapper, so we hoped for good things, maybe not the same standard as a Tocco or Soul, but competent nonetheless. Sadly it didn’t deliver. Testing the camera abilities in our fairly well-lit office, we found that without the flash our shots proved to be too dark, and when we used the flash we found that it was too bright and as a result distorted the image. The F400 could benefit from something akin to Sony Ericsson’s PhotoFix feature as the ‘sharpen’ option in Image Editor doesn’t make a great deal of difference.
The Multi Shot facility proved useful, taking up to nine shots depending how long you keep your finger on the snapper button, and the camera can be used when the slider is open or closed, although a far more authentic camera feel is achieved when used closed.Perhaps we’re being harsh, but with camera phones becoming ever more advanced we are just expecting a little more from our snappers, even if they are billed as a music rather than camera phone.
With HSDPA on board, we were treated to speedy downloads, and webpages were quick to load. There’s no built-in accelerometer so you will have to rely on viewing your content in a portrait view.However, you can adjust the size of the page, which lets you zoom in extremely close to specific parts of a page, a useful tool if you wanted to focus on an image for example. The lack of mouse pointer did lead to a slight juddery feel when navigating around a site, as it jumped between hyperlinks, rather than gliding smoothly.
Music wise, the Samsung F400 ticks all the boxes. The Bang & Olufsen speaker guarantees a cracking audio experience, and Samsung has recognised the demand for people to be able to use their own headphones, even allowing you to share your experience with a friend. The dual slide design adds character to the phone, differentiating it from the rest of the music phone crowd. If you’re not fussed about having a camera on your phone that is capable of taking nothing more than average shots, but are after a phone that boasts excellent music abilities on board a stylishly crafted chassis, then look no further than the Samsung F400.