Samsung Blade GT-S5600V £200

2nd Oct 2009 | 15:44

Samsung Blade GT-S5600V

A decent touchscreen handset that won't set the world alight

TechRadar rating:

3.5 stars

The Blade doesn't have the top end spec of some touchscreen handsets, but this isn't where Samsung is pitching this device – it has others in the range for that market.

Like:

Attractive design; Touchscreen user interface; HSDPA high speed 3G; Decent quality music player; Affordable price; 3.2-megapixel camera

Dislike:

No Wi-Fi; No GPS; Camera lacks autofocus; Texting layout could be better; and no Qwerty option; No smartphone OS

Samsung Blade GT-S5600V: Overview

Sharp-looking or cutting edge? The Samsung Blade GT-S5600V sits in the ever-expanding Samsung touchscreen mobile range somewhere above the Tocco Lite and below the super-charged Samsung Jet.

A Vodafone-tailored version of the Samsung GT-S5600 Preston, it has most of the feature run down of the budget-priced Tocco Lite but expands its capabilities with additional 3G HSDPA connectivity.

Design-wise, the Blade takes its cues from the Jet line, sporting similarly curvy bodywork and eye-catching angular front buttons. It has that now-familiar minimalist black bodywork that tips its hat to Apple's trend-defining iPhone.

The Samsung Blade does, however, have a smaller display than its stable mates – a 2.8-inch 16-million colour QVGA (240 x 320 pixels) array that's fractionally wider, but shorter than the Tocco Lite's 3-inch screen and the Jet's 3.1-inch rich AMOLED display.

blade

The Blade works on Samsung's TouchWiz touchscreen user interface, with support for home screen widgets, and has almost the same operational set-up as the Tocco Lite. Within its touch-operated applications are similar features too, including music and video player functionality, an FM radio and Google Maps, plus a 3.2-megapixel camera – this time with an LED flash.

camera

Although it does offer HSDPA high-speed data at up to 7.2Mbps data rates, it doesn't have the Wi-Fi capability of the Jet, reflecting the Blade's more modest price tag.

The Samsung Blade GT-S5600V is initially available free on Vodafone contract deals, and is available in its non-Vodafone S5600 guise for free on Orange contract deals or for around £120 in pay as you go packages.

Samsung Blade GT-S5600V: Design

in hand

With its glossy black casing and rounded slab design, the Blade has a familiar post-iPhone touchscreen phone look about it.

Its 102.8(h) x 54.8(w) x 12.9(d) mm dimensions give it a slightly squatter appearance than both the Tocco Lite and the Jet, though its 96g weight gives it a comfortably solid rather than chunky feel in your hand.

It has a very similar curvy back panel to the Jet, with even the camera and flash configuration positioned in the same way.

side

There's no Jet-like lenticular-ish patterning on the Blade though - its bodywork is straight black. Unless, of course, you opt for the eye-dazzlingly pink version of the Blade, which is available for the same price.

The 2.8-inch QVGA resistive touchscreen display on the front is noticeably shorter than the Tocco Lite, which gives it the sort of dimensions similar to a device like the Nokia N95 8GB rather than a longer-bodied touchscreen phone.

side

Still, it's bright and clear and although its resistive technology means it doesn't provide the slick Multi-Touch ease of use and smooth control of the iPhone, it does feel decently responsive to pressing and finger swiping actions.

The screen space is also sufficient for finger control without requiring a stylus (there's none provided) or improvised pen-jabbing. Samsung has thought about the layout and not cluttered it up with lots of extraneous touch buttons.

micro

A low-resolution camera for video calling is perched discreetly above the display. There are only three non-touch external buttons on the front panel below the screen: a pair of conventional Call and End keys on a single textured panel, plus that bold Blade-mark – a large arrowhead-shaped button in the middle of these.

Out of the box, the first thing you want to do is press this large button to see what happens. In fact, the answer isn't all that exciting. With a normal short press, it acts as a Back button for menu navigation.

A longer hold of it calls up a panel of shortcuts for certain functions – call (bringing up the on-screen virtual numberpad), web browser, music player, messages and main menu (plus another 'Back' option) – two of which options are on the home screen anyway.

microSD

It's not even a navigation D-pad, as some regular phone users might initially assume.

Around the sides of the phone, buttons are kept to a minimum too. On one side is a dedicated camera button to fire up and snap with the shooter, plus a screen lock/unlock key, while the other flank sports volume/zoom rocker controls

headphones

Anyone hoping for a Jet-style 3.5mm headphone socket will be disappointed – Samsung provides only a microUSB multi-function socket on the top of the phone for earphones, charging and USB data connectivity.

Samsung Blade GT-S5600V: Interface

The TouchWiz user interface employed here is very similar to the Tocco Lite. The home screen is styled in a similar way (albeit adapted for the shorter, slightly wider screen), with three alternative home screen 'pages' you can swipe between with a sideward finger stroke.

The home screens feature three small virtual buttons sitting on the bottom of the display – keypad, contacts and menu.

The first brings up the numberpad, which sensibly Samsung has ranged across the full width of the display. This provides plenty of room for fingers to dab the keys without mis-pressing.

homescreen

With haptic feedback confirming presses, and a responsive action, the keypad is easy to use and very intuitive. Buttons at the bottom of the keypad enable you to make a voice call or start composing a text message.

However, when you press the text message option, and tap the text panel to start typing, the keypad layout changes, introducing option keys (for T9, space, clear and symbols) down the right side of the numberpad, reducing the finger space for each key.

This is presumably more a factor relating to the screen size than anything else – its relatively short length making it tricky to squeeze in extra option buttons below the number keys.

main menu

The Contacts button brings up your phonebook, either on your SIM, phone or both combined.

Ease of use

You can scroll down by swiping your finger, search by tapping a search box and inputting letters, or use a small button on the top of the screen to roll speedily through the letters of the alphabet until you get to the appropriate one for the contact you're hunting for.

contacts

Again, it's straightforward and easy to operate once you get the feel of the touchscreen's calibration.

Pressing the Menu buttons pulls up a familiar phone-style 3 x 4 grid of menu options, represented by labelled icons.

A tap on these opens up the next level of sub-menus – most of which are listed in quite conventional Samsung phone fashion, so should be easily navigable by phone users trying touch control for the first time; there's little to scare the horses…

Within the main menu screen, buttons on the bottom of the screen again enable quick access to the keypad, plus there's a photo contacts option that brings up a carousel of boxes into which frequent contacts are automatically recorded.

keypad

If you've assigned these contacts photos, their images will appear onscreen, providing another visually-enhanced way of quickly spinning through your favourite contacts.

The other button is for widgets, bringing you back to the home screen. Here you can start playing with one of the TouchWiz UI's most eye-catching features...

Samsung Blade GT-S5600V: Widgets

Samsung's Widgets feature enables users to arrange on the home screen a selection of mini-apps represented as small panels which can be used to activate functions on the phone, show information or go online to use web-based services.

These widgets can be dragged and dropped onscreen from a widgets toolbar, which pops up on the home screen by tapping the display in standby mode. The toolbar appears from the left side of the screen, and you can scroll up and down (or whiz through with a finger swipe) to browse the list of widgets available.

widgets

You can drop widgets in place on the main part home screen by pressing the widget in the toolbar and dragging it where you want it. Some widgets will open up simply by pressing them in the toolbar (calendar, profiles, world clock, and so on), though others have to be in place on the home screen to be activated, again with a quick press.

You can select as many widgets as you want to place onscreen.

These control a wide variety of apps and features, ranging from tools such as clocks, calendars, memos, voice recorder and Bluetooth, and media options including photo gallery, music player, radio and games, to online-based services such as Google (map, mail and search), AccuWeather's weather forecasting service and YouTube (just a link to the mobile site rather than an app).

widgets

A widget to launch the web browser and direct it the Vodafone Live! content portal is also included in the Vodafone-optimised Blade.

You're not just limited to the initial selection of widgets shown in the toolbar – additional widgets are available to activate from within the menu settings, while extra widgets can be easily sourced online from Samsung and quickly downloaded over the air, using a More Widgets application widget which is located in the toolbar.

While the range of Samsung's More Widgets downloads is currently limited, there are some neat ones to be found, including a well-implemented BBC news and sports widget.

widgets

If you're concerned about numerous widgets cluttering the home screen, there is a canny feature in the Blade that can help you out. Like the Tocco Lite, there are in effect three simultaneous home screens you can swipe between, with just a simple left or right stroke of the finger.

These are effectively three joined up home screen 'pages' (with different screen images behind each), so you can spread your widgets around these to avoid overloading one screen. Widgets can even sit on the 'edge' between home screen pages, so can be dragged and used between two screens.

Issues

You can't, however, drop the same widget on the three separate screens (as you can do with the Jet), but in practice this is unlikely to be a real bind – as swiping between each home screen view is so easy.

The widgets interface does provide some useful home screen customisation that enables you to launch favourite features quickly. They can easily be rearranged onscreen and hidden when not required, so widgets don't have to be obtrusive if you prefer not to have them showing at all times.

One small issue some may find is that opening the widgets toolbar is arguably too easy – a short dab on the screen opens up the bar, which can be problematic if the phone inadvertently unlocks in-pocket (which can happen).

If it does, you may find widgets opening up or launching when not intended. It rarely happens, but perhaps Samsung should think of going back to a system where a press on a specific tab on the screen is necessary to open up the toolbar.

Still, at least the toolbar now closes up automatically after around 8-9 seconds if nothing is pressed, which is handy.

More issues

Another widgets issue concerns how easy they are to move around the screen when the toolbar is closed. While it makes it simple to rearrange them, on the compact display you can find that with a few widgets onscreen it's easy to inadvertently shift widgets by stray finger touching, or when you're trying to swipe between home screen views.

Again, not a deal-breaker but something that could perhaps be addressed in future.

Another interesting feature included on the Blade which we've also seen on the Jet is Samsung's Smart Unlock technology. This allows you to unlock the phone when the screen lock has been activated, simply by drawing a pre-selected alphabetic character onscreen.

google widget

This gesture function can also be used to unlock and speed dial numbers to which you've assigned a character, or to launch applications you've selected.

This operates pleasingly efficiently and is easy to set up – although the rage of apps available is limited (5) compared to the Jet (25). Smart Unlock can be activated within the Settings menu; you choose an option, select an application or contact you want to use with gesture unlock control, and then choose from a grid of letters which one you want to use for that particular function.

You can choose to assign letters to up to 18 speed dial numbers and five applications (call, music player, messages, web and java), and there are 29 characters to choose from.

Then, when the phone screen is locked, you simply draw the appropriate character and the display unlocks, app is launched or speed dial number is called. The screen backlight has to be active for this to work, which means it's unlikely to go off accidentally in your pocket or handbag.

It's a bit gimmicky; the 'unlock only' option isn't really necessary (as you'd probably have to press the unlock button to activate the backlight anyway), and the small choice of apps limits its app launch appeal – but it could be handy for speed dialling regular contacts.

We'd recommend, though, that you select your speed dial letters carefully, in case a slip of the finger unintentionally calls someone else assigned to a similar character.

Samsung Blade GT-S5600V: Calls and messaging

texttext

Touch technology or not, voice calling is obviously a top priority in any mobile, and the Samsung Blade has no worries on that score.

Getting to the contacts lists is easy, as mentioned above, with a home screen button option, speed dialling and photo contacts options embedded in the software. Up to 2,000 contacts can be stored in the phonebook.

Dialling a number is a breeze too, with the large virtual keyboard very manageable for finger prodding. It makes for a comfortable calling experience, and the screen automatically locks when calling so there are no accidental virtual button presses when the phone's snug up to your face.

teext

In-call options – such as using the loudspeaker, mute or bringing up the keypad – can be activated by holding down the lock button on the side.

Call quality was first rate during our extensive testing; we got clear, loud audio reception and the microphone relayed crisp balanced sound. There were no issues with network reception either.

Messaging

Naturally, users will expect an acceptable texting experience too. As we've previously mentioned, the keyboard layout changes when text messaging or emailing is used.

The relatively short screen length means that option buttons (clear, space, T9 and symbols) appear ranged down the right side of the 3, 6, 9 and # keys, rather than being slotted underneath the bottom row of keys, as most of Samsung's other recent touchscreen phones (including the Jet, Tocco Ultra and Tocco Lite) do.

This slightly reduces the finger width for each key – not an issue with the wide-ish display – but also introduces a bit more scope for mispressing by errant thumbs. We usually found that the keyboard was serviceable, the screen quick and responsive.

But the option placement is less than ideal – as we've mentioned with other similar layouts on phones, including earlier Samsung and some LG touchscreen models.

We found the space bar placing – next to the 6 key – jarred with us at first and felt odd when we were texting quickly; we reckon this may take some getting used to for conventional phone users moving to touch.

Also, we found that sometimes thumbs could accidentally brush the option buttons while hovering over the right-side numbers, which can be irritating if you suddenly discover T9 has been switched off, or you've added an unwanted space.

Generally, texting is OK once you get used to the key layout, however, and there isn't the frustration of some touch phones we've operated in the past.

No QWERTY

Unlike most recent touchscreen phones, including the Tocco Lite and Jet, there isn't a QWERTY keyboard option on the Samsung Blade, nor are there any handwriting options – odd when the phone has a handwriting recognition controlled Smart Unlock function.

The lack of a QWERTY keyboard could again be down to the short screen dimensions, which could have made it cramped. Still, it's an unusual omission for a phone of this class, and it could make it less easy to use for those who may want to write longer messages or emails, or prefer using a QWERTY keyboard for typing out long URLs when browsing.

email

The onboard email software provides a wizard for helping you to initially set up the phone to use your regular web mail or other POP3 or IMAP4 email accounts. Settings for aol.co.uk, Google Mail, and aol.com are pre-loaded on the Blade, though you can add other accounts.

However, you may need to get some account details other than password and email address, such as the incoming and outgoing POP3/SMTP server address, as unlike some mobiles from manufacturers such as Sony Ericsson and Nokia, the Blade doesn't automatically download or install these settings for you.

Samsung Blade GT-S5600V: Internet and networking

browser

With HSDPA high-speed 3G connectivity (up to 7.2Mbps), the Samsung Blade can deliver a rapid full web browsing experience. The phone has Webkit-based Samsung Mobile Browser v0.8 software onboard that is definitely a cut above most mobiles in this price bracket.

It may not have the slick, smooth easiness of the iPhone's pinch-zoom Multi-Touch operated Safari browser on the iPhone, but it does incorporate elements that make good use of the touch interface – including touch zooming.

bbc

It also has some desktop-style options displayed onscreen, such as reload, back, forward, home and bookmark buttons, and an address bar that shows a drop down of recently visited addresses.

Users have the options of viewing sites on the full screen, either in portrait or landscape orientation (there's an in-built accelerometer that kicks in when the phone's tilted), or having the virtual button array framing the web page.

bbc

Zooming in or out of web pages can be done by simply using the volume control rocker on the side of the phone or, alternatively, by finger-on-screen action. Pressing and holding the display activates the zoom option, with an upward finger slide zooming in and a downward stroke zooming out.

Double-tapping the screen is another less accurate way to zoom in and out so you can see a page overview.

The finger controlled zooming works pretty well, in conjunction with digit dragging across the display to navigate pages, although you should be careful about not hitting links while you're initially pressing and holding.

techradar

The Blade is pretty quick at downloading full websites, and supports Flash too. More data heavy elements take longer to download, but it did a decent job of handling TechRadar.com and other data heavy sites.

Mobile optimised sites like the BBC take just a few seconds to render. An RSS reader function is included too, so you can get regular updates from your favourite sites or services without having to negotiate the browser each time.

A selection of online services are available via the widgets feature too. AccuWeather.com's customisable weather forecast widget is a neat and useful option to have at your fingertips.

google widget

The Google tools widget can fire up the onboard Google Maps software, but others options – for searches or mail – take you straight to the web page rather than running a separate phone app. The same goes for the YouTube widget.

Samsung Blade GT-S5600V: Camera

blade camera

Samsung has some heavyweight touchscreen cameraphones on the market, including its flagship 12-megapixel M8910 Pixon 12, but the Blade is much lower down the pecking order. Like the Tocco Lite, the Blade's 3.2-megapixel camera is a fixed focus unit, so lacks the versatility for precise image capturing that an autofocus camera offers.

It has a digital zoom, but only at lower resolution and not in full 3.2-megapixel mode. The Blade does have an LED flash for low-light illumination, though, providing some added illumination in murky situations, but is otherwise quite a limited shooter.

sample

SAMPLE: The Samsung Blade's fixed focus 3.2-megapixel camera cam take reasonable snaps. Here, colours are well-balanced

Its touchscreen user interface is, however, very user-friendly and intuitive, based around a system of large, clear icons framing the viewfinder image.

Press the camera button on the side of the phone, and the Blade's camera fires up in a couple of seconds, switching into landscape viewfinder mode. Three control buttons are ranged either side of the viewfinder on a see-through panel. Pressing any of these brings up further large icons onscreen, giving you easy to identify options to choose from.

sample

SAMPLE: Again, colours are well rendered, although there isn't the level of detail you'd get from a higher grade camera

The main controls provide fast access to camcorder mode, flash mode selection (on, off, auto), brightness control, shooting mode – which includes a Smile shot option for detecting when a subject is smiling before the camera snaps, plus multi-shot and panorama views.

A settings button allows further options, including white balance control, colour effects, timer and image resolution and quality. Another button brings up a quick view of your image gallery – one of several ways of viewing and browsing your pictures on the phone.

sample

SAMPLE: The camera does lack the precision for focusing on individual subjects in the viewfinder, though its auto metering system deals well with subdued light

Images can be uploaded straight to social networking site and online services, including Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, Photobucket, MySpace and Friendster.

While the camera is a doddle to operate, the limitations of the fixed focus shooter are apparent in the results you can achieve with it.

chelsea

SAMPLE: On a gloomy afternoon, the camera captures reasonable shots; the screen and signs around the stadium can be read, although it does lack precision when it comes to the grey sky

It puts in an acceptable performance for this grade of cameraphone, but doesn't surprise in terms of overall quality. Images look fine for snaps, but you can't get the precise focus on some subjects that you can with an autofocus shooter.

Picture detail looks reasonable but is limited in what you can achieve and in gloomier conditions or indoors, shots can appear a bit soft. Colour rendition is generally natural and in bright light rich with vivid saturation.

sample

SAMPLE: Mid-distance shots come out OK, but close-up definition is limited

In dark situations, the flash does help throw some light on subjects, but it's not as powerful as some of Samsung's mobiles. It only has limited brightness and is insufficient when over a metre or two away.

sample

SAMPLE: The Blade's LED flash provides low-light illumination indoors or out. Its range is limited to quite close up, but it does allow you to capture images in dark places

Camcorder mode is average for this level of shooting device, but is again limited; it shoots in maximum QVGA (320 x 240 pixels) resolution at up to 15 frames per second maximum, so produces typically unrefined mobile phone footage.

As you'd expect, there are editing tools onboard, which are quite easy to apply using the touchscreen.

Samsung Blade GT-S5600V: Media

media

The Blade has a very decent music player onboard – and to add to the listening pleasure, it supplies a standard 3.5mm headset adaptor in-box, enabling users to upgrade to better headphones than those supplied, should they wish to upgrade.

The player interface is straightforward and user friendly; tunes loaded up on to the phone or slipped in on a MicroSD card are automatically categorised and listed by the music player software into typical MP3 player headings – playlists, recently added, artists, albums, genres and podcasts (and you can add composers, recently played and most played options from the settings menu too).

No MicroSD card is supplied in-box, though the phone can support cards up to 8GB. If you want to make good use of the media playing capabilities, you may want to buy one sharpish, as the handset has only 80MB of internal storage to play with.

media menu

The MicroSD card slot is under the battery, which means powering down if you want to swap cards.

The music player UI is easy on the eye and functional, without having anything as slick or snazzy as the iPhone's Cover Flow trickery. It works easily and effectively though. Cover art is supported, and onscreen timelines allow you to drag back or forwards through tracks, while standard control buttons are large enough for hassle free touch control.

music

Other buttons enable you to activate shuffle and loop options, plus there are a selection of equaliser modes to try out if you want to tweak sounds.

The supplied headset produces decent quality audio. The two-piece headset plugs in via the multi-connector slot on top of the phone, and the in-ear earphones slot in mid-way. Audio sounds quite detailed and well-balanced, with a good amount of bass, and sounds controlled when the volume's whacked right up.

You can improve on this with better quality eargear – our reference Sennheisers upped the quality, as you'd expect – but the boxed headset does a more than adequate job for casual listening.

music

The Blade can be synced with Windows Media Player on a PC, using the supplied USB cable. You can also copy tracks over using Samsung's supplied New PC Studio software, or by dragging and dropping in mass storage mode, or via Bluetooth.

MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA and WAV files are all supported. Tracks can also be downloaded over the air from Vodafone's paid-for mobile music service; tracks download in a just a few seconds, thanks to the HSDPA connectivity.

Song identification software is included here, as is now standard on Samsung touchscreen handsets. An FM radio is included too, which is simple to tune and operate using the touchscreen controls. This can be piped through the headset or played via the loudspeaker.

You can also carry out music identification searches direct from the radio; in the same way as for music you hear around you that you want identified, it records a snatch of a tune, which is then automatically sent to, analysed and identified by a remote database. Song details then arrive back at the phone.

Both the music player and radio can play in the background, with widgets automatically appearing on the home screen enabling you to control them from standby mode.

pics

Video content can also be downloaded or sideloaded for playback on the handset. The Blade supports MP4, H.263, H.264 and WMV file formats, although not DivX or Xvid, as some higher end Samsung's like the Pixon and Tocco Ultra Edition do.

The relatively compact display plays back cleanly and smoothly, and is bright and crisp. However, the compact screen dimensions mean it's a relatively small pocket cinema screen.

Samsung Blade GT-S5600V: Misc features and battery

battery

Samsung reckons the Blade's 960mAh Li-ion battery pack can keep the phone powered for up to 350 hours on standby, or for 3.5 hours of 3G chatting (or 6 hours talk in 2.5G-only coverage). In our tests, we managed to get 2-3 days with our usual levels of usage, which is acceptable a for a HSDPA touchscreen handset. As usual, the more power-sapping gadgetry you use – like the music and video player or browser – the less life you'll get out of it.

Organiser

Samsung has kitted out the Blade with a familiar mid-tier set of organiser tools and applications. It delivers the essentials well, with the applications tidily adapted for touchscreen operation.

organiser

These include calendar, memo, task, world clock, calculator and convertor functions, plus timer, stopwatch and a voice recorder function. Some, such as the world clock and calculator, are visually neater, with touch control adding to the fluency of the app.

Others, including the calendar, work efficiently enough in a functional sort of way, without the touch interface adding much to the overall experience.

Connectivity

There's no Wi-Fi on the Blade, which isn't really a surprise at this price point. However, compared to the non-3G Tocco Lite, HSDPA and 3G does boost data rates making connecting to internet services and downloading or uploading content far quicker and smoother.

Bluetooth is fully supported, so you can use stereo Bluetooth headphones or stream music to a Bluetooth device, should you want to. The set-up procedure is intuitive too.

One extra we'd like added to speed up the connection process a fraction is for the phone to automatically recall the previous Bluetooth connection when you go to use it. Now, you have to search again for nearby devices each time you want to connect.

The Blade can be synced up to a PC, using the USB connector and the supplied Samsung's PC New Studio software. You can transfer or back up content and sync your organiser info, contacts, calendar and so on.

The software is PC only (Windows 2000, XP and Vista), though Mac users can use remote syncing web-based services.

Other

Google Maps is always welcome on any phone, even if – like the Samsung Blade – the handset doesn't have a GPS receiver built in.

google maps

This version 2.3.2 of Google Maps is nicely implemented for touchscreen control, and on the Blade it uses cellsite triangulation to pin down your approximate location (rater than exact satellite positioning).

Still, you can get mapping information quickly and search easily for addresses, places of interest and nearby services and businesses. You can also plan routes and get driving, walking and even public transport directions, plus overviews and satellite images. In addition, you can use a Street View option to get street level views of routes.

google maps

It's all rather neat, and quick too, with mapping details and info downloaded via the phone's HSDPA connection (if available). It may not be a sat nav, but it's a very useful application to have on a phone.

Samsung has also included a Communities option in the Applications menu, which brings together social networking and content sharing services to which you may want to upload content. You can set profiles so you can save account access details, providing a quick way of updating services such as Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket and Friendster.

streetview

Samsung has also pre-loaded a selection of demo games, plus a tumbling dice basic motion-operated game.

Samsung Blade GT-S5600V: Verdict

samsung blade review

As a relatively affordable touchscreen device, the Samsung Blade S5600V provides a decent helping of touchscreen-based functionality and media features at an attractive price. It's not the highest spec touchscreen phone on the market, but it still has plenty of finger-action phone appeal.

We liked:

The Blade ups the spec of the Tocco Lite by adding 3G, and HSDPA connectivity certainly improves its online performance. The TouchWiz UI brings some attractive features, such as onscreen widgets – but don't expect smartphone-style functionality or feature customisation.

The main user interface should generally be straightforward for anyone migrating from a conventional phone, and is generally responsive and unfiddly.

As a low cost touchscreen phone, the Blade offers some solid features, including a decent music player (with headphone adaptor included in-box) and an impressive browser performance for this grade of handset. Overall it has a good balance of usable features, even if it's no iPhone.

We disliked:

The Blade isn't intended as a do-everything touchscreen smartphone so it's a bit churlish to point out its obvious limitations. Of course, there's no Wi-Fi, GPS, smartphone functionality, high quality camera or other top-end features.

The resistive touchscreen doesn't offer the multi-touch sensitivity of a higher-grade capacitive type array, although within these limitations, the screen was responsive to touch.

There are issues with the texting set-up, with some of the option button placing affecting the easy usability of the texting numberpad, while the lack of a QWERTY keyboard option is a shame. This is presumably down to the short-ish screen requiring some software compromises.

The screen dimensions may not appeal to everyone either, with some users perhaps preferring a larger display for enjoying video playback. We were disappointed that the camera lacked an autofocus set up, but it's acceptable for quick snaps.

Verdict:

The Blade doesn't have the top end spec of some touchscreen handsets, but this isn't where Samsung is pitching this device – it has others in the range for that market. Those who want more high-tech muscle in their touchscreen will look elsewhere.

But as it is, the Blade works as a good-looking, compact and easy to operate lower-priced touchscreen handset that offers some appealing functionality for your money.

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