Samsung Solid Immerse £110

13th May 2011 | 12:55

Samsung Solid Immerse

A tough, no nonsense candybar phone for clumsy people - but short on features

TechRadar rating:

3 stars

A rugged phone with a weak battery performance and painful performances from its camera and connectivity

Like:

Tough and solid; Good keypad; Built-in torch; FM radio; Twitter and Facebook possible at a pinch; Cheap price tag

Dislike:

Seems to suffer from poor battery life; Web browser is poor; 3G but not HSDPA; No Wi-Fi; Camera is poor;

Samsung Solid Immerse: Overview, design and feel

We all know about Samsung and its phones, right? Samsung has just set the new high standard for a smartphone with its Galaxy S2 – an absolute stunner that garnered a much-coveted five stars from us.

But the company does more than just set the standards in smartphones. It's had a rugged range for a while now. Anyone remember the Samsung Solid Extreme, or Samsung Bound, for example? The Solid Immerse is the latest in this established line.

If you want a rugged Android smartphone then we recommend the Motorola Defy, but not everyone wants or needs smartphone fanciness. If candybar is more your thing, then Samsung has the pedigree.

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What you trade off, though, is specifications. Solid shell, yes. Mind-blowing specs, no. The Samsung Solid Immerse manages 3G but not HSDPA, has a 2-inch screen, a 2MP camera and no Wi-Fi. It does have GPS, and some social networking support, but with a proprietary OS you can't exactly pepper it with third-party apps.

For £10 per month on contract or £100 outright, it's hardly going to bankrupt you should you drop and break it... but then again, you could probably get a refund should that happen.

The Samsung Solid Immerse certainly is tough. The chunky chassis has a non-slip finish so you can carry the phone easily when wearing gloves, or when your hands are slippery.

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The physical front buttons are large and fairly easy to prod with gloved hands, though if you have big rugby player-style digits you may have a problem.

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The side buttons are similarly chunky, with a sizeable volume rocker on the left and probably our favourite feature – a torch button – on the right. There's an LED on the top edge that you turn on and off with this. Now, the torch won't get you off Bodmin Moor in a raging thunderstorm, but it will help you find your car keys in the dark.

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Also on the right-hand edge there's a covered slot for the mains power and headphones connector. The fact that this slot is covered is important, as is the fact that the backplate is held on by a tight screw that can only be released with a screwdriver or very tough fingernail.

You see, the Samsung Solid Immerse is certified dustproof and waterproof to IP67. We explain what that means and how we tested it in the Ruggedness section of this review.

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The whole package adds up to a somewhat fat and ungainly-looking mobile that measures 120.8mm tall, 52.1mm wide and a generous 17.9mm thick. There's even a sizeable notch on the top edge through which you can pass a lanyard if you want to look like a complete idiot stylish builder and wear your phone around your neck.

Samsung Solid Immerse: Interface

Samsung Solid Immerse review: Interface

Samsung has tried to make the most of the interface options on the Solid Immerse, offering you a few different ways of configuring the look and feel, but this is no touchscreen handset with widgets galore to call on.

As a non-smartphone, it harks back to the glorious days of press-and-happen. That means you press a button, and the Solid Immerse does it straight away.

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You can choose between different themes for the look and feel, and fiddle with font styles too.

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None of the combinations presents a radical change, but at least there is some personalisation.

The Themes screen offers the option to download some new themes too, though there were none available when we looked online for some.

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You can also decide how many shortcuts to have on the Home screen to apps and data. You can go really mad here, checking as many options as you like from a fairly long list that includes Facebook and Twitter updates, a monthly calendar and even pedometer data.

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If you choose more elements than can be shown on the screen at once, you'll simply have to scroll horizontally to see them all.

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Minimalists might want to stick to having just an apps shortcut bar and maybe a weather app – one of a couple that update automatically.

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Once you've fiddled with the options on offer and set up the Home screen the way you like it, there is capacity for a fair bit of personalisation, though it's nothing like what you'll get on a smartphone.

Samsung Solid Immerse: Contacts and calling

Samsung Solid Immerse review: Contacts and calling

While it's perfectly legitimate to say that some handsets marginalise making calls in favour of other features, the Samsung Solid Immerse puts contacts and calling at its core.

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The right soft Menu button is hardwired into your contacts, which are drawn from the SIM and internal memory. A search box at the head of the screen lets you rifle through them.

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There are tabbed menus in the contacts area and you can skip quickly to groups and favourites.

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Adding new contacts to the Samsung Solid Immerse is easy, via a two-stage approach. Vertically scrolling through the Contacts screen you can enter first and last names, mobile and landline numbers, a separate video call number and email address. You can also assign the new contact to a group, give them a personalised ringtone and link to their image, as well as adding their company and job title.

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Stage two comes into play if you hit the left softkey. Now you can add a whole new bunch of info including nicknames, more phone numbers, web addresses and so on.

You'll note in that lot we mentioned video calling. It is supported, but only works one way as there's no front-facing camera on the Samsung Solid Immerse itself.

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Calling is all very straightforward. However there's no smart dialling, so that if you're on the main screen and start tapping out either a number or the letters of someone's name, you don't get any help in narrowing down who you are trying to call.

Call quality is good and there's a noise cancelling feature which claims to allow people to hear you even when, according to the Samsung website, you're near a construction site or roaring waterfall. Samsung is clearly trying to tell us that its Solid Immerse is as good for builders as it is for tough travellers.

Being neither, we were only able to try it on a busy main road and with the radio turned up indoors. It's OK, but cupping a hand over the mouthpiece helped too.

Samsung Solid Immerse: Messaging

Samsung Solid Immerse review: Messaging

When it comes to messaging, SMS, IM and email are all on board.

The IM client is Palringo. If you've got an account already, you're in luck. If not you can set one up and use this Java-based app across a range of devices. We'd have liked more IM options, to be honest - although it does support everything from Google Talk to a (limited) version of Facebook Chat if you're keen to play around with it for a while.

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Mobile email is easy to set up. If you have a Google, Yahoo! or Windows Live account most of the work is already done, and all you need to enter is the basics of email address, username and password.

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For other addresses you need to add more details, but there's no information needed that's difficult to get hold of, and nothing out of the ordinary about the process.

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SMS is a fairly standard affair. Open the app and choose Add by clicking the centre button. Choose a recipient or two to add, and then write your message in a large space that occupies much of the screen.

Predictive text works well and saves a fair bit of key tapping time, and at the bottom of the screen there's a line of links to add photos, music and so on.

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The message display has a nice conversation view so you can see the chats you've been having with people.

There's also social networking support, with clients for both Facebook and Twitter, but there's nothing as sophisticated as importing contacts from either into the contacts database.

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Both clients use a tabbed approach to get you into the detail of data. So in Facebook there are tabs for Home, Profile, Photos, Friends and Inbox.

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And in Twitter there are tabs for Home, @replies and DMs.

It's a huge irritation, though, that every time you switch tab the handset runs through its updating process, and you have to wait or cancel the update. For reasons we can't fathom we got a fair few 'update failed' messages when using the two clients. When it did work, updating seemed to take an age for both apps. Really, if you want social networking, this is not the handset to choose.

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As well as using the individual clients, you can pop into the Comms area on the main Apps menu and choose Communities. There you'll find a whole host of other social networking options including YouTube, Picasa and Flickr.

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Choose any one of these and you're taken to the web page where you can log in and do your thang. But the data speed makes getting to the required web page rather slow, and the small screen size is not ideal either.

Samsung Solid Immerse: Internet

Samsung Solid Immerse review: Internet

We've already grumbled a bit about the slow internet connectivity on the Samsung Solid Immerse, which is 3G but not HSDPA. That, along with the fact that there's no Wi-Fi, means you always have to wait around quite a lot when doing anything internet-related.

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The 2-inch, 320 x 240 pixel screen also isn't up to displaying a whole lot of detail. Take a look at our own Home page, for example.

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As it loads off the bat you barely see more than the headers. Scroll down and there's more visible, but you have to zoom to get to anything readable.

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There is an option called 'broad view', though, which condenses things a little more and gives you a magnifier window so you can identify a part of a page to home in on. When you click the magnifier window to zoom in on a page you get a little more detail, and it's often enough to make a story readable – if you don't mind squinting.

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There are three view options on a page – full screen, landscape and smart width. The latter does a good job of removing the need for horizontal scrolling, but text is really quite small.

When we tried to pop over to the BBC news website to see how well the Samsung Solid Immerse handled Flash from it, we got this response:

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Other sites we tried didn't let us pay any embedded Flash videos. The mobile YouTube site did deliver video, but both it and the sound that went with it were too jerky to be of any worth at all.

We encountered a few 'page too large' errors while trying to browse, and when we were able to see pages the waiting time for them to load was often alarmingly long. Best advice? Don't expect to use this as an internet phone.

Samsung Solid Immerse: Camera

Samsung Solid Immerse review: Camera

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With a 2MP flashless camera on board, you'd be wrong to expect a huge amount of sophistication from the Samsung Solid Immerse's image capturing. Rather bizarrely, Samsung has seen fit to equip the Solid Immerse with Beauty and Smile Shot modes, as well as a potentially more useful panorama option.

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NATURAL:Photographed indoors in natural light, this is a surprisingly acceptable photo.

Click here to see the full res shot

The detailing isn't bad in the photo above, taken with no artificial light, and colour is fairly uniform. Well, as long as you don't count the background, which is meant to be the same shade of lavender all over.

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TOO EXPOSED:The cat's leg is very over-exposed here, and zoom in even slightly and you see flaws and faults all over the place.

Click here to see the full res shot

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OUTDOORS: The variation in light availability outside really flummoxes the camera. The sky was a uniform blue.

Click here to see the full res shot

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PANORAMA: Stitching is good but resolution is poor in Panorama mode

Click here to see the full res shot

The Samsung Solid Immerse guides you through taking six photos in sequence to produce a panorama shot that is a mere 207 pixels high and 1072 pixels wide. The stitching is reasonably good, but the resolution and legibility is woeful.

Samsung Solid Immerse: Video

Samsung Solid Immerse review: Video

The video camera has just two resolutions on offer, and a capture rate of 15fps. Normal is a very disappointing 160 x 128 pixels, while you can also capture direct to MMS.

Really, the video shooting is barely worth bothering with. Our three samples include a reasonably passable indoor offering, but as soon as you move into the real world video is blurred and very low quality.

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Samsung Solid Immerse: Media, maps and apps

Samsung Solid Immerse review: Media

The music player is very basic. Album art seemed to be a problem, with the handset refusing to pick any up from our microSD card. You can also use the 15MB of internal memory for music storage.

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You've got playback controls on the centre pad buttons, as well as shuffle, repeat and playlists.

Among the very small number of tweaks available is an auto off setting, which can be configured to 30 minutes, an hour or two hours, so you could go to sleep to music and not fear waking up to a flat battery. There is also an equaliser with a fair number of settings.

The built-in speaker delivers a fairly tinny rendering of tunes, but volume goes quite high and certainly high enough to annoy anyone on the same bus as you.

The headphones, though, are a disaster. They share the same side-mounted microUSB slot as the mains power adaptor and PC connection cable, and they are flat in-ear buds. This style is notorious for not staying firmly in all ears, and because of the microUSB connector, it is tricky to swap them for a better set.

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As a slight salvation there is an FM radio, which will auto tune stations into 30 preset slots. You can set up reminders for particular programmes, which is a nice touch, but other than that the radio is a standard offering.

Maps and apps

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Built-in GPS can be used in conjunction with a Java version of Google Maps, but it is a far less sprightly experience than using it on a smartphone, and Google Maps itself is buried away in the Apps folder on the Main menu.

The remainder of the apps on board is rather close to what you'd expect from a candybar handset from yesteryear. So, for example, there's a voice recorder, timer and stopwatch. Plus there's an image editor, which can be used to warp, blur and otherwise automatically change any photos you may have taken. It's fun, but given the quality of photos the handset shoots, not good for a great deal.

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For outdoorsy types there's also a pedometer and a compass, the latter of which we discuss in the Battery life and connectivity section.

Samsung Solid Immerse: Battery and connectivity

Samsung Solid Immerse review: Battery life and connectivity

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Battery life ought to be pretty good on a handset with such a small screen, but the 1300mAh battery seemed to struggle. After about six hours of use, including some camera and internet access, it decided to give us a battery low warning.

We're inclined to think it might not last us through a weekend on the fells, which is a worry for a phone that is supposed to be able to accompany us into places where there are no mains power chargers.

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As noted previously, the network connection is 3G but not HSDPA, and there's no Wi-Fi connectivity.

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GPS is on board and there's a direction-sensing compass too, though to be frank we'd rather rely on a physical compass.

Samsung Solid Immerse: Ruggedness

Samsung Solid Immerse review: Ruggedness

The Samsung Solid Immerse is rated as IP67 compliant. That means it is able to withstand 'ingress' from dust and immersion in water to depths between 15cm and 1m.

So, how did we test this?

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Well, first off, we ran the Samsung Solid Immerse under a tap for a few minutes, then left it sitting in a bowl of water for 15 minutes.

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When we dried it off, it was working fine.

Then we put it into a bag of garden soil and gave it a good shake around. Another washing off, and again it was functioning perfectly well.

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For a final test, we had a go at scratching the screen with a kitchen knife. No joy there, either.

So that means that the Samsung Solid Immerse does exactly what you'd hope it would: survive underwater, withstand dust and grit and even help you out in a knife attack... although we'd recommend running rather than using the Immerse as a shield in the last example.

Samsung Solid Immerse: Hands-on gallery

Samsung Solid Immerse review: Hands-on gallery

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Samsung Solid Immerse: Verdict

Samsung Solid Immerse review: Verdict

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The Samsung Solid Immerse is certainly a tough handset, and if you need a mobile phone that can withstand a bit of rough and tumble then it could be a winner.

But the Motorola Defy, as mentioned in the Overview section of this review, has the same IP67 specification, and all the added plus points of downloadable apps, a touchscreen, Wi-Fi, proper HSDPA and a screen that is big enough to work for web and video viewing - although comes with a much higher price tag.

While in the past we've rather liked Samsung's rugged candybar handsets, things have moved on a lot, and Samsung has not really followed suit. There are too many things about the Solid Immerse that feel old fashioned and tricky to use for us to really get on well with it.

You're going to have to be in love with the candybar format to choose the Samsung Solid Immerse over the Motorola Defy.

We liked

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The keyboard is well made for use with a gloved hand, with large and responsive keys.

The torch idea is superb. We love being able to turn on the LED that sits on the top of the chassis in order to find stuff we've lost. It doesn't put out enough light for every occasion, but it is good to have as a standby.

Samsung has tried to give you lots of options for personalising the Home screen, and we applaud that.

We disliked

No mobile phone these days should lack a 3.5mm headset connector.

The use of 3G but not HSDPA makes all data downloading rather painful. Coupled with the small screen and the handset's inclination to fail to load larger pages, internet browsing quickly became a no go area.

Battery life really ought to be better. We were surprised to get less than a full day of faffing around from it. On the other hand, if you stick to simply making calls and sending SMS messages, you could to get through a weekend in the wilds.

Final verdict

In the past we've liked Samsung's rugged handsets, but the Samsung Solid Immerse doesn't really do enough to bring the product line on. And, we hate to mention it again, but we simply have to recommend the Motorola Defy rather than this handset, unless you're really in a budget and hate the person that invented touchscreen phones.

The Samsung Solid Immerse is a rugged little critter, but it lacks features. While hardware usability rates well, software usability is hampered by a number of issues including – too many in the end for us to really recommend this phone.

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