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Friday May 26, 2006 6:40 pm

Gear Live Review: Sprint Samsung MM-A920 Review


Samsung MM-A920 Multimedia Phone

We just put a bunch of time into playing with the Samsing MM-A920, and are reporting back with our thoughts. This is Sprint’s dedicated multimedia phone, offering easy access and navigation of music, games, and video clips on the go. With external navigation, stereo speakers, BlueTooth, camera, and a host of other features, how does the phone stack up? Read on for our full review.




INITIAL IMPRESSIONS
So, first things first. The Samsung MM-A920 has a smooth midnight blue exterior which curves all over the place, rather than going with sharp lines. The phone is 91x49x24mm and weighs in at 4.6 ounces. Now, one thing to consider in mid-2006 is that this isn’t your micro-sized RAZR or SLVR. The A920 is a flip phone, and while not overly bulky, it isn’t small by any means. That being said, it is touted as a multimedia device, and when considered, it’s size justifies that claim.

On the front is an external 65,000-color screen, with a 1.3 megapixel camera/camcorder lens and flash right above it. Below the screen is the navigation pad, giving access to List, Shuffle, Play/Pause, Rewind, and Fast Forward functionality when listening to music. The sides of the phone feature volume control and a headphone port, along with TransFlash port and camera button.

MM-A920 Keypad


The bottom of the phone features the standard power connector. This connector actually also works with the included USB cable, for hooking the phone up to your PC. Rounding out the exterior,  the top of the phone has dual stereo speakers. A nice touch for a phone that touts itself as being tailored to a multimedia experience.

The internal 262,000-color display isn’t anything to write home about, as many phone on the market have a similar screen. The internal keys give a satisfying click when pressed - a very welcome change from the horrible RAZR-esque keypads. The MM-A920 also includes a 900 mAh lithium-ion battery, desktop charger, USB cable, stereo headset, manual, and a 32MB TransFlash card with an SD adapter.

MM-A920 Packaging


USING THE UNIT
The MM-A920 uses Sprint’s dual-band CDMA network, which is purely digital. Of course, we are looking to focus on the multimedia functions of the phone, so we jumped right in. To fully enjoy the phone, you should subscribe to the Sprint Power Vision plan. From there, you are able to check out news clips through the On Demand interface, and for a phone, clips look surprisingly good. There is a built-in media player for music, and new tracks can be downloaded over the service. Of course, you can also use your MP3s by loading them onto your phone.

The menu screen can be a bit cluttered at first glance, but as you select items, they are magnified to give you an easier navigation experience. When playing a track, the external screen and navigation are truly intuitive. You can control the media experience without opening the phone, all while keeping track of incoming calls, battery power, signal strength, etc. For video and camera functionality, the internal 1.56-inch TFT LCD screen does the trick, providing a speedy refresh rate.

The standard 1.3-megapixel camera, when activated, uses the internal screen as the viewfinder, and can take photos in resolutions up to 1280x960. Along with selecting resolution size, you also have the ability to select the level of compression, ranging from Fine to Economy for image quality. The camera software allows for manipulating the flash (Auto, Off, On This Shot, or Always On) and even has a self-timer. Advanced features include color tone tweaking, brightness control, and white balance correction. Definitely more than you will find in your average camera phone. Lastly, for those scenic shots, the camera can take images in widescreen mode as well. The phone supports the PictBridge standard, so any PictBridge-enabled printer will be able to print photos directly from the phone.

The camera is also a camcorder, and all the same tweaks that are available for photos are pretty much available for video as well. The phone records in MPEG-4 format at 15 frames per second, and clips can be up to 30-seconds in length.

MM-A920 Menu


MULTIMEDIA FUNCTIONALITY
One thing we were impressed with right off the bat was the voice recognition technology of the MM-A920 (SPH-A920). VoiceSignal is more than just for dialing contacts, you can make voice requests for battery life, signal strength, and even to launch programs. Good stuff.

Games are available through J2ME over Sprint Power Vision if that’s your thing. We were impressed with the multiplayer mobile games on Sprint’s service. It is almost like Xbox Live-light, featuring matchmaking, leaderboards, and game lobbies.

Where the phone shines is it’s Sprint TV capabilities. Subscribing to channel packs (or individual channels) opens up what this phone was made for. You have access to channels like Animal Planet, ABC News, NFL Network, Comedy Time, NBC, The Weather Channel, Discovery Channel, and much more. When viewing video, it looks sharp. The downside? this stuff can cost anywhere from $10-25 per month - almost what it costs for basic cable on TV. Is it worth it? We wouldn’t pay for it…

MM-A920 External Screen


FINAL VERDICT
Samsung MM-A920 ReviewThe A920 is currently Sprint’s flagship music phone, although there are others available. That being said, this phone provides a great multimedia experience - the capabilities are there, and it all falls into place. The drawback here is the price of entry to access everything that makes the phone so great. On top of the Sprint Power Vision plan, you still need to subscribe to channel packs. If you want it all, you can easily double your standard minute plan phone bill.

Still, if you just want a kick-ass music phone, this is it. The music controls on the front of the phone work well, and the external display allows your to go through your menus without ever opening the clamshell. Stereo speakers are a nice touch, even if they are only an inch and a half away from each other. The BlueTooth integration and USB data cable offer a choice to buyers as to how they want to sync up with their PCs, and also means Sprint isn’t attempting to lock you into their network for your music.

The A920 sells for $149 with two-year contract, or $299 without.

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