Review posted June 12, 2007 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
With the Samsung M510 sitting squarely between the M610 and the newly announced Samsung M300, Sprint seems to have a solution for most feature phone customers with various budgets. The Samsung M610 is on the higher end with a 2 megapixel camera, QVGA display and a stylish design. Sprint announced the M510 recently to replace the M500 and it’s the middle-tier feature phone with a 1.3 megapixel camera, Bluetooth v2.0 with A2DP and DUN support, microSD card slot and an updated design from the M500 that’s modern and has great ergonomics. The M300, announced at the same time as the M510, sits at the entry level. The Samsung M510 offers a strong set of features including very clear voice calls, a full entertainment software bundle that covers music, Sprint video and Sprint TV, photos and Podcasts, standard PIM applications, a capable browser and built-in GPS (though no free navigation or map software). The Samsung M510 comes in two colors: lush pink and fashionable gunmetal black. The design and style should suit a wide demographic.
The Samsung M510 is a dual digital band CDMA phone (800/1900 MHz) that’s offered by Sprint in the US. It also has support for Sprint’s Power Vision (EVDO) network for data services such as music downloads, Sprint TV, gaming, accessing the web and more.
Have no fear, fellas: the phone is also available in black.
Design and Ergonomics
The Samsung M510 is a mid size flip phone that feels very good in hand. It has more fluid lines than the Samsung M500 also offered by Sprint. It’s not as thin as the RAZR V3m but the curved sides on the M510 provide great ergonomics for both holding the phone closed and to your ear opened. As mentioned, the Samsung comes in two colors: black and pink. We received the pink one for the review and found the pink more brilliant and deeper than the pink on the Katana, in fact it’s nearly magenta. The front of the flip houses the 1.3 megapixel camera, external display and the speaker. The volume buttons live on the left side of the phone while the headset/charging port, camera key and the microSD card slot live on the right side. You can turn the side key guard on in the Settings menu. The rechargeable Lithium Ion battery lives under the batter door on the back of the M510.
Phone Features and Reception
The Samsung M510 is a digital dual-band CDMA phone operations on 800/1900 MHz bands on Sprint and has support for EVDO (Power Vision in Sprint’s lingo) for fast data. The phone gets full signal strength in good coverage areas and half of the full strength in spotty areas where Treo 700p gets only 1/3. The voice calls are clear and we didn’t experience any drop calls in Northern Dallas area. Volume is high on both the earpiece and the speaker. Data transfer speed is good also when accessing web sites and sending messages. Video buffering and music downloading are fast enough by feature phone standards. The Samsung supports some popular phone features on Sprint’s network including caller ID, roaming guard, three-way calling, call waiting, call forwarding and SMS voice messaging. The phone book can store a total of 500 phone numbers and each contact entry can have up to 5 phone numbers in addition to an email address, a URL, memo, nickname, caller ID photo, a unique ringtone and assigned group. You can store up to 99 speed dialing numbers in contacts database as well.
Samsung bundles VoiceSignal’s Voice Command software which offers voice dialing, brings up text/email addresses or phone numbers, lets you open any application on the phone and more. The software is labeled as Voice Services under the Tools Menu. Voice dialing via Voice Command software works reliably when using the phone and when using Bluetooth headsets, and you don’t need to pre-record voice tags either. When giving commands to send a message or an email, it will help you bring up the application and look up the name or phone number. You will still need to type up the message body using the keypad.
The Samsung M510 has a microSD card slot for additional storage for your media files and contacts. The Sprint’s package comes with a 64 MB microSD card to get you started and the slot can support up to 2 GB cards.
Display, Gaming and Multimedia
The Samsung M510 has a 2.1” TFT display that has 176 x 220 pixels resolution. The screen is reasonably bright and color saturated. Pictures look good and colorful on the phone, though not as sharp as higher resolution screens, but it is on par with other standard 176 x 220 resolution flip phone screens. You can adjust the screen brightness, assign screen savers, themes and more in the Settings menu. The external CSTN display has 96 x 96 resolution and is 0.76” x 0.76” in size. You can see phone info and call info on the outer display without opening the phone. You can also adjust the contrast of the display and use a screen saver.
The music playback experience is good on the Samsung M510 with some minor issues. The greatest part of the music experience is the $0.99 per song pricing offered by Sprint (if you have their Power Vision plan). That’s at least half of the price per song compared other carrier in the US at the moment. The phone’s music player handles MP3 and AAC/AAC+ formats, but offers few features other than creating playlists, repeat and shuffle songs in your playlists. And the printed manual provides little help on music playback. The music player will pause the music when a phone call comes in, after you finish a call, it will ask you if you want to exit the music player or resume. If you choose to resume the music, the player will reload the track and play it from the beginning regardless of where the music was paused when the call came in. You must insert a microSD card in the slot in order to launch the music player. Sound through the phone’s speaker is nice and loud, as it is through stereo headset. The Samsung M510 doesn’t come with the headset, but does come with an adapter that plugs into the phone’s proprietary audio port and terminates in a standard 2.5mm audio jack. The catch here is: the Samsung proprietary port on the M510 is different from the previous Samsung phones such as the Samsung UpStage and the Samsung BlackJack.
Sprint’s video services including Sprint TV are making their way to more and more phones. Compared to the music player, the media play offers more features including channel listings, memory card content playback (content must be in Media folder for the phone to see it) and video playlists. Sprint TV offers a good number of free channels including sports, news, entertainment and weather in both live and on-demand formats. There are also a large number of channels you can buy for $5.99/month each including ESPN channels, Hollywood Insider, AccuWeather and more. Video streaming and download are slow compared to Verizon’s V CAST services in our tests. Videos look blocky on the Samsung M510, but at least the audio is in sync with video unlike the Treo 755p. You will notice dropped frames, failed buffering and sometimes just a blank screen while audio part of the clip charges ahead. The speaker has good quality and loud volume when playing the video clips. Unlike the music player, if you are watching a video clip when a call comes in, the media player won’t stop the video. Instead, your incoming call will go to voice mail.
One very nice feature included on the Samsung M510 was a surprise: Mobile Podcasting powered by VoiceIndigo. You have access to a large number of channels and their current and archived episodes. If you register online you will get even broader collection of Podcast channels. The podcast player buffers fast and offers convenient features such as SMS your friends the channels, participate on forums and more.
The Samsung M510 is a good gaming machine with a good sized d-pad, vibration mode and loud speaker. The games are under My Content on your main menu screen, and these JAVA games perform well on the phone. Games such as Midnight Pool, World Series of Poker and Tetris are easy to play and run well. Arcade games such as Pacman play smoothly on the Samsung.
The Samsung M510 has a 1.3 megapixel camera that can take both still photos and video clips with audio. You can shoot photos in four resolutions with 1280 x 960 as the maximum resolution and 176 x 220 as the lowest. You can choose from three picture quality settings and to 4 levels of digital zoom (when not in the highest resolution). In addition to common settings including white balance and brightness, the camera software also offers fun frames and color tones for those who wish to decorate their photos with some personal touches. The photo quality is decent by 1.3 megapixel camera standards. The photos have good color balance and nature exposure. Noise level is lower and images are sharper compared to the 1.3 MP camera on the Samsung u620. Like many camera phone with 1.3 MP camera, the Samsung M510’s camera is susceptible to white-out in low light conditions.
The video clips captured by the camera have good quality in well-light areas. The video clips have very slight ghosting effect but for the most part are clear and no noticeable frame dropping. The audio is in sync with video. You can shoot a short video message that you can send via MMS, or you can shoot long videos depending on the storage space you have on the phone or on a storage card.
The Samsung M510 has integrated Bluetooth v2.0 and supports Hands-Free, Headset, DUN (Dial Up Network), Basic Printing, FTP, A2DP, AVRCP and Object Push (vCard, vCal, etc.) Profiles. That’s a great collection of profiles supported by a feature phone especially the A2DP and AVRCP profiles if you want to listen to music wireless via stereo Bluetooth headset. Photos fans can use the FTP profile to transfer their photos and BPP to print them on PictBridge printer. DUN allows you to use the phone as a modem for your laptop on Sprint’s EVDO network.
We tested a variety of Bluetooth headsets including a stereo Bluetooth headset with the Samsung M510, and the phone paired easily with all. The phone had very good voice quality through the Cardo Scala-700, the Anycom ARIS21 and the Plantronics Explorer 330 with clear sound quality and loud volume. Voice command via the Bluetooth headsets work like a charm for both voice dialing and other voice command functions, and the incoming calls have audio caller ID when your phone and service support it. The range is short between the Samsung and the Anycom ARIS 21 and the Plantronics Explorer 330 (though this headset had short range with most phones we tested), and decent when working with the scala 700.
The Samsung M510 plays music well through the Plantronics Pulsar 590A stereo Bluetooth headset with full sound and good volume. You can change the volume on the headset by using the controls on the Plantronics, but can’t change the volume on the phone. You can skip a track or go back a track using the controls on the Bluetooth headset.
Samsung has gotten into a habit of not disclosing battery capacity in mAh, and so the M510’s is undisclosed. Their 3.5-hour claimed talk time which seems to be on target. There is no claimed standby time, but our review unit lasted us for at least a week on a charge in standby. Keeping the Bluetooth on radio doesn’t drain the battery more than usual. Taking large numbers of photos and video clips will use some battery life. The biggest battery drain is watching videos in Sprint TV. The consistent connection to Power Vision network and video decoding will drain battery really fast. If you talk for 1 hour, take a dozen photos, listen to music for 40 minutes, check messages and send few SMS and MMS, and pair up with 3 Bluetooth headsets, you can use about half of a full charge. If you watch video on Sprint’s video services, the phone will last you no more than 2 hours which isn’t too bad compared to other feature phones doing the same task.
You can charge the phone with included AC charger. As mentioned in music playback, the charging/headset port is a different one from the previous Samsung devices but the same one as the new Samsung M300 that was released at the same time as the M510.
The Samsung M510 comes with PIM (Personal Information Manager) applications including contacts, calendar, memo and software tools such as alarm, world time, calculator and voice note. We’ve talked about the contact database in Phone Features section. The calendar app offers daily, weekly, monthly and yearly views. You can set up alarms for events you generate in the scheduler and take advantage of features such as task list and timed countdown.
Sprint also bundles Handmark’s excellent On Demand service with the Samsung M510. The service gives you updated news, weather, sports, movies and stock listings. You can customize the info you read on the On Demand pages with your local weather, your own list of stocks and more.
The Samsung M510 also has GPS built-in and you can turn it on and use it with Sprint Navigation powered TeleNav which isn’t free. You can download a free trial of TeleNav services and try it for a couple of days. The GPS is fast to get a fix thanks to the assisted mode where the GPS gets help from aGPS servers and local cell towers. The navigation services offer turn-by-turn directions, POI (Point of Interest) database, traffic stats and maps. Route mapping is quick and easy and maps look good.
There is a lot to like for a phone that sells for $129 with a service plan: a slim and curvy body that feels nice in hand, great voice quality, Bluetooth v2.0 with A2DP support, an expansion slot and multimedia applications built-in. It’s flashy and has a very strong set of features for users who want to upgrade from their free or $50 phones but don’t a smartphone’s advanced features. The Black and pink colors are good choices for a phone that wants to compete with the MOTORAZR models.
Pro: Very good ergonomics and clear voice quality, full set of multimedia features that will take care of your photo, video, music and podcasting needs, decent 1.3 megapixel camera and excellent set of Bluetooth profiles.
Con: Bluetooth range isn’t very good with most headsets in our tests, music player has limited features.
Price: $129.99 with a new 2-year contract after $150 instant savings. $279.99 without a contract.
Performance:10 MB internal memory. Phone book holds up to 500 entries.
Size:3.74 x 2.00 x 0.64 inches. Weight: 2.93 ounces.
Phone:CDMA digital dual band (800/1900 MHz) with EVDO for data.
Camera:1.3 megapixel camera. Can record video with audio. Still image resolutions: 1280 x 960, 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 and 176 x 220. Up to 4x digital zoom, no zoom for highest resolution photos.
Audio:Built-in speaker and mic. 2.5mm stereo headset jack via Samsung’s proprietary adapter. Music Player included for your MP3 pleasure, Voice note included.
Networking:Bluetooth v2.0. Supported profiles: Hands-Free, Headset, DUN (Dial Up Network), Basic Printing, FTP, A2DP, AVRCP and Object Push (vcard, vCal, etc.) Profiles.
Software:Icon-based menu interface. Contacts, calendar, memo, task list, music player (MP3 and AAC), media player for Sprint video and Sprint TV, podcasting with many channels, web browser, SMS and MMS, On-Demand (by Handmark), Mass storage (when connected to PC) and file manager. VoiceSignal’s Voice Command included.
Expansion:1 microSD card slot. Supports up to 2GB cards.
In the Box:The phone with standard Lithium Ion battery, AC charger, 2.5mm headset adapter, 64 MB microSD card, printed User’s Guide, Sprint Power Vision guide, Sprint welcome brochure and terms and conditions pamphlet.