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Reviewed December 2006 by Tanker Bob
Each mobile phone brings its own charm to the market. The t629 arrives in attractive silver with a solid slider design. The phone sports a large, 2.1” color display, a 1.3 megapixel camera/camcorder, Bluetooth 1.2, microSD slot, and EDGE support. The t629 box includes the phone with the battery and back cover wrapped separately, matching earbud, travel charger, user manual, and a number of helpful little pamphlets.
Design and Ergonomics
In general appearance from the front with the slider closed, the t629's tapered curves make it look slimmer than a Motorola RAZR, but a ruler shows it to be about the same size across the face. It measures in at 3.9" x 2.0" x .65" and tips the scales at 3.3 oz. It actually measures about 1.9” across the top and bottom because of the taper, which is more impressive visually than on the ruler. The outside rim of the phone is actually the edge of the bottom slider portion. Note that I didn't find a single specification sheet that matched the actual phone dimensions, with some differing by almost half an inch in length! There's still no substitute for a good ruler.
The standard control buttons on the front provide a good-sized target for even larger fingers, and they are divided by feel on the phone so that they can be confidently operated without looking at them. The top two keys provide soft key operation, while the bottom two dial or hang up/cancel an operation. The 4-way directional pad with a center selector provides the same positive feedback as the other keys. Since the keys are at the bottom of the phone, they are designed to match the tapered appearance and add to the attractive, slim visual impression.
More unusual is the “clear” button below the 4-way pad. It can be used in text screens to erase the previous character, and in most other screens where you'd expect it to work as a cancel button. Its function has been given careful thought. If you are not used to its location, however, you may find yourself pressing it instead of the “down” key.
The slider opens easiest by hooking your thumbnail in the slot above the screen and pulling with the other hand on the outside rim of the phone. The action is positive and solid. It has a cam-like action so that if you partially close the phone less than half way, it will return to the open position. Upon passing the approximate half-way point, the slider will move on its own to the close position. The phone's fit in the hand remains about the same, that is quite natural and comfortable with the slider open or closed.
The slider panel essentially provides the flat button surface, but raised ribs separate the buttons for “eyes-free” dialing. Of course, all the the keys have an effective backlight. When the slider closes, the phone by default locks the keys against accidental activation. Unlocking simply involves a two key sequence. Opening the slider automatically unlocks the keys. Very handy and natural!
The left edge of the phone houses the volume rocker and the headphone/charging connector, which is covered to keep dust out. The camera button and microSD slot sit on the right edge. The latter also has a cover. Both the headphone/charging and microSD sliders are typical Samsung, requiring a fingernail to pry open.
The battery takes up about two-thirds of the back of the phone, with the SIM card next to it. The camera lens sits in the top of the back panel, as does the speaker.
Phone Features and Reception
The t629 furnishes quad-band GSM support for the 850, 900, 1800, and 1900 MHz bands. It supports GPRS and EDGE for data. The phone is offered by T-Mobile in the US and is locked to T-Mobile.
I never encountered a reception problem with the t629. It seemed to pick up signals pretty much everywhere my RAZR V3 would, including indoors. Areas that challenge the RAZR also challenge the t629. I drove to North Carolina with it, fully expecting the signal to drop out at some point since T-Mobile doesn't have coverage at my destination. The Samsung easily transitioned to a roaming profile, so smooth in fact that I didn't notice a change in the conversation when it happened.
Voice quality proved clear and clean, with plenty of volume control. I found the speaker phone function usable both in a quiet office setting and in a car. Since the speaker resides on the back, you may want to put it face down if necessary to get more volume, but I never encountered such a situation. The included headset also furnished clear communications with ample volume. The plug for the headphone jack is proprietary to Samsung, so chances are that your headset for another phone will not work unless you've had another of the newer Samsungs with the slim jack.
In our tests in the Dallas metro area, the phone managed an average of 60k. With GPRS, I measured downloads of about 100+K music clips at about 10 KBps. Thus, it took a good 10 seconds to download short clips. JPEGs seemed to download too fast to measure, but then they were very small.
You'd expect to find MP3 and HiFi ringtone support, and wouldn't be disappointed here. If you don't like what's included, then you can download whatever suits your fancy. Some nice jazz tune, maybe...
Display, Gaming and Multimedia
The bright 2.1” diagonal display possesses 176x220 pixels with 262K colors using TFT technology. It does a very nice job with small text and pictures. Its quality isn't as good as the Samsung A900m, but still quite nice. Its brightness makes it easy to read outside in the sunlight.
The t629 comes with a very well executed media player that supports supports MP3, MP4, 3GP, and AAC formats. It can make its own playlists, and directly accesses multimedia files that reside both internally and on the microSD card. Music and videos play smoothly, and the 4-way pad controls the player in a natural manner–no learning curve involved. The t629's 21 MB of RAM will hold quite a lot internally, with the microSD card available to hold much more. The t629 can output stereo but you'll need to find a Samsung stereo earbud headset to enjoy tunes in stereo.
Samsung pre-loaded the t629 with several games: Bobby Carrot, AirShip Racing, Arch Angel, Freekick, and Midnight Pool. They are fairly simple, but play well, require a bit of skill, and help pass time when you're waiting on queue. Their smooth action and good sound quality add to their enjoyment, and their colors look great as well. The 4-way pad works well in the games.
The 1.3 megapixel camera produces JPEG images and sports several modes, including video. Resolution runs from 176x144 up to 1280x1024 pixels, and the 4x digital zoom brings those distant objects up close and personal at the price of some resolution. If you want to be in the picture, the t629 has a 3, 5, and 10 second timer. Image quality is good by 1.3MP camera standards with mostly accurate colors and decent low light capabilities (though low light images lose color saturation).
If you cover action events like sports, the t629 offers a 6 and 9 picture multi-shot mode which takes that many pictures with a single button press. Not fast enough? Then try the 9 or 15 high speed multi-shot mode. Want to cover a larger area? The mosaic mode allows pictures to be knit together.
The camera software offers up special effects, changes to color tone, can put a decorative frame around your pictures, and rotates photos, plus allows the user to control the brightness.
The camcorder mode produces 3GP formatted videos in 176x144 or 128x96 pixels. The sound may be turned off if desired. The other controls for modifying or tailoring pictures apply to videos as well, including the timer.
The included picture viewer enables the usual functions (view, copy/move, delete, slide show, etc.), plus permits the user to control Bluetooth access to individual pictures.
Bluetooth 1.2 connects the t629 to the accessory world. Headset, handsfree, serial port, dial-up networking, file transfer, and object push modes are included. The Bluetooth function controls in the Samsung cover the usual range, including discovery and security.
I paired the t629 with my Dell Axim X50v with no problem. I was easily able to browse files on the X50v. Only supported file formats on the Samsung display in the file manager. You can use Bluetooth to effortlessly backup your music, pictures, and video files to your PC or PDA.
Samsung quotes 3.2 hours of talk time for the 3.7v, 880 mAh LiIon battery, with 160 hours of standby time. My experience with the phone finds no fault with those numbers, and would even add to the standby time. After sitting for five days, it still had about half its battery life remaining. This puts it on the upper end of battery life with its competitors.
In addition to the games already mentioned, the t629 holds the usual collection of applications found on mobile phones. The list includes a calendar, tasks, calculator, units converter, alarm clock, world time, timer, and stop watch. All this makes the t629 a pretty handy device to have around. The Samsung supports Java applications.
The phone software will track calling times, and remembers the last 30 incoming, outgoing, and missed calls.
Messaging includes enhanced messaging service, IM, text messaging, and multimedia messages for pictures and video. Input modes include the usual predictive T9, direct alpha, number, and symbols. Note that email is not supported. The t629 can also create voice messages, so that you can record your thoughts on the run.
The WAP browser is your average feature phone affair. It works fine but there isn't anything special here. Browser loading time was quicker than some phones, faster than the RAZR V3 but of course not as fast as the Samsung A900m on Sprint's EVDO (3G) network.
The Samsung t629 fit in the fray as a mid-range phone. It presents an attractive, tapered appearance that also helps it fit nicely in your hand. With 21MB of RAM and microSD slot, you won't hurt for storage space, and its wide support for messaging formats will keep you in touch. The built-in applications will help keep you on time and even tell you how many liters in a gallon. If you're looking for a phone that does all the now-common mobile functions to keep you connected and on time, the Samsung t629 stands worthy of your consideration.
Attractive in business and personal settings
Excellent calling reliability
Compact slider design
No email support
No stereo headset included and it's not easy to find the proper one to fit the phone
Web sites: www.samsung.com, www.T-Mobile.com
Price: $49 with 2 year contract after rebates
Display: 2.1” diagonal, 176x220 pixels, 262K-color TFT.
Battery: 880 mAh lithium-ion; Talk Time: Up to approximately 3.2 hours continuous digital talk time advertised; Standby Time: 160 hours to 8 days depending on whose data you believe.
XScale PXA 255 400 MHz processor. 64 MB built-in RAM
(55 megs available). 32 MB Flash ROM with 2.85 megs
available in File Store for your use.
Size: (H x W x D): 3.9" x 2.0" x .65"; 3.3 ounces.
Phone: GSM quad band 850/900/1800/1900MHz world phone with EDGE and GPRS for data.
Camera: Integrated digital 1.3 megapixel at 1280x1024, 1152x864, 800x600, 640x480, 240x320, or 176x144 pixel; 4x digital zoom; video at 176x144 or 128x96.
Audio: Supports MP3 ringtones; 3GP, AAC, MP3, MP4 playback, vibration alert, and silent mode; Speech recognition, voice memos, speakerphone; media player software.
Networking: Class 2 Bluetooth version 1.2.
Messaging: T9 predictive text input, SMS, MMS Picture / video mail, EMS, IM.
Software: Media Player, Voice Message, Alarm Clock, Calendar, Calculator, Tasks, Timer, Stopwatch, Unit Converter, WAP Browser, and World Clock.