Reviewed November 8, 2006 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
It seems that we like our phones the same way Hollywood likes its actresses. When T-Mobile introduced the Samsung t509 candy bar phone back in May this year, we were wowed by how thin that phone was. Only half a year later, Samsung trimmed even more off the t509’s already slim body from .39” to .33” on the t519 (Samsung Trace), a diet that would make Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie envious. In comparison, the Motorola SLVR L6 is .41” and the SLVR L7 is .45”. With the new design, the Samsung Trace scored a pleasing champagne silver casing that looks shinier than the t509’s and a wider body. But take away the flashiness on the outside and the Samsung Trace is a very capable GSM feature phone with a sharp landscape display, very good reception, EDGE for data, 1.3 megapixel camera, MicroSD, MP3 player and integrated Bluetooth.
The Samsung Trace phone (model number: Samsung t519) is a quad band GSM phone that’s offered by T-Mobile in the US.
Design and Ergonomics
To say that the Samsung Trace phone is thin is like saying a Ferrari is fast. Measures in at 0.33” thin, the Samsung feels very slim in hand though not entirely small since the height and the width aren’t terribly small numbers. The slim body actually doesn’t feel as good in hand compared to a chunkier phone like the Samsung t629. I found it wasn’t easy to gain leverage to hold the phone without accidentally pressing side buttons. The Trace t519 is wider than the Samsung t509. It needs to be wider to accommodate the landscape display and roomy keypad; both of which are high points of the phone’s design. The 1.9” landscape display dominates the phone’s upper half and is truly lovely. The menu keys, including two select keys, call send and end keys and the C key surround the 5-day directional pad just below the screen. The menu keys are large and easy to press but the directional pad is a bit too small for the best gaming experience. The number pad is large and roomy and is a joy to use, until you need to dial in the dark. The backlight is quite insufficient Pair that with very small alphabet letters on the keys will make T9ing in the dark a nightmare.
The volume controls and a proprietary charging/headset port are on the left side of the Samsung Trace and the MicroSD card slot and the camera quick launch keys are on the right. The camera lives on the back of the phone up top while the battery lives at the bottom on the back of the phone. You can slide the battery door open to install the battery and to access the SIM card. You’ll need a pair of tweezers and a mountain of patience to get the SIM card out, so be prepared.
Phone Features and Reception
The Samsung t519 is a GSM quad-band phone that works anywhere in the world GSM service is available. It operates on the 850/900/1800/1900 MHz bands and gets great reception (consistently getting full bars) in the Dallas area where T-Mobile has outstanding coverage. In comparison, the Samsung t809 gets half the signal strength in the same area. Voice quality is good, though not as crisp as the Sony Ericsson W810i, but volume is very loud for both incoming and outgoing voice. The Samsung Trace supports most popular phone features including call waiting, conference call (up to 6 participants), rejecting calls and speed dial (8 entries). It supports 3 languages (English, French and Spanish) in menu display and it has airplane mode.
For data, the Samsung t519 has EDGE with fallback to GPRS if you’re not in an EDGE area. Though the WAP browser doesn’t get you far in the dslreports mobile speed test, both uploading images and downloading MP3 files feel speedy. A 250k Jar file takes about 10 seconds to download.
Display, Gaming and Multimedia
The Samsung Trace has an awesome TFT display that looks super crisp, bright and color saturated. The 1.9” display is the same size as the one on the t509 but changed in orientation. The landscape screen resembles the Samsung i320 and makes for a great web page viewing experience and works well with messages, calendar app and other software on the phone. The bright and colorful screen is perfect to show off your photos, graphs and movies.
For entertainment, the Samsung t519 comes with a media player that can play MP3, AAC and WMA files as well as 3gp video. If you are a fan of music on the go, you will appreciate the Samsung Trace more than a SLVR L7 as the Samsung doesn’t have a hard limitation on how many songs the phone can hold. As long as you have a large MicroSD card you are good to go. The sound through the built-in speaker is very good but the included earbud headset sounds better. The headset jack uses Samsung’s preparatory connector which means you can’t just plug in any 2.5mm headset into the phone. The connector also acts as charger port and USB port and you can purchase the optional USB cable for transferring music files from your computer. Otherwise, use a MicroSD card via a card reader on your computer. The MicroSD card comes in very handy when you need to store photos, tunes and movies. The first time you stick a card into the slot, the phone will reformat your card and create a file structure for sound, image, music, video and other files. So make sure that you use a new card or backup the data on an existing card before the Samsung reformats it.
Playing games on the Samsung feels zippy with no obvious frame drops or delays. Most of the games that you can download on T-Zone are puzzle, driving and other genres that are easy on phone’s performance. The Samsung worked well when playing several games. The only issue that might prevent a perfect gaming experience is the navigation keys that feel small to press in precision at times.
The Samsung Trace has an integrated 1.3 megapixel CMOS camera that also takes video with audio. The image quality is on par with other1.3MP camera phones. The photos are reasonably color saturated with a noticeable blue cast and shots in well-lit areas yielded best results. The brightness and sharpness of the images is at the level you’d expect from a plastic, non-autofocus lens. But overall the Samsung’s 1.3MP takes decent quality photos that look much better on the phone screen than on a PC in full resolution. Still photos are saved in JPEG format and you can shoot them in 6 resolutions ranging from 1280 x 1024 to 176 x 144. You can save these images to the phone’s internal memory or the storage card, use them as wallpapers and call ID images or send them via MMS or upload them to T-Mobile T-Zones My Album. The camera also offers multi-shot options, digital zoom, brightness and color settings and more.
Video taken with the Samsung t519 is of good quality and looks good when played back on the phone and on desktop. The videos are quite sharp under good lighting, have reasonable color accuracy and show no frame dropping or blocky-ness in playback. Audio is in-sync with video. The videos are stored in 3gp format and you can shoot them in two resolutions (176 x 144, 128 x 96). You can shoot short videos for MMS or longer movies depending upon how much storage space you have on the phone’s internal memory or the flash card.
The Samsung t519 has integrated Bluetooth v1.2 and supports Headset, Hands-Free, Dial-Up Networking (DUN), Object Push, Serial Port Profiles and File Transfer Protocol. We tested the phone with a few Bluetooth headsets and it paired with all with ease. The incoming voice quality is good through the Bluetooth headsets though not as good as the Chocolate phone on Verizon, and the volume is loud on the Samsung. The outgoing voice via the Cardo scala-700 Bluetooth headset has some echo effect that sounds like you are on a good speakerphone. We can get about 20 feet between the phone and the headsets before hearing noise.
Have the Bluetooth radio on does effect the battery’s otherwise excellent life per charge. It’s noticeable but not horrendous.
The Samsung Trace comes with a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery that’s 800 mAh in capacity. That’s 80 mAh smaller than the one on the MOTOKRZR but same as the one found on the Samsung t509. The claimed talk time is up to 6 hours that seems to be just slightly off target (a little over-estimated according to our tests). But that’s still a very good talk time for a feature phone. You might get shorter talk time if the coverage in your area is less than stellar. The claimed standby time of over 8 days is accurate. Keeping the Bluetooth radio on and downloading and uploading files from and to the web seem to task the battery at a higher rate than playing music, shooting photos and messaging.
The Samsung Trace comes with a capable WAP browser for your web surfing pleasure. It loads most WAP pages quickly and can display many regular HTML sites with images and layout intact. Pages that are too large with rich content and graphics content will cause trouble and will load partially, stopping when the memory cache is full. The browsing experience can’t compete with that of smartphones such as the Nokia N73 or a Palm Treo 700p, but for a feature phone the web experience should satisfy most users.
For messaging, you get SMS and MMS support. You can store up to 200 messages on the phone and type up to 160 characters per message in text messages. The phone can also store about 3MB of MMS entries.
The Samsung Trace t519 comes with several PIM applications including a phone book, calendar, Task, Alarm, World Time and more. You can store 1000 entries in the phone book with 6 numbers per name, an email address, a photo ID, a unique ringtone, group assignment and a short note. You can also store 250 contacts on your SIM card and dial phone numbers directly from a contact entry. The calendar app has month view, week view, day view and schedule list. It provides alarms and repeat options for items in your schedule. It even keeps the missed items for you to view later and other lists such as anniversary and miscellaneous.
If you are looking for a slim candybar phone, the Samsung Trace should be on top of your list. The phone will turn heads yet is functional, as a good feature phone should be. The price isn’t bad at all for a phone with such a feature set.
Pro: Great screen that will wow you and your friends when you use it to show photos. The Samsung has very good reception and a good set of features such as a music player, camera and Bluetooth. The built-in camera is good and the memory slot is handy for storing media files. Good battery life. Very capable WAP browser.
Con: A bit too thin to feel comfortable in hand. The keyboard is unusable in the dark. You won’t like the location of the SIM card if you switch your SIM card between phones frequently.
Display:262K TFT color LCD. 220 x 176 resolution in landscape. Screen size: 1.52 x 1.22 inches.
Battery: 800 mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. Claimed talk time is up to 6 hours and standby time up to 200 hours (8.3 days).
Performance: Undisclosed CU. System memory: 512MB of ROM and 128MB of RAM. For user use: internal memory 17MB.
Size:Undisclosed CU. System memory: 512MB of ROM and 128MB of RAM. For user use: internal memory 17MB.
Phone:4.45 x 1.97 x 0.33 inches. Weight: 2.5 ounces.
Camera:1.3 megapixel CMOS camera with video capturing capability. Shoot still photos in JPEG and videos in 3gp format.
Audio:Built-in speaker, mic and a proprietary headphone connector. Voice recorder and music player included with support for MP3, AAC and WMA files.
Networking:Bluetooth v1.2. Supports Headset, Hands-Free, Dial-Up Networking (DUN), Object Push, Serial Port and File Transfer Profiles and Protocol.
Software:Grid-based menu with entertainment applications including music player, video player, and games and PIM applications including phone book, calendar, tasks, calculator, world time, unit converter, stopwatch and timer. Web browser and messaging tools bundled for your communications needs.
Expansion:1 MicroSD (TransFlash) memory card slot on the side of the phone.
In the Box:The Samsung t519 with battery, an A/C charger plus an international outlet adapter, a pair of earbud headset, printed User Manual and a T-Mobile Welcome Guide.