Mobile : Expert Review: Samsung Magnet™ Cell Phone

THE GOOD: The Samsung Magnet features a full QWERTY keyboard with support for numerous e-mail accounts and instant messaging. It also offers a slim design, Bluetooth, and excellent call quality.

THE BAD: The keyboard's buttons are a little stiff to press. The Magnet only has a VGA camera.

THE BOTTOM LINE: For AT&T customers looking for a basic messaging phone, the Samsung Magnet delivers with a slim QWERTY design and affordable price tag.

Messaging phones are the hot trend right now. We saw at least half a dozen QWERTY handsets debut at CTIA 2009, one of which was the Samsung Magnet for AT&T. The Magnet offers a nice alternative to the recent slider messaging phones from the carrier, such as the Pantech Matrix and the Samsung Propel, with its slim candy bar design. It has a full QWERTY keyboard, which will be put to good use with the handset's support for multiple e-mail accounts and instant messaging apps. The rest of the phone's feature set is pretty simple, and though its camera isn't as good as the similar-looking Pantech Slate, the Samsung Magnet provides excellent call quality and an extremely attractive price of $19.99 with a two-year contract. It's a good fit for those who don't need all the bells and whistles and just want a basic messaging phone that won't break bank.

Unlike Samsung's recent messaging phones, like the Samsung Impression and the Messager, the Samsung Magnet forgoes the slider design and goes for a more straightforward candy bar chassis. However, don't mistake straightforward for boring. The Magnet is quite eye-catching with its orange color and slim profile. The handset measures 4.2 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.4 inch thick and weighs 3 ounces, and it has a nice, solid construction. The back of the phone also includes a patterned soft-touch finish to give it a nonslippery texture.

The Samsung Magnet features a slim design and eye-catching orange color.

The Magnet's display certainly doesn't attract big praises. The 64,000-color, 2.2-inch TFT display is bright enough, but with a 176×220-pixel resolution, it isn't the sharpest. Text has some slight fuzziness around the edges and pixels are visible in pictures. That said, everything was still readable and it's on par with other lower-end handsets. The user interface is basic and easy to use. You can choose from various menu styles and themes and change the wallpaper and backlight times.

Below the display, you have a navigation array of two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, a Back and Clear button, a message shortcut, and a four-way directional keypad with a center select key. The outer controls (soft keys and Talk and End buttons) are spacious but we had some problem with the center set since they were a bit cramped. Sometimes we'd accidentally hit the End key when trying to press the back button, or we'd end up hitting some letter keys when trying to press the down button.

The Magnet's keyboard is pretty easy to use, though the keys are a little stiff to press.

The full QWERTY keyboard is quite decent. The shape of the keys are a little reminiscent of the BlackBerry Bold's: rectangular with a slight bump to make them easier to press. They are a good size but just a little stiff to press, which slowed us down a bit but nothing horrible. The number keys are highlighted in orange and the bottom row includes shortcuts to the camera, instant messaging, and games and applications.

On the left side, there's a volume rocker, and you'll find Samsung's proprietary headset jack/power connector on the right. AT&T packages the Samsung Magnet with an AC adapter and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phones accessories, ringtones, and help page.

If the full QWERTY keyboard didn't give it away, the Samsung Magnet's main attraction is its messaging capabilities. The handset includes a Mobile Mail app that allows you to connect to various accounts, including Yahoo, AOL, Windows Live, Comcast, Earthlink, and other providers. We received a "Communication Error" the first time we tried to hook up our Yahoo account, but we entered our ID and password again and everything went smoothly, though it took a couple of minutes for the phone to retrieve our messages.

The in-box view is simple but it works. There are tabs for your Draft and Sent messages, though you have to go through a couple of menus to get to your other folders. The Magnet also comes preloaded with three instant messaging clients: AIM, Yahoo, and Windows Live.

The phone comes with a 500-contact address book and includes room for multiple numbers, an e-mail address, and notes. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a photo, a group ID, or a custom ringtone. Other phone features include Bluetooth, quad-band world roaming, three-way calling, a speakerphone, a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a WAP browser, as well as organizational tools like a calendar, a task list, notepad, and currency converter.

The Samsung Magent's VGA camera took OK pictures.

The Samsung Magnet is equipped with a VGA camera with 4x digital zoom and a self-timer. You can choose from three sizes, and you also get white balance settings and effects. Picture quality is pretty much what you'd expect from a VGA camera. You could make out the objects in the image but it wasn't the clearest shot and colors were a bit washed out. Once done, you can send your photos via multimedia message, upload them to HP's Snapfish photo service, or set it as your background image. The Magnet offers 16MB of RAM.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) Samsung Magnet in San Francisco using AT&T service and call quality was excellent. The audio was quite crisp and clear with very little background noise. Our callers were equally impressed with the Magnet's sound quality, and one friend even said it's one of the better-sounding cell phones he's heard in a while.

Speakerphone quality was exceptional–almost better than a regular voice call–with plenty of volume and no hints of an echo or tinniness. We were also able to use an airline's voice-automated system with no problem, and we didn't experience any dropped calls during our testing period. We successfully paired the Magnet with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.

The Samsung Magnet has an 800mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 5 hours and up to 10 days of standby time. We were able to get a whopping 12 hours of continuous talk time from the Magnet in our battery drain tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the Magnet has a digital SAR rating of 0.637 watt per kilogram.

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