capsule review

Samsung SGH-ZX10

At a Glance
  • Samsung SGH-ZX10 Cell Phone

    PCWorld Rating

    Good call quality, fast Web access, and a compact clamshell design make the SGH-ZX10 a solid contender.

Samsung SGH-ZX10
Photograph: Chris Manners

On the outside, the ZX10 looks like any other clamshell phone from Samsung. It is petite, has curved edges, sports an external screen, and has a built-in a camera. But this standard cell phone has a UMTS chip inside that allows it to send and receive data at near broadband-level speeds. Overall, it's a very capable phone with strong multimedia qualities, though its call quality needs improvement.

To take advantage of Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (a third-generation technology capable of transferring data at 384 kbps), the phone has to connect to a wireless operator's UMTS signal. Our test unit works with Cingular's UMTS service, and it's one of only two phones that support the carrier's broadband data service. In most cases, the phone lived up to its promise of speedy downloads. Streaming snippets of television shows from Cingular's video service played smoothly, though the speaker delivered high-pitched, tinny sound. When the signal was weak, video files took a while to buffer, or they paused, or they stopped completely.

As a phone, the $150 unit (as of April 7, 2006, with a two-year agreement) is comfortable to use, with touch-friendly keys and a color-rich internal screen. Call quality was less impressive. During many of my conversations, people at the other end had trouble hearing me, and vice versa. Part of the problem was the intermittent network signal. In the worst cases, the phone would drop a call. When the signal was strong, the phone generally worked well, but it would benefit from louder handset volume. Its talk-time battery life in our lab tests was poor: 4 hours, 8 minutes.

The ZX10 works well for multimedia chores such as sending and receiving instant messages, sending and playing back audio and video files, and shooting video clips. It comes with a memory card slot for extra storage, though you'll need to buy a fingernail-size MicroSD (formerly known as TransFlash) card separately.

The 1.3-megapixel camera includes flexible controls. For example, you can adjust the ISO up to 800, which helps in low-light conditions. But use this feature sparingly: If you go above ISO 400, you can expect to see artifacts in your pictures. The photos I took looked so-so for the most part. Some shots came out dark and grainy. You can also capture video clips.

If you're seeking a phone that offers speedy data connection, flexible camera controls, and international roaming capability, I can easily recommend the ZX10.

Grace Aquino

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Good call quality, fast Web access, and a compact clamshell design make the SGH-ZX10 a solid contender.

    Pros

    • Supports high-speed UMTS networks
    • Strong multimedia features

    Cons

    • Poor talk-time battery life
    • Call quality needs improvement
Related:
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.