Samsung's (Sometimes) Straight Shooter

The SGH-T809 is a nifty camera phone, especially for those whose eyesight isn't what it used to be

Have you ever seen middle-aged people squinting at their cell-phone screens? A lot of the phones were made for young eyes still capable of reading at nano level -- and in the dark. But for those who struggle, one gander at the bright screen on Samsung's spiffy SGH-T809 promises instant relief.

The SGH-T809 is a top-of-the-line phone with all the bells and whistles. Its four bands of radio are ideal for globetrotters. It has Bluetooth, MP3 capability, a slot for a memory card, and a slick screen that slides up to expose the key pad. At 0.58 inches think, it's just a hair thicker than Motorola's (MOT) iconic Razr, but weighs in at the same 3.35 ounces. Sometimes, when it hid in the same pocket with my wallet, I forgot I was carrying it.


For all its other features, the SGH-T809 is best as a camera. It has 1.3 megapixels, and it displays them lushly on a large 240 x 320 pixel color display. It's a smidgen smaller than the screen on the video iPod, but every bit as sharp and colorful. With 70MB of internal memory, you can take lots of photos before pulling out the memory card. Sorting through the digital photos, though, is a bit awkward and slow.

Samsung says that the phone, available from T-Mobile for $199, has talk time of up to three hours, with standby of up to six days. These results, I would bet, come through only in ideal circumstances. Read: Within a stone's throw of a cell-phone tower, and without using the camera, much less the video. Regular users will want to recharge every night.

A couple of gripes. For such a snazzy phone, the SGH-T809 has a couple of awfully cheap plastic hatches that cover up the memory card and electrical outlet on either side. These can come loose in the pocket, giving the sleek machine a pair of ungainly wings. I could easily see them breaking off.


And then there are the multifunction buttons. At some point while taking a picture, I hit the wrong button and the camera began inverting the image. Left was right, right was left. The result? My tester was the perfect machine for photographing Leonardo's quirky reverse handwriting or picturing Barry Bonds as a righty. But kind of a pain for straight photography. Find the right button, and it will switch back.

That said, the voice quality on the SGH-T809 is superb. And for baby boomers with failing eyes, the numbers and letters jump from the screen. Just watch which buttons you press.

This is the latest in a series of reviews of high-end handheld phones and messaging devices. Click here to read the review of the Samsung SCH-i730.
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