Why did we take the Samsung B2100 Solid Extreme phone to the gym, dunk it in the shower and boil it in the steam room? Numerous reasons: to time our steam, listen to music, take pictures of our feet, and even try calling a few friends. But mostly the reason was: because we could. The B2100 makes that kind of crazy stuff possible, thanks to its rugged rubber exterior and waterproof flanges.
All this ruggedness won't drain your wallet, either. The B2100
is available for free on a £15-per-month contract if you sign up for 24
months, or for about £90 SIM-free.
Tough as nails
The B2100 is compliant with the MIL-STD-810F (this should only be said in the loudest drill-sergeant voice you can muster) military standard. Samsung says it can withstand 'blowing rain, dust, shock, salt fog, humidity, water, immersion, solar radiation, vibration and extreme temperature'. That all sounds great, although we're pretty sure that 'solar radiation' just means 'sun'. Anyway, the B2100 lived up to its rating in our tests.
After making sure that the rubbery cover on the proprietary headphone socket was on, and the battery cover was locked tight, we took the B2100 for a boot-camp workout of 20 minutes in the steam room and 5 minutes in the shower. Throughout, the phone worked fine for surfing, music (without headphones, so the cover could stay closed) and calls. After we were kicked out of the gym for bringing a camera phone into the shower area, we opened the back cover and it was as dry as a bone inside.
The B2100 also has a rubbery keypad that will keep out the dirt, but it's slightly harder to use than a keyboard with independent, separated keys. We found that we had to press the keys quite hard to register our intentions, and you certainly wouldn't be able to type a text with your ski gloves on.
Back in the '90s
It's just too bad that this rugged phone can't be as attractive and modern as a normal phone. Even if you like its rubbery outside -- and we happen to love a bit of rubber -- the B2100's low-resolution, 46mm (1.8-inch) screen is unlikely to impress. The user interface makes you feel like you've stepped back in time to about 1997. If you long for the simplicity of the phones of yesteryear, you might love the straightforward user interface, but we found it dated and dull.
The features also disappoint, with just the basics on-board. These include an FM radio, a music player and a voice recorder. Everything works as it should, but, just as we'd expect on such an inexpensive phone, we were never wowed. And, with only 10MB of internal memory, you'll need to invest in a microSD memory card if you plan to take many tunes with you.
There's also a 1.3-megapixel camera, which shoots stills or video. There's a host of fun photo tweaks, such as frames that you can superimpose on your shots. There's even an image editor, so you can crop or filter photos. But, with no 3G connectivity, you won't be uploading your masterpieces to Flickr very quickly.
One feature that does set the B2100 apart -- except from its ruggedised sibling, the B2700 Bound -- is its built-in torch. It's got an incandescent bulb, and is really bright. Samsung hasn't released official figures regarding the B2100's battery life, but the battery lasted very well in our tests. After a few hours of testing, including blasting the torch for 10 minutes, the battery meter still showed a full charge.
The Samsung B2100 Solid Extreme is certainly solid, shrugging off our watery tests. But, other than a torch, it offers rock-bottom features to match its bargain-basement price tag. The splash-proof B2700 has a couple more features for around the same price, so, if you don't need the B2100's 1m water-resistance rating, it may be worth getting the higher-end version. But, if you're very tough on phones and you miss the simplicity and long battery life of the phone you were rocking at the turn of the millennium, the B2100 could be a good choice.
Edited by Charles Kloet