Also, the UI isn't the most intuitive we've tried. For example, along with a call and cancel button, the front of the handset sports a diamond-shaped back button. All it does is go back a step in the UI, but its shape and position mean that we were endlessly tempted to try to use it as a four-way navigation button. Over time, we'd probably get accustomed to it, but the Tocco Ultra isn't the easiest handset to use straight out of the box.
But, in general, we love the flexibility of the UI. Not only could we pick which widgets we wanted and place them where we liked, we could even move the operator logo on the home screen. We also like how menus with many options, like the settings menu, also have keyboard shortcuts -- handy if you're keyboard-orientated.
Light and bright
The Tocco Ultra sports an 8-megapixel camera and, although there's no xenon flash, it has two insanely bright LED photo lights. Our snapshots were bright and clear, with good white balance, although the automatic exposure was set slightly higher than we'd have liked.
The camera really shines in low-light situations. We found the LED photo lights illuminated the scene well, but we had to be careful to avoid reflections off shiny surfaces. In these situations, shutter lag proved an issue -- there was a delay of about 2 seconds between pressing the shutter button and taking the photo. In bright light, we detected hardly any shutter delay.
The camera lens comes out when you slide the phone open, so you can't take pictures when the phone's closed. Because of this, the Tocco Ultra is long and thin when taking snaps, which we initially found odd, although it's easy to adapt to. You can also geotag your snaps with their locations, thanks to the built-in GPS.
Get yourself connected
As well as GPS, the Tocco Ultra has 7.2Mbps HSDPA for speedy Web browsing, although it lacks Wi-Fi. Built-in Google Maps takes advantage of the phone's connectivity but, without multitouch support, we had to use menus to zoom in on maps or Web pages.
Thanks to the phone's media player, we certainly didn't get bored. It supports Xvid and DivX video, and MP3 audio, alongside plenty of other formats. There's even an FM radio to round it all off.
In fact, the Tocco Ultra made us feel like Samsung had thought of everything. The box includes a microSD card adaptor, so you can plug the phone's tiny memory card into a card reader and transfer files. There's also a headphone adaptor so you can use your own cans with the handset's proprietary headphone jack, although it will add about a metre to the length of the cord, which could mean sudden death on the treadmill.
Samsung's synchronisation software is shockingly good, despite the fact that it contains some slightly dodgy English -- its name, for example, is Samsung New PC Studio, which sounds like it was written by the Babel Fish translator. We rarely have a good word to say about most manufacturers' sync software, but Samsung's is powerful and well-designed.
We're not sure that Samsung needed to reinvent the wheel by creating such an innovative user interface, but at least the company did a good job of it and included clear video help. We found transferring music and videos easy, thanks to drag-and-drop support, and the software helpfully converts file formats on the fly. Unfortunately, there's no support for Macs.
The Samsung Tocco Ultra is an innovative take on the touchscreen-phone mania that's sweeping the nation, combining a pokeable screen with a traditional phone keyboard. But this is no novelty mobile: Samsung has packed a huge wealth of features into a slim and sexy handset, including an 8-megapixel camera, GPS and HSDPA, all topped off with a luscious AMOLED screen.
With so much going on, we found the Tocco Ultra's user interface slightly fiddly, and it isn't the easiest phone to use. But we're willing to learn for a phone with this much power and the good looks to match.
Edited by Charles Kloet