Hands-on with the Samsung SYNC

We're still at a stage where new 3G handsets on Cingular are a bit of a novelty, so we thought we'd take the opportunity to get a closer look today at the latest entry from Samsung. The SYNC (alias SGH-A707) replaces the rather homely ZX-20, and in doing so, ushers in a slew of new music-centric features on Cingular's network. At $50 after rebate, the phone seems like one heck of a value, too -- on paper, anyway. After all, you get a 2 megapixel camera (still strangely rare in the American market), A2DP, a QVGA display, touch-sensitive external controls, and microSD expansion. Does the real thing live up to the spec sheet? Read on for our quick take.

The phone looks great and feels great in the hand. One could make the argument that it's not quite as hot as the HSDPA-enabled CU500 -- especially since LG's flip has some brushed metal accents inside and out -- but considering the SYNC's price point, you won't hear a peep of complaint out of us. We were digging the phone's size, too. Though not terribly thick, the SYNC's outline is somewhat large (rivaling even a small candybar when closed) giving it a comfortable, easy feel when open and in use. Of course, all this happens without sacrificing any pocketability. We're used to lugging around bigass smartphones, after all.

Though we've heard some early complaints about earpiece volume, we thought the A707 was plenty loud and clear on the horn. Ring clarity and quality is superb, though we could've used a touch more volume in that arena. Fortunately, the vibrate function is plenty strong, so we're not too worried about missing calls.

Let's turn our attention for a moment to that screen, that glorious screen. QVGA displays are still a rarity on our GSM carriers here in the States, so it shocks us a bit to gingerly open the SYNC's flip to be greeted with 240 horizontal and 320 vertical pixels. At any rate, it makes this phone, and we couldn't imagine going back to a 3G phone without it (we're looking at you, CU500). Cingular Video takes on a new life, menus are beautiful, and the fonts are anti-aliased -- which, for things like text messaging, makes a world of difference. Web browsing proved to be an equally dazzling experience, especially at HSDPA speeds, which were predictably blazing. We didn't give a shot at tethering, but we suspect we'd be limited more by Bluetooth's bandwidth than HSDPA's.

Bluetooth gave us mixed results. We had no trouble pairing a Samsung WEP200 headset (surprise, surprise) but our Logitech A2DP headphones couldn't link up for some reason -- so sadly, the jury's still out on the SYNC's wireless stereo capabilities. We remain hopeful, though, that the tech will eventually revolutionize the way we listen to music just as soon as manufacturers start making some decent 'phones and handsets start supporting them as a matter of course.

Our very quick, knee-jerk reaction is that this is a great phone, and for $50 after rebate, it's pretty tough to go wrong. Depending on the N75's pricing, it could be facing some pretty stiff upmarket competition in the near term -- and the torrent of 3G hardware should be pretty consistent heading into 2007 (we hope). But as we sit here in early November 2006, we can say with some confidence that this is the best bang for your HSDPA buck.