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Samsung B2100 Solid Extreme / Xplorer Review
1st June 2009
There seems to be a small but significant market for rugged phones - and the Samsung B2100 seems to be the toughest phone yet from one of the big five manufacturers. Sold under various names including the Samsung B2100 Solid Extreme and Samsung B2100 Xplorer, this particular model is the UK "Solid Extreme" version in red.
There's not much in the box - the phone itself, a manual, battery, charger and a stereo wired headset. If you want a microSD card or data cable then you will need to pay extra. You can see more unboxing pictures here.
The Samsung B2100 is an attractive device with a tough rubberised housing. The countours of the case are curved with "grip dimples" in the side, which makes it a very nice handset to look at.
Everything is fully waterpoof, unless you open the battery cover or charger/headset cover. You can also wear the phone with a lanyard although there isn't one in the box.
The rubbery keyboard is not unpleasant to use, but the controller pad does feel a bit stiff. The 128 x 160 pixel screen is basic but very clear and it is certainly good enough for most tasks.
The B2100 is very solidly constructed - and with good reason. Not only do all the panels and joins have to be watertight, but the phone can also survive a one metre drop onto a hard surface plus quite a lot of other abuse. We're not saying that the B2100 is unbreakable, but it can certainly survive events that will kill another phone stone dead.
It is slightly on the heavy side - we weighed it at 106 grams with the microSD card installed. The weight is mostly due to the tough construction, if carried in a pocket it won't be a problem, but on a lanyard it could prove to be annoying.
Is it waterproof?
Samsung claim that the B2100 is fully waterproof. Well, is it really? We put it to the test in this video and the answer is "yes". As long as all the covers are firmly in place, then there appears to be no water ingress at all and the handset works just fine under water.
In reality, you are not going to make a phone call underwater.. but it shows that the B2100 is highly resistant against rain, getting dropped in puddles or splashed with water or other liquids. It should also survive a trip down to the pub.
The phone wipes clean easily, and if it gets muddy or dirty then you can simply rinse it off.
One drawback is that if you use the wired headset then you will compromise the B2100's watertightness. Care also needs to be taken when opening the panels to avoid damage.
The tough casing does create another problem. Because everything is fully sealed, audio quality is slightly muffled. On a normal phone, the microphone and speakers are mounted internally and covered by a mesh or small holes in the casing to allow sound to travel easily. On the B2100, everything is sealed up and there is a slight but noticeable drop in audio quality as a result.
The music player is easy to use and it can cope with MP3s or synchronise with Windows Media Player. Tracks are controlled by the navigation pad plus a volume control on the side of the phone, and the B2100 can happily play music in the background while other tasks are carried out.
As we mentioned before, sound is slightly muffled on the B2100. However, the internal speaker is loud enough to make this a practical portable music player. When played through the supplied headset, audio playback is clear and can be turned up very loud. There's also an FM radio which works in conjunction with the wired headset - this is easy enough to use but it doesn't come with RDS, so radio station names are not displayed.
The B2100 can also play back video clips, but due to the low resolution and small size of the screen you will probably not want to do that.
To be blunt - web browsing on the B2100 is a pretty miserable experience. This isn't a 3G device, so many customers will have to rely on GPRS rates which are about the same as an old-fashioned dial-up modem. The web browser is also pretty poor and can only cope with fairly simple pages, else it fails with a "document too large error", and pages designed for full blown web browsers often render very poorly. On the other hand, simple sites and those specifically designed for mobile phones work just fine.
Although it is unlikely that you'll buy the B2100 because of it's camera, the 1.3 megapixel unit is fairly decent, if simple. There's no flash, but a virtual iris control can adjust the brightness of a picture.. this takes a little practice to get right, and it can lead to an image being underexposed or overexposed. The B2100 does have some basic image editing functions which can help to fix the pictures you have taken.
The camera also lacks autofocus, but it copes with most things quite well. Again, if you are using the B2100 regularly for photographs, then you will probably want a data cable to transfer the images.
The following are some unretouched shots (rotated only) from the B2100. Click on the image for the full picture.
The camera is certainly good enough for snapshots of things that you see when you are out and about.
Ease of use
The user interface on the B2100 is pretty typical for a low-end Samsung handset. Even on the limited resolution screen of this phone, it is simple enough to use and there are plenty of keyboard shortcuts to speed things up.
The keyboard is very rubbery though, and although the key travel is good, it does feel a little odd. The navigation pad is very stiff, and a little difficult to use.
We found that call quality was OK, but slightly muffled due to the waterproof casing. It is certainly good enough for day-to-day use.
Value for money
In terms of raw technical specifications, the B2100 doesn't offer particularly great value for money.. until you take into account how tough it is. This phone will survive experiences which can kill most other handsets stone dead, although we didn't test the B2100 to destruction, we do think that this will be quite difficult to break. If you regularly expose your phone to harsh environments, then its robustness will probably pay for itself quite quickly.
The Samsung B2100 Solid Extreme is an exceptionally durable handset, but this durability does tend to compromise other handset features. Music playback is good, and the basic camera is surprisingly useful if a little fiddly to use. The web browser is the weakest part of the phone, even taking into account the lack of 3G.
It's an attractive looking device, and the toughness should be appealing to many consumers. And it's hard to beat the B2100's party trick of working under water!
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