Not long ago I looked at Orange’s own-branded Tokyo mobile phone. I said then that it was one of a series, all named after world cities, and designed to give Orange a portfolio of devices that no other operator could lay claim to.
I wasn’t too impressed with Tokyo. I liked its small size and the general design, but the features weren’t really up to what I’d expect for a £160 PAYG handset. Berlin is a whole lot less expensive at £50 on PAYG, and so I am prepared to accept rather lower grade features.
So to find right off the bat that Berlin is quad-band GSM with 3G where Tokyo is dual-band GSM; that it has a 2-megapixel camera where Tokyo has 1.3-megapixels; and that it has an FM radio where Tokyo doesn’t is a pleasant surprise. True, there is no front-facing camera for two-way video calling, but on paper Berlin does look like a better deal than Tokyo.
Berlin is a slider and while it is not as small as the very smallest of sliders it’s 95 x 45 x 17mm dimensions make it quite comfortable in the hand and in the pocket. It grows to 125mm when the slider is open, and weighs 95g.
The phone’s casing is made of black rubberised material which feels fine to hold. The left and right side buttons are silver. On the left are two-volume keys and on the right are three media playback control keys (pause/play, forward and back), with one of these doubling as a camera control.
There is a small curved ridge beneath the screen which you can push against when opening and closing the slide. I found this was a bit too close to the navigation button and often ended up hitting the ‘up’ button by mistake, which was a bit of a nuisance.
The navigation button is surrounded by six other buttons. There are two softmenu keys, Call and End keys, a menu key and a back key.
The screen looks a little lost in its surroundings. It couldn’t be much wider but there is a fair amount of space above and below it. It delivers 176 x 220 pixels and is quite clear and sharp.
The hardware control buttons for the music player indicate that Orange expects you to use Berlin to listen to tunes. Plentiful memory is important in this scenario so it is good that there is 80MB built in and a MicroSD card slot for adding more. But Orange has really shot itself in the foot by positioning the card slot underneath the SIM card so that in order to swap MicroSD cards you have to remove the SIM, and in order to do that you need to power down.
The provided in-ear buds are reasonably good, but if you don’t like them you can use your own instead as Orange provides a two-piece headset with a 3.5mm connector just above the microphone.
Unfortunately the connector to the phone itself is mini USB and it shares the mains power socket, so you can’t charge the phone and use the headset at the same time. The socket is awkwardly located on the right edge of the casing – I always prefer headphone sockets to be on the top or bottom of a mobile as these locations make it more comfortable to tote the handset in a pocket with headset connected.
It’s worth noting that you need to attach the phone end of the headset if you want to listen to the FM radio as it houses the antenna.
The mini USB socket is also used to connect Berlin to your PC. You can access on-board memory and the MicroSD card in mass storage mode or use the provided software for synchronising – including synchronising Berlin’s calendar with Outlook on your PC.
Battery life proved to be very good. Off a full charge I got ten and a half hours of continuous music played from a MicroSD card. With no battery killing Wi-Fi or video calling option in this phone I’d expect it to last me a couple of days between charges.
Moving on to the 2-megapixel camera, the lens is accompanied by a self-portrait mirror and flash unit. All these elements are on the back of the casing and hidden inside the slide so that the lens is protected when not in use.
The camera is really pretty average. The coloured dish shot indoors under normal household lighting and with the camera on its auto settings is a little grainy, and the background should be uniformly white rather than pinky and greeny/yellow. Outdoors the definition on the chair is hazy, and the plants also lack clarity. I’d say the camera is only good for quick snaps and not for photos you might want to keep.
There is plenty of other stuff available on Berlin. The handset supports mobile email, though as ever with small screened devices that have number pads rather than proper keyboards, doing a lot of emailing is not a good idea for your eyesight or your general sanity.
Thanks to the 3G the Web browser is fairly speedy, but it is hampered by the small, low resolution screen and does not cope well with complex pages. You can’t zoom in and out or push the screen into wide mode. Unless you intend to stick to the Orange portal or you know the site(s) you want to use are fairly basic, it is probably best given a wide berth.
Other services include Bluetooth, alarms, a voice recorder, calculator, notepad, stopwatch, and a unit converter for currency, length, area, volume, weight, temperature, energy and speed.
Berlin is a lot better value for money than the previously reviewed Tokyo. It is nice to see PC synch in a mid-range mobile like this, though some features, such as the Web browser, are best left alone.
Score in detail
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