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Even those items we may own which we do not think can be bettered in any way sooner or later inevitably are. Such is the case with my old Sagem MYX-6. In a review for this very site, I begged the question as to whether or not it was the best phone in the world. Since they now appear to be going for about £30 on Ebay, I would probably say that it was not, but it was certainly the best phone I have ever owned. I noted in my previous review, written about a year ago, that the MYX-6 lacked certain features, and also had some rather irritating drawbacks. The market has moved on quite a lot in a year, so how does Sagems replacement for the MYX-6, or at least the Vodafone version of it, known as the MYV-75, measure up to the demands of 2005s demanding consumers? The first change from the days of the MYX-6 is a positive one.
The black colour scheme adopted by Sagem and Vodafone for the MYV-75 is a success. The baby blue standard covers for the earlier MYV-65 certainly marked the handset out as being something targeted at a more youthful audience, but the darker colour, reminiscent of business standard phones such as the Nokia 6230, certainly hints at the extraordinary capabilities of the MYV-75. Here is something which is undoubtedly less than £50 these days on Ebay, yet has Java, a large, high-resolution colour screen, video recording and excellent battery life. Certainly, there is little else to touch it at this end of the market. Right from the start, Sagem has set out in the United Kingdom to offer mobile phones with the best value for money of any on the market, and with the MYV-75 they have certainly succeeded. The only major feature which is lacking is probably Bluetooth, but at this sort of price it is not to be expected. Memory cards and MP3 players are all very well, but these are normally on phones with a price tag twice as high as that of the MYV-75. Thus, first impressions are good. Whether or not the phone lives up to these upon closer inspection remains to be seen.
My old MYX-6 was principally used as a second phone during the year which I had it, since I always had a second one to use appropriate for the country I was in. The MYX-6, locked to Orange UK, was useless when I was in France and Germany unless I wanted to take a photograph or receive a message from back in Britain. Thus, I would not regard the amount of wear it sustained as considerable. However, it needed a new cover when it was sold at the end of the year, which did not particularly endear me to Sagem build quality. The MYV-75 appears to have been no exception to this rule. Despite virtually flawless reliability (a rare thing from my point of view in a phone these days), the cover started to come loose after only about a month. As I use two mobile phones, both get equal wear, and thus I would expect that if someone else were to use just this one for a while, it would get in an even worse state. In all fairness, the actual chassis of the phone does seem perfectly well together, it just appears that the changeable covers are the Achilles heel of any Sagem phone of this type. The new MYX-8, designed by Ora-Ito, appears to be made of much better materials, but I am not holding my breath in this respect. Another issue appears to be the keypad.
The MYX-6 probably had the worst keypad of any phone I have used. Small and unresponsive, it was easy to see why quite a few of these went on Ebay very soon after they were bought. The MYV-75 is better, but not by much. The buttons are larger, but use exactly the same footprint as the MYX-6, which means the same type of problems. Text messaging is thus not ideal. Although Sagem has seen the sense of putting a character counter on the phone, which is a massive improvement on any previous model, the buttons do not have much travel, and the general problem of phone lag means that text input is not what it could have been. Most phones these days do seem to have a degree of lag, and the MYV-75 is not particularly bad in this respect, but it is an irritation nevertheless. Nokia users would be pleased to know that the layout of punctuation in a Sagem is virtually identical to that of their phones, making the transition quite easy if that is a concern. A small issue, but one which does create a degree of irritation, is that it is impossible to save the number of a sender from a text message. Why Sagem have neglected this extremely useful feature is beyond me. The problems with text messaging, however, are nothing in comparison with the issues with audio quality which the phone brings up.
Sagem have always produced phones with excellent WAV and AMR ringtones, but very poor MIDI. There seems to be a bias towards these file types not present in phones made by other manufacturers. My current Sharp GX15, bought as a replacement for the MYV-75, for example, has excellent MIDI (comparable to the old Sound Blaster 16 soundcard in my Compaq 486 computer from 1994), but cannot even play WAV or AMR files as ringtones. The MYV-75, by contrast, plays WAV and AMR files at excellent quality, but has terrible MIDI support. Although not as bad as the old MYX-6, it is still nothing to write home about. The problem is compounded since the maximum ringtone volume which the MYV-75 is capable of outputting has been somewhat reduced since the days when a Sagem would deafen its user with the noise of a boat horn, cow or cat when used as an alarm clock. Whilst Siemens phones appear to have had their ringtone volume increased, the opposite appears to have happened in regard to phones of Parisian origin. Needless to say, the MYX-8, with its MP3 player, is certainly something to which I am looking forward to obtaining. Amongst all this doom and gloom, however, there is much about the MYV-75 which is very positive.
The MYX-6 had an excellent camera for the time when it was produced. The MYV-75 builds upon this by adding video capture capabilities (albeit at a much reduced resolution) to its VGA still camera. The photo quality is just the same as the previous generation, which means rather good, but this is not enough these days, as just about every new phone on the market has a comparable camera. The sliding cover for the lens continues to be a good idea, and seems a lot more robust than the one fitted to the MYX-6. Fortunately, the amount of memory built into the handset has increased from about 2.3 MB to 4 MB, which means that a good number of ringtones, pictures, games and videos can be stored on the phone. This is nothing like the 11 MB of the Siemens CX65, a direct rival of the MYV-75, but is enough for most users.
The 65,000 colour 128x160 resolution display of the MYV-75, which was simply breathtaking when the MYX-6 was released in 2003, is now decidedly average. The enormous 240X320 resolution 262,000 colour display of the MYX-8, matched by other phones such as the Sharp GX30 and Sony Ericsson S700i, certainly puts the lesser models to shame, but when one considers that most Samsung, lower end Sony Ericsson and LG phones still appear to have the same resolution as this, it really is not bad. An entire text message fits onto the screen, the photographs look convincing, and games are perfectly adequate. When most phones of this price would come with a 128x128 pixel screen, and possibly even only 4096 colours, like the Nokia 7250i/6610i series, this is certainly an advantage worth remembering. The menu system, however, is not as impressive.
Finally, Sagem have decided to adopt the 3x3 grid system for the main menu as first used by Panasonic in the GD75 and Ericsson in the T68 in 2001. Unfortunately, there is only a four-way navigation key, rather than a joystick or D-pad, so it is not possible to simply press down on the navigational tool in order to select an item. Behind this new smart menu, which in the MYV-75 is the typical Vodafone corporate red, the usual lists which Sagem has used for years still lurk. The phone book still retains the old idiosyncrasies of being slightly confusing to use, there are sometimes lists of many options of which only one displays at a time, and there are still few shortcuts from the standby menu. None of these are a major issue (except perhaps for the red Vodafone menu for those not impressed by the countrys largest operator), but would still put the average user off buying this phone if they had never used one before. So, whilst there are quite a few minor niggles with the MYV-75, how well does the handset work as a phone?
Laying aside the fact that the information about missed calls, calls dialled and calls received is in no way as detailed in any of the Vodafone-branded phones as it is in a modern Siemens phone, for example, the MYV-75 is actually quite a good basic phone. The battery life on Sagems is normally very good, and this one is no reception. The energy saving mode, which displays the name of the current network, battery level, time and the button to press to reactivate the phone, is certainly a help, but generally power management seems to be better than my current Sharp GX15 or the popular Sony Ericsson K700i. Reception is also just as good as it always was in the days of the MYX-6, possibly due to the slightly larger dimensions of the MYV-75 than many contemporary phones, and this is probably the most outstanding feature of the phone. Even in blackspots, such as my house, this is no problem at all. The GX15 is considerably inferior, and this is certainly an irritation for me. The built-in speakerphone also is of excellent quality, and requires only one button press to activate or de-activate, which helps when driving and wanting to stay within the law. The lack of Bluetooth prevents the phone from being used with a headset, but the speakerphone is so good that this is not too much of a problem.
Unlike many others, the MYV-75 also features a fully-functional infra-red port, which enables pictures, ringtones and videos to be transferred with the minimum of fuss. This also substitutes for the lack of Bluetooth, since many other phones are also equipped with this wireless technology. The two included games, one of which is instantly forgettable, and the other, Gulos Tale, which offers only limited diversionary potential, are not really worth playing unless one is exceptionally bored, but at least they are not only demos.
The MYV-75 is a superb phone. It may have a number of flaws, but for under £50 these are not worth complaining about. It is clear that the French team have done an excellent job on this one, and I look forward very much to getting my hands on the new MYX-8. Just make sure if you buy one of these that you can live with its idiosyncrasies!
Joseph Lloyd (tomshanks)