Sanyo SCP-4000 Review
SCP-4000.gif (22009 bytes) The Sanyo SCP-4000 is one of the newest offerings by Clearnet PCS. It is smaller than the Nokia 6188, and it features a novel display backlight that makes the characters easier to read in the dark. 

Last Updated: 02-Feb-2000

Disclaimer: The following review represents my personal opinion. No bench testing was performed on this or any phone reviewed on my web page. If you don't agree with something I say, you are certainly welcome to politely bring it to my attention (in public or private). However, any out-and-out insults or flames will be igored.

During my review I will compare the SCP-4000 against the Nokia 6185, 6188, and 6190. In terms of size and market position, I believe this is a reasonable comparison. I have also compared it to the Qualcomm Thin Phone (QCP-1960 single mode) in areas where they are comparable, such as sound quality and RF performance.

Size, Weight, and Battery Life

The Sanyo is a very small phone. It's height and thickness are approximately the same as the Nokia 6100 models, but it is at least 1 cm narrower. This makes a big difference to the perceived size of the phone. The Sanyo looks and feels like a tiny phone. It tips the scales at approximately the same weight as the 6185/6188, but it comes with a 1300 mAh battery vs a 900 mAh in the Nokia. This larger capacity battery translates into longer standby and talk times, even though we have a smaller package. The Nokia phone with its higher capacity 1500 mAh battery is substantially larger and heavier than the Sanyo.

The battery clips in very solidly, and it makes no creaking noises when you squeeze the phone. I don't know how well this clip will hold up over time, but it seems solid enough to provide years of trouble-free service. The connector for the charger is also very solid (especially compared to the awful one on the old Sony phone). However, it is much bulkier than the simple connector provided on the Nokia phones.

I was not able to do any controlled tests of battery life, but I did manage to get over 120 minutes of talk time on the initial charge, and I hadn't even run the battery down completely. This is exceptional, since a lithium-ion battery doesn't really begin to produce its maximum output until it has been conditioned with three full discharge-recharge cycles.

Sound Quality and Overall Feel

Sound quality on the SCP-4000 was a sore point with me. My expectations were high after I had read glowing reviews of the phone's audio in the Clearnet newsgroup. I can only conclude that the people who gave the phone's sound quality high marks were A) first-time digital phone users who had previously used analog; B) people who had used decidedly inferior products prior to this; or C) not particularly discerning individuals.

The sound was a little tinny, a little hollow, and decidedly peaky. It lacked the rich tones offered by the Nokia 6100 models, or the excellent Qualcomm Thin Phone. When it reached higher volumes I could hear annoying sympathetic vibrations. Compared to what I was accustomed to in daily use of a Nokia 6190 on Fido, and a Nokia 6185 on Bell Mobility, the Sanyo phone sounded cheap and inferior. The only advantage the SCP-4000 has over the Nokia in terms of audio is that it produces louder audio. That advantage doesn't even apply to the Thin Phone, since it has very little hiss either.

This isn't to say that the Sanyo sounds as bad as other digital phones I've tested (notably the Mitsubishi G75), or as bad as almost any analog phone you care to name. Now before anyone suggests that the sound quality problem might be Clearnet's fault, I should note that the Qualcomm Thin Phone sounds gorgeous on their network.

One area in which the Sanyo falls short is in its inability to tame the ever-present CDMA frame errors as well as the Nokia. The Sanyo phone uses the newest chipset design from Qualcomm, and this iteration is definitely better than the last. However, the overall reaction of the phone to frame errors is still very similar to the old Sony/Qualcomm phones, in that you experience odd shifts in the tonal balance of the audio. The 6185/6188 phones generally respond to these errors by creating small "micro-holes" in the audio stream (except when the frame errors become very heavy). The Thin Phone doesn't fair well in this area, as it does about as poorly as the Sanyo.

I generally found the received audio on the SCP-4000 to be a huge disappointment. I should note however that its transmitted audio was exceptional. Friends whom I called using various models of phone said that they couldn't really tell the difference in the tonal quality of any of them. It that regard the SCP-4000 gets high marks.

Some people claimed that the Sanyo could magically cure the echo canceller problem on Clearnet. This was one of the first things I tested when I got my SCP-4000. Yes the Sanyo does reduce the effect slightly, but it does not cure it. For example, I tested the phone while driving on the highway in my wife's rather noisy pickup truck. I called the recordings at *611 and I listened to the difference in the received audio when I turned the muting on or off. When muting was off, the audio degraded noticeably, indicating that the infamous Clearnet echo canceller was doing its "thing".

Oddly enough, I did have occasional calls where I could get no ill effects from the echo canceller. I also noticed this when using my old Sony phone. Possibly Clearnet is working on a fix for the echo canceller. I cannot explain why the canceller works fine in some calls, and not in others, but this phenomenon is not limited to the Sanyo phone.

I would give the phone's overall size and shape high marks for comfort. The feel against the ear could be a lot better, but I've certainly used phones that were much worse. The extendable antenna seems a little flimsy, and it sometimes made noises when it moved around during a call. Even when locked in a full upright position, the antenna had a bit too much play to remain truly solid.

Features and Menus

The phone's menu structure is great, but it lacks simple shortcuts for getting deep into those menus quickly. Getting to many menu items in the Sanyo requires repeated pressing of the cursor down key and the OK key. The Nokia 6100 models and the Qualcomm Thin Phone allow quick access to all menus using numeric shortcuts, which would be a welcome addition to the SCP-4000. The Sanyo lacks the Nokia's unique "Profiles" feature, which allow users to quickly change the ringer volume, keypad volume, ringer type, etc using just two keystrokes. Performing all these operations on the Sanyo is so time-consuming, that it is unlikely you would do much more than silence or un-silence the ringer.

Audio volume is adjusted using two keys at the bottom of the keypad. I found these extremely awkward to reach during a call, and I usually had to use two hands. To make matters worse, you had to press one of these buttons once to activate the volume menu, and then press it a second time to make a change to the volume. Even the 6185 and the 6188 are easier to adjust, even though they also require the pressing of keys on the main pad. The Nokia 6190 and the Qualcomm Thin Phone are light years ahead of the Sanyo, in that they both have side-mounted volume controls. Overall however, I had no real problem with the menu layout in the Sanyo. It took a little getting used to after prolonged exposure to the Nokia system, but neither one is noticeably superior to the other.

The blue backlight of the Sanyo is truly amazing in its ability to make the display visible in the dark. The Sanyo's display also uses high-contrast liquid crystal that enhances the visibility. This is offset by what must be one of the worst set of fonts I have seen on a recent phone model. Not only does Sanyo use non-proportional characters (which wastes space), but it also has a weird design in the bold version of the standard font. On some letters the vertical lines are two pixels wide, while on other characters the vertical lines are only one pixel wide. This looks like it was designed by someone who had a complete disregard for esthetics.

The non-bold standard font is fairly conventional, and it has no weirdness that I could detect. However, the display is not particularly big, and the non-bold font requires a higher degree of squinting that it does on the Nokia models (which aren't very good in that regard to begin with). Time to get those bifocals you've been putting off.

The Sanyo phone includes a built-in 2.5 mm headset jack, located at the top of the phone. Although adapters are readily available for the Nokia 6100 models, these are extra-cost items that also use up a fair bit of space. They can only be hooked up at the bottom of the phone, so they don't lend themselves to use on enclosed belt carriers. I therefore give the Sanyo top marks for this feature.

The SCP-4000 features a four-function calculator, as does the Nokia. It also comes with one game, called Crab Catch (can you say Space Invaders?). The game is overly simplistic, it has only one speed of play, and the backlight is disabled during play (so it cannot be used in the dark). If games are important to you, then the Sanyo is not the phone for you.

The phone book in the SCP-4000 is arguably better than the Nokia, in that Sanyo allows you to store many different phone numbers under the same name. This means you don't have to create multiple entries with different names, such as "Steve Home", "Steve Cellular", and "Steve Work". However, it does lack other features offered by the Nokia, such as a Calendar (with reminders), Alarm Clock, Volume Profiles, Calling Card Dialing, and the ability to assign unique rings to names in your phone book. The Nokia 6185/6188 also has more ring tone options, and they allow you to ring and vibrate simultaneously.

The SCP-4000 includes a Micro Browser, but I couldn't try that since web features are not yet offered by Clearnet. I would dearly like to give Sanyo high marks for including this feature when it continues to be vaporware on the 6185/6188, but until Clearnet decides to offer this feature, its totally a non-issue. What's the good of a feature if you can't use it?

RF Performance

When testing RF performance of the SCP-4000, I brought along my old Sony phone for comparison. Although I did not have service on the Sony, I could still use it to dial *611 (thus allowing me to listen to various "front end" recordings provided by Clearnet). I took the phones to my favorite test location of Rockwood Mall in Mississauga. This place provides areas where I can walk the phones into decreasing signals and check their responses. On the digital side, the SCP-4000 was approximately equal to the old Sony, though it had a slight advantage when it came to keeping the audio clean under extremely weak conditions.

I could find no evidence to suggest that the Sanyo could hold onto signals longer, nor did I see evidence that it registered service at times that the Sony did not. Suffice it to say that the RF performance of the SCP-4000 is on par with the old Sony. When I tested the 6188 against the Sony back in the summer, I found the same thing to be true. By extension therefore, it is valid to say that the Sanyo and the Nokia 6188 have approximately equal RF performance.

The Sanyo shows a detectable drop in RF performance when the antenna is retracted. I put the phone in my shirt pocket and I walked it into some questionable areas of malls. When I pulled the phone out of my pocket I would find it continuously searching for service. If I pulled up the antenna, it would soon lock into a digital signal with which I could place calls (though they were fairly degraded).

The analog side of the SCP-4000 was a huge disappointment. Although the audio quality seemed decent for an analog unit, the RF performance was simply awful. I had a terrible time getting the Cantel network to set up calls for me unless their signals were very strong. The Sony phone out-performed the SCP-4000 consistently in weak analog areas.


In summary, I would be hard pressed to rate the Sanyo phone better than 5 out of 10. It's relatively uninspiring audio quality and its less-than-topnotch ability to tame frame errors put it well behind the Nokia 6185/6188. However, it does shine in terms of battery life, so if that aspect is important to you, and you don't mind suffering a little in the audio department to get it, then perhaps the Sanyo would be a better choice. Size and weight are also excellent features of the phone, so this too may make your mind up to avoid the Nokia. Personally I always pick phones for their ability to place calls and to provide good quality audio during those calls. That being the case, the Nokia 6188 and the Qualcomm Thin Phone are currently my heads-up choices of the Clearnet line.

Other Reviews of the Sanyo SPC-4000

Review by Steve Romaine