A bit on the bulky side, the RL2000 is not for those who prefer a compact model.
The RL2000 resembles a cross between Sanyo's SCP-4900 and Nextel's i58sr. Measuring 5.06 by 2.18 by 1.10 inches and weighing 5.2 ounces, the black-and-blue, candy bar-style RL2000 is about the same size, weight, and shape as the SCP-4900, but it inherits its heavy-duty rubber covering and side grips from the i58sr. Thanks to this covering, the phone was easy to hold, and we felt confident we could drop it without ill effect.
Measuring a generous 1.7 inches, the bright, 4,096-color, 128x120 screen holds eight lines of text. An added plus: When the backlight shuts off, the phone enters a sleep mode and doesn't go completely dark. A four-way navigation key opens the phone book and one user-designated shortcut. Additionally, a Menu/OK button is on the left side, and a designated control for the speakerphone sits below the numeric and navigation keys, which are well spaced but not backlit. On top of the phone, a multicolored LED can be programmed for individual alarms and events.
But it's really the menu style that sets the RL2000 apart from many other phones. Instead of presenting a field of tiny or full-screen icons to scroll through, the Sanyo features a colorful 3D-like ring, reminiscent of the spinning circle on Wheel of Fortune. As with the SCP-4900, you can scroll forward and back on the wheel, with options above and below the primary function selection visible.
The RL2000 works with Sprint's new Ready Link service, the company's version of Push To Talk, a walkie-talkie/two-way-radio-like service using VoIP technology. (PTT is also offered by Nextel's Direct Connect, Verizon, and now Alltell's Touch2Talk.) The button activating the Ready Link feature is located on the side of the RL2000. In comparison to its counterpart on the PTT version of Verizon's Motorola V60, it's easier to find and much less difficult to keep depressed while you're talking.
Standard features include a 300-name phone book with seven numbers for each entry, a wireless WAP 2.0 Web browser (using the 1xRTT network), picture caller ID, text messaging, voice dialing, a voice memo recorder, an event calendar with programmable reminders, a to-do list, automatic answering, and English and Spanish voice and text prompts. You also get a speakerphone that, like the SCP-4900's, is activated with a dedicated button (more on that in Performance). The RL2000 can be customized easily with polyphonic ring tones, screensavers, pictures, and games that are easy to download and install from Sprint's PCS Vision service. Games are supported by Java (J2ME).
Like Verizon's PTT service but unlike Nextel's, Ready Link requires only one phone number for calls. But you'll need a network connection for Ready Link, and it can be used with only those Sprint customers who have the same feature. A separate Ready Link phone book holds contact information for another 200 personal and 200 business contacts, and you can set up calling groups of up to five people on the handset or on the Sprint PCS Web site.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 1900/AMPS 800) RL2000 in Manhattan using Sprint's service. The caller's voice could be heard clearly, while background sounds, including loud street noise, were completely blocked. Though not as impressive as the RL2500's speaker--audio quality warbled a bit and came through as if the caller were underwater--the RL2000's earpiece is superior, with plenty of volume.
Connections using Sprint's Ready Link service were immediate and crystal clear, even in calls between New York and Virginia, with only those sporadic and unexplainable Sprint PCS blank spots. You get helpful onscreen "Floor is open" (when you can talk) or "(Name) has the floor" (when others are talking) prompts along with aural cues.
Battery time was respectable. We got 30 minutes more than the rated 4.5 hours of talk time, and we matched the rated 5.8 days of standby time.