Samsung Galaxy K Zoom review: Half phone, half camera -- and not brilliant at either

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Samsung Galaxy K Zoom camera test Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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Samsung Galaxy S5 camera comparison Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Neither camera exactly impressed me with their attempts at capturing Tower Bridge. The scenes were generally rather dark, although the S5 again had a slightly more pleasant colour tone.

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Samsung Galaxy K Zoom HDR camera test Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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Samsung Galaxy S5 HDR camera comparison Andrew Hoyle/CNET

With HDR turned on it was a different matter entirely. The K Zoom's shot had warmer, more natural colours and had more detail on the bridge itself.

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Samsung Galaxy K Zoom camera test Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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Samsung Galaxy S5 camera comparison Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The photos of this plant were a bit of a mixed bag. While the S5's shot again had warmer colours, it was a little blurred. The K Zoom's -- thanks to its stabilisation -- was pin-sharp.

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Samsung Galaxy K Zoom camera test Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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Samsung Galaxy S5 camera comparison Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The bright colours of these Shakespeare posters outside of the Globe Theatre look extremely vivid on the Galaxy S5, but seem rather more muted on the K Zoom.

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Samsung Galaxy K Zoom camera test Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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Samsung Galaxy S5 camera comparison Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Both phones captured this veg stall in Borough Market adequately, but again the S5's shot was more vivid and had better contrast, giving the image more pop overall.

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Samsung Galaxy K Zoom camera test Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Wandering over to West London's Syon Park, the K Zoom captured a good overall picture, with even exposure between the bright sky and shadowy trees.

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Samsung Galaxy K Zoom camera test Andrew Hoyle/CNET

A macro mode allows the phone to focus quite close up -- in this case, allowing me to snap this bee on a flower. Lovely stuff.

The K Zoom as a phone

Camera hardware aside, the K Zoom operates in precisely the same way as Samsung's other phones. It runs the latest Android 4.4.2 KitKat software at its heart, over which Samsung has pasted its TouchWiz interface. It looks the same as it does on the S5, with multiple home screens to fill up with apps and widgets and an app tray for any icons you don't want cluttering up your home panels.

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

You'll find a whole host of bundled Samsung software, including the S Planner calendar, S Voice speech control, a dedicated Samsung app store and the My Magazine app, which sits off to the left of the homescreens. It combines various news sources and social networks into a scrolling feed -- it's basically Flipboard.

The K Zoom doesn't come with S Health, however, and there's no pedometer or heart rate monitor for you fitness buffs.

It's powered by a combination of a 1.3GHz quad-core processor and a 1.7GHz dual-core processor -- that's six processing cores in total. It doesn't use all six at once though, instead using the quad-core side for the heavy lifting, switching to the lower-powered dual-core chip for less intense times to try and eke out more battery life.

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

I found the phone to be satisfyingly swift. There's no indication as to which processor it's using at any point, but that doesn't matter. Swiping around the homescreens was lag-free, and opening menus and apps didn't result in much delay. Demanding games such as Asphalt 8 and Riptide GP 2 played with high frame rates for smooth gameplay. Photo editing, I'm glad to say, was also tackled without hesitation.

Battery

Stuffed into that flabby body is a 2,430mAh battery. That's a reasonable size cell, but it will need to be fairly burly to keep on going when you're getting snap-happy on holiday. I'm still putting the battery through numerous test runs to see just how the six-core processor handles battery, but anecdotally, I can say that battery life seems at least adequate.

I was able to spend a good couple of hours around London, taking almost 100 test photos on various modes, while tethered over Wi-Fi to my 4G phone to post some pictures to Facebook and Twitter. From a full charge, the battery only dropped to around the 85 percent mark, which isn't too bad.

If you're aggressive with your usage, with screen brightness on max, GPS and Bluetooth switched on and apps like Spotify running in the background, you'll find your battery will drain much faster. Using the xenon flash drains the juice quickly too.

If you're more careful you shouldn't struggle to get a day out of it. As a general rule, you should expect to charge the K Zoom, like all smartphones, every night.

Conclusion

The phone-camera hybrid that is the Galaxy K Zoom may seem like the photography enthusiast's dream device, but it's far from perfect. Its bulky size means it's impractical for everyday use, and its images, while far from poor, don't match the Galaxy S5's. Nor does the camera's speed, or the display resolution.

Unless you absolutely need an optical zoom on your phone -- and I'm not sure why you would -- you'd be better off plumping for the more pocketable Galaxy S5.

Alternatively, opt for a great budget Android phone like the Motorola Moto G and spend the rest of the money on a compact digital camera for your holidays.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
  • Diagonal Size 4.8 in
  • Sensor Resolution 16.3 pixels
  • Service Provider not specified
  • Weight 7.05 oz
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