Samsung D800 review: Samsung D800

CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Good quality screen; nice sliding mechanism; easy-to-access camera features.

The Bad No memory expansion; poor keyboard; camera resolution is average; MP3 sound quality is average.

The Bottom Line The D800 is certainly thin, and it has a rather nice look about it. But it's let down in several ways, most notably by its average camera, lack of memory expansion and, most importantly of all, outer and inner keypads, which leave something to be desired. If you half-fancy this handset, take a look at an earlier model, the D600, which we think is a better bet

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Samsung has caught our eye in the past with its tasty sliders -- the SGH-D600 was especially delicious. The company has taken the slider format on with the SGH-D800, building on the strength of its reputation in this format.

On the face of it, there's certainly plenty going on here in terms of features, with a 1.3-megapixel camera, music playback, Internet browsing and more to take your fancy. But we were underwhelmed by this phone in two crucial areas -- usability and memory.

We found the SGH-D800 lurking on the Web for £295 SIM-free, and from free on contracts from O2 and T-Mobile from £20 a month.

Design
Black and chrome might sound like a very old-hat combination for a colour scheme, but Samsung has used it well here. The bulk of the SGH-D800 is black, with chrome employed as trim around the edges, a flash of shininess around the earpiece and the crucial centre button in the navigation pad.

Samsung has moved away from its ultra-small format for this slider phone, instead going mainly for thinness. The result is that at first glance you look at the 15mm thickness and think 'wow'. At second glance -- and when holding the D800 in your hand -- you notice the 97mm of height and 52mm of width and think 'chunky'. And at third glance, when you extend the slider mechanism to get to the number pad and notice the extended height of 130mm, you think 'tall'.

That noted, there's nothing wrong with the way the D800 feels to hold and use. The smooth slider mechanism is assisted by a ridge under the screen for pulling and pushing with your thumb, and weight-wise this handset dips under the 100g barrier by two very important grams.

The screen's 240x320 pixels and 262k colours are as sharp and bright as any we've seen. One of the advantages of a slightly larger overall size for this handset is that the screen is 33mm wide by 44mm high -- a significant few millimetres more than the D600 could offer.

It's not all sweetness and light, however, and our main issue is with the keys both outside and inside the sliding mechanism. On the outside the keys are large, which you'd think is a good thing. But they sit flush with each other and this seems to work against them, particularly the navigation button. We lost count of the number of times we hit the left softkey instead of the left direction button, and one of the direction buttons instead of the flush-fitted silver central select key.

The number pad doesn't have separate keys. Instead it's a Razr -like area with numbers and letters marked onto it and three silver bars, ever so slightly embedded rather than raised, separating the rows.

Because you can't feel actual keys under your fingers you'll have to take care when tapping out phone numbers. We also found texting was rather slow, because we were checking for accuracy more often than usual.

What all this points to is a nice-looking handset with a few design issues that interfered with our ability to use it effectively.

Features
With a name like SGH-D800 you're probably thinking this handset is a step up from the D600. Think again, because the feature set is not up to the same standard.

There's TV-out support, with which you can view stills and video shot with the D800, but you'll have to buy an accessory cable to use it. This cable uses the same proprietary connector on the handset as the mains power, stereo headset and PC connectivity cables.

The camera lens is hidden away under the sliding mechanism, where it is protected from scratches when you don't need it, and called into play when you slide the handset open. A side button starts the camera running when the slider is opened and takes shots, while the navigation buttons zoom and adjust white balance with some typically Samsung-tastic sound effects. You can print images via Bluetooth or USB if your printer supports these modes.

There are some rather nifty shooting modes, such as a whole series of mosaic-style shots that capture multiple images and create a collage out of them -- it's fun, but the camera lacks a flash unit, and only captures stills at a maximum resolution of 1,280x1,024 pixels (1.3 megapixels).

The D800 also has a music player. Its output lacks bass, though fiddling with the equaliser and 3D sound simulation settings does have a noticeable effect. However, we wouldn't want to rely on this handset as our only mobile music player, and sound quality is not the only reason. Memory is also an issue.

There's a fair amount of built-in memory at 80MB, and space allocated for 1,000 contacts and 200 texts. But you can't expand on this as there's memory card slot. This makes the camera and music player less useful, as you need to connect to a PC to empty the former of shots and video and fill the later with tunes, which is more of a pain than simply using memory cards to transfer files.

There are other goodies, such as three alarms, voice commands, voice recording, an image editor, unit converters, a stopwatch and calendar, but in the end the feature set feels underspecified.

Performance
Audio call quality was fine from this handset, with the speakerphone delivering nicely, as did the earpiece. Music output is also loud enough, though in both respects we'd have liked more volume at the top end, and we've already noted our misgivings about the quality of music output.

Battery life is reasonably good, but the 220 hours of standby and 3.5 hours of talk time provided by the D800 are less than those delivered by the much-liked D600 by some margin.

Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide

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Where to Buy

Samsung D800

Part Number: CNETSamsung D800

Typical Price: £300.00

See manufacturer website for availability.