For more than a couple months, an eternity in the gadget world, the Nokia N95 enjoyed the distinction of being one of the only 5-megapixel camera phones on the market, at least outside of Korea. However, considering that change is the only constant with cell phones, it wasn't surprising when Samsung released a high-resolution camera handset. Besides its powerful shooter, the Samsung SGH-G800 has a lot in common with its Nokia rival. Inside a relatively boxy design is a media-centric feature set that includes: a music and video player, an FM radio, stereo Bluetooth, expandable memory and support for 3.5G HSDPA networks. On the whole it lived up to our expectations. However, the disappointing Web browser, dim camera flash, and lack of Wi-Fi ultimately put it behind the N95. The GSM SGH-G800 isn't available with a U.S carrier, but you can buy it unlocked in the United States and Canada from third-party retailers like Dynamism.com. Much like the Nokia N95, it will cost you. You should expect to pay around $549. To find accessories for this phone, visit our cell phone ringtones and accessories guide.
It would be difficult to squash a 5-megapixel camera into a svelte design, so we don't mind that the SGH-G800 is on the hefty side. At 3.97 inches by 2 inches by 0.74 inch, it rivals a standalone camera in size, but it's still small enough to slip into a pocket. Even though it weighs in at 4.9 ounces, it has a comfortable feeling in the hand. On the whole, it has a sturdier feel than the N95, but we noticed the slider mechanism felt a tad loose. It could just be our review model, but it didn't exactly click into place. The silver finish is attractive, but the phone is rather boxy.
The 2.4-inch display supports 262,000 colors (240x320 pixels). It's vibrant, and displays graphics and photos well. You can change the backlighting time, the brightness, and the dialing font type, size, and color. The simple and intuitive menu interface (available in two styles) is classic Samsung; we continue to love the nifty pop-up menus.
The navigation array left us a bit divided. Though it's a bit stylish (if you can call buttons "stylish") it could be more user-friendly. The rectangular toggle is quite large, but it's flush and pretty slippery. Also, though the OK button is tactile, we would prefer it to open the main menu when the phone is in standby mode. The soft keys on either side of the toggle are long and thin, but they're raised above the surface of the phone. Below the toggle, on the bottom of the front face, are the Talk and End/power key and a clear button. Unfortunately, they're also slick, and only the Talk and End buttons are backlit. One final complaint before we move on: we'd prefer having dedicated music controls.
Hidden behind the sliding face is the numeric keypad. Much like the navigation array, it was a mixed bag. The keys are large and brightly backlit, but there is no definition between the individual buttons. Dialing by feel wasn't easy and quick texters may want to give it a test drive before buying.
Like many camera phones of its caliber, the SGH-G800 is designed to look like a camera but offer cameralike ergonomics. A sliding cover protects the camera lens and xenon flash. Opening the cover starts the camera automatically, and closing it turns off the camera. There's no self-portrait mirror, but it's not needed. The SGH-G800 has a second VGA camera just above its display. This second lens is so inconspicuous that we didn't even know it was there until we saw an option for it while scrolling through the camera menus. When you're taking a photo with either lens, and you're holding the phone horizontally, you'll find that the left spine volume rocker and camera shutter are now on the top of the device. It feels just like a real camera. You can use the volume rocker to control the zoom.
The SGH-G800's phone book holds 1,000 contacts with room in each entry for seven phone numbers, five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, two URLS, a nickname, a birthday, a company name and job title, two street addresses and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can save callers to groups and you can pair them with a photo and one of 21 polyphonic ringtones. Other basics include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a world clock, a calculator, a currency and unit converter, a timer, a stopwatch, a notepad, a task list and an alarm clock. Higher-maintenance users can take advantage of the speakerphone, Stereo Bluetooth, e-mail, PC syncing, USB 2.0 mass storage, and a voice recorder.
With a 5-megapixel camera, there's no arguing that the SGH-G800's emphasis is squarely on taking photos. As you'd expect, the phone offers a long list of camera options so we'll just fill you in on the highlights. You can take photos in five resolutions, from a full five megapixels down to standard VGA (640x480 pixels), and you can adjust a variety of settings including the image saturation and sharpness. Other features include: three quality settings, exposure metering and ISO, a macro mode, five color effects, an adjustable exposure value, a self-timer, four white balance settings and a 4x zoom (even at the highest resolution). That's an impressive assortment already, and one that's certainly on par with the standalone camera, but the SGH-G800 offers even more for options for your photo pleasure. You'll find 20 fun frames and separate modes for taking panoramic, mosaic and multishots. Auto-focus and antishake and face-recognition settings will help steady your hand, and the Xenon flash even has a red-eye reduction setting. The simple camera menus are similar to other high-end Samsungs, and we like that the toggle functions as a shortcut to the menus for the flash, the self-timer, and the macro setting.