Samsung enters the Australian 5-megapixel camera phone battle with the G600, and the G800 to follow closely after. The G600 stands out from the pack with a slimmer, lightweight design and while we already know that the smaller form means a reduction in features available in the G600, we were keen to see if performance suffered, particularly in regards to the camera.
At 14mm thick and 104 grams, 5-megapixels camera phones don't come any smaller than this one. Its shiny silver coloured fascia may appear as brushed metal from a distance, but like most Samsung handsets, the G600 is made almost entirely out of plastic. Not that this should be a strong deterrent; the handset still feels adequately sturdy.
Overall, the G600 is a nicely designed phone. Rounded edges give the handset a smooth and streamlined feel, and all buttons on the handset are large and well-spaced; both on top of the phone and including the numeric keypad under the slider.
The camera lens for the 5-megapixel shooter is also concealed beneath the sliding mechanism which seems a better solution than the bulky lens cover of the Nokia N95 or to going without a cover, as with LG's Viewty. The only downside to the camera placement is that you don't have much of the phone to hold onto after sliding the phone open and turning the handset sideways to take photos with the dedicated camera button on the side, which is necessary as the auto-focus tool only works when using the dedicated key.
The G600 sports a 2.2-inch LCD display which doesn't do the 5-megapixel photo previews justice, but is bright and sharp enough for menu and application navigation. The user interface is attractive and well laid out; all applications and setting options are exactly where you'd expect to find them.
In a way, the G600 is a bit light on when it comes to features. It seems ridiculous saying that considering the fact that the phone has a 5-megapixel camera onboard, however, the camera aside, there's not much else of note to report. The G600 is a quad-band 2G phone -- so no 3G or HSDPA connectivity; there is the obligatory MP3 player, a calendar for organising your life and the range of standard messaging options including e-mail with POP3 and IMAP accounts supported.
The G600 has a built-in Web browser but, be warned, at GPRS data speeds the Web experience on the G600 is slow and will have you scanning the room frantically for a PC, or alternatively, have you tugging out your hair.
The G600 also has a good collection of kitschy, fun mobile games to play; including a soccer game, a racing game and -- prepare to gasp -- "Paris Hilton's Diamond Quest". These games are far from selling points but they are a fun way to kill time on a train platform or to while away that interminable visit to Grandma's place.
Let's cut straight to the chase: how does the camera perform? After being disappointed by two of the three 5-megapixel camera phones we've reviewed so far, we didn't start our testing with high hopes. The G600 turned out to be a star performer, mostly. Outdoors the landscape photos we took looked fantastic, sharp focus, true colour reproduction and clear detail. The images did over-expose in the brightest parts of the photos we took, but overall, most of the pics looked great.
We had more trouble shooting subjects using the camera's auto-focus system. It seems very close to working as expected but often our subjects would appear slightly soft, and we'd have to re-take a photo several times before we got a sharp result. The camera operation is good, the shutter and processing are both relatively fast, it's just a shame we were disappointed by blurry results more often than we'd have liked. The G600 employs an LED flash to help in dark rooms or at night, though you'll still want to be around some ambient light as the flash isn't bright enough to completely compensate.
It shouldn't come as a surprise considering Samsung's recent successes in the MP3 music player market space, but the MP3 player in the G600 is quite good. The music we listened to was loud and clear, with solid low tones, and sounded great through the bundled headset. Transferring files via USB is slower than we'd like to see, and sharing the universal input means you can't use the headphones while charging the phone or updating your playlist. These issues aside, the G600 could fill that musical void if you're currently without an MP3 player.
The lack of 3G will definitely turn a few shoppers away, although, this will only affect your Web speeds and possibly your choice of mobile carrier. It won't affect your standard phone use, which we found to be excellent; clear calls and speedy texting, and, with uploading operations -- like sending an MMS -- occurring in the background you shouldn't notice that it takes longer to send a file than with a 3G phone.
There's no doubt there is an eager market for a basic phone with an excellent onboard camera. We've read as much several times in threads about mobile phone use on our forums. The G600 is smaller than the competition, but only marginally, and we don't think the difference in size will be noticeable enough to sway your opinion.
The big difference is price, and in regards to the available 5-megapixel cameras, you get what you pay for, and pay for what you get. If you're not in the market for GPS, HSDPA and three-inch screens than you can save several hundred dollars by choosing the G600 over the competition. If you like the G600 but want more of the features missing in this handset it might be worth waiting for the HSDPA capable G800 to be released by Samsung in Q2, 2008.