Samsung G800 review: Samsung G800
Samsung's reputation for making great phones continues with the G800. Its design is close to a digital camera, sporting a 5-megapixel shooter, 3x optical zoom and a xenon flash. Add in HSDPA for high-speed Internet access and you've got a recipe for Samsung's best camera phone to date
You've probably seen the advert for it, showing a man happily taking pictures of heart-shaped objects. Is this photo-centric handset a camera phone love-fest? We took it out for a spin to see if it lived up to the hype.
The Samsung G800 is currently available from several major networks for free on a monthly contract.
For a company that's renowned for making slim phones such as the U700, the G800 is far from ultra thin. It's about the same size as the Nokia N95 and weighs a not-so-pocket-friendly 129g. Looking past its chunkiness, this is an attractive handset with a glossy finish similar to the LG Shine and a reassuring solid casing made up of metal and plastic.
What's obvious about the G800 is that it's heavily influenced by camera design. On the back, there's a simple cover that protects the lens and xenon flash. Once the camera is on, you hold the G800 horizontally -- as you would a standalone digital camera -- and press the easy-to-use shutter button to take pictures and volume rocker to zoom in and out.
On the phone side of things, Samsung has fortunately avoided putting in any touch-sensitive buttons -- the keypad, navigation keys and soft keys are all mechanical. We're also glad to see that all the keys are large and well laid-out, although some may find the keypad a little tough to press sometimes, depending on what you're used to.
In terms of features, the Samsung G800 really takes Samsung's camera phone portfolio to a new level. Combining a 5-megapixel sensor, xenon flash, autofocus, LED focus-assist light, 3x optical (inner) zoom, image stabilisation (digital) and red-eye reduction, it's impressively close on paper to a standalone digital camera.
Once you've taken a picture you can upload it to a blog via ShoZu, store it on a microSD card (up to 4GB) or print it via a USB cable or Bluetooth. There's a basic pre-installed photo editing suite that lets you crop photos and add effects, among a few other things. There's also a relatively comprehensive video editing suite that lets you combine audio tracks, videos and pictures.
It's not all about the camera, though. There's a comprehensive music player that supports several files including, MP3, AAC and WMA files, and an FM radio. The handset also includes a Web browser and HSDPA (3.5G), so you can browse the Web at up to speeds of 7.2Mbps (depending on the network). The G800 also supports java games and applications such as Google Maps.
We couldn't wait to test out the G800's camera and its start up is fast. Flick open the cover at the back and the camera is ready to go without too much lag. The thing about the G800 is that it looks like a camera, has a bunch of features you'd associate with a camera and happily, it's not that bad at taking pictures. Compared with the Nokia N95, LG Viewty and Sony Ericsson K850i, it's pretty good. We would have liked to have seen a brighter xenon flash, as it's just not as great as we expected it to be in low light.
Picture quality varied depending on the light levels. In good light, pictures were crisp and in low light, the xenon flash only worked well at close range, making things appear blue and blurry if they were too far away. The 3x optical zoom seemed to work better outdoors in daylight rather than in our office, which isn't very well lit but can't be described as dark. It's not exactly the same experience as using a Panasonic Lumix DMZ-TZ3 with 10x optical zoom but there's a marginal amount more clarity relative to using digital zoom.
What did thoroughly impress us is the onboard video editing suite that lets you hack together video clips and pictures, and then overlay the music of your choice. It's basic in PC terms but a great feature for a mobile phone, particularly because it means you can create your own music videos, for example, without needing to download the content first to your computer.
The music player worked as expected with the option to arrange tracks into playlists, genres, albums and artists. It's not the iPhone but it does support a variety of formats and the loudspeaker is loud. Unfortunately, you have to use the uninspiring proprietary headphones to listen to music or a pair of stereo Bluetooth ones. Either way, it's shame there's no built-in 3.5mm headphone jack.
Our greatest niggle with the G800 is the Web browser. While it benefits from HSDPA (3.5G), it doesn't render pages very well and is a real let down compared to other high-end smart phone browsers such as the iPhone's and Nokia N95's. It's probably more useful to use the G800 as a modem for a laptop rather than using it to browse the Internet on its own.
We had high hopes for the Samsung G800 and it lived up to them in many ways. It's an attractive, solid phone that's easy to use and packs a good camera relative to the competition. But in certain areas we expected more -- the xenon flash, for instance, which is more like a very bright LED photo light than the extremely bright xenon flash on the Sony Ericsson K850i.
The G800 is also on the chunky side and if you don't have large pockets then you may find it a little challenging to drag it around. We found it slightly too big to put in a tight pair of jeans but it should fit in your jacket pocket just fine. Given Samsung's thin phone pedigree, we expected something a little slimmer.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday