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Samsung Genoa review: Samsung Genoa

Even for a cheap phone, the Genoa only does the bare basics well, which left us feeling like Samsung could have given us a little more bang for our buck.

Joseph Hanlon Special to CNET News
Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies.
Joseph Hanlon
4 min read

Based on information we've received from our readers over the past five years, value for money is at the forefront of their minds when shopping for tech. This doesn't mean you don't want to get the deepest blacks when shopping for a TV or the best images when buying a new camera, but you want the equation to add up — you want to get what you pay for. So when we heard that a touchscreen mobile was retailing for AU$129 outright, we took a very close look to see if the trade-offs that made the touchscreen affordable doesn't completely gimp what should be a good phone for calling and texting.

7.2

Samsung Genoa

The Good

Responsive touchscreen. Decent call quality. Good performance.

The Bad

Woeful camera. Not 3G.

The Bottom Line

Even for a cheap phone, the Genoa only does the bare basics well, which left us feeling like Samsung could have given us a little more bang for our buck.

Design

When it comes to Samsung's range, black is the new black. While the other manufacturers dabble with brushed metal finishes or colours, Samsung keeps it simple — and the Genoa is no exception. Surrounding the 2.8-inch QVGA capacitive touchscreen is a stiff black plastic that has a remarkable knack of taking on smearing and greasy fingerprints on its property as well as on the glass screen. The handset design isn't particularly flattering, but it is one of the areas we'd be willing to see sacrificed for the right price.

Samsung includes a hands-free headphone bundle in the box with the Genoa, which connect to the phone using the same flat, rectangular connection that the charger uses. Curiously though, Samsung has also snuck in a 3.5mm headphone jack onto the top of the handset, making it possible to use third-party (and better sounding) headphones.

Touch wizardry

The software powering the Genoa is Samsung's own TouchWiz, a proprietary platform Samsung has used before on its extremely popular F480 phones, amongst others. This system has improved significantly over the last few years, being obviously more stable and faster in operation, but the software itself doesn't include any jaw-dropping features. The home screen can be customised with a selection of pre-installed widgets, but none of which we found particularly useful. There are also what at first appear to be preloaded games, which turn out to be advertisements for games upon closer inspection.

This is a common theme through the various icons displayed on the phone's menus. A "Communities" icon suggest an integrated approach to combining social networking under one roof, but simply turns out to be a list of bookmarks to the mobile sites for Facebook and Twitter, etc. Another icon, "Messenger", is a disguise for the multi-IM client Palringo, but when we launched the Java app and spent five minutes registering a new account, we found we could only connect to ICQ, AOL or Google Talk — none of which we actively use on a regular basis. Seriously, where is the MSN and Yahoo chat clients?

The wonderful worldwide web

One thing that did surprise us about this cheerful prepaid phone was how much better the web browsing experience is compared with other phones in this price range. Honestly, web browsing in the sub-AU$200 price category is mostly not worth mentioning, but the Genoa does a nice job of displaying mobile websites, even if full-sized sites gave the poor browser a bit of grief. It's ridiculous then that Samsung has paired this capable software with 2G network compatibility only. The Genoa supports quad-band GSM frequencies (850/900/1800/1900), but not 3G frequencies at all. This means you can expect data to trickle down to the phone like spit in a dry creek bed, rather than the torrent of data smartphone users will be accustomed to.

The Genoa's 1.3-megapixel camera also leaves a lot to be desired, but is again one area we don't expect much from in such a cheaply priced phone. The test images we've taken all look extremely washed out, due to an excess of light leak, so that colours are milkier than natural. Thankfully, Samsung also includes a simple image editing app on the phone so you can add some much needed blacks to the pics you take.

Performance

For all the ways Samsung has saved on costs to keep the price of the Genoa low, we're glad to see they haven't skimped on the essential hardware. The Genoa delivers fantastic performance throughout its simple system, whether you're scrolling across the three home screens, delving into folders in search of apps or launching programs, all the major tasks are executed without any processing pauses. Battery life isn't outstanding, but it's sufficient. During our tests we got two days of charge from the 960mAh battery, with use of the basic features only. We'd say this figure would reduce if you were a heavy phone user, but honestly we can't imagine what more this phone could be capable of.

Overall

When you compare cost to features, the Samsung Genoa nearly comes out ahead. The touchscreen works well and making calls is fine, and if it had been capable of any other significant tasks we'd be overjoyed. For example, a Genoa with 3G data speeds for the same price seems reasonable to us, or a 1.3-megapixel camera that actually took nice photos would be a bonus. For AU$129 we're fine with the cheap feeling build quality, but we still feel Samsung could have given us just a little more bang for our buck.