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Samsung i7 review: Samsung i7

Samsung's i7 could be a character in the new Transformers movie -- the screen rotates to turn it from a compact camera to an MP3 player to a portable media player. It takes decent pictures, too

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Richard Trenholm
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Richard Trenholm

Movie and TV Senior Editor

Richard Trenholm is CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture over the past 15 years from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.

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The Samsung i7 is a digital compact camera with a twist -- the large touchscreen can be rotated to change it into either an MP3 player or a portable media player. It doesn't end there, though -- a number of other devices have been bundled into the i7's broad-shouldered but snake-hipped frame. It's a playful and unusual camera with plenty of novelty value, but isn't cheap at just a shade under £200.

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6.5

Samsung i7

The Good

Huge touchscreen; novelty value; competent camera; large memory.

The Bad

No frills devices; lacklustre tour guide.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung i7 is fun and unusual, but the twist-screen gimmick may be lost on some. Camera, MP3 and multimedia playback functions are from the no-frills shelf, but save you juggling multiple devices. The high price tag, however, is only justified if you value convenience and novelty value over great pictures

Design
The i7's unique selling point (or gimmick, depending on your view) is that the screen can be rotated. Keep it where it is for an MP3 player, spin it 90 degrees for a portable multimedia player, or 180 degrees for a camera. Revolving the screen is fun, with a satisfying snap to the motion. We like the idea, but we wonder whether the novelty will wear off, or how durable the flip mechanism is in the long term. The screen also has a tendency to occasionally rotate in a bag pocket.

The flat, slender design keeps the i7 pocketable, balancing out the fact that it is quite wide at the back. The slightly larger frame accommodates a giant 76mm (3-inch) LCD touchscreen.

There are some minor design gripes. At the front, the i7 is mostly minimalist, except for a clunky detail that at first looks like some kind of clip, but in fact doesn't serve any purpose. It's bulbous and ugly, and is a jarring wrong note on the face of an otherwise playfully styled camera.


The screen of the i7 rotates to change the function

As well as looking unsightly, the clip-like lump on the front slants the screen away from you when laid flat, stopping you from putting the i7 on a table to watch the PMP. Meanwhile, for some reason, the tripod mounting is on completely the opposite side of the camera to the lens.

One clever piece of design is the power connector, which is a three-pronged plug with a USB slot that attaches to the camera's download cable.


Features
As well as taking pictures, the i7 functions as a camcorder, MP3 player, portable multimedia player, text viewer, voice recorder and text tour guide. They're all fairly basic, as you'd expect them to be crammed into such a small package.

The camcorder records .SDC format movie files which eat more memory than, say, DivX, but you do have a relatively lavish 450MB internal memory to play with.

The MP3 player is seriously devoid of frills. Despite the large screen, there's no space for album artwork, although you can show a slideshow of your pictures while listening. There's repeat and shuffle options and that's about it. Headphones are included.

On our model, the tour guide offers us information on the continent of "Eroupe" [sic]. Guides are gleaned from the download section of samsungcamera.co.uk and are stored on the i7's internal memory. Some slightly stilted translations, and the number of entries crammed into the Asian countries, reveal the origins of the camera. There's no Dublin, New Zealand or South America at all, yet there is detailed information on bus tours in the Korean countryside. The guide also places Edinburgh and Belfast in England.

You can copy text from online tour guides into text files, and then read them with the i7's text viewer. This is the only way to get really complete and up-to-date tour guide information for anywhere outside of Asia. For Europeans, it's not worth investing in the i7 just for the tour guide feature as the selection of entries is too limited, but the 450MB memory is generous enough for text files and is better than most compacts' internal memory.

Performance
Setting aside the gimmicky extras, the camera packs a 7-megapixel sensor and a 3x optical zoom. If the other bundled devices are basic, the camera isn't. Pictures are crisp and detailed, and colour is reproduced comfortably. Skin tones are rendered particularly well, combining with a face-recognition feature to making this a strong camera for portraits.

The i7 does include digital image stabilisation, but as usual it's best avoided because higher ISO settings give the camera problems. Noise is present at ISO 400 but is not a major problem. There is, however, a marked nosedive in image quality between ISO 800 and 1600. As a result, photos taken with image stabilisation function at ISO 1600 are horribly gritty.

The biggest performance gripe is speed. The camera is slow to focus and process pictures -- in low light some pictures took a couple of seconds to save. The screen responds to touch quickly, but some animated menu changes slow things down and get annoying after a while. Even more frustrating is the slowest zoom we've encountered for a while.

Conclusion
Depending on your perspective, the Samsung i7 is either innovative and fun or gimmicky and underwhelming. To find out which camp you fall into, make sure to try it first, especially as it isn't cheap. We think the rotating screen makes playing with the camera enjoyable, and it should impress your friends when you take it down the pub.

The camera is a solid performer, if a bit slow, while the other features are functional at least. The screen is large and the touchscreen interface intuitive. If convenience and a bit of novelty are what you're looking for, the i7 is worth a look.

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield