The Samsung NV3's stylish, metal, iPod-size body is not even an inch thick and weighs less than six ounces, making it eminently pocketable. Samsung hides stereo speakers under twin metal discs on the camera's top edge. Both the power and shutter-release buttons, also atop the camera, are smaller than the speakers, and it might take a few tries before you train yourself not to press the speakers.
As a camera, the NV3 has fairly standard features for a high-end compact. Its 38mm-to-115mm-equivalent lens zooms entirely within the camera. The camera's sole display is a 2.5-inch LCD screen that washes out easily in bright light. With both antishake and ISO 1,000 modes, the NV3 is well suited for low-light shooting. It also comes with a video mode that can capture MPEG-4 movies in both standard VGA and 720x480 wide-screen modes. While it can't replace a dedicated camcorder, the movies are good enough for e-mailing and showing to friends.
Though it has a bit of a learning curve, the NV3 is a competent media player. Music and text files are easy to work with; just dropping them onto your SD memory card in their respective directories will make them readable to the camera. Video files are a bit more awkward. The NV3 uses a modified XviD MPEG-4 file format, and nearly every video you want to view on your camera has to be converted to that format with the included software.
Once on the camera, a simple media player interface lets you play, pause, fast-forward, and navigate your songs, movies, and documents. While functional, the controls aren't nearly as intuitive or as direct as those of an iPod or other dedicated media player. MP3s and movies play back effortlessly. Unfortunately, the camera lacks any useful playlist features for your music.
Unfortunately, the NV3's e-book abilities are poor at best; the camera reads only plain text files and displays those files in a harsh green-on-black interface. Simple notes and directions are handy and legible in small doses, but don't expect to read any Camus or Durkheim on your camera.
As a thin layer of nonfat icing on the media-player cake, the NV3 has a pair of stereo speakers that sit on the top edge of the camera. Unfortunately, they're barely audible even at the highest volume, and they tend to sound watery and uneven. Thankfully, the NV3's included earbuds provide decent sound quality. The camera uses a smaller-than-usual 2.5mm jack, more like the headphone jacks found in cell phones than in MP3 players. If you want to use a normal pair of headphones, you'll need to provide your own adapter.
The Samsung NV3 performs decently as a digital camera. With a shutter lag of 0.9 second and a shot-to-shot time of 2.9 seconds, it won't win any prizes for speed, but it's responsive enough for casual shooting. Burst mode disappointed, shooting 28 images in 33 seconds for a rather sluggish rate of 0.84fps.
Despite some image flaws, the NV3's photos turned out quite well. Noise was nearly nonexistent in the lower ISO settings, becoming a heavy but even grain around ISO 800. We noticed a significant amount of purple fringing along the edges of certain objects, probably due to the camera's less-than-primo lens. The NV3's images look decent and will provide acceptable prints, but expect a noticeable halo around contrasting edges.
With solid images and a decent multimedia feature set, the Samsung NV3 is a very nice Jack-of-all-trades camera. Casual users will probably appreciate having their snapshots, music, and notes all in one iPod-size device. The camera's awkward movie playback and its lack of playlists prevents it from being a great dedicated media player, but it still offers enough functionality to give you some tunes when you're not shooting.