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Samsung Omnia 7 GT-i8700 review: Samsung Omnia 7 GT-i8700

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Capture the moment

Digging deeper into the Omnia 7's exterior, we find a 5-megapixel camera with 720p video-recording and an LED flash. Although Samsung's device loses out to the 8-megapixel HTC Mozart in the numbers game, the quality of the photographs and videos produced by the Omnia 7 is remarkable. Everything is deliciously clear and crisp, and the camera is able to capture a wide range of colours -- as evidenced when you gawp at the results on that gorgeous AMOLED screen.

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The Omnia 7's 5-megapixel snapper may be outclassed by the HTC Mozart's camera, but the shots and videos are fantastic.

In a move that possibly acknowledges Microsoft's somewhat unusual policy on external storage (SD cards are supported within the OS, but removing an SD card from a Windows Phone factory mobile resets the device), the Omnia 7 lacks any kind of expandable memory. It comes in 8GB and 16GB flavours, which is worth bearing in mind if you're looking for a place to store your humungous MP3 collection. While Microsoft's stance on external storage is in line with Apple's, the lack of a 32GB variant in the Omnia 7 stable may dampen the enthusiasm of serial data hoarders.

In terms of software, we've already covered the ins and outs of Windows Phone 7 in our extensive review of the new OS. Suffice to say, the Omnia 7's lustrous screen adds immeasurably to the experience. Because manufacturers aren't allowed to tinker around with the inner workings of the user interface too eagerly, the general menu structure is consistent across all Windows Phone handsets. While this neatly avoids the fragmentation nightmare that currently afflicts the Android range of phones -- with different companies possessing their own unique flavour of the OS, which slows down Google's incremental update process -- it results in devices that lack unique features and identity.

The here and now

Pre-installed exclusive applications are the only way Windows Phone manufacturers can differentiate their products from those of their rivals, and in the case of the Omnia 7, Samsung has included a few of its own choice cuts. The most notable is Now, which functions in very much the same way as the News & Weather widget on Google's stock Android platform. Here you can browse the latest global news stories, check out the weather and see what's occurring on the stock markets.

Like the other Windows Phones we've covered, getting online with the Omnia 7 is a real joy. Being a top-level device, it naturally supports Wi-Fi data connectivity, and the nippy 1GHz Snapdragon processor allows the phone to load up even the most image-heavy webpage in a heartbeat. Even when compared to a Nexus One running the latest version of Google's Android platform, the performance is incredible. Serious Web surfers will be pleased to know that pinch-to-zoom is also supported, but they'll grumble at the fact that Adobe Flash currently isn't.

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Browsing the Web is a wondrous experience thanks to the Omnia 7's nippy CPU and Super AMOLED screen.

Elsewhere, Windows Phone's usual suite of default applications is all present and correct. Zune music player functionality will be an absolute boon for audiophiles, and the overall experience certainly puts Apple's iPod and iPhone to shame. Gamers will revel in the Xbox Live feature, but, sadly, there are very few titles available that are actually worth playing.

The same story goes for apps, although it has to be remembered that it's very early days yet and this situation is changing on a weekly basis. Very recently, the official Windows Phone Twitter app was launched. Looking beyond Christmas -- when Microsoft and its partners are sure to shift plenty of units at retail -- we can see a real explosion of content in this area. Despite this positive outlook, if you're looking for a device that is heavily supported in terms of games and applications from day one of purchase, you're probably better off throwing your lot in with either Apple or Android. Both already have digital marketplaces packed with thousands of downloadable programs.

Conclusion

While HTC has unleashed three different Windows Phone devices onto the market and LG has two, Samsung has put all of its eggs into one basket with the Omnia 7. In terms of software, there's very little to choose between all of the available phones, as they all operate in very much the same way. The Omnia 7 loses points for its bizarrely located power button, but it makes up for this quirk with a glorious Super AMOLED screen, an excellent 5-megapixel camera and an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

Windows Phone clearly has a long way to go, and this first wave of products will undoubtedly be improved upon. In the meantime, if you've a burning desire to join Microsoft's mobile revolution, it's a very close race between the Omnia 7 and HTC's HD7.

Edited by Emma Bayly

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