Samsung Wave GT-S8500 - black review: Samsung Wave GT-S8500 - black

Overall, the user interface is pretty intuitive, so you should be able to start using the phone right out of the box. That said, once you started getting into the apps and various functions of the handset, it's not always immediately clear how to access some settings and options, so this requires a bit time and exploration.

As we said earlier, the Samsung Wave and Bada were designed to bring the smartphone experience to everyone and is quite a full-featured handset. It's a quad-band world phone with a speakerphone, conference calling, video calling, voice dialing, and text and multimedia messaging. The phone book is limited only by the available memory (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts), and there's room in each entry for multiple numbers, e-mail addresses, IM handles, group ID, photo caller ID, and so on. However, unlike some systems like Android and Palm WebOS, Bada didn't automatically pull in contact information from the various accounts we had entered on the Wave, including Gmail and Facebook.

The Wave is 3G-capable (HSDPA 900/2,100MHz) but since the smartphone wasn't designed for the North American market, it doesn't support our 3G bands. However, it has Bluetooth 3.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n. The Wave features Samsung's Webkit-based Dolfin Web browser, which offers Flash Lite support, multiple windows, share, and search. It's a decent browser, but has some drawbacks. For example, when you double-tap on the section to zoom in, the browser doesn't automatically resize the page to fit the width of the screen, so some additional scrolling is necessary.

E-mail is well represented on the Wave, offering support for Exchange ActiveSync and POP3/IMAP4 accounts, as well as push delivery and SSL encryption. The e-mail app also has a search feature and can send and receive/open attachments up to 5MB in size. We had no problems setting up our Gmail and Exchange accounts on our review unit, but it didn't sync up all our various Folders.

The smartphone also comes preloaded with Facebook and Twitter apps, and an IM client called Palringo. The latter supports a number of the popular IM clients, including AIM, Yahoo, and Google Talk, but you will need to sign up for a Palringo account first before you can get started with the others. In addition, to provide you with easier access to your messaging options, Samsung has included something called the Social Hub where you can quickly communicate with your contacts whether it is through messaging or your social networking sites

The Wave ships with a number of other personal information tools--a calendar, task list, memo pad, voice recorder, mini diary, calculator, and so forth. More apps are available through the Samsung App store but the market isn't available in the U.S., so unfortunately, we couldn't check out the selection of titles.

There's a decent helping of entertainment options on the phone. Aside from a built-in FM radio and a dedicated YouTube player, the built-in music and video players support MP3, AAC, AAC+, WMA, MPEG-4, WMV, H.263, H.264, DivX, and Xvid files, among others. The music player displays album art when available and also has some extra features, such as a music recognition engine and song recommendations based on the style or artist of the current track. Meanwhile, the video player has 5.1-channel surround sound when listening through your headphones. The smartphone offers 2GB of internal memory, which can be expanded to an addition 32GB via the expansion slot.

We were pretty happy with the picture quality.

Finally, we come to the Wave's 5-megapixel camera. It has an LED flash, auto focus, and standard editing options like white balance, effects, and ISO. There are also some more advanced features like antishake, blink detection, and exposure metering, and the camera is also capable of recording 720p HD video. Picture quality was pretty good. Despite the auto-focus, we still got some blurry shots but overall, we found images to be clear and with good color. The Wave also produced some of the better-looking videos we've seen from a cameraphone, with fairly good clarity even during action sequences.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1,800/1,900MHz) Samsung Wave in New York using T-Mobile service and call quality was excellent. We enjoyed clear conversations with very little to no background noise, and the audio quality was some of the richest we've heard on a cell phone. Friends were also complimentary. One said he could hear a slight echo at times, but otherwise no other major complaints. Speakerphone quality was also good, with plenty of volume to hold calls in noisier environments. We paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones with no problem.

Obviously Web browsing would be better with 3G but even with an EDGE connection, the speeds weren't awful. CNET's full site loaded in 32 seconds, while the mobile versions of CNN and ESPN loaded in 12 seconds and 7 seconds, respectively. YouTube clips loaded within a few seconds and played but without interruption, but we did run into one problem, which is described below. Quality left much to be desired, but our own MPEG4 clips looked absolutely brilliant on the Super AMOLED screen. There is also a noticeable difference when you turn on the 5.1-channel surround sound; it's no gimmick.

The Wave is equipped with a 1GHz Cortex A8 processor, which kept the smartphone humming along beautifully. It was quick to launch apps, and we never really hit a speed bump. However, we did have one isolated incident where we had to take out the battery and reboot the device. We were watching a YouTube clip and paused it briefly, but when we tried to return to the video, we found the phone to be completely frozen. We couldn't even power it off, so we had to take out the battery. Again, this only happened once and we didn't have any other problems during our testing period, so we think it's just a fluke.

The Samsung Wave comes with a 1,500mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 15 hours and up to 23 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, the Wave fell short of its promised talk time, delivering just 6.5 hours on a single charge. The Wave has been tested to meet European Union standards and has a digital SAR rating of 0.998 watt per kilogram.

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