Samsung G800 in-depth review -

Look and feel

The Samsung G800 is not a big phone and its footprint is actually almost exactly the same as the hugely popular Samsung U600. However, it is a lot thicker, simply because it houses a top notch camera with 3x optical zoom.

The phone boasts a very smart stainless steel finish together with a top-notch 2.4 inch phone display. The G800 can accommodate such a large screen because it's a slider, and - judged by its spring assisted slide mechanism - a very good one at that. The keypad offers large well spaced keys and, mercifully, there are only a few short cut keys on the phone's fascia.

Ease of use

The phone boasts Samsung's proprietary operating system, which is icon based and very easy to navigate. Holding the phone with both hands in camera mode, the shutter key sits just beneath your right index finger while the zoom control sits just to the left of the shutter key. The camera feels really balanced to hold and all camera controls can be accessed using the phone's joypad and softkeys. There are a fair few settings and controls to familiarise yourself with, but once you've mastered navigation of the camera icons that sit on the right hand side of the viewfinder, you'll be well away.

Features

The Samsung G800 boasts one of the most impressive feature sets on the market. There's the five megapixel camera with 3x optical zoom and xenon flash, HSDPA data speeds, a good music player, RSS feed readers and a very capable internet browser. If we were being picky we could point out the lack of Wi-fi or GPS.

Performance

Aside from the disappointing battery and a few niggles with the RSS feeder, the G800 performed beautifully. The camera is fabulous and the 3x optical zoom makes a huge difference. As does the xenion flash, which is way more powerful than the LED flashes on previous Samsung models.

Battery life

The one disappointing aspect of the G800 is the quality of the battery. If you're only using the phone it's not a problem, but with these features on offer, that's highly unlikely.

 Samsung G800 Review -
4

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:50:20 PM

8

out of 10

Performance

8

out of 5

Look and feel

8

out of 5

Ease of use

10

out of 5

Features

4

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

With its 3x optical zoom, xenon flash and five megapixel resolution, the G800 possesses arguably the finest camera currently on the market

Cons:

The lack of a 3.5mm jack port for headphones is a bugbear and the battery life is disappointing.

Samsung's G800 has shaken up the camera phone market by bringing 3x optical zoom and five megapixels to the party. Is this the death knell for the digital camera?



When Samsung launched the G600 in the summer, a lot was made of the handset's five-megapixel camera prowess. In truth, while we loved the handset for its slim good looks and user appeal, the camera could be described as good rather than great, despite the high resolution of the resulting shots.



However, Samsung's latest stab at a five-megapixel camera phone, the G800, is a different beast altogether. For a start, Samsung has not attempted to retain a slim chassis; but, for the extra girth and weight, you get a far better camera.

Samsung G800 design

In terms of length and height, the Samsung G800 is not a big phone. Its footprint is actually almost exactly the same as the hugely popular Samsung U600. However, it is a lot thicker.



The thickness on the Samsung G800 spec sheet is 18.8mm, but if you include the lens cover, the real thickness should be about 20.2mm. However, the reason the G800 is thicker than your average phone is because it houses a top camera with 3x optical zoom, which we'll tell you more about in a moment.



As for the build quality, the phone boasts a very smart stainless steel finish with an impressive 2.4-inch display. The G800 can accommodate such a large screen because it's a slider, and - judged by its spring assisted slide mechanism - a very good one at that.

The keypad offers large, well-spaced keys and, mercifully, there are only a few shortcut keys on the phone's fascia. Nokia Nseries take note - too many shortcut keys can prove a distraction rather than a blessing.



Finally, on the G800's flanks, you'll find the camera shutter key and zoom controls on one side and the microSD card slot and charger/headphone slot on the other.

The Samsung G800's camera

The camera is without doubt the standout feature on the Samsung G800 and, putting its features to one side, it really does feel the part.



The handset may be thick for a mobile, but it's fairly compact when compared to most conventional digital cameras. The sliding lens cover is very smooth and, when popped open, automatically powers up the camera and turns the phone's display into a viewfinder.

Holding the phone with both hands in camera mode, the shutter key sits just beneath your right index finger while the zoom control sits just to the left of the shutter key. The camera feels really balanced to hold and access to the rest of the camera's control settings - macro mode, flash, self timer, and all the novelty settings - can be accessed using the phone's joypad and soft keys.

Because the camera is so capable, there are a fair few settings and controls to familiarise yourself with, but once you've mastered navigation of the icons that sit on the right-hand side of the viewfinder, you'll be well away.

Five megapixels and 3x optical zoom

As for image quality, it's not the five-megapixel resolution that makes the difference with the G800. Sure, it's great to have a phone with a strong resolution for printing larger shots. But, with digital cameras, what really matters is the quality of the lens, the speed of the processor and the capability of the flash. This is where the G800 leaves the G600 and many of its contemporaries behind.

Optical zoom versus digital zoom

The Samsung G800 is the first UK camera phone to feature a 3x optical zoom, and this really is something to shout about. Every other camera phone on the UK market currently features digital zoom, which as we've said before is an artificial zoom, because the lens does not take you any closer to the object. Therefore, when a camera employs digital zoom, all it's really doing is zooming in on, or cropping a section of the object. This may look okay on a digital screen, but, if you were to print the digitally zoomed image, it would appear grainy.



Optical zoom, on the other hand is real zoom, in that the lens actually moves closer to the object to capture the image. However, unlike most dedicated digital cameras which carry a telescopic optical zoom that protrudes from the camera, the Samsung G800 features something called inner optical zoom. This means that, although the lens is zooming optically, it's all happening behind the glass of the lens.



When zooming out with the Samsung G800, you'll notice that a little icon in the corner of the viewfinder tells you how far you've zoomed, with zoom increasing in increments of 0.25 until you reach the full 3x optical zoom.

We took a selection of images with the camera at 3x optical zoom and the prints were sharp, clear and quite unlike a digitally enhanced photo.

Xenon flash

The Samsung G800 may not be unique in offering Xenon flash, but it does make a tremendous difference to photos shot in less than bright conditions. A Xenon flash provides a very bright light for a short period of time. As with any flash, you'll have to be careful with glare and reflection from shiny surfaces and it can be a bit of a drain on the battery, but it's great for a mobile camera.



You can only really appreciate the benefits of a Xenon flash when you take a night-time photo alongside a camera phone with an LED flash. The LED version will leave you looking like a shadow in the dark, but the Xenon version will leave you looking like a rabbit in the headlights.

Music player

The Samsung G800 won't make too many headlines for its musical prowess, but it does feature a decent music player that plays MP3, MIDI, ACC, ACC+, eAAC+, WMA and ASF formats. Unlike big music beasties like the iPhone, the Walkman W960 and the Nokia N81 and N95 8GB models, the G800 has a relatively small internal memory, but you can expand it to 4GB with a microSD card.

Music is stored and arranged into artists and genres, albums and composers, as well as your most recently played and most popular tracks, which is perfectly straightforward. Music can also be downloaded from your PC to your phone using the supplied USB lead.

Audio quality is adequate when played through the supplied headphones. However, this leads us to our main bugbear with the G800's music player - you can only attach Samsung headphones (which happen to have the same connection as the phone's charger).

Premium phones with hefty price tags should offer users a port for charging the phone and a 3.5mm port for headphones. It's as simple as that.

Google search on the Samsung G800

Users will find a Google icon sitting on the G800's homepage. This is a neat little shortcut that gives you access to Google's indispensable search engine and to Gmail, Google's internet email service. It goes without saying that a phone's screen doesn't give you quite the user experience of Google on your PC, but it's a handy application to have as a shortcut. The G800's HSDPA data speeds and the Access Net Front browser are a major plus for Google searches and internet browsing in general. We Google searched and then visited The Times website and, despite a high graphic content, the site downloaded quickly and pages rendered pretty well.



You will also find an RSS reader under the G800's applications menu, which is a major boon. RSS news feeds are simply laid-out text-based distillations of a website's latest news and stories and is arguably the best and easiest way to view the web on a mobile phone.



However, we tried to download RSS feeds for BBC News and The Times and were told on each occasion that the service was unavailable. This is strange as I'm aware that both sites feature an RSS reader. Maybe you'll have more luck.

Samsung G800 verdict

Because of its girth around the middle and the fickle nature of the mobile buying public, the Samsung G800 may struggle to attract the kind of mass market following that slimline Samsung handsets like the G600 and U600 have.



However, size hasn't prevented the Nokia N95 racking up large sales and, like the N95, the Samsung G800 does pack some heavyweight features, so it deserves to be a hit.



But despite the HSDPA, music player and Google applications, this handset is all about the camera. And when compared with five-megapixel behemoths like the Nokia N95 and new N82, the Sony Ericsson K850i and the LG KU990, it's the G800's 3x optical zoom that makes this handset arguably the most capable camera phone on the market.