Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 3:56:01 PM
With a 12-megapixel camera coupled with an array of snapping features, the Pixon12 is a master at capturing photographs.
The resistive touch-screen was not as responsive as we would have liked, with a lag occurring when scrolling down our web pages.
World firsts always attract headlines. Something that has never been seen before is by its very nature revolutionary. In contrast, those that follow, while often superior to their predecessor, generally have an uphill task of establishing themselves. This is why Samsung is cooing over the fact that it has produced the world’s first 12-megapixel camera. Now, we’ve championed the case for a while that a good camera phone is not solely based on how many megapixels it can offer, which is why it’s reassuring to find that the Pixon12 is packing far more in its snapper arsenal.
First and foremost, the Samsung Pixon12 is a phone – and a pretty good one at that. As with the original Pixon, the Pixon12 is operated via a touch-screen, which is a stunning AMOLED display measuring an impressive 3.1 inches. The handset is on the sturdy side, with the lens and the bottom part of the body protruding slightly. It’s bulky in your pocket, but at the same time its wedge gives a more genuine dedicated camera feel to it. With its piano black bodywork and metallic trim, the Pixon12 is no ugly duckling.
Multiple home screens in high-end handsets are becoming increasingly common, and the Pixon12 is no exception. While the combined total of three screens may pale in significance to the seven found in the HTC Hero, it’s still enough to customise and arrange into various categories – social networking, calendar and to-do list, and business contacts for example. To do this, simply drag and drop widgets from Samsung’s now familiar widget bar that can be pulled out from the left hand side of the screen. In fact, a simple press will automatically place them in the middle of the screen. But this does effectively mean you’ll have to do a double press to access your features, which although no biggie, is another step to complete. This is in comparison to the Samsung Tocco Ultra Edition that enabled you to access you features by simply pressing the widgets while still in the widget bar.
The Pixon12 also features a three page menu system. A mere finger swipe will alternate between them, but we also like that you can customise each one. Press the orange icon and the grid like system becomes editable. Icons can be moved between pages, allowing you to create a menu page with your most used applications.
The touch-screen itself is resistive rather than capacitive, which has been far more common on Samsung devices. The advantage is that you can use a stylus, pen or even while wearing gloves, which avoids those grubby paw prints that are a negative result of touch-screen phones. However, we can’t help feeling that capacitive touch-screens are just that much more responsive and reliable. We often found with the Pixon12 that there was a lag when trying to scroll up and down web pages.
The Pixon12’s internet experience produced a mixed bag. Web pages loaded quickly when using both our operator’s network and a Wi-Fi connection. As we said, we did find a slight lag when initially trying to scroll down pages, but we were big fans of the one finger zoom action. Press your finger on the page and then slide it up to zoom in, or down to zoom out. We found the best way of viewing content on the web was by turning the handset horizontally. This also enables you to type any text or web address with a virtual QWERTY keyboard, which makes things easier. Press the icon fund next to the web address and you’ll be able to enter a new address, search for specific text on that page or simply run a new Google search. You can also open up multiple web pages at any one time, which had no detrimental effect on the speed of the phone.
Although there is a YouTube widget embedded in the device, we were left disappointed. The videos played automatically through the phone’s media player, but were often so pixelated we could hardly make out what was happening. However, this experience did improve somewhat when played over our Wi-Fi connection. Watching movies or TV episodes on the device was a far more joyous affair, and the Pixon12 is compatible with DivX, XviD, WMV and MP4 formats.
Before we get to the camera, it’s worth highlighting some other hidden features of the Pixon12, even if they are somewhat gimmicky. Etiquette Pause enables you to silence a call or alarm discreetly by simply turning the phone over, while Fake Call has now been updated to allow you to determine how long it takes from activating it to receiving your call from, well no one. Useful for that tiresome meeting or boring conversation you’ve inadvertently found yourself in.
Gesture Control allows you to allocate every letter of the alphabet to opening various functions when the phone is locked. For example, we allocated the letter ‘U’ to unlocking the device and ‘P’ to open up our phonebook, though you can be far more specific by allocating letters to particular contacts. While in theory it’s a pretty slick affair, we did have two gripes. One is that for it to work you actually need to wake the phone up, so that you see the screen telling you the phone is locked. The second is that you will obviously have to remember what each letter represents. Perhaps you have a better memory than us. Meanwhile, Mobile Tracker gives you slightly more hope of retrieving your phone should you lose it. Set this system up and when a new SIM is inserted into the phone, that number will be sent to two preset numbers (presumably friends of yours), so you will at least be able to call the person who has your phone. Persuading them to give it back to you could be a whole different kettle of fish.
While we weren’t exactly blown away by the Pixon12’s overall brilliance, the camera experience was a positive one. As stated earlier, the number of megapixels does not guarantee superb photographs (though it does help, particularly if you like to print your snaps), but combined with a Xenon and Power LED flash, wide angle 28mm lens and digital zoom, the Pixon12 has all the boxes ticked. The lens cover needs to open up once you’ve pressed the dedicated camera key, but this is done in such efficiency that you’re ready to take a shot in a matter of seconds. There’s a host of different scene modes to choose from, with a helpful explanation of what each one does. However, you can also rely on the Smart Auto mode, which chooses the most effective scene for you.
The results were excellent for every condition we tried it in, including night time. None of the phone’s ability was compromised when using the digital zoom, and each photo maintained a stunning contrast and vibrancy of colours. Samsung has also included its Touch Auto-focus Tracking system, which works by simply pressing the part of the screen where the object you want the most focus to be placed on lies. A green box will then encircle the object and hover around it even if you change the position of the camera.
Once you’ve got your snaps, there’s plenty you can do with them. Photo Eraser is a bit like Photoshop. Highlight an area or object in the photo that you want to get rid of, and the Pixon12 will cleverly erase it while blending the resulting area in with the rest of the photograph. The beady eyed among you will be able to notice that the photo doesn’t quite look right, but it’s a welcome addition all the same. You can also arrange your snaps by creating folders stored on the phone; while geo-tagging the pics will keep on file where in the world you were when you took that particular snap. However, if you’re keen to share your snaps with the rest of the world, you can allocate a variety of social networking sites so you can upload them directly immediately after taking them.
The quality of video footage didn’t quite match that of the still photography, but the video editing suite has plenty to offer, including adding a soundtrack, fading or increasing the sound from the video or merging a collection of videos together. With the ability to record QVGA in 120fps, you also have the option of recording video in slow motion, which can lead to a degree of amusement.
There’s been a murmur among the mobile industry that camera phones no longer capture the imagination as much as they once did. However, the Samsung Pixon12 blows this theory out of the water. The photographs we achieved with the Pixon12 were up there with the very best, it was easy to get to grips with and the time it took from firing up the camera to taking the photo was one of the fastest we’ve seen.
The handsets other features may not have been in the same league, particularly the slightly unreliable touch-screen, but for camera enthusiasts it won’t be enough to put them off this super-savvy snapper.