Samsung i8910 HD review
We review the i8910 HD, the first Samsung touchscreen phone to use the Symbian S60 5th Edition platform. Features stunning video
Verdict: Big and powerful Symbian S60 5th Edition touchscreen phone packs a stunning multimedia punch as it aims to be top of its division.
Price: From free on contract
Pros: Eight-megapixel camera, WiFi and HSPA, high-speed data connectivity, 8GB or 16GB internal storage plus MicroSD expansion up to 32GB, 3.7-inch bright and clear AMOLED display, 720p HD video recording, extensive video playback facilities, superb quality music player, 3.5mm headphone socket, touchscreen control
Cons: Big bodied device, no xenon flash, no smooth Multi Touch-like user controls, A-GPS under-utilised with no pre-loaded Sat Nav software, lacks easy to access apps download store
Design: Stylish design, although not the smallest device on the block
Operating System: Symbian S60 5th Edition
More Info: Samsung i8910 UK website
The Samsung i8910 HD smartphone offers a fistful of firsts, plus plenty of powerful functionality. The i8910 HD is the first Samsung touchscreen phone to use the Symbian S60 5th Edition smartphone platform, also featured on Nokia’s 5800 XpressMusic and N97.
But its ‘HD’ tag also reflects its best-in-class claims for mobile video capture, being the first phone to offer 720p HD (high definition) video recording and decoding. With a large and lustrous 3.7-inch AMOLED touchscreen display, and with high-spec video viewing capability, the i8910 HD is geared up as a heavyweight multimedia device.
It comes in two options, with either 8GB or 16GB of user storage built in, plus MicroSD card expansion adding up to a further 32GB. A well-equipped 8-megapixel camera and an up-range music player capability – including a 3.5mm headphone socket – add to the multimedia muscle.
It has WiFi connectivity onboard, and HSPA mobile connectivity (supporting HSUPA uplinks at up to 5.76Mbps and HSDPA downlinks at up to 7.2 Mbps), plus A-GPS satellite location finding technology and stacks of other pre-loaded software.
Look and feel
It’s no tiny smartphone though, its 3.7-inch screen is enclosed in a substantial 123mm (h) x 58mm (w) x 12.9mm (d) design, weighing 144g. The design is stylishly done though – a de rigueur minimalist glossy black plastic casing with chrome trim around the screen, and only three buttons under the lavish display (Call, End and Menu/applications). A secondary front facing video-call camera sits above the display.
That screen is a joy to behold; it’s a 640 x 360 pixels AMOLED 16-million colour, capacitive touchscreen, using technology that responds to swiping gestures as well as prods. It’s bright, crisp and vibrant and is less power-hungry than other touchscreens.
In action, the screen is quick to respond to finger jabbing and stroking. With plenty of real estate, there’s sufficient room for accurate finger action without the need for a stylus. There’s ample space for selecting options, for scroll bars and numberpad selections on the S60 interface - which is familiar looking to earlier non-touch versions of S60.
Layered over the S60 5th Edition platform, though, is Samsung’s TouchWiz touchscreen UI, similar to that previously used on models like the Tocco Ultra Edition, which supports user-selectable onscreen widgets (mini applications).
Adding widgets to the homescreen is easy. You can drop and drag widget icons, representing a selection of phone applications and functions plus online apps, from a toolbar that pops out from the side of the screen. Closing the toolbar leaves them in place, so you can access tap to open from the homescreen.
In fact, this TouchWiz implementation enables you to set up three alternative homescreens, with a separate package of widgets on each – for example, for work, social life and entertainment functions. You can select which homescreen you want by a simple icon press when the toolbar’s active. You can’t set the same widget on more than one homescreen package, which is a shame. Other widgets can be browsed and downloaded online via a More Widgets widget – though the selection available online is limited.
On the homescreen, a right sideways swipe pulls up photo contacts options, where you can select images and tag numbers from your contacts to them, so you can fast-dial or text favourites by tapping the pics arranged on the screen.
A left swipe opens up the main menu – though, alternatively one of the four buttons on the bottom of the display opens this up (or you can use the physical button below). The other onscreen buttons pull up a virtual numberpad for dialling, a contacts list or a menu of messaging options.
Entering the main menu, it’s quite conventionally arranged for those familiar with the S60 platform – albeit with touch selection of options and browsing of menus. It’s evolutionary rather than revolutionary, operating more like a regular Nokia Nseries handset than the slick-action iPhone.
Onscreen softkeys help you select some options, though single or double taps where appropriate often do the job more directly.
Samsung has delivered a responsive screen. It works well for tapping to select, with haptic feedback, and the phone uses a motion sensing accelerometer to auto switch between portrait and landscape mode. Scrolling down the screen works well enough, without having the intuitive grace and flexibility of the Multi Touch iPhone interface.
Thankfully, the precise screen operates well in text mode too; numbers are sufficiently spaced and well laid out to avoid mis-pressing. It’s not as quick to use as a regular phone keypad, but is among the best touchscreen ones we’ve yet seen. There’s also a landscape QWERTY keyboard option, which is large enough for fairly swift, accurate typing. Handwriting recognition is also supported.
The i8910 HD runs on a 600MHz ARM Cortex-A8 CPU, and so nimbly handles multiple open applications; you can have several functions open at once without noticeably impacting performance.
Stunning video and imaging capabilities
Video and imaging camerawork are highlight features of this smartphone. Its 720p HD video capture facility offers recording at up to 24 frames a second at 1280 x 720 pixels resolution, which is the best quality we’ve yet seen in a cameraphone. It may not be up to the standard of a standalone HD camcorder, but it’s stunning for a mobile phone. Videos on the widescreen look great, and are extremely impressive for phone recordings when played back on a PC. You do, however, have to watch out for how much memory HD video clips take up – a 10-second clip can eat up around 10MB of storage.
Other lower resolutions can be selected (WVGA, VGA and lower) if you prefer, while you also have a decent selection of recording options, including slow motion and fast motion (automatically in lower resolution), plus a variety of settings tweaking. Video editing software is included too.
Video playback of downloaded or sideloaded video is excellent too. There are a couple of video player applications pre-loaded, including RealPlayer, and you can switch the aspect ratio to fit the full 16:9 ratio screen, if desired. You can play a variety of file formats, including DivX, XviD, H.263, H.264, WMV, MPEG4 and RV files. Video playback looks great, and a supplied keyring stand enables you to sit the phone up for viewing on a desk. Alternatively, the phone is equipped with a TV-Out capability for plugging in to a television set via an optional AV lead.
The i8910 HD’s eight-megapixel camera takes a terrific picture for a phone, and has a generous helping of functionality to aid its autofocus system, such as Face Detection (helping to focus on faces in a shot), Smile Shot (only shooting when a smile is detected), Blink Detection (avoiding in advertent blinking), Macro mode (for close-ups) and an image stabiliser. A rich range of settings adjustments can be made (including Wide Dynamic Range, ISO settings, white balance, plus assorted auto scene settings). You can also set it to geo-tag images with location data, thanks to the i8910 HD’s A-GPS gadgetry.
It fires up in 2-3 seconds, and there are no lag issues when focusing and snapping shots. Held in landscape like a regular camera, the touch interface is intuitive to use, with large easy to follow icons to tap-select onscreen. The above-mentioned focusing gadgetry isn’t all under the same menu category though, which is puzzling.
Results from the camera are exceptionally detailed, with realistic colour rendition, and well exposed thanks to a responsive auto-metering system. Indoors shots were well handled too. Though the LED flash adds some illumination at short range for night shots, we’d have preferred the extra punch and precision of a xenon flash.
A fine music player is built into the device too. It has a standard S60-style, straightforward to operate, user interface with various categories to choose from and an attractive player constrol set-up that supports cover art; held sideways, you also get a neat bit of iPhone-ish Cover Flow-style swipe-browsing of tracks.
The i8910 HD has a bunch of sound effects settings to try out, including a 5.1 Channel pseudo-surround effort. The supplied earphones are rather good quality in-ear buds that offer high-class sound. You can easily use your own headphones too, thanks to a 3.5mm standard headphone socket under a flap on the top of the phone – a welcome addition.
Dual loudspeakers on the ends provide volume but don’t really revolutionise mobile speaker sound – they could still do with more bass.
Samsung has included a very serviceable FM radio here too – it works quite neatly, stores up to 50 stations and sounds perfectly okay.
Browsing and downloading is very speedy on this model – fast on HSDPA and extremely quick on WiFi. The full screen offers a wide view for full internet pages, and Flash is supported. Not all the screen is utilised, with sides reserved for browser buttonry; it makes it easier to control than a regular phone browser, and you get touchscreen zoom bars plus finger drag scanning across pages. But it’s not as smooth as the iPhone’s system. Still, you can get a pretty good view of pages and browse at speed.
The A-GPS satellite location technology on our review sample worked with geo-tagging images, but there was no software pre-loaded – not even Google Maps (though this is easy enough to download). That gives a somewhat under-utilised feel to this gadgetry. A separate compass app is included in the software too.
With no Samsung app store currently available, it’s not such a smooth task to find and install new apps on this phone as on some other smartphone devices we could mention. You can hunt on your own and download apps intended for other S60 5th Edition models, but it’s not as seamless a situation as we’d like, which is a shame.
There is, however, a decent stock of pre-loaded features already, including familiar S60 office tools. A RoadSync app offers support for corporate push email via Microsoft Exchange Activesync. Quickoffice and Adobe PDF document readers are included, plus calculator, calendar, notes, dictionary, convertor and so on. A business card reader, smart search facility, voice recorder and games – including the motion-operated Asphalt 4 motor racing game – are also to hand.
Battery life on the Samsung i8910 HD was impressive for such a heavyweight multimedia device. Samsung claims it delivers a whopping 600 hours on standby or up to 13.5 hours talktime. Real usage figures are going to be considerably less if you take advantage of its multimedia heft, but you can feel secure in getting a decent run out of it between charges.
Voice calling quality too was excellent. Samsung’s virtual numberpad worked impeccably, and the contacts list is tidily scrollable or tap-searchable.
The size of the Samsung i8910 HD my not be to everyone’s taste (or pocket) but that expansive screen space delivers with a top-drawer multimedia presentation on its lovely AMOLED display. It also offers best-of-class 720p HD video, plus an exceptional stills image performance for a cameraphone.
We’d have liked to have seen mapping apps or Sat Nav software pre-loaded to complement the under-utilised A-GPS technology.
The S60 5th Edition touchscreen user interface is no iPhone smooth experience, it essentially being an evolutionary take on previous S60 software rather than an all-new platform. As such, it feels pretty conventional phone-like and not as freshly touch-optimised as the Apple UI.
Nonetheless, the i8910 HD is one powerful smartphone with plenty of gadgetry to make you take notice, a very decent handling performance, and terrific media playback capabilities. It’s a heavyweight in more ways than one.