GIGA-BYTE GSmart MS820 Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

The GIGA-BYTE GSmart MS820 is a Windows Mobile-powered smartphone that we first saw at MWC 2009. The first thing you notice is how bulky and rough it looks, although size is almost never an issue to business customers, who typically tend to be after dependable, reliably performing phone rather than something with an appealing overall appearance. We are about to see whether or not the GSmart MS820 fits into the business category. Still, let’s get over its design and look first.

The package contains:
  • GSmart MS820
  • Travel charger
  • Car charger
  • miniUSB cable
  • Earphones
  • User Guide
  • Software CD


Design:

The overall look of the GIGA-BYTE GSmart MS820 is completely in character of previous devices by the manufacturer, all too known for their buttoned-down, simplified design in neutral colors. The phone is on the bulky side and you would need both your hands to make operate it properly. That is definitely not unpleasant though, since its matte cover feels nice to touch, allows you to keep a firm grip and prevents the phone from slipping out of your hand. The device sports a 2.8-inch display with a resolution of 480x640 pixels and 65k colors. You will be able to relish a really nice and vivid image quality that unfortunately vanishes into thin air the minute you take the phone outdoors and into direct sunlight.



You can compare the GIGA-BYTE GSmart MS820 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The video call camera is right above the display, while a round D-Pad and both send and end buttons, which are marked “on” and “off” and can be assigned various functions, are right below the screen. The microSD card slot (surprisingly, a protective flap is missing), volume rocker and camera shutters are on the left hand side of the phone. Both the 2.5mm jack and stylus are on the opposite with the latter being at the bottom. Unimaginatively, the power button is on the top, and the miniUSB port is on the bottom side of the device. We have to say that all buttons could have been a bit more comfy to use, but still, you can live with them.



Now that you already know what the most important aspects of the phone, in terms of physical specs, are, only one thing remains to be mentioned. We were pleasantly surprised that there is a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus and flash located on the back of the device. We can get down to brass tacks now and tell you what the software delivers.



GIGA-BYTE GSmart MS820 360 Degrees View:



Interface and functionality:

The GIGA-BYTE GSmart MS820 comes equipped with the Smart Touch interface that offers customizable work panel with icons leading to various functions and four major shortcuts to your clock, calendar, picture album and audio player. Sliding a finger upwards takes you to your favorite contacts list. What we consider a major drawback is that pressing the end button (say, to end an application) gets you back to the Today screen, i.e. the standard Windows Mobile home screen and you just cannot configure the button to return you to Smart Touch instead.



Aside from the Smart Touch interface, things are in the typical operating system style down to the last detail. The miniature captions are everywhere to torment you. Your contacts menu looks pretty simple, but allows you to store a tremendous amount of information in any contact entry.

Situation is virtually the same when you enter your messages. You have four major means of typing things in - through the standard software QWERTY keyboard (you can only do that using the stylus), Block Recognizer, Letter Recognizer and Transcriber, the last three centered on handwriting recognition. Of course, the phone provides email functionality and it will find all relevant settings by itself if you happen to be using popular service providers like Gmail or Yahoo.

As for being connected to the rest of the world, the GIGA-BYTE GSmart MS820 supports HSDPA 3.6 Mbit/s and also sports a built-in Wi-Fi receiver. Unsurprisingly, the phone comes with Internet Explorer Mobile that, for some reason, still doesn´t measure up to the task of properly visualizing web content, so we do recommend that you install another browser the minute you get the device, say, Opera Mobile/Mini or Skyfire if you are up to watching video online.



Camera and Multimedia:

We already mentioned the GSmart MS820 features a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with a built-in flash, didn’t we? It sounds impressive, but things are different in real life. Snapshot colors are realistic, although a bit thin and not saturated enough. You won´t be able to relish them anyway, since all pictures are incredibly blurry, as if taken with a 1.3-megapixel camera. Not to mention the flash simply cannot cope with properly lighting up objects even if they are really close. Another proof that goes to show that rarely do megapixels have anything to do with snapshot quality. If you need something better than mediocre, blurry pictures, well, you better stay away from the MS820.




The phone can also capture videos at up to 320x240 pixel resolution. Let´s take a look at how it fares in the multimedia front.

It comes preloaded with Windows Media Player that manages to play MP4/H.263 video content properly, although we witnessed some frame skipping at higher resolutions. Of course, being a smart phone, the MS820 allows you to install additional software and get improved video playback capabilities if you need it.

Sound through the built-in loudspeaker is simply fantastic! As you might have guessed by that exclamation, this is far from being the case. The sound volume is actually so low that even the person holding the phone will have a hard time hearing what they are being told and we just cannot imagine what it would be like in noisy environments.

Fortunately, things get much better once you have plugged in the 2.5mm earphones that come in the box. They offer powerful sound, although trebles tend to be overly punctuated, which becomes especially noticeable if you get the volume at full blast.

The good thing is your phone comes with several preloaded apps like SmartPlayer and SmartEditor. The latter delivers decent image editing capabilities indeed. The set of smart applications also includes SmartAlbum that makes browsing your images a lot more entertaining. You also have GPS Tracking that provides basic location info. We need to point out the receiver didn´t initialize very fast after we cold-started it, but managed to find where we were almost instantaneously the second time we turned it on. Other useful applications that come with the phone are Spb Backup and Black List, which helps you block incoming calls from contacts you don´t want to speak to.




Calls, performance and conclusion:

In-call quality is of utmost importance to any business customer, i.e. the phone has to deliver proper voice clarity and loudness. Unfortunately, the MS820 isn’t exactly the phone to make you happy in this regard. Voice clarity turned out rather mediocre on our end plus loudness leaves much room for improvement. Environmental noises were clearly audible, which paired with the sharp and unclear reproduction of our interlocutor´s voice made normal conversation almost impossible. Situation was almost the same on the other end, although people were apparently able to hear us a bit better than we could hear them.

In terms of hardware configuration, the GIGA-BYTE GSmart MS820 belongs to the midrange class of devices. It sports a Marvel PXA270 processor running at 520MHz. Using the device, you will eventually find out it lacks proper amount of RAM. It seems the 128 MB that it comes with are clearly not enough and cause lagging while loading icons, starting apps, etc.

The GIGA-BYTE GSmart MS820 is a pocket PC running on Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional. We could pass our judgment right away, since it doesn´t really bring out anything memorable on the saturated smartphone market. It´s a shame the manufacturer has failed to provide unique features and the device entirely owes its functionality to the operating system. Come to specs, the MS820 is a phone that features a 5-megapixel autofocus camera and a snappy processor, although things look less appealing in real life. As a whole, it illustrates the point that there is much more to a phone than its hardware alone. The Smart Touch interface offers limited personalization and you will find yourself in the standard Windows menus way too often. We cannot recommend the phone, since there are much better options at about the same price. Our hopes go with the upcoming GIGA-BYTE S1200 that looks much better and is expected to feature the manufacturer´s new Smart Zone interface.

GIGA-BYTE GSmart MS820 Video Review:





Pros

  • Great functionality
  • Suitable for business users

Cons

  • Limited personalization options
  • The display is way too small for such a bulky device
  • Bad audio clarity and in-call quality
  • Buttons could have been more comfy to use

PhoneArena Rating:

6.0

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