Samsung OMNIA HD Preview

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Introduction and Design
Introduction and design:

It´s been over a month since MWC 2009 now and we´ve been saying grace to get the opportunity to have at least a sneak peak at one of the showcased models of the company and finally check it out ourselves. Well, it seems our prayers have been answered, we´ve just got our hands on not just any phone, but the very, only Samsung OMNIA HD i8910. The first response it evokes by those who hasn´t seen it is like "Jeez, isn´t that screen huuuuge!". Well, yes, the screen is "just" 3.7-inch one and watching videos gets us warm inside (being only a prototype unit, we did try to resist the temptation, but eventually yielded).

Anyway, let´s just jog your memory and tell you what these most thrilling things about it are. It´s the first phone of the company and actually worldwide to ever feature such an enormous AMOLED touch screen, coming with 16 million colors and resolution of 360x640 pixels, just as many as on the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. OMNIA HD is about to blaze a trail in video playback and recording as well, it´s gone HD. It´s referred to by the Korean company as an all-in-one smart phone running the latest Symbian version, but the OS has actually been modified to utilize Samsung´s TouchWiz 3D interface. It´s also got an 8-megapixel autofocus camera, supports DivX and Xvid, Wi-Fi with DLNA support, HSDPA 7.2 Mbps, GPS, „HDMI” (through a DLNA Wi-Fi device, which connects to a TV via HDMI), accelerometer, 8 or 16 GB built-in memory and expansion card slot to expand your available storage with up to another 32 GB. All these features are pretty conveniently packed in quite a thin body – 12.9 mm. Well, won´t it try to gain some ground on the expense of the HTC Touch HD? Not really. The only things these phones have in common are the presence of "HD" in both their names, their sizable screens and resolution.



You can compare the Samsung OMNIA HD with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

There are few physical controls on its face side, in this case three only, the send and end buttons and the one to access the main menu. Just above is located the aluminum-laced, capacitive AMOLED screen that delivers stunning and vivid image quality. It features a built-in light sensor positioned just by the video-talk camera, volume rocker, microSD slot, screen lock, microUSB port and camera shutter are located on its sides. If you take a look at its top and bottoms sides you find the 3.5 mm jack and stereo speakers. The latter didn´t exactly blow our mind but we hope we hear a louder sounding phone when the final version takes off.



The whole back side is glossy plastic that, unfortunately, simply loves fingerprints. There´s something far more appealing here – the first 720p (1280x720 pixel) HD-capture 8-megapixel camera worldwide. You can find a few test shots under the multimedia section of this preview.





Samsung OMNIA HD Video preview:



Samsung OMNIA HD 360 Degrees View




Software and Internet browser:

As previously mentioned, similarly to both Nokia 5800 XpressMusic and Nokia N97, OMNIA HD i8910 utilizes the latest as of now Symbian OS version (v9.4 S60 5th Edition). Again, we need to point out that we´ve been testing a proto unit and certain changes are far from being unlikely until the retail version comes out and even more so, given a recent video ad showing off a new multitasking menu.

Start up the phone and Samsung´s interface, TouchWiz 3D springs to life. Just like its previous versions, it´s quite showy and appealing, with the well known widgets at hand that you can also pull on the screen by dragging them from the status bar on your left to the home screen. There are a few other TouchWiz phones that have already been announced and similarly to the rest of the pack you have four separate widget screens that are really easy to switch between by just pressing one of the three cubes at the upper part of the screen. It´s like you have several desktops on your computer. You can easily get additional widgets online with the UltraTOUCH, but all we could find out here was an option to start/stop the preinstalled ones. Well, let´s go on with the rest of the airs and graces having something to do with the home screen itself.


3D navigation is one the eye-candies that can be switched off should you not really like it. Just touch in the home screen and slide it to your right and you´ll switch over to the photo contacts screen. As suggested by its name, you can call up contacts by just touching the assigned photos. They are pretty easy to tag in a Facebook-like style which is really cool.


We get back to the widgets to slide a finger to our right and the main menu pops up, looking quite in character with the TouchWiz interface, with all these showy eye-candy icons appearing in a 3x4 grid. Changing over to a vertical item list is pretty easy as well. Actually, you reach the menu by pressing an icon at the bottom of the screen or the dedicated button.


If you don´t happen to be a widget freak, don´t throw your hands up in despair, both Finger Use and Basic home screens are just a few clicks away. There are only a wallpaper and four icons at the bottom in Basic mode, whereas Finger Use allows customizable quick access to four functions of your choosing, just like the Shortcuts bar on 5800 XpressMusic. Information about upcoming events is also showed on the OMNIA HD screen, as well as the name of the song you´re listening to if the player´s on.


We came across another similarity to the Nokia 5800 (nothing to cause our eyebrows to raise) in the sub-menus, which are visualized in a vertical scroll list. You confirm your choice by double-clicking the selected item to get it started. We activated the QWERTY keyboard to type in several test messages and we are quite pleased with it. You can actually choose the response time depending on your own typing speed. Switching over to a standard on-screen keyboard or hand writing recognition are just a few clicks away.

What we do miss is the Mini QWERTY keyboard present on the Nokia 5800. Phone books searches are implemented with a GPS-like keyboard entry system (A, B, C, D, E, F...) with the first letter of all saved names being showed on-screen first. After typing something in, only the necessary letters remain on the screen as if the phone thinks ahead and tries to guess what you´re looking for.



Internet browser:

It´s practically the same as the one found on the Nokia 5800, only the interface has got more colorful and appealing. All pages and Flash elements, including the YouTube player load properly, there is no evidence of any problems and navigation on such a huge screen feels all beer and skittles. What really appeals to us, although it´s no great shakes, is the zooming feature activated by holding your finger in place for a while onto the part you want to zoom in on, although we had certain difficulties getting used to it. At any rate we feel we should keep waiting and test a retail unit before we pass any verdict on the final browser implementation.





Multimedia:

Now, you better settle in an easy chair and make yourself comfortable, because what you are about to read may knock you out and sweep the weak-hearted off their feet. We´re just jerking around, of course! We aren’t about to get down to video capturing on the spot, because we do feel it´s the icing on the cake. On starting up the music player you find yourself in a menu that gives you a bunch of filtering options and when you start a particular song a real fancy-tickling, large button interface pops up. You can almost immediately notice the 5.1 channel sound effect option available through software emulation. Moreover, you also have RDS FM Radio that features a simple, stylish interface in pleasing colors and completely in character with Samsung.


The 8-megapixel camera has got a Pixon-like interface that doesn´t exactly seem cheery and welcoming with its rather dull and humdrum colors, it somehow looks out of place among the all colorful menus. It goes over big with us though, since it is extremely fast and easy to use. There are tons of shooting modes and ISO settings up to 3200, but above all you are able to capture HD videos. Well, the maximum setting of 19 frames per second left us flat and … wanting, because the video was a bit choppy and stuttering. We do hope we see the phone bundled with 24-fps capable software when it finally hits the market, just as Samsung announced it would. Click the link below to see our test video. There are also several shots there, but we do recommend that you not draw conclusions on their quality.


Samsung OMNIA HD sample video at 1280x720 pixel resolution.
* Note that due to codecs support, you may not be able to play the file.






All videos and pictures can be seen in the gallery, aside from that you can easily browse through them using MediaBrowser. It looks quite similar to the Pixon´s Photo Browser and you can preview all available camera shots and video files. We really dig that you can use the accelerometer to switch over between files without even touching the screen itself. Pampering us the spoilt customers has become an art now these days, hasn´t it? Perhaps the guys with Samsung feel like turning the accelerometer into the new touch screen?


Finally, we´ve just made it to the most thrilling part. Now, everyone who cut reading the preceding parts of this review, raise your hand. Pixon and INNOV8 have really bent over backwards to come up with a fantastic video player, especially when it comes to DivX and Xvid support. But when it comes to HD, both these can´t hold a candle to OMNIA HD i8910, the phone wins over by a mile placing HD resolution video (720p) capability at your fingertips. Even our proto unit runs it smoothly and on top of that it even plays MP4 and AVI files without a hitch. Flat out, watching videos on a 3.7-inch AMOLED display beggars description. There is no point in converting videos at a greater resolution than the one of the screen features though (640x360), especially if you are intent on seeing the movie on your phone. HD files come pretty handy if you connect the phone to a HD TV set through HDMI.


Well, there is more. Aside from the standard Symbian OS RealPlayer you can also watch videos on a preinstalled piece of software going by the name of VideoPlayer that supports subtitles. On its first run it scans the memory of the phone; all video files found are then displayed on a vertical scroll list. It has got a simplified interface that comes pretty easy on the eye and truth be told, we like it better to RealPlayer.



Expectations:

Perhaps you think we´ve held forth on this for a way too long and the article seems rather long drawn out for a simple preview.  To top it off, we are to reserve judgment. The thing is we believe it doesn´t do to base our opinion on prototypes and presale units, so here is what we anticipate. Hands down, we are of the opinion that OMNIA HD is a highflyer that will manage to raise the whole all-in-one phones market on a higher level and if Samsung play their cards well, it has the potential to get many of its rivals into a hot water. We do expect to see it hit the shelves (and sooner we hope) with quite a price tag and we´re champing at the bit to review the final retail version.




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