A Symbian-injected followup the so-so Windows Mobile Omnia, the HD i8910 is a specced-out slab of phone from Samsung, with a 3.6-inch AMOLED screen, 8MP camera, HD video recording and a definite thing for multimedia.
The Price: TBD, at least as far as subsidised carrier deals go.
The Verdict: The Omnia HD does everything fine, and a few things extremely well. Video playback is top notch and widely compatible, the camera is among the best I’ve ever seen on a mobile phone, and the video recording can actually hang with a lot of pocket cams, like the Flip of Kodak Zi series. On all other counts the phone never falls flat, but it never really shines, either.
The hardware: Your first impression of the Omnia HD is that it’s big, but that’s not really fair: It’s a tall device, but it’s not meaningfully larger than any of the other popular touchscreen phones on the market today—it’s just proportioned differently. And for all the hardware crammed inside, it’s reasonably thin. Speaking of which, the guts: It’s got HSDPA (on European bands), GPS, 8-16GB of internal storage with microSD expansion, and 8MP, 720p-recording camera sensor, a built-in flash bulb, a forward-facing video camera, USB connector and a 3.5mm jack. It’s a healthy phone, hardware-wise.
Samsung touts the AMOLED screen over anything else, and with some good reason. It’s vibrant and sharp, but side by side with an iPod Touch, it isn’t strikingly better. The benefits of the OLED, such as they are, seem to manifest themselves more in a healthy battery life than anything else. In terms of touch, it’s a capacitive panel, and it’s extremely responsive. Any lag or difficulties with the onscreen keyboard are entirely down to the software.
Mobile Phone cameras are generally horrible, so the Omnia HD’s camera is a rare treat. Seriously: I trusted it to shoot a <a href=”I even trusted it to shoot this Klipsch Image S4i review last week. “>product review last week, and it definitely came through. It’ll match a low-end point-and-shoot in most situations, barring low-light—the sensor can’t really handle darker situations too well, and the flash is pretty wimpy—and fast-motion scenes. Video, on the other hand, is at least pocket-cam quality. In daylight it’s razor-sharp at 720p, while in low light it’s passable. It doesn’t quite match up to the best-of-the-bunch Zi8, for example, but it’s surprisingly close. On a mobile! When did this happen?
The Software: This is where things fall apart a little. Wherever the Omnia HD hardware shines—along with the kickass camera, it can handle HD video playback in plenty of codecs—the software is fine. The camera interface and media playback interfaces, music and video, are never distracting a usually do what you expect. Elsewhere, though, there are problems.
Samsung’s thrown the old Omnia’s TouchWiz widget UI, originally designed for Windows Mobile, onto the Symbian-powered HD. This in itself is fine, since TouchWiz has always been a decent, finger-friendly homescreen. Outside of the three homescreen panels, though, is a bizarre UI stew, some from Symbian 5.0, some from Samsung, and some from the deepest bowels of hell. For example: Scrolling! Instead of throwing menus and selecting entries, the selection follows your finger. It’ hard to explain, but it’s a terrible way to manage a menu-heavy operating system. The onscreen keyboard seems to be a Samsung special too. It’s fine—it’s spacious and rarely lags—but it’s set on a perfect grid, doesn’t come with any autocorrect and feels like it was designed in about an hour.
Outside of a few areas, the phone is a fairly raw take on Symbian, which means the UI is inconsistent and difficult to tackle with fingers, and seems to insert needless steps all over the place. Want to enter a URL? Press a button, type your address, press another button, and press another. It doesn’t make any sense. Functionally, though, it holds up fine: The browser could be easier to navigate with, but renders with WebKit, supports Flash and generally does its job. Same goes for pretty much everything else: the experience could be smoother, but you’d be hard pressed to find a task that the HD can’t handle. And if you do find a gap, remember: This is full Symbian, so you can always go app hunting. As dumb as the UI can be, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a dumbphone: it can do pretty much anything an Android or Windows Mobile phone can, just a little more awkwardly. [Samsung]