Samsung Armani review: Mobile haute couture
It's got an intriguing music player
Armed with 60MB of internal memory and a microSD card slot, the Samsung Armani phone will probably seem tempting to many as a portable music player. Therefore it is essential that the music player application is really easy to use and well-supplied feature-wise.
Unfortunately, this isn't the case. The music player controls are so intuitive that it seems it's the place where the whole cross-thing originated - the cross-like pattern is just the very essence of music control with the Samsung Armani phone. However changing from one track to another seemed to take ages. Yet again the device is seriously underpowered and is obviously not up to the task.
But getting back to the music controls, we think that you would find them interesting enough. The horizontal axis on the music player screen displays the current track running time. Thus moving the cross with your finger can skip portions of the track. A longer horizontal sweep skips to the next track in the playlist.
You can move the cross along the vertical axis too. That changes the current volume level. Additional options allow you to easily change repeat and shuffle settings, the current equalizer preset (there are several of them) and also give the track a rating, to later use for creating favorite playlists.
The Samsung Armani is well designed but it's ruined by the slow performance
Album art is also available, along with a convenient way for browsing your current playlist and changing albums on the fly. Although "flying" is not the right mind association when we are speaking of the Samsung Armani music performance.
The player allows filtering tracks by artist, album, genre or you can choose to play either the tracks you've recently listened to, or the ones that you've played the most. If that doesn't seem enough, you can create your own custom playlists.
A nice innovation, as compared to older models, is that when minimized to play in the background the music player displays the current track in the standby menu, along with the album art, if any. And you can change tracks straight from the standby screen just by sweeping a finger on the info bar. Be patient though - better yet, go grab a cup of tea while you are waiting.
Unfortunately, as the Samsung Armani phone features the latest type of the Samsung universal port, we couldn't test the audio quality of the Armani phone music player due to connectivity problems.
|"...The music player controls are so intuitive that it seems it's the place where the whole cross-thing originated - the cross-like pattern is just the very essence of music control with the Samsung Armani phone. However changing from one track to another seemed to take ages..."|
Lately Samsung has been implementing this new type of port in its mobile phones such as the Samsung G600 and the Samsung G800. It's not really a big deal unless you've already bought an optional accessory that won't work with the new port (like we did).
A good suggestion to Samsung is that when they start changing the system port throughout their portfolio, they should at least enclose some sort of mini converter jack in the retail package too smooth the transition process for the users.
The only complaints we have with the Armani phone music player are that at times it's too slow and the handset itself doesn't have a 3.5 mm audio jack.
Video plays easily too
The video player on Samsung Armani has similar interface to that of the music player. It doesn't have many features but all the essentials are covered - it can play video files in fullscreen landscape mode and you can fast-forward and rewind videos. You can also jump to a specific scene in the video clip.
As expected, MPEG-4 video is among the supported formats. That's also the format the camera records videos in. Fortunately, with MPEG-4 support you can easily convert all your favorite video clips and watch them on the go with Samsung Armani.
3 megapixel but not enough to impress
The Samsung Armani phone is equipped with 3 megapixel camera with no auto focus. It's got a LED flash and the maximum image resolution is 2048 x 1536 pixels.
Samsung has a whole lot of cameraphones on the market right now, but just to cut it short - the Samsung Armani phone is not among them in terms of image quality.
Truth be told, a 2 megapixel module in a high-end device just doesn't cut it anymore (read Nokia N81), so we think installing run-of-the-mill 3 megapixel cameras should be the minimum requirement in the higher-tier handsets to come.
The Armani camera interface is intuitive and follows the current trend of presenting settings on a toolbar, while options appear as popup menus. The toolbar this time is placed as a column on the right instead of at the bottom of the screen.
The settings are extensive and include picture size, shooting mode (single shot, multi-shot, mosaic), effects (black and white, sepia, negative), white balance, and viewfinder mode (regular or with status icons on).
Among all those, an interesting feature is the Mosaic shot seen on previous Samsung handsets too, which allows you to make photo collages - however those turn out in rather low resolution. The Multi-shot mode allows you to take several shots in rapid succession with a single press of the shutter.
The additional camera settings are accessible from the menu where you can switch between camera and camcorder, as well as turn on the Scene mode. Those settings include stuff like picture quality (normal, fine, superfine), ISO (100-400), exposure metering (matrix, center-weighted and spot), shutter sound (can be set to off), zoom sound, brightness sound, default storage memory and default naming for photos.
The most awkward thing about the Samsung camera interface is that in order to turn the scene mode on, you have to go to those "back-office" settings, select "scenes" and only after that do they appear on the regular settings toolbar. Speaking of those, the available scene modes are auto, indoor, beach, sunset, and dawn.
The Samsung Armani camera offers medium image quality - it doesn't really fare that well in terms of resolved detail as we would like to, and the digital noise is a little too much. However the color reproduction seems pretty accurate. The dynamic range is not the best too. However we found no traces of purple fringing which Sony Ericsson mobiles tend to produce in excess for example.
Since image quality is never ideal in a mobile phone, it's best to compare it with some other 3 megapixel fixed focus cameras that have had the chance to review.
It seems that the Samsung Armani results are slightly better than what Sony Ericsson W890 can put up, while it slightly loses to the 3 megapixel camera of the Samsung E950. Since none of these mobiles is camera-centric one, its safe to conclude that the Armani has a decent run-of-the-mill 3 megapixel camera that would do a good enough job.
We would like to see more of those regular 3 megapixel cameras in the market midrange instead of the flood of 2 megapixel snappers that keeps coming again and again.
Here are some sample camera photos taken with the Samsung Armani camera:
The Samsung Armani camera is also able to shoot video - in the so-called Camcorder mode. As with all recent Samsung handsets it records video in up to CIF video resolution (352 x 288 pixels) at 15 fps. If you put up with QVGA resolution (240 x 320 pixels) you will be able to reach 30 fps. The user interface of the camcorder is pretty much the same as the one of the still camera.
The videos are captured in MPEG-4 format so they are easily playable on a PC with most video playing software.
Here is a sample video, taken with the Samsung Armani phone.