Samsung i8910 Omnia HD preview: First look
Samsung i8910 Omnia HD runs on Symbian OS with the S60 5th edition user interface. It's one of the very first devices running this UI to see daylight, right behind Nokia's 5800 XpressMusic and N97. Having reviewed the 5800 XpressMusic we already had pretty good idea of some of its pros and cons.
The Samsung Omnia HD unit we had didn't differ much from what we've already seen in Nokia 5800 XpressMusic for example.
However now that the the Omnia HD has been announced, it turns out that Samsung have greatly customized the OS and even added a TouchWiz homescreen on top of the well known UI. So essentially, we'll try to get you a scoop of the new stuff as soon as we get our hands on one here at the MWC 2009.
Update 18 February: Here are several shots of the new user interface. The TouchWiz interface has been added on the homescreen, allowing you to configure up to four different screens with widgets. There is also a nice cube-like transition effect when going from the standby screen to the main menu. The rest of the navigation of the handset has also received graphical boost, which makes it even more visually appealing.
There are some parts of the interface that come out better on the Omnia HD than on the 5800 XpressMusic even at this early stage.
The first and most important change we noticed are the two added homescreen layout options. Adopted from the 3rd edition of the UI, they make much better use of the large high-res display bringing shortcuts to more applications on the homescreen.
There is also a virtual menu key and a profile switcher key on the homescreen. The messaging center and the phonebook shortcuts also appear on the screen just below those keys.
What the Samsung i8910 Omnia HD lacks is the contacts bar, which was available on the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. However we will take the Active standby screen any day over the contacts bar.
Much like with the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, most menus of the Samsung i8910 Omnia HD can be displayed as either a grid or a list. The menu organization is pretty intuitive and logical, most items located exactly where you would expect them. The two virtual soft keys make sure finding your way around won't be any different than on a regular phone.
Unfortunately, the issue of accessing an item in listed menus remains unsolved with the i8910 Omnia HD too. This calls for two presses - one to select, and another one to confirm the action. Now, that's something you don't normally see in other touch phones and seems to hurt usability.
The main issue here is that the interface logic is different when you deal with icons instead of lists.When the opened menu uses icons to represent items as opposed to lists, then a single click usually does the job fine. Same as on the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic.
Anther case of inconsistency throughout the interface is the scrolling logic used. Again we see two different implementations - scrolling of lists and scrolling of icons is different. Seriously - what is the matter with treating lists and icons differently if they do the same thing?
Unlike the 5800 XpressMusic, the main menu of Samsung i8910 Omnia HD doesn't auto rotate to landscape mode when you tilt the phone. The built-in accelerometer kicks in in select applications only, such as the image gallery or web browser for example.
Samsung i8910 Omnia HD also comes with a task manager, which is launched by a press-and-hold on the menu key. The task manager itself is identical to the one found on Symbian S60 3.2 devices but is severely malfunctioning on our pre-release unit.
Samsung i8910 Omnia HD runs on a new 600 MHz ARM Cortex-A8 CPU and has a dedicated graphic processor chip. Given the high-resolution screen, you are sure to need quite a lot of processing power but the results are even somewhat exceeding our expectations.
The handset managed to play video with a bitrate of almost 3Mbps which is simply amazing. Just for the sake of comparison, the HTC Touch HD only went as high as 1.2 Mbps before it started to skip frames.
Update 18 February: It turns out that the samples we managed to get hold of at the MWC 2009 were even able to play videos with bitrate of up to 8Mbps. Now that is really amazing! The Samsung engineers are yet unable to confirm the highest bitrate of the videos that the release samples will be able to play but even if it goes half as high it will still be spectacular.
The Samsung i890 Omnia HD has 128MB of RAM - exactly as much as the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. However due to the snappier CPU, the Omnia HD delivers much better overall performance.
The internal memory of the i8910 Omnia HD is 16GB and that can be doubled via the microSD card slot: even our pre-release unit had no problem handling a 16GB memory card. Now that surely is some capacity and we can hardly think of a scenario where one would need more on their mobile phone.
A decent music player
The music player of Smasung i8910 Omnia HD is identical to the one found on Nokia 5800 XpressMusic or other Samsung handsets running on the S60 3rd edition UI (aside from the whole touch thing, of course).
The application has a good set of features and a large number of supported formats, which means that no converting of you favorite tracks is necessary. Some additional visualizations are also available.
Your music library is automatically sorted by artist, album, genre and composer and searching tracks by gradual typing is available. You can also create your own playlists in no time. The process of adding tracks to the library is as simple as choosing the refresh option.
Album art is also supported and if you don't like the default sound of the device you can enhance it by applying one of the equalizer presets. You can create new ones too in a matter of seconds.
Quite naturally, the player can also be minimized to play in background. In this case a tab appears on the stand-by screen indicating the currently running track.