Samsung i8910 Omnia HD preview: First look

GSMArena team, 16 February 2009.
Pages: 1234

Your own portable cinema

Watching a video on the Samsung i8910 Omnia HD is a true joy. The built-in video player has DivX and XviD video support included.

The screen size and resolution count big time here, we're just amazed by the image quality. And with a powerful CPU that can handle really high bitrate videos sky is the limit.

So, if your videos have a bit rate of less than 3Mbps all you need to do is upload them to the phone and start the video player. No need to convert or look for a piece of 3rd party software to run on the still young S60 5th edition.

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Watching a video on the Samsung i8910 Omnia HD

The video player itself only works in fullscreen landscape mode but, since anything else would have made the widescreen display useless, this is understandable. When in fullscreen, a press on the screen shows the controls which are otherwise hidden.

Image gallery is good to go but misses on the fun part

The gallery of Samsung i8910 Omnia HD is identical to the one of Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. It is is yet another part of the interface that hasn't been drastically changed. Touch friendly and functional it definitely is but we somehow feel more eye-candy could have been offered.

You can scroll pictures by sweeping your finger across the screen when looking at a single photo. Opting between portrait and landscape mode is automatic, thanks to the built-in accelerometer. Unless you have that feature disabled, all you need to do to switch modes is to flip the phone sideways.

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The picture gallery hasn't changed much in this edition of the UI

The photos can also be zoomed in to see more detail but the screen resolution makes sure you won't need it as much as usual. Zoom is controlled via either the volume rocker or an on-screen touch slider. In all other cases, images are displayed full screen.

Call us picky or whatever you like but touchscreen phones should be fun to use and nice to look at. The OLED screen might just save Samsung this time but some cool and shiny piece of software is still missed. Who knows, maybe the retail version will go that extra step.

Monstrous camera

Samsung i8910 Omnia HD packs one of the most powerful imaging units currently available on the market. Using the camera module of the Samsung i8510 INNOV8 which produced possibly the best images in our grand 8MP shootout, the Omnia HD is trying to outpace its predecessor.

The LED flash might be a disappointment to some but the reason is LED can also be used as a video light. And video is certainly what the phone is really about. We'll get to it in a little while.

The camera key is comfortable enough to work with and the UI has been altered to provide better touch experience. The settings aren't as comfortably placed as on the Samsung Pixon and most of them are squeezed in a shared menu.

A camera like that definitely deserves the time spent getting used to its interface quirks, but we think Samsung could've saved us the effort.

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The camera UI isn't as nice as on the Pixon

The range of settings offered by the Samsung i8910 Omnia HD is immense: from manual white balance and ISO to exposure compensation, sharpness and contrast. Various effects are also at hand as well as face and smile detection.

Our unit didn't provide geo-tagging of the images but that probably won't be the case with the retail ones. With a built-in GPS we doubt Samsung will miss the opportunity to include this neat feature.

Then again, Nokia added image geotagging to 5800 XpressMusic only recently via a firmware upgrade, so who knows.

As this stage we cannot provide you with camera samples from the Omnia HD. That's the downside of testing a pre-release unit. Eager as we are to take promising gadgets out for a spin, we've been repeatedly sobered by early units, which are so in the rough that experimenting would be pointless.

By the way, the imaging units are usually the last bit in a mobile phone that gets properly finished. But you can count on it we'll get back to you with those samples as soon as possible.

Update 18 February: So here go the promised samples that we managed to take at the MWC 2009. While this still isn't the final version of the camera the photos are already prettey decently looking.

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Samsung i8910 Omnia HDcamera sample photos

Waiting for the HD videos

Well, we guess you already know where we're heading with video samples. It will be another little while before we see the real worth of the Omnia HD. We bet you just can't wait. 720p HD video recording appears for the first time on a GSM handset and the excitement is quite worth it. The frame rate is also pretty sweet at 24 fps. WVGA will have to bow its respects - 720p HD videos are about triple the resolution.

Update 18 February: Here are two samples for you to check out.

Video 1

Video 2

You can also go and check them out over at Vimeo if you prefer watching them straight from your browser.

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Video 1 at Vimeo (recompressed)

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Video 2 at Vimeo (recompressed)

GPS Navigation

Samsung i8910 Omnia HD features the Samsung Mobile Navigator application for voice guided navigation. The Route66-made piece of software makes its best to utilize the built-in GPS receiver providing the users of the i8910 with all the goodies of a dedicated satnav unit.

The application itself is something we've seen before and that was also present on the Samsung S8300, which we previewed several days ago. Its functionality and map data is up to the task and the huge display might just render yet another of your gadgets useless.

Bear in mind though that the voice-guided navigation, as well as the map data will probably come at an extra cost.

Final words

Samsung i8910 Omnia HD is a remarkable device and it might just have the potential to become the N95 of touchscreen. If we look at it in pure upgrade terms, it outdoes its predecessor by such a sweeping margin that's rarely seen in the mobile world - the massive OLED screen and HD videos are more than enough.

Of course it is not all sunshine and roses for the new Omnia. The Symbian S60 5th edition is certainly maturing with time but it will be a while until it can compete with the established operating systems. The improved homescreen is a start but there are still a lot of issues that need fixing like the scrolling and that annoying one-click-two-click mismatch.

Nonetheless the Samsung i8910 managed to impress us and left us eagerly wanting more. And hey, we haven't forgotten we need to come back with those still and video samples.

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