Samsung i8910 Omnia HD review: Going to the movies

GSMArena team, 30 July 2009.
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Unboxing the Omnia HD

The Samsung i8910 Omnia HD is a high-end multimedia handset, but comes with an fairly standard package. There is the mandatory charger, microUSB cable and a 3.5mm headset. The headset microphone is quite close to the left headphone (like the Apple iPhone headset), but a separate remote (and quite a big one) is found in the middle of the cable. Unfortunately, you cannot control music playback with it.

The only extra thing you get with the Omnia HD is a TV cable, the same 3.5mm one which comes with the Nokia N-series. That said, it's probably the first time e see a TV-out cable in a Samsung retail package, but hey, we usually deal with prototypes.

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Unboxing Omnia HD

The TV-out cable supplied cannot transfer HD content it's really a regular RCA cable that's probably at the bottom end when it comes to transferring digital media, but is quite compact and you can hook up to every TV set out there.

Samsung i8910 Omnia HD 360-degree spin

The Samsung i8910 Omnia HD is hardly the most compact phone around. In fact the first impression it leaves is of an abnormally wide handset with its 123 x 59 mm. At 12.9mm thickness, it can almost be called slim but it's by no means light. If that's the price to pay for this kind of functionality, we guess most people would be willing to make the compromise.

Design and construction

Designing a fully touch-operated mobile phone certainly doesn't leave too much freedom in the aesthetics department and all of them look more or less identical. The Samsung i8910 Omnia HD doesn't depart from the standard looks, the metallic frame around the display obviously an attempt to give it a face of its own, but the glossy plastic around the display looks rather cheap.

Most of the front panel is taken up by Omnia HD's key feature - the 3.7" 16M-color AMOLED touchscreen enclosed in a glossy metallic frame. The handset uses the capacitive touchscreen technology as opposed to the resistive screen of the first S60 5th edition handset, the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. The screen is quite sensitive and we're quite pleased with it in that respect.

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3.7" widescreen AMOLED display

The capacitive technology used guarantees the excellent responsiveness of the screen at the expense of only being able to use your fingers - no stylus, no plectrum, no anything… Still, there are some capacitive screen styluses ot there that are said to do the job, but we haven't tried them ourselves.

The display of the Samsung i8910 offers amazing picture quality. The resolution of 360 x 640 pixels (the same as the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic and Nokia N97) is not exactly top-of-the-line but the AMOLED technology does make a difference. The contrast and colors are really impressive and they give a real sharpness to images.

The bad news about the display of Samsung i8910 is that its legibility drops dramatically under direct sunlight. The Omnia HD screen is better by the recent crop of Samsung phones, but still remains inferior to the Apple iPhone displays, for example.

The Samsung i8910 Omnia HD display offers haptic feedback, which makes the touchscreen a passable replacement for a hardware keypad.

The other noteworthy elements at the face of the Samsung i8910 are the video-call camera and the proximity sensor at the top, plus the three hardware keys at the bottom. The proximity sensor is used for locking the display during calls to avoid accidental presses when holding the phone next to your cheek.

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A couple of sensors and a video-call camera at the top

The Omnia HD has hardware Call and End keys plus a menu key, much like the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. They are made of plastic (just like the silvery frame around the display). The End key doubles as a power button.

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The three keys at the bottom are large enough

On the left side we find the volume rocker, which is adequately sized and quite easy to work with. Next to it is the microSD card slot, which is hot-swap enabled. But of course you'll hardly need it because of the 8/16 GB inbuilt storage.

Omnia HD is said to support microSD cards of up to 16GB, and this was as far as went testing it. The handset handled a full 16GB microSD card problem-free. We were pleased with the reading/writing speed and the initialization of the full microSD card was very fast.

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Omnia HD left side: volume rocker, microSD card slot and lanyard eyelet

The right side of the Samsung i8910 hosts the Hold key (to lock/unlock the touchscreen), the camera key and the microUSB port. It's a welcome benefit that the phone charges off the microUSB port so you can transfer data and charge your battery simultaneously.

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A couple of keys and a microUSB port on the right

At the top of the Samsung i8910 we find a loudspeaker and the 3.5mm standard audio jack. Much like the USB port, the audio jack is hidden under a small lid to keep dust away. The first loudspeaker occupies the center.

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One of the loudspeakers is placed right next to the 3.5mm audio jack

The second loudspeaker is located at the bottom (dead center, again), along with the mouthpiece. This layout seems a respectful nod to the Omnia HD's exceptional video skill, around which everything seems to revolve.

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Loudspeakers are perfectly placed for watching videos in landscape mode

The Omnia HD's rear is all glossy plastic, turning it into a fingerprint nightmare. The battery cover fits firmly into place and there is no creaking when trying to open it.

Along with the Samsung logo, the back side of the Omnia HD also hosts the 8 megapixel camera lens and the LED flash. With video recording so high on the agenda, it's quite understandable why they went for LED rather than xenon technology. Still the Samsung Pixon12 offers both to cater for stills and video alike.

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The battery cover of Samsung i8910 Omnia HD is a fingerprint nightmare

But the sun will shine even on the rear of the Omnia HD and in our case it's the great 1500 mAh battery found under a cheapo plastic battery cover. Given the AMOLED screen with its low power consumption, the Omnia HD should count on above average battery life. After all, that's crucial for a multimedia device.

Update:

We've managed to clock the Omnia HD battery life in the few days following the publishing of the review and just as expected, it turned out quite a performer. The Omnia HD battery went from full to flat in 72 hours. During those 72 hours we used the handset in a somewhat "normal usage" pattern that included all of the following: 250 min of mp3 playback, 60 min video playback of SD content, 50 min of talking and finally, 40 min of mobile web browsing over 3G. We think, that you would agree that despite the huge screen, battery performance is among the virtues of Samsung Omnia HD.

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The 1500 mAh battery should provide better cover for the power hog of a screen

The general build quality of the Samsung i8910 Omnia HD now is lower than expected. The huge AMOLED display is true high end stuff but the plastic bits (especially the battery cover) are below par. The hardware and design changes are a mixed bag really but we guess the multimedia performance will make up for it big time.

Finally, we should again point out that the huge screen real estate calls for some extraordinary body dimensions as well. The Samsung i8910 Omnia HD is easily among the largest handsets on the market, even though it's reasonably slim. Comfortable single-handed operation will definitely be an issue for some users - so a try-before-you-buy is advisable.

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The Samsung i8910 Omnia HD is on the borderline of smooth single-handed use

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