Samsung i8910 Omnia HD review: Going to the movies

GSMArena team, 30 July 2009.
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TouchWiz'd Symbian OS

The i8910 Omnia HD is Samsung's first Symbian S60 5th edition-powered touchscreen device. However if you expect its software to be an exact copy of either the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic or the N97 you are going to be very surprised.

At first sight you might not even recognize the Symbian OS under the cheerful TouchWiz UI that's running on top of it. The customization only stretches to the homescreen and the menu icons but that's almost enough to give the i8910 Omnia HD the user friendliness of a typical Samsung feature phone.

The default homescreen layout is the TouchWiz one, where you get to fill your homescreen with as many widgets as you like. Those are small programs, shortcuts or just reminders that give you quick access to some of the features of the handset or provide some specific info. Widgets are getting more and more popular and the reason is quite understandable - some of the most frequently used features and services are just a tap away on the homescreen. You can hide those widgets you use least (or don't use at all), as well as download new ones.

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The TouchWiz'd Symbian OS

In fact, you can arrange three completely different homescreens full of widgets. Switching between them is handled by the three small shortcuts at the top right corner, which become active one you slide out the widgets bar.

If you aren't a great fan of the TouchWiz widgetry there are two more options for the homescreen layout (found under homescreen themes in the menu) - Finger use and Basic.

Finger use is identical to the one found on the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. It offers a set of four large and easily thumbable shortcuts that lead to selected applications. The basic theme on the other hand leaves your homescreen completely empty with only the four standard buttons displayed at the bottom - Telephone, Contacts, Messaging and Menu.

The Samsung i8910 Omnia HD also features a nice transition effect between the homescreen, the main menu and the photo contacts app. Those three interchange upon a finger sweep with a transition effect resembling the inner walls of a cube. If you don't care for transition effects, and you are looking for a bit of extra speed, you can switch that off.

A sweep to the right will take you to the Photo Contacts feature, which is quite neat. It allows you to assign a whole image, or even a cropped part of it, to entries in the phonebook. Sweeping a finger to the left of the widgets screen, opens up the main menu.

Beneath the colorful outfit of the Omnia HD lays the Symbian S60 5th Edition. Quickly maturing it might be, but it is still far from perfect. We have already discussed the inconsistency it has with scrolling (which goes in the way of your finger through a scrollbar in the menus and in the exact opposite direction with some applications).

There's similar unpredictability when selecting items too. You would normally need a single tap in grid menus and two taps in list menus. While we admit that you might eventually get used to all this, we definitely find those to be major problems with the usability of the S60 5th edition. That randomness causes quite a lot of confusion and is nowhere near the fluent and intuitive interface that the market currently demands.

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 to be. The two virtual soft keys ensure making your way around won't be any different than on a regular S60 phone.

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The menus can appear as grids or lists

The accelerometer automatically rotates the display of the Omnia HD but it doesn't work through the menus. Auto-rotation is fairly smooth with a decent fade out effect.

While there is some lag at times (most notably in the gallery - more on that later) the overall performance of the Samsung i8910 Omnia HD is remarkable. The 600 MHz ARM Cortex-A8 CPU and the dedicated graphic chip do a fine job indeed powering that massive screen and the results are very pleasing.

The Samsung i8910 Omnia HD has 256MB of RAM - exactly twice as much as the Nokia N97. Now add the snappier CPU and you'll understand where the better overall performance comes from even with the added weight of the TouchWiz running on top of the Symbian OS.

Pretty good phonebook

Typical for Symbian, the Samsung i8910 Omnia HD comes with a phonebook that can store an unlimited number of entries, each holding as many fields as the users sees fit. You can assign a photo to each contact, or even a video if you wish. If you prefer, you may group your contacts and give each group a specific ringtone.

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The phonebook is typical Symbian

Contacts can be freely ordered by first or last name and can naturally be searched by gradual typing of any of the names. You can also set whether the contacts from the SIM card, the phone memory and the service numbers will get displayed.

Editing a contact offers a great variety of preset fields and you can replicate each of them as many times as you like. You can also create new fields if you happen to be able to think of one.

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Editing a contact

The Call log keeps track of your recent communications. The application itself comes in two flavors - accessed by pressing the Call key on the stand-by screen or from the main menu. The first one brings 20 call records in each of its tabs for outgoing, received and missed calls.

If you access the Log application from the main menu, you'll see a detailed list of all your network communications for the past 30 days. These include messages, calls and data transfers (even WLAN connections are included).

Photo contacts a swipe away

As we already mentioned the Omnia HD comes complete with the Photo contacts app, which is an interestingly looking alternative to the phonebook. While it still relies on the regular contact database, the Photo contacts application might save you the effort of ever entering the phonebook again once you've filled it up.

Samsung I8910 Omnia HD
Photo contacts

The app itself allows you to tag parts of photos, which can then be used as shortcuts to various contacts. That might be pretty handy if you are into grouping your contacts. You can take a photo of your colleagues and another one of your buddies and than tag each face to its respective phonebook entry. Then you are one photo away from calling everyone in for a poker night at your place.

Photo contacts might not be the most practical application, but it is certainly one of the funniest ways to dial a number.

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