Samsung i8910 Omnia HD review: Going to the movies

GSMArena team, 30 July 2009.
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Dual action galleries

Like with the video player, there are two galleries to choose from as well. The first one is identical to that on the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. Touch friendly and functional as it may be, 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 primary gallery is accessed straight from the main menu

The second gallery, dubbed the Media browser, is easy to use and works fine. A sweep of your finger scrolls images and videos. The not the t practical tilt-to-scroll feature is enabled here as well and there's no way of deactivating it.

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The media browser is the alternative

Tilt scrolling is fun, to begin with. But then after a while it gets annoying: you have to be careful and not to tilt the handset too much since the angle corresponds to scrolling speed and you might miss an image or two. Still, we'd probably choose this gallery over the Symbian one.

Samsung have taken a very interesting approach with the gallery, which seems to boost the contrast and saturation of the photos when browsed fullscreen. That makes them look amazingly cool on the large AMOLED display. The problem is that those corrections are only applied for the time the image is loaded in its full on the phone screen and the phone applies them to every image as it appears.

The constant application of those corrections causes a certain amount of lag, which has a rather negative impact on usability. On the other hand, this is the only way to get the best of both worlds - the photos look stunning on the display, while at the same time if you download them to a computer they retain more information, giving you more freedom for post-processing. We do know however that there will be many users disappointed that on the desktop computer their photos won't have the punch they have on the phone screen.

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There's some lagging when opening a photo

Unfortunately we also noticed lag with the gallery thumb initialization every time we opened it. This becomes even more evident when a larger number of photos accumulate on the device. In fact in terms of pure speed and performance this is probably the worst part of the Omnia HD.

Music player rocks

Along with the standard 3.5 mm audio jack, the Omnia HD music features are well complemented by the generous 8 to 16 GB of onboard memory and support for microSDHC cards to potentially double this amount.

As expected, the music player is based on the one we've seen in the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. The novelty here is the virtual 5.1 channel Dolby Surround, which should help improve the headphone listening experience.

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The music player offers two different styles for the Now playing screen

DNSe 2.0 audio enhancement is also on board but does not work simultaneously with Dolby Surround.

Continuing our journey into sound, the 3D visualizations are a nice addition to the music player and the album browser seems to take after Apple's Cover Flow.

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There are also two cool alternative visualizations

Video playback in HD

The Omnia HD features two video players - the well known Symbian-embedded Real player is pretty much rendered useless by the proprietary Samsung video player that supports DivX/XviD video.

The Samsung Video player has a plain but intuitive interface and does a great job. It even supports subtitles which are automatically detected and loaded. You can then further set them up and even manually synchronize them with the video.

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There's subtitles support too

When you tilt the phone the video player automatically switches to/from landscape view. You can adjust the size of the video and how it should fit on the widescreen display if it happens to have a different aspect.

The great 3.7" display and the widely-spaced stereo speakers make the Samsung Omnia HD a serious competitor for your dedicated portable multimedia player. The excellent battery life will complement that as well.

Knowing you can make your own HD movies with the i8910 is likely to make people wonder how they can watch those on their HD TV sets.

Unfortunately, the Samsung Omnia HD doesn't have a HDMI port of any kind. That leaves DLNA as the only way you can stream your HD videos on a TV or a PC screen straight from the handset.

To use DLNA with your TV, you have to get yourself a Wi-Fi-enabled TV set with DLNA support or a set-top box that has the same properties and which can channel your wirelessly streamed videos over a cable connection.

If, however, you can put up with lower resolution videos, you can always use the TV-out port on the device itself that's intended for transferring SD (non-HD) content via the TV-out cable supplied in the retail box.

If you use the cable all HD content that you play on the phone gets scaled down - first off it goes down to the Omnia screen resolution and then that signal gets upscaled to the TV resolution. So you can guess scaling is nothing so impressive in terms of quality. But still, you can watch all your videos fullscreen and it handles superbly the screen auto rotation - the content on the TV screen always has the right landscape orientation.

But getting back to the handset's video playing capabilities, we have to conclude that they are by far the best we have seen. Easy to upload videos (with no additional application required), a player with a huge number of formats supported, subtitle support and - most importantly - an amazing display make the Omnia HD an unmatched package for watching video.

The HD video playback is a real treat as well though the screen resolution is almost quarter that of a 720p video. Nevertheless we tried playing both XviD and DivX 720p videos on the Omnia HD (AVI container) and they played just fine with no dropped frames whatsoever and they looked way better then the Omnia own video recordings. Unfortunately, the playback of the video container more commonly used for HD content - MKV - is not supported.

Back with one of our pre-release Omnia HD units, we managed to squeeze a good 5 h and 30 min of constant video playback with the screen set at maximum brightness. That's better than what most laptops offer.

Now that we have a retail unit we are pleased to see that it performs even more impressively managing 5 hours and 50 minutes of continuous playback of standard definition XViD video.

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