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Samsung i8910 Omnia HD is Samsung's first Symbian powered touchscreen device and it turns out it's not a blind follower of Nokia 5800 XpressMusic or N97 but a device with plenty of character.
At first you might not recognize the Symbian OS under the cheerful TouchWiz homescreen guise. The customized UI has not only changed the menu icons but has managed to camouflage the i8910 Omnia HD into a typical Samsung touchscreen feature phone to improve user friendliness.
The screen is very responsive but that was to be expected. What's more important is the UI. There are some lags at times but the overall performance is remarkable. The 600 MHz ARM Cortex-A8 CPU and the dedicated graphic chip are doing a fine job. Given the massive screen, you are sure to need quite a lot of processing power but the results are even somewhat exceeding our expectations.
The Samsung i8910 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.
Update: The new Samsung i8910 Omnia HD unit we received actually has 256MB of RAM. It was only the first unit we tested that came with 128MB, which is probably the cause for this misprint. Thanks for pointing that out.
There are three homescreen layouts (so called Home screen themes) - Finger use, Samsung Widget and Basic. The names speak clearly enough of what stands behind them.
The first one reminds of a standard S60 homescreen. Only the icons are now bigger, touch-friendlier. All icons can be changed to meet the user needs. We like it, it's convenient enough.
If Basic theme is selected, on top of the homescreen you only get the date, time, and network logo, followed by the standard buttons at the bottom - Telephone, Contacts, Messaging and Menu. The standard foursome of virtual buttons is available regardless of the theme chosen.
Definitely the most familiar option among the homescreen layouts is the Samsung Widget set. 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.
In fact, you can arrange three completely different homescreens full of widgets. Switching between them is handled by the three small cubes in the top right corner of the screen. You can hide those of the widgets you use least (or don't use at all), as well as download new ones.
Another feature that sets the Omnia HD apart from the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic is the rolling cube. Finger sweeps flip the screen left and right to display three different sides of the cube.
A sweep to the right will take you to the Photo Contacts feature, which is quite a catch. It allows you to assign a whole image or a small part of it to entries in the phonebook. We've seen it before but it still manages to impress: it works as easy as it sounds and - more importantly - it's not only helpful but fun.
To go to the main menu from the homescreen you can either tap the appropriate button (bottom right) or by a sweep to the left.
Beneath the colorful outfit there's the Symbian S60 5th Edition. And if it weren't for those familiar shortcomings, it would've been great.
We are talking about the way you scroll and access items in listed menus. In some situations a single tap is enough to get access to the chosen item, while in others you need (1) a tap to select the item and (2) another one to confirm. Now, that's something you don't normally see in other touch phones and seems to hurt usability.
The explanation is simple: on S60 5th the touchscreen is doing the job of a D-pad with confirm action. You scroll a selector down a list rather than dragging the actual list as in other makers' solutions, which we find much more fluent and intuitive. One benefit of course is that the touch-optimized S60 stays absolutely faithful to the original, so users feel so much at home. But we do believe it is by far not the best touchscreen interface.
Now, let's get back to the menu.
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 to be. The two virtual soft keys make sure making your way around won't be any different than a regular S60 phone.
Unlike the very early unit, the accelerometer is now available across various menu levels and autorotation is fairly smooth with a fade out effect.