The G800 is Samsung’s second 5-megapixel cameraphone to hit the UK, adding to a growing list of mobiles breaking the 5 million pixels barrier that includes the Nokia N95, Nokia N82, LG Viewty KU990, Sony Ericsson K850i and Samsung’s own G600.
While its earlier G600 was a slim and fashionable slider phone, the G800 is geared up for a more serious shooting experience, making its mark as the world’s first 5-megapixel cameraphone to feature a 3x optical zoom. An optical zoom on a mobile phone is still a rarity – Nokia’s image-centric N93 and N93i have featured one – but this allows you to zoom in to subjects without losing image quality, unlike digital zooms.
Samsung has included other standalone digital camera gadgetry here too; there’s an autofocus system, face detection technology and a Xenon flash, plus an impressive spread of camera adjustment controls for optimising imaging.
And the spec sheet doesn’t just impress on the snapping front – the G800 has 3G HSDPA connectivity that can deliver mobile data downloads and browsing at speeds of up to 7.2Mbps, if or when your network allows it. 3G video calling is enabled with a front facing camera above the G800’s display.
Squeezing the moving optical zoom mechanism into the G800’s casing means a beefier body than the thinline G600. This sliderphone is no waif, weighing in at a hefty 129g and with the main body 18.8mm thin – and that’s without allowing an extra few millimetres for the protruding sliding lens cover on the back panel.
This lens cover protection is a nice touch though, with a brushed metal-look rear, the G800 really nails the digital camera look it’s aiming for. The shutter button and zoom controls are ranged on the side of the phone for regular landscape format shooting.
The front of the G800 is dominated by the large 2.4-inch display, a 320×240 pixels 262,000 colour TFT screen. This sits above a tidy-looking navigation D-pad which has softkey controls on either side and the usual call/end/clear keys at the bottom. The front of the phone combines a stylish mix of black and chrome but Samsung keeps it simple when it comes to navigation control.
The G800 uses a familiar Samsung menu system that’s straightforward to use – icons in a grid on the main menu screen, and click to access apps, functions or settings. The system offers users easily configurable function shortcuts from the D-pad too.
There’s no messing with the sturdy slide down keypad mechanism, and numbers on the smooth flat numberpad are finger-friendily large and firm to press – fine for texting or tapping in notes.
Sliding open the lens cover brings the camera into play. This is when the downside of the pocket-sagging size of the G800 turns into a plus point; the phone is sizeable enough to feel stable, like a standalone digital camera, and comfortable to grip and use. Holding it landscape, the zoom control and shutter button are all within easy reach of your index finger.
The icons popping up onscreen present you with a range of imaging options, although naturally you can choose to stick with the default auto settings too. Like a standalone digital camera, the D-pad can be used for quickly pulling up most commonly used features, such as flash (there’s a red-eye reduction option), macro mode, timer and having icons or guidelines displayed onscreen.
Other adjustments can be made too. These include activating the camera’s face detection autofocus technology – another digital camera feature that’s only now coming to cameraphones. Switching this on gets the camera to automatically identify faces in scenes and focus on them, which works well and is helpful or getting sharper shots when snapping people. You can also choose an anti-shake option within the settings menu, another uncommon cameraphone feature.
The settings options include white balance and exposure control, plus pre-shooting adjustments for contrast, saturation and sharpness. Other standard-issue cameraphone options are on-hand too, such as multi-shot snapping, panorama shooting, mosaic shots and adding frames.You can also add colour effects (sepia, grey negative, etc.) to shots.
You can choose from five image size options, from VGA (640×480 pixels) up to 5 megapixels (2560×1920 pixels). At the maximum size you can produce some excellent, detailed shots which can be printed in fine quality as standard photo prints. In decent lighting conditions, in auto mode the G800 can produce richly coloured images with good contrast control. It deals well with variable lighting conditions too.
Aided by a 2-step shutter control, the AF system provides visual and audio cues to show whether it’s locked on to a subject or not, helping to ensure you get the right subject in focus.
With a macro mode, you can capture close up shots crisply – although you may need a bit of trial and error before you get the right distance or zoom to produce the sharpest possible results. Good lighting conditions will of course aid you with shooting generally, although there is a Xenon flash to illuminate proceedings for low light or night. It’s a powerful flash, and fills in well, but you should be judicious in its use for certain shots, particular close ups, to avoid washing out images or unwanted reflections.
The 3x optical zoom eliminates the reduction in image quality normally associated with digital zooms (which effectively enlarge a portion of the image on the sensor, reducing the number of pixels making up the image and reducing quality). The display indicates the zoom level in 0.25x increments; after 3x, you can zoom further using the digital zoom.
Many cameraphones don’t allow digital zooming at maximum resolution either, so the G800’s zoom is a welcome addition, adding to the flexibility of the camera for capturing close up shots. (See our article Samsung G800 camera samples for examples of shots taken with the G800.)
Taking video footage with the G800 isn’t quite state-of-the-art, however. The top resolution is restricted to 320×240 pixels and footage is reasonable qaulity played back on the phone, but nothing special.
Once you’ve taken shots or video clips you can upload them quickly and easily via ShoZu (see www.shozu.com) to blogs or share them via social networking and community sites like Facebook, Flickr or YouTube. The phone is set up to activate a ShoZu account automatically if you don’t have one active, and you can set up destinations online at www.Shozu.com for where you want your snaps to be displayed.
You can also indulge in a bit of in-phone editing, thanks to a generous helping of software that can be used for a bit of post-shot tweaking of stills and video. Compared to a PC editing package it’s basic, but it’s still decent and useful for a phone.
As you’d expect with a 3G feature phone, the Samsung G800 has a digital music player to add to its multimedia muscle. You can download tracks speedily over a mobile network using the enhanced 3G connectivity, and buy tracks from your mobile operator’s own music service if the G800 is compatible. You can, of course, sideload tracks from a PC using the supplied USB cable, or send them to the phone via Bluetooth.
The music player interface is fairly standard for a phone, with tracks lined up under familiar categories – albums, artists, genres, composers recently played, most played and playlists. It looks nice and clean, with the D-pad taking care of the music controls.
Samsung also boasts about the ICEpower amplifier by Bang & Olufsen powering the phone. However, tune-playing quality is compromised though by the restricted headphone options. Samsung has chosen to install a joint charger/headphone socket of its own making, limiting the plug-in headphones you can use to the very average set supplied.
Alternatively you could bump up audio quality with Bluetooth headphones to get tracks streamed wirelessly. With the headset plugged in, you can also use the FM radio function inside, which is a useful extra.
There’s a Access NetFront v3.4 web browser on the G800 that can deliver full web pages either in mobile optimsed ‘smart-fit’ scrollable format or in a regular desktop layout. It’s pretty swift on 3G HSDPA. Whether pages render well in Smart-fit mode depends to some extent on their complexity; some work better in smart-fit mode, though other more complicated sites can appear scrambled and unworkable. Even in standard desktop mode, Flash isn’t supported on the browser.
Samsung includes support for RSS feeds, so you can get regular updates from your favourite sites or blogs pushed to your phone without having to negotiate the browser each time. You can search for RSS feeds as well as input them manually.
The usual selection of messaging options are included, with email support for attachments and a document reader for viewing files sent or copied over to the phone. A standard spread of productivity and organiser tools sit on the G800 too – calendar, calculator, convertor, memo, tasks, timer and stopwatch – and a memo recorder function.
Using a device like the G800 to its full potential is likely to push its battery life. Samsung quotes an expected minimum talktime of up to 200 minutes or 220 hours standby between charges. It’s not among the longest times quoted for a 3G phone, although we found battery life fine, not requiring excessive recharging.
The Samsung G800 produces an impressive performance as a camera-packing mobile, offering users several elements you wouldn’t normally expect of a cameraphone. Fitting in a 3x optical zoom is a coup, though the resultant increase in size to accommodate this may not to be to everyone’s liking; some may feel that the benefits don’t outweigh a hefty camera-sized phone.
Although the Nokia N95 demonstrates that size isn’t everything for a top grade cameraphone, the G800 doesn’t have the wide range of additional functionality that the Nokia GPS-enabled smartphone offers.
However, with its attractive camera-like look and feel, excellent imaging performance and high-speed 3G HSDPA connectivity, the G800 does have some powerful points in its favour if size isn’t an issue for you.
Samsung G800 info
Typical price: £240 SIM-free
5 megapixel camera
3x optical zoom
2.4 inch display
Restricted headphone options
Verdict: A stunningly designed high spec 3G slider phone
Recycle your phone: Sell Samsung G800