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Samsung S8300 UltraTOUCH review

Samsung S8300 UltraTOUCH review
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Samsung S8300 UltraTOUCH works on Quad-band GSM & UMTS network. It is a 8MP slider with WQVGA touch display. It also features GPS, FM Radio, Bluetooth, microSD slot for memory and Organizer.
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Review On : Samsung S8300 UltraTOUCH
Review By ONG CHIN HAN

REMEMBER the days when camera phones were only 1.3 megapixels? Then came 2.0, 3.2, 5.0 and now everyone is going ga-ga over 8.0 megapixels.

Samsung has added another contender into the camera phone fray, this time with the extremely stylish S8300.

Let’s see how the slim and attractive slider phone holds up against the competition.

Construction

Upon opening the packaging, I was quite impressed with what I saw. The S8300 is a nicely styled phone with metal and strong plastic components.

Picking it up in your hand and feeling the weight of it gives you the impression that it is of sturdy construction.

The slide mechanism is flawlessly smooth and precise. The battery cover is well made. And opening it just requires you to pop it out instead of forcing you to pry it open.

Upon turning on the phone and viewing the 2.8in OLED screen light up, I was impressed with the quality of the display.

Colours were bright and well represented. The screen is also supposedly covered with tempered glass to make it scratch and glare resistant.

Well, I didn’t want to do the “keys-in-pocket-with-phone” test, otherwise the nice folks at Samsung would have my head on a stake for messing up their review unit.

As for glare resistance, the screen still suffers from legibility problems under bright sunlight.

It seems that all handphone manufacturers have yet to tackle this problem successfully be it TFT or OLED screens.

The touchscreen response for a capacitive display is a mixed bag. It may be because I have not adapted from a phone with a resistive display.

Rather than just pressing with the tip of your fingers or even your fingernail, you have to use your whole fingertip (read: Skin contact) to get the screen to work.

This may be great in most situations but when the button is tiny or even a tad narrow, you will tend to miss it and will be forced to tap a few times to hit the sweet spot to activate the button.

It is frustrating at times, but let’s hope Samsung can optimise the touchscreen with firmware upgrades.

Communication

Generally, the S8300 does what a phone should do well — its speaker is loud enough to make it heard in a crowd. Reception is also good.

As for typing SMSes, you only get the alphanumeric keypad to type your messages. There is no on-screen Qwerty keyboard.

Also, because it is not always easy hitting the correct button when using the virtual keypad, I actually found myself using the physical one quite a lot.

The keypad is not only precise but also gives you solid feedback.

Connectivity

The S8300 is a quad-band GSM and dual-band 3G HSDPA phone. It also comes with Bluetooth connectivity to communicate with peripherals wirelessly.

There is no WiFi, although it would have been great to have it so that a user could surf the Web without having to pay exorbitant data charges. Those that have an unlimited data plan won’t find this an issue though. The microUSB port is where the charger, data cable and handsfree set all connect. This is a great step toward standardisation in handphones.

The only setback is that the microUSB port cover juts out from the side when something is connected to it. This could present a durability issue as it could break off eventually.

Maybe future Designs could have the cover recessed into the body.

Customisable

The user interface runs on Samsung’s TouchWiz UI which uses the widgets system. Widgets are very much like tiny applications or shortcuts to your most frequently used and important functions.

On the main screen you can select widgets to place on the sidebar. Dragging out certain widgets from the sidebar to the main screen lets you see the information it contains.

Some widgets are just for fun but some such as the calendar, memos and alarms are useful.

New widgets can also be downloaded to expand the functionality of the S8300.

The phone’s operating system is a tad sluggish and coupled with having to tap the touchscreen several times to activate smaller buttons, this spoils the overall user experience.

The screen-lock button on the right of the phone is also a little quirky at times.

Quite often, I found that there was a beep indicating I had pressed the button, but the screen remained dark and I had to press it a few more times to activate the display.

This could be attributed to the phone being a prototype review unit.

Music to your ears

The S8300 gives you plenty of entertainment options alright. There’s a radio on it but that only works if you plug the headset into it. Reception on it is quite good and it scans for the stations quite quickly.

There’s a music player which has several preset equalisers. For those who shun “normal” phones in the search for music-centred phones, they’ll be pleasantly surprised that the S8300 delivers pretty good sound quality. Even the in-ear headphones that are supplied by Samsung are a joy to listen to.

The only boo-boo is the lack of a 3.5mm jack but even though I’m one of those who really like music, I found this to be just a small problem. Just plug in the handsfree controller portion of the headset and you get your jack.

Video playback is excellent. The player is simple to use and the best thing is it is able to play back the most popular video formats nowadays namely DivX, XviD, MPEG4, H.263, H.264 and WMV9.

The S8300 supports 16GB microSD cards, so there’s ample space for you to stuff in all of your songs and movies.

Photo and video capture

The 8-megapixel camera has autofocus, face and smile detection, a single-LED flash, and options you would expect to find on a good compact camera.

The user interface of the camera is excellent with all of the functions readily available on the touchscreen.

Granted that this is a cameraphone, the pictures are good enough but don’t expect it to compete with a dedicated camera.

The JPG compression does tend to oversmoothen the images sometimes.

After taking your photos, you can view them in the touch optimised photo gallery. Tilting the phone left or right or sliding your finger across the screen shows the next and previous photos.

Video recording is excellent. The auto white balance was especially impressive as the recording application managed to adjust itself when shooting from bright to dark scenes.

Cool extras

There is a built in document viewer which opens Excel, PowerPoint, Word and PDF files.

The built-in web browser also works quite well. You can also send and receive e-mail messages on the S8300.

There is also GPS with aGPS support. You can use the Google Maps application to pinpoint your location. GPS support also allows you to geotag the photos that you capture.

All said even though the productivity tools are simple, the functionality is there to help you out when you’re out of the office and really need something done urgently.

Sadly, the S8300 comes with an underpowered 880mAh battery. If you were to use your phone heavily in the course of the day, expect to charge it daily.

Don’t even think about using it until the low battery indicator beeps because that just means you have one hour of standby power left. It’s best to charge it when you see it at two bars of energy.

You can charge the phone via the charger which plugs to the microUSB port or charge it when it is attached to your PC via the data cable.

Conclusion

While the stylish Samsung S8300 excels in call and voice quality, Multimedia applications, camera and video capture, I just couldn’t help but feel let down by a few things.

The user experience could have been improved if the on-screen buttons were just a tad bigger. The operating system could also have been faster.

Worst of all the battery here is one of the main issues.

I’m not even sure if a person who relies heavily on making a lot of calls a day can even rely on the 880mAh battery to take him through the day.

Maybe Samsung could have put in a 1,000mAh or even a 1,300mAh battery.

So, the S8300 is a good phone but it could have been a great one if the company managed to polish it up a little.

Hopefully they can improve on the buggy aspects of the Samsung S8300 and integrate the improvements into their upcoming Omnia HD later this year.

Pros: Great screen; excellent camera; lots of multimedia Features; strong build.

Cons: Underpowered battery; slightly clumsy and sluggish user interface; no WiFi.
Samsung S8300 Specification
3G phone
Camera: 8.0-megapixel with autofocus
DISPLAY: 2.8in OLED touchscreen (240 x 400-pixel resolution)
MESSAGING: SMS, MMS, e-mail
CONNECTIVITY: GSM 850/900/1800/1900, HSDPA 900/2100, Bluetooth, USB
PHONE MEMORY: 80MB
EXPANSION SLOT: MicroSD/SDHC (up to 16GB)
BATTERY TYPE: 880mAh lithium-ion
STANDBY/TALK TIME: 350 hours/4 hours
OTHER FEATURES: Music player, radio, aGPS
WEIGHT: 105g
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 110 x 51.5 x 12.7mm
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia, 1-800-88-9999


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