Samsung i8510 mobile phone review

3.5 out of 5
dependent on contract

For

HSDPA and Wi-Fi connectivity, DivX support, Symbian S60 3rd edition interface

Against

D-pad takes some getting used to, big, we've seen no real advantage to the 8 megapixels over 5 megapixels

Samsung's latest all-powerful handset promises to match the might of the Nokia Nseries with a host of features, but can this multimedia gadget, that's also a phone, impress? We get more than just dialling to find out.

There was a time when mobile phones used to be just that, a mobile version of a phone. Not any more if the Samsung i8510 has anything to do with it.

Not content with giving you the ability to make and receive phone calls on the go, the Samsung i8510 gives you HSDPA, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, 16GB of on-board memory, video and music playback, GPS and AGPS, TV-out functionality, games, Google Apps, and oh, an 8-megapixel camera.

Big, like Nokia N95 big, the i8510 is the size of your average digital compact camera and offers a slider design to those who are manly enough to put on in your pocket. No offense girls, but this isn't something you're going to want in your Lulu Guinness handbag.

The non-touch screen takes up most of the front slider with the usual array of shortcut buttons and d-pad underneath. There is a secondary camera for video calling at the top. Slide that back and you get a flush metal keypad with which to type in your numbers. Novel.

The sides house volume/zoom controls, a dedicated camera shutter button and a dedicated camera mode slider for switching between camera, camcorder, and playback as well as a microSD card slot so you can expand the 16GB to 24GB if that's what gets you excited.

The back sports the lens, complete with lens cover, and you'll only be able to activate this by turning on the camera software which saves it opening in your pocket like the Sony Ericsson handsets.

Slide the handset open and the Symbian S60 3rd edition operating system can't help remind you of a Nokia handset. That has its advantages and disadvantages - mainly that if you're switching from Nokia then you'll be happy and at home. However, if you're opting for this because you want to get away from Nokia, you'll be right back at square one again. Either way it means you get access to loads of third-party apps, a lot of which are already pre-installed.

The generic home screen is a series of icons down the left-hand side that offer you menus to further options. Like the Samsung Omnia i900, the i8510 sports the same touch sensitive d-pad, which acts like a mini trackpad allowing you to scroll through menus quickly.

Like our experience with the Omnia, it takes a bit of getting used to with accidental button presses and scrolling past what you wanted a common occurrence.

If the quick access home page isn't for you, there is the usual grid option one menu level down and this gives you access to all the features the phone offers and it offers a lot.

If you're after more than just calling there is plenty here including media playback with DivX support, which is good, but the screen is still too small to enjoy it properly.

Then there are office tools that give you support for Microsoft Office and Adobe PDF formats. If that is not your cup of tea you get Google Apps in the guise of search, maps and email support and that's before you get to the applications folder that includes programmes like ShoZu so you can manage your social networking presence and FIFA so you can play the odd bit of football on the train.

Surfing the web is fast thanks to the HSDPA or Wi-Fi connectivity and getting information on the go will be easy. Browser usability is also improved by the use of the d-pad/trackpad that turns the cursor into a mouse so you can roam around the pages as if it was a desktop browser, and thanks to the built-in accelerometer in the phone you can view pages easily in landscape mode.

The only thing that is going to slow you down on the browser front is the lack of a QWERTY keyboard.

So what about that 8-megapixel camera? Is it all it is cracked up to be or is it just big number hunting? Well on the whole photos are average to good rather than spectacular.

Samsung has done a lot to try and improve the quality of the image but against a compact it just doesn’t compare.

That said you'll get plenty of tech to impress your mates: face detection, smile detection, blink detection, anti-shake, wide dynamic range, geotagging, scene modes, the ability to change white balance settings and the ISO up to 1600 as well as being able to add effects like sepia, and that's before you touch on the digital zoom functions, flash or panoramic mode.

But all that tech, which is only likely to confuse or be forgotten, isn't going to get over the simple fact that it's a plastic lens and the sensor is tiny.

What that means is that while image quality is better than your 2-megapxiel camera found in the iPhone, images are noisy, chromatic aberration is evident and images lack detail and colour.

The shutter and response is faster than the Nokia N95, but it’s still not perfect. We certainly won't be ditching our compact any time soon.

Verdict

The Samsung i8510 offers so much that, like the Nokia N95 and N96, it becomes a handset that you know you've got in your pocket.

It's big and bold and therefore unlikely to be for everyone, but more worryingly for the size we can't see the benefit over a slimmer handset with a lower megapixel camera offering.

Yes the Samsung i8510 is feature-packed, offering you virtually all you could want from a consumer-focused mobile phone, but the price is the size.

Still if you are looking to get away from Nokia, but don't want to leave your comfort zone, this will be just the handset for you.