A few years ago, in a competitive struggle among two Korean vendors, the rules usually were set by Samsung and LG was playing catch-up. But, during the past few years, the trend has changed and today more often then not, LG comes-up with a new phone model/idea, that makes Samsung take a closer look at it’s inventory and start scrambling to catch-up.
This happened to KG800 Chocolate (with Samsung SGH-E900 as a response). The the story is repeating itself with LG KU990 Viewty camera/touchscreen phone, a direct competitor to which- Samsung F490 – will get to the market only this April, half a year after the first Viewties shipped.
And if Samsung U900 Soul launch and marketing campaign is not strongly influenced by a wildly successful LG Black Label Series (LG Chocolate and Shine) marketing strategy, I don’t know what is.
The object of today’s review – Samsung P520 Giorgio Armani – was also conceived, at least in part, as a response to LG Prada KE850 designer phone. Samsung Armani and LG Prada are so similar in their concept, design and market positioning, that it’s inevitable we will be drawing a lot of parallels between the two.
Overall look& feel
Samsung Armani is a quite small candybar phone, with the touchscreen display taking up most of the front panel space. It’s a so-called card phone, as its size is comparable to that of a credit card. There are some difficulties related to this, but we’ll talk about that later.
The phone feels pleasantly heavy in your hand, giving an impression of durability and reliability, and the weight is just right for the device of such dimensions. This parameter is actually rather important, because often an impressive looking phone weighs much less than you’d expect, and it feels like a toy as a result. Such a situation is observed with some recent models from Nokia, especially the N95 and N82; but again, that’s not the case with the Samsung Armani.
The bezel around the display is metallic, as is the back cover that sports a matte metallic finish – a nice touch, already seen in products of other companies, e.g. W880i Walkman from Sony Ericsson. The edges and part of the back panel are made from non-slippery plastic that contrasts well with the metallic elements.
The phone is assembled perfectly: there’s not a hint of any squeaks, and the casing seems to be solid. The battery lid is tightly secured in place with a mechanical lock. The visible screws in the upper part of the phone is an additional touch to the elegant look of Samsung Armani– undoubtedly, the designers could have hidden them if they wanted to, but they were left to accentuate the reliability of the assemblage.
Located just below are communication port and the memory card slot, closed tightly with plastic panels that don’t fall out and are fixed to the casing.
Overall, the design, materials used, and the assemblage of the casing leave only most favorable impressions: when you hold the Samsung Armani in your hands, it really feels like a premium product.
Control and Navigation
The main input device of the phone is the touchscreen; the mechanical elements play the secondary role, and there aren’t so many of them in the first place. These are the keys for accepting or declining the call, the buttons on the right for turning on the camera and blocking the input, and a volume control on the left.
All of them are quite convenient and have no faults. Only the location of the volume control in the lower bottom side part doesn’t seem to be where it’s supposed to – on other phones it’s usually positioned closer towards the top – so you will need to get used to it.
The touchscreen on Samsung P520 Armani, however, is not so great. The phone is made to be controlled via the “finger touch”. But sensitivity of the touch sensors is sometimes too low, so quite often you need to tap the touchscreen several times, in order to complete some action.
Besides, the screen is a bit too small for such interface: while using the menu might be comfortable enough, you notice the drawbacks immediately when typing messages, or even a number that is not in the phone book. You can control some items of the menu not by tapping your finger, but by moving it around the touchscreen, but it doesn’t work so well (you will be able to see all that on the video).
Samsung Armani video review
Armani Croix Interface
Let’s move on to the interface of the phone.
Samsung P520 Armani is one of the first models that has the new Samsung “Croix” interface. You could first have seen it in action in the video of Samsung F490 here.
Words don’t do this interface justice; while it is not revolutionary, and doesn’t improve the usability of the phone much, it makes up for this with the amazing eye-candy. At any time you can call up the fast-launch menu on the screen, which contains 5 options: Calls, Messages, Contacts, Player and the Menu.
When the phone is in the stand-by mode, you can access the fast launch menu by tapping the lit square in the center of the touchscreen; and when browsing the submenus, it will be located at the bottom part of the screen.
What strikes us as strange is the fact that the arrangement of the menu on Samsung Armani has been modified once again. It’s unclear why in every new phone from Samsung, you have to look for the same function in a different place – such politics of the company are surprising, to say the least.
As for parameters of the display, such as brightness, contrast and viewing angle, they are very good on Armani P520, like it usually is with Samsung products. The only letdown is the performance of the screen under direct sunlight: the information is readable, but barely so. Regrettably, Samsung either hasn’t mastered the transreflective displays yet, or doesn’t want to introduce them for some reason.
The functionality of the phone is on the same level as the majority of other modern Samsung models, despite P520 Armani being a fashion phone first and foremost. You can’t say that anything is missing; both the traditional and multimedia functions are well implemented. The only unusual thing for modern phones, Samsung and others, is the lack of Java support. It exists theoretically, because the preinstalled games on the phone run on Java, but you can’t install any additional applications or games.
What about the music features of the P520?
Samsung Armani doesn’t have the 3.5 mm audio output jack for connecting your on headphones, nor does the set come with an adapter for them. But it’s unlikely that customers would be buying this phone for listening to music in the first place, so not much is lost here.
The player application, however, is functional enough – it uses a new interface that leans on the minimalist side, but is quite convenient when you get used to the controls. It works in the background, showing information about the currently played song and the album cover on the screen.
Camera & Battery
The built-in 3.2 megapixel camera has a maximum photo resolution of 2048×1536. The interface of the camera is handy; the main options are displayed as icons on the side of the screen. You can get pretty good photos in daylight – nothing amazing, but not bad either.
However, there is a great deal of noise in the photos made indoors, and the built-in LED flash doesn’t save the situation.
You can apply a number of effects to your photos, funny borders, and more.
The Samsung P520 runs off a 960 mAh Li-Ion battery; with 30-40 minutes of daily phone talks and slight use of other functions, it should last three days on average. The phone rings loudly enough, although there is no separate speaker for the ringtones and it uses the same one as for the speech.
As expected, the impressions of Samsung Armani P520 are twofold.
On the one hand, it’s pleasant to use, has a good design, feels nice to touch and attracts genuine interest of the people around you, which is very important for a fashion phone like Samsung Armani.
On the other, there’s the lack of an ordinary keypad, a display too small for comfortable finger touch control, and it sometimes has an unexpected reactions to pressing several icons at once (this is actually a problem of most touchscreen devices).
If we compare Armani with the LG Prada, Samsung P520 is more interesting due to materials used for the casing – it just feels better in your hand.
Prada, however, wins a little in other area due to it’s slightly larger display – but it has the same problems with ergonomics.
When comparing the functionality, these two phones are fairly similar. The Samsung Armani will primarily be interesting to users who want a stylish and unusual phone for making calls and don’t need many other functions. It could also possibly be a secondary phone for use during holidays or fancy parties.
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