Samsung G810 review

Right after introducing Samsung SGH-G800 – a GSM camera phone with an optical zoom – Samsung released its successor, a slider marked Samsung SGH-G810.

While both phones have a very advanced photography features, they are very different in almost everything else.

Samsung G800 is a feature camerphone with Samsung’s own OS, while Samsung G810 is a Symbian S60 smartphone which happens to have a very good good camera, and tons of other advanced features as well.

With SGH-G810, Korean company decided to take a risky gamble, aim for the throne of the Symbian empire and unseat currently reigning Nokia N95. Samsung G810 model is more functional than Nokia’s N95 and packs a 5 MPx camera with a Xenon flash and a 3x optical zoom.

Comparisons between the G810, N95 and other high end Nokia smartphones are inevitable, so expect a lot of these in the review.

Samsung G810 design

Samsung SGH-G810 looks solid and business-like, made to fit the tastes of as many users as possible. It is similar in size to N95, but has more rounded edges. There’s something missing in the simple look of the phone – the Samsung G810 doesn’t stand out at all, and would probably have benefited from some bolder design decisions.

On the other hand, the plain looks may appeal to a wide audience not looking for a latest fashion gimmick, but preferring a solid and feature rich business smartphone instead.

Samsung G810 is mostly metallic, with front and back panels made from aluminum. There is also a nice looking, textured metallic cover around the camera lens. The quality of assemblage is very good – all covers stay securely in place. Samsung deserves a praise here, as phones made by them are often assembled much better than their Nokia counterparts.

The only unusual accent in the design of Samsung G810 are the stripes of textured plastic on the sides of the phone:

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The metallic back cover has a plastic “lining” which makes it stay securely in place and prevents it from bending in:

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Sasmsung SGH-G810 ergonomics

Samsung G810 doesn’t have touch sensors – only the good old mechanics. Despite the size of the device, the buttons on its keyboard are pretty close together, especially the navigational ones. They are pretty stiff and go in only a short way when pressed; as a result, it feels like the phone is reacting to the actions of the user reluctantly.

Samsung G810 keyboard is pretty large and convenient enough, but the decorative frame does not serve any function; moving the Call and Cancel buttons down to the keypad might not have been the best decision either. It would also be nice if the control buttons were marked for what they are:

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Thanks to the rounded edges, Sasmung G810 fits in your hand nicely. The slider opens very smoothly, although the spring is pretty tight. There’s no special handle for your finger, so you have to lean either on the bottom edge, or the joystick; thankfully, the latter is pretty stiff and that saves you from accidental usage.

The Samsung SGH-G810 slider when opened:

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Opening the lens cover turns on the camera and switches the phone to photo mode automatically. Unlike the other moving parts in the device, it is too light as merely taking the phone out of the pocket often results in the cover opening partially or even completely.

Samsung G810 interface

Samsung G810 possesses the standard ports, such as microSD memory slot and a 3.5 mm audio jack for connecting headphones. What’s unusual is the fact that it also has a MicroUSB port; it is a standard that is quickly gaining popularity among other producers like Nokia and Motorola as well.

As a result, finding accessories for the Samsung G810 should be easier than for the other smartphones of the company, as these are only equipped with Samsung’s own interface ports. It is also important to note that this phone can be charged through the USB, while similar models from Nokia can’t. Wireless interfaces of the Samsung G810 are also standard for top range smartphones and include WiFi and Bluetooth.

Samsung SGH-G810 functions

The basic business and multimedia functions of the Samsung G810 are defined by its operating system. The Address book, Organizer, a client for all kinds of messages, browser, music player, Quick Office suite and a number of other utilities all come with the S60 platform. However, it is not out of the question that in the future the phone will have additional software.

Note that unlike in Nokia’s N-series phones, you won’t find applets which give you access to online services here.

Samsung G810 camera

Turning on the camera on Samsung G810 takes a few seconds – about as much as in the Nokia N82 – and initialization of the transfocator (zoom converter) takes a second or two more. Focusing is done by means of pressing the start button halfway, which is more convenient than expected. Zoom is controlled with a little scroll on the same side of the phone and a bit closer to the lens; its sensitivity is just right, too.

Unlike the camera of the Samsung G800 which was typical for a Korean camera phone, the one built in Samsung G810 is more like cameras in the newest generation of Nokia devices. Even the artifacts found in zoomed-in photos made with N82 and G810 look similar. You get the impression that Samsung engineers received the camera from Nokia together with the S60 platform, and only added their own optics to it.

What does this mean for the Samsung G810? Like mentioned before, photos made with this phone are very much like the ones made with latest Nokia smartphones. The Samsung SGH-G810 doesn’t have the old problem with determining the white balance that plagued most of Samsung camera phones: on the contrary, it has accurate focusing, proper exposure meter, and optimal balance between picture detail and level of noise, which shows correct functioning of sharpening and noise reduction algorithms.

The Samsung G810 camera exposure setting was raised a little by default in the options of the device we tested; as a result, the photos were slightly brighter than the ones made with N82. However, we’re talking about exposure correction here, not errors in determining the lighting or the color detection. Samsung is fully capable of producing vivid colors in images without losing details in brighter parts of the picture. As for exposure, you can set it manually, not to mention that the producer will be able to change it in the next version as well.

The optical zoom works fast enough, zooming in to 3x smoothly and without any problems. There’s also another new function in the G810 – face recognition, which detects the important area for portrait photos with almost 100% accuracy.

The textured ring around the lens and the Xenon flash make the G810 look like a real digital camera:

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The location and the sensitivity of the shutter button is perfect:

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Comparison of photo quality of Nokia N82 and Samsung G810

Both camera phones were used to make photos of the same scenes in fully automatic mode. Here are the results we got:

  • The phones produced great, detailed pictures but in strongly lit environment the slight overexposure of Samsung G810 led to a loss of detail.
  • Strong backlight caused no problems for Nokia N82, but resulted in a vertical lens flare in the optics of the camera of G810.
  • Both camera phones worked well in average room lighting, using the flash to light the scene when needed.
  • Taking pictures of architecture in overcast weather produced great, detailed photos; however, no camera phone could cope with the uniform gray sky.

Here’s some sample pictures taken with Samsung G810 – Sample 1, Sample 2, Sample 3. And you can compare them to the pics made with Nokia N82 – Sample 1, Sample 2, Sample 3. :

Samsung G810 Navigation

The performance of Samsung’s and Nokia’s “navigational phones” is almost identical – they both need nearly 5 minutes for a “cold start” and up to 10-15 seconds for a “warm start”, which is quite acceptable for pedestrian navigation. The accuracy is usually around 20-30 meters. Granted, devices using the SiRF Star III chip can boot up much faster and are more accurate, but they’re also usually bigger than the Samsung G810, too.

Nokia Maps is the default navigational application in the S60 platform, but the user can optionally install other software, such as Garmin Mobile XT or iGo on Samsung Navi G810. It’s unclear yet what Samsung is going to choose for the commercial model, but according to the last news, it might be Route 66.

Samsung G810 Navi also has geotagging – a function which applies a tag to the photo with the name of the location where it was made.

Samsung G810 phone and PC synchronization

Samsung’s PC studio software is used for connecting the Samsung G810 to a computer; it also supports all other Symbian based company’s products.

I say “Samsung’s”, but it is in fact Nokia PC Suite with minor cosmetic changes. Note that if you already are using Nokia PC Suite, Samsung’s PC Studio will outright refuse to install – this might pose a big problem if you use both Nokia and Samsung smartphones and want to use the synchronization function.

Similarly to Nokia smartphones, the Samsung G810 can synchronize it’s data with Outlook; you can even enable automatic data exchange on each connection. Just to remind, the Samsung SGH-G810 can also be charged through the USB, while Nokia devices cannot.

Conclusions

Samsung SGH-G810 is a rather successful product, with the powerful built-in camera as its highlight. It is slightly inferior only to the very best mobile imaging devices out there; what’s more, it has something that its competitors do not – an optical zoom. From my experience with digital cameras, even an average user should find it useful.

This model was clearly created as an alternative for Nokia N95, with a goal to overtake it in terms of features and functions in mind. This idea might not be the best one, as the consumer often chooses a product which came out first; besides, the N95 isn’t the big thing anymore: nowadays most people buy either N82 or N95 8 GB (which, by the way, loses in some areas to the Korean smartphone and wins in others). As a result, the buyer has to make a difficult decision. It might have been easier if the G810 had a more unique design and at least 8 GB of built-in flash memory. Nevertheless, this new model from Samsung is, on many counts, right there at the top with the leaders.

The estimated price of the Samsung SGH-G810 is $580.

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