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Samsung S8300 Ultra Touch
Samsung’s on a roll with this, the Ultra Touch being the third mobile handset bearing an 8 megapixel camera lens. They’ve gone with an amalgamation of form factors with this one – it has a touchscreen like the Pixon and it’s also a slider like the INNOV8. But enough talk let’s get on with the review.
What I love about the handset is that it’s extremely slim and sleek even though it comes as a slide down keypad that’s totally unnecessary, and it also has an 8 megapixel camera with an LED flash. It’s well designed for most part but there are few things that I was not too happy with. The 2.6-inch AMOLED capacitive touchscreen features a 240 x 400 pixel resolution with 16 million colors and a built in accelerometer and sensor. The display is also scratch resistant and very responsive.
What I didn’t like was the fact that the handset didn’t have a hot swap slot for the microSD card. Worse still you’ll have to remove the battery if you need to access it. Another problem I had was with the all-in-one micro USB port. If the battery was low I was unable to listen to music while charging. Thankfully the microphone adapter with the handsfree had a 3.5mm earphone socket so I was able to use my own set of earphones. On the same side as the USB port is a screen lock key followed by the camera key. Volume/Zoom keys were on the other side.
The reason I mentioned that the keypad was unnecessary was because the design was too flat and too thin, which made typing a little uneasy. Typing was not easy also because the delete key was onscreen (not physical). The distance between the keypad buttons and the delete was a little too far. I’ll also explain further on in the review how redundant the physical keypad actually is. The handset’s available in a Platinum Red or Platinum Blue option which gives it a very fresh look.
Features and Performance
The TouchWiz UI is well worked out and very finger-friendly. The responsiveness of the large screen coupled with the large options for selection on the UI make it a very user friendly handset as well. TouchWiz comes with a widget section on the desktop for those who aren’t aware. This section is loaded with quick access icons you can dump onto the desktop for one touch activation of features. The Widgets section can be neatly tucked away when not needed and the shortcuts can be customized. Very handy.
The one place that Nokia has most handset manufacturers beat is when it comes to screen rotating via an accelerometer. It does tend to be a little silly to have only specific screens rotate and the choice not to be in your hands. If a handset has an accelerometer, it should make allowances for rotating the entire menu and not just what the company deems fit for this purpose.
Some screens like the Photo Browser can only be viewed in landscape and like the Pixon you can tilt the handset to either side and watch the images slide on by. It’s easier to select the first image and use the flick control to navigate. But if your picture is in portrait, well, there’s nothing you can do about it from this menu. The tilt system also works from here. But the good thing is the categorization. The system can sort files out according to file name, time and even colors. This app takes its own sweet time to render hi res images sometimes.
Now, the reason why I believe that the Ultra Touch could have possibly been slimmer as well as lighter (not that it’s heavy at all) is if the physical keypad were non existent. The handset also has an onscreen keypad which is user friendly but if you make a mistake or need to make an addition in your text, getting to a specific point is not easy. This is the only time I’d go with a stylus. At least the iPhone and Arena offer a small preview for cursor placement and others usually have a nav-pad to move around. This is one of the two times the UI pi**ed me off.
The second was while web browsing and I had to enter data into a field. I tried using the slide down keypad and suddenly realized that there was no erase option for when I made a mistake. It was quite unnerving, till I tapped the screen twice and it pulled up an onscreen keypad. In landscape mode, the onscreen keypad stays in alphanumeric mode. There’s no QWERTY option. I’ll say it again. The keypad is practically useless. The only use it has for the upper portion is that it covers the camera lens.
Bearing a 5.1 Channel audio out function and setting in the handset I was very impressed with the overall sound quality and tone of the handset’s music player. The tones are well rounded and crisp. The EQ presets make a difference for preference but the WOW HD settings were not really a deal maker in any way. You can create playlists directly on the device and album view will showcase all of your files via Album art. What i could have used was a little more boost in the volume level. But it was still good as is.
The FM radio was just ok. Reception was decent in most places. There’s a recording option as well. Auto Scanning didn’t work out too well though. It took quite a while to locate stations in an area where reception was good and ended up finding just 4. The S8300 also has a voice recording option. There's even a Music Find option, which is the 'IN' thing these days to record and ID audio, not unlike Sony's TrackID or Motorola's Music ID feature.
Since the handset supports DivX and XviD playback, watching videos was a breeze. However, I did find that a few (only a few) videos with a DivX codec didn’t play video, just the audio. But the display is very conducive to watching videos comfortably. What irked me is that there was no resume playback feature and so I had to commence every video from the beginning and scanning seemed to only move forward or backward by 2 whole minutes. You can create multiple tags in the video but there didn’t seem to be any way to resume playback of the file. No amount of double tapping or other worked. It’s a good thing the display is scratch resistant. You can opt to use the scan bar by manually sliding your finger over it but make sure your aim is good.
The Video Editor is fun to play around with and although you can adjust video a bit with a few effects, you can’t replace or add any audio stored in MP3 format. You can trim and even split video files and create slide shows with images, but no music unfortunately. An image editor is also available. As usual Samsung has included only a few demos in the game section. If you’re paying so much for a handset is it too much to expect a few full free games? I think not. Way to cut corners Samsung.
The S8300 is a 3G ready mobile capable of HSDPA speed but for now we’ll have to settle for just plain old EDGE/GPRS and WAP. It offers no Wi-Fi. Bluetooth support is at version 2.1 with A2DP and USB is at v2.0 via micro connector. The handset’s browsing experience was not bad, but nothing to write home about. It has no support for flash content on websites. I didn't miss that... too much. It also has support for IMAP and POP3 email. That worked out just fine.
A Share pix feature allows you to upload images to social networking sites via your account. I can’t say to your favorite sites because again, there’s a preloaded set and you have no choice. There’s also an RSS reader for those who like to keep up to date on topics (this time) of their choice. Google also has its shortcut options easily available for Search, Mail and of course Google Maps for use with GPS.
Yes the Ultra Touch does have GPS. It even has a Geotagging option, though I wasn’t able to figure out how it worked. I saw the little flag option on the camera screen but it didn’t really indicate if it had found the location or not. I wasn’t too sure how long I’d need to wait either. Google Maps works great, GPS or no GPS. Again I’m not sure why this feature exists. Google Maps is a very capable application even without having to use a GPS antenna. A-GPS works perfectly even for navigation and getting directions. There’s no support for Google Latitude. For some odd reason though, and this occurred quite a few times, the My Location option showed that I was in the UK some where. I wish I were but alas that’s not the case. And it pin pointed the location up to a 1000 meters somewhere in Glasgow. I think I took a trip into the twilight zone.
All the regular features are preset like the Calendar for keeping appointments and reminders etc. There’s also a stop Watch and Timer, Calculator with a Converter and even a World Clock. Alarm and the Memo or Task option can be used as a widget and dropped onto the desktop. For anyone with a bad memory (like me) who wants to make a quick note or reminder this is extremely handy. Samsung’s also got it’s proprietary Mobile tracker application on board in case of a theft. MS documents can also be read. However large PDF files will be a problem to open.
The best contribution from the company to the consumer is the handset’s 8 Megapixel autofocus camera. The LED flash is also quite handy but the other features are what really makes the camera stand out. It features – Face and Smile detection, Image Stabilization, WDR (Wide Dynamic Range) and even a 6 shot, auto-stitch, Panorama mode amongst others. A list of scene modes are also present and it's video recorder is capable of recording video with a resolution of 720 x 480 pixels at 30 frames per second.
Images look crisp and quite clear even up close.
The handset allows you to really get quite close to subjects in Macro mode and the detail in native resolution looks really good.
The Face and Smile detection works like a charm.
Panorama goes up to 6 pics consecutively and all you have to do is move the camera.
The S8300's battery life was not bad at all. Averaging about 3 hours and 20 minutes worth of talk time and almost two full days of usage on a single charge. I was able to surf the net, play music, make a few calls and send messages and even upload images and watch a little video within this period.
The Bottom Line
The reason this entire review may sound like a little on the rougher side is because I sincerely believe that S8300 has been drastically shortchanged by the manufacturers and designers. With a price tag of Rs. 27,500 that includes just a 1GB memory and no free games with unnecessary features like the physical keypad when there’s good onscreen option available and such, there’s no way to justify its 8MP camera that’s the most redeeming feature in the handset.
Of course there are plenty of other great features but each with their own minor quirks. It’s a good looking handset but if you’re looking for an 8MP mobile shooter, a better option is still the Pixon. If you’re just looking for flash and a great camera and can get past all the oddities, then you could choose to spend your money on the S8300, but I wouldn’t recommend it. What a waste.