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Samsung Omnia 7 Review

4

The Samsung Omnia 7 is the first Windows Phone 7 offering from Samsung. It comes with a large 4-inch Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, and standard Windows Phone 7 specs such as a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash, GPS and Wi-Fi. We took a walk with the Samsung Omnia 7 to see what it had to offer us and how it differed from the other Windows Phone 7 smartphones currently out there.


What we like

Everything both looks and works fantastically well on the capacitive 4-inch Super AMOLED screen. Maps and web pages look pin sharp and scale nicely when you pinch to zoom in and out. We particularly liked the Maps application; it’s got some slick looks, processes direction requests quickly and makes a change from Google Maps, which we’re used to seeing everywhere on phones these days.

It’s very easy to compose emails and texts on the virtual Qwerty keypad. We liked the little confirmation ‘pip’ noise and haptic feedback that accompanied each keypress. The fact that letter tiles change from white to black when you tap on them make it easy to see which key you’re hitting and helps you to spot typos.

The Windows Phone 7 tile interface is unchanged from what we’ve seen on phones like the HTC HD7 or the LG Optimus 7. You can customise the layout of the Omnia 7’s main menu by pinning app shortcuts and icons to the homescreen, like you do on virtually every Windows Phone 7 phone. But again it both looks and works very well, largely due to the responsive touchscreen.

Adding email accounts (Gmail, Hotmail etc) and syncing your Facebook account info into one aggaregated stream is a feature of Windows Phone 7 we really like and we’re pleased to see it working as well here on the Omnia 7. There’s not much we can say here that we’ve not already said before (see our What is Windows Phone 7 feature for more info) so in the interests of space we’ll leave it out of this review.

The 5-megapixel camera is pretty good- it takes some good snaps and comes with a number of adjustable settings. You can easily switch from the camera to the camcorder which can shoot HD video at 720p. Again the sharpness and size of the screen comes into play here; unsurprisingly the pictures look super-rich and dazzingly colorful. The mechanical shutter key, mounted on the top of the phone, depresses nicely and responds well.

In our books there’s nothing worse than a stiff, unresponsive camera key on a phone, as this often leads to Mr. Blurrycam hell, no matter how good the camera itself actually is. So we’re happy to report that the Omnia 7’s camera key stands up to our expectations.

In fact, the overall build quality of the Samsung Omnia 7 is commendable. It feels solid, well-built and durable. The battery cover is a thin, lightweight metal sheet that clips snugly into place and adds a veneer of quality to the whole phone.


What we don’t like

It might sound like the pettiest gripe ever, but the positioning of the on/off power button of the Samsung Omnia 7 is baffling. It’s positioned in such a way that you’re likely to accidentally turn the phone off when holding it in your hand, as we accidentally did once. Once you’re aware of this particular quirk of the phone’s design it’s easily avoided. But it’d be even better if the button was place somewhere more sensible to begin with (like on the top of the phone).

The Samung Omnia 7, like most Windows Phone 7 phones, doesn’t come with a microSD card slot. While the 8GB of internal memory you do get is enough for a few playlists, apps and some photos – the fact that it can’t be expanded in anyway will frustrate some. Given that the camera shoots highly detailed pictures and and records HD video, it won’t take you long to fill up all that memory – here’s where being able to add a microSD card would really come in handy.

The LG Optimus 7 on the other hand has twice the amount of memory at 16GB, currently the only other Windows Phone 7 phone to offer this.

Those who are used to simply plugging phones in and syncing tunes through something like Windows Media Player might find that the set-up process here – which requires you to download Zune software – longwinded and frustrating. But it’s no more annoying than having to set up iTunes when you first get an iPhone for example.

Speaking of iTunes and the iPhone, one area where the Omnia 7 falls down on is in apps. Windows Phone 7 is a new platform and as such there’s not a lot out there in the way of apps at the moment. There’s some good quality games out there (Star Wars: Battle for Hoth, Earthworm Jim HD) but there’s just not as much on offer compared to the likes of the iTunes App Store or even the Android Market. We imagine that over time this will improve but for now there’s just not a lot of Windows Phone 7 apps out there.

Again, another drawback of the Samsung Omnia 7, stems from the fact that it’s a Windows Phone 7 phone. Because the minimum specifications for Win Pho 7 phones is so high, there’s not much to differentiate this from, say, the HTC HD7. For example the Omnia 7’s screen is slightly sharper and nicer looking than that of the HD7 as it’s a Super AMOLED. But the HD7’s screen is 4.3-inches – 0.3 inches bigger than the Omnia 7’s 4-inch screen. There’s not massive amount of difference between the two in terms of design or capabilities.


Conclusion

The Samsung Omnia 7 is a great looking handset with a decent camera and a large Super AMOLED touchscreen. It’s easy to use, websites, pictures and maps look great and the overall experience is a very slick and polished one. On the other hand, because of Microsoft’s high minimum specifications for Windows Phone 7 phones, there’s not much on offer here that’s different from similar devices.

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