It's a good time to be taking pictures with your phone. No, we don't literally mean this second -- we mean that the selection of devices in the market today that are capable of producing decent shots is greater and more diverse than ever before. 3.2 and 5 megapixel autofocus sensors (and soon, 8) combined with uncharacteristically potent flashes mean that leaving the point-and-shoot at home is starting to be a realistic option. How does Samsung's shiny G800 slider with optical zoom -- all 5 megapixels of it -- stack up against the fray? Read on to get a taste.
Out of the box, the G800 is one of the most visually distinctive Samsungs we've ever seen. For some, it'll be stunningly beautiful -- but for others, it'll be stunningly awful. A chromed finish and glossy display together dominate the front, meaning two things: one, it's an attention grabber, and two, fingerprints are a constant threat (picture the hindquarters of a well-loved iPod). Around back, brushed metal accents help to quell the rampant smudges. Speaking of the back, from this angle, you'd pretty much swear it was a camera, yeah? We figure that's the idea: pure phone on one side, pure cam on the other. Somehow, Samsung manages to meld 'em well.
Closed, the G800 is within millimeters of the Nokia N95 -- which also clocks in at 5 megapixels but lacks the G800's xenon flash -- in every dimension. That's all good for height and width, but thickness is another story; pudge could definitely be an issue here. We're more inclined to give the N95 a mulligan in that department since it's a bonafide smartphone that isn't trying to win any beauty contests. Anyway, it may not be an issue for most folks, but just keep in mind that if you're coming from a U600, you're in for a bit of an adjustment.
The display looks great and really showcases Samsung's trademark UI. As we touched on before, it's important to note here that the G800 is most certainly not a smartphone, it's just a typical Samsung slider with a huge honkin' camera tacked onto the back. In that respect, we'd peg the Sony Ericsson K850i as the G800's closest competition -- both lack an open platform, the camera specs are similar, and both include ACCESS' highly regarded NetFront browser for navigating the 'nets. We'd give the edge to the K850i for innovation and that intangible geek factor, while the Samsung features a true, 3x optical zoom, does a better job blending in with the crowd, and both looks and functions like a typical fashion phone. As they say, pick your poison.
We were generally happy with the G800's usability, albeit with a couple nitpicks (what phone doesn't have nitpicks?). The keypad, while attractive, offers virtually zero tactile feedback. It's really weird, because it looks like it has ridges between rows -- but nope, nothing. Just pure, smooth metal from one edge to the other. Needless to say, that makes no-look dialing just a little tricky. Secondly, the phone's two soft keys are pushed toward the outer edge with a giant, oblong d-pad in the middle. That placement made it a little unintuitive to associate those soft keys with the labels on the display. Of course, you'd get used to that in about 15 minutes of use.
Picture quality was great for a phone, subpar for a camera. Makes sense, right? Colors seemed unusually washed out with the flash enabled, but it's nothing that couldn't be retouched back to normal. Obviously, these samples here have been reduced significantly from their raw size of 2560 x 1920, but we'd recommend some amount of reduction anyways to fudge out imperfections in the phone's tiny optics.
So, can the G800 be recommended? As an average Samsung slider with a pretty decent camera tagging along for the ride, it's an unqualified "yes" -- particularly if you're in an area of the world where you can enjoy its support for 7.2Mbps HSDPA on the 2100MHz band (read: not the US). If you're in the States and you need 3G, though, the K850i and N95-3 still take the prize.