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    Samsung Wave S8500 review

    Myriam Joire, @tnkgrl
    September 30, 2010
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    For some of us jaded and cynical gadget bloggers, getting a feature phone to review is somewhat painful. We grumble and roll our eyes, then put the box in a corner of the office for "later." See, feature phones are really just wannabe smartphones -- like a walled garden full of weeds and broken glass, most feature phones are crippled with restrictions and a crappy user experience. But somehow this time, when we finally opened the box, we discovered something different: a smartphone disguised as a feature phone. The Samsung Wave S8500 was announced with great fanfare at Mobile World Congress in February, and was (at the time) the first device to showcase the Bada mobile platform, the first to feature a Super AMOLED display, and the first to offer Bluetooth 3.0.

    Let's dive in and take a look at what the Wave is all about -- and what it's not.

    Gallery: Samsung Wave S8500 review | 33 Photos

    Hardware

    For a feature phone, the Wave boasts a remarkable list of specs, seemingly lifted right off a high-end smartphone: 1GHz Cortex-A8 CPU, PowerVR SGX 540 GPU, 512MB of RAM, WiFi b / g / n, Bluetooth 3.0, GPS / A-GPS, FM radio, video output, compass and accelerometer. Unfortunately, there's no provision for 3G in North America: the GSM radio, which is unlocked, supports quad-band EDGE but only dual band HSPA (900 / 2100 MHz). Behind the battery door, you'll find the usual SIM and microSD slots (not hot-swappable), plus a generous 1500mAh battery. We managed to clock an impressive 3 days of moderate use (including camera, music playback and web browsing) with WiFi enabled and Bluetooth disabled, all while polling three Gmail accounts. There's only about 390MB of on-board storage available, and our review unit arrived without a microSD card, so we supplied our own.

    Camera

    Samsung is no stranger to putting nice cameras in its high-end devices, and the Wave is no exception. It features a 5 megapixel autofocus camera with macro, single LED flash, and support for 720p video recording. While these specs are relatively pedestrian nowadays, the resulting pictures and videos are well above average. Shots contain sufficient detail and exhibit accurate color balance and exposure. Low-light performance is surprisingly good, and noise is kept under control. Video recording is silky smooth (30fps sustained), with few compression artifacts and great audio. There's both touch-to-focus and a dedicated 2-stage camera button, but the autofocus is not available when recording video. The interface is easy to use and similar to what Samsung offers on its point-and-shoot cameras. There's a plethora of settings, including panorama and smile detection modes, as well as manual controls such as ISO and white balance. The icing on the cake is a full suite of tools to edit, tag and upload your pictures and videos to popular sites like Flickr and YouTube. The combination of a decent sensor and optics, dedicated controls, an intuitive interface, and a variety of settings make the Wave an excellent phone for taking pictures or recording video.

    Gallery: Samsung Wave camera samples | 31 Photos


    Software

    Media is where the Wave shines, especially video playback. The music player sounds excellent and features a CoverFlow-like interface in landscape mode, but there's no gapless playback (the music pauses between tracks). The video player supports a staggering array of formats (including DIvX, XviD and MKV), and handles 720p flawlessly. The photo viewer is easy to navigate, with pinch-to-zoom and the aforementioned full suite of tools to edit, tag and upload your content. The Wave also provides some handy additional features, such as a WiFi hotspot (super rare for a feature phone) and Bluetooth / USB tethering, which we fully expect carriers to nix on subsidized models.

    Wrap-up

    The Wave is a lot like a baby Galaxy S. What you lose in screen size and performance, you gain with better materials, build quality, battery life, and camera features (namely an LED flash and a dedicated 2-stage camera button). Bada, surprisingly, behaves a lot like a baby Android. It arguably provides the best feature phone experience currently available, but still leaves us craving for more. In North America, where we have 4 subsidized variants of the the Galaxy S to chose from, the Wave makes little sense (especially without the required 3G bands). But for the rest of the world, we're pretty sure the Wave is one of the best wannabe smartphones available.
















    In this article: bada, mobile, review, s8500, samsung, wave
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