When Samsung signalled its intention to overtake Nokia and become the UK’s number one handset manufacturer, we didn’t realise they were going to use Nokia to make it happen!
The i8510 isn’t the first time Samsung has employed Nokia’s Series 60 user interface, but it’s by far the most impressive looking. Compared to the N96, the i8510 has everything except the DVB-H television receiver, which won’t even work here until the relevant licenses are issued. As this could be as far away as 2012, you won’t exactly miss it.
Samsung has produced the i8510 with 8GB or 16GB of storage. The latter matches the N96, while the additional microSD slot enables you to add a further 8GB, or 16GB in the near future. If you decide to add a card, it means you get a C: drive (internal memory), E: drive (8 or 16GB) and a further F: drive. The phone collates files automatically from all three locations, so you can fill every single byte with music and not have to change folders in the music player to access them.
It’s more likely you’ll want to use the storage for a range of things though. In addition to the Quick Office application that lets you view Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, you can also view PDFs and manage ZIP files. Or you could just use it for pictures and video. Samsung has packed the phone with the latest edition of RealPlayer, including support for DivX files and with the large 16-million colour display, it’s perfect for movies. The video camera will also record at 640×480 pixels (VGA) and can record in two slow-motion modes, like the LG Viewty, for super slow playback, Six Million Dollar Man style.
On the camera side, the phone has an 8-megapixel sensor. More pixels doesn’t always mean better pictures, but the camera really is something else. For more information about it, check the separate box below.
The build quality of the phone is excellent too. In fact, it’s a way of showing Nokia how a slider should be built. There’s no sideways movement on the slide, and that’s even after I managed to drop the phone no less than three times in the first week (tip; attach a strap to the phone as soon as you can). Besides a bit of chipped paint on one edge, it’s as good as new. Certainly a product to inspire confidence.
Size 0 need not apply
Size wise, it’s no Ultra Edition. Of course, neither are any of the Nokia Nseries models that this competes with. It’s hard to make it small when there’s so much going on inside and users also want a large screen to enjoy the multimedia.
I’m glad Samsung wasn’t tempted to shave off a few millimetres by using a smaller battery. Instead, the battery is large enough to last a whole day, even when you’re picking it up every few minutes to play with it. Again, Nokia should look at this phone and take note.
There’s so much you can do with a S60 phone, but a lot of people never realise how many applications you can get.
With the i8510, Samsung has preinstalled a range of applications to get you going. These include Shozu, for sharing content with almost every online service known to man, like Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and most blog sites, plus a copy of Route 66 SatNav software. Maps must be purchased separately, so if you want to use the GPS receiver straight away, there’s Google Maps installed as well.
Amongst the other applications, including CNN, Yahoo! Go and two games (Asphalt3 and FIFA 08), the phone also has a Roadsync for hooking up to your Microsoft Exchange server for email.
The ordinary email client is rather basic, but the web browser is excellent. Featuring a full desktop view, the other trick up Samsung’s sleeve is the virtual mouse pointer. By gliding your finger over the D-pad, you can move a mouse pointer over links and scroll around with ease. This also extends to normal phone operation, but can be turned off if preferred.
The screen also rotates as you turn it, and because it’s part of the OS, this works on almost every application.
As long as you use a PC, the software is virtually identical to Nokia’s PC Suite, letting you back-up data, sync contacts, manage your content or hook the PC up to the net. With support for HSDPA at 7.2Mbps, and Wi-Fi 802.11b & g, it’s fully connected.
On the side is a 3.5mm headphone socket, which doubles up as the video out port. While the TV lead is extra (but the N95 one works fine), Samsung has bundled a pair of decent in-ear ‘phones. Or, you can pair up wirelessly using Bluetooth.
All things considered, this must be another five-star rated product? Well, not quite. The i8510 is undoubtedly the best S60 multimedia phone you’re going to get, but losing a signal too easily in poor coverage areas lets it down. I often saw ‘Limited service’, and if you’re travelling a lot, this could be a big problem.
If you’re mostly in a car, a car kit that supports the SIM Access Bluetooth profile will give you a separate transceiver and antenna, but when you’re on foot it’s something you need to bear in mind. However, the odd missed call might be a worthy compromise for having the ultimate all-rounder.
Higher pixel counts won’t always produce better pictures. With the need to keep the size down, smaller sensors are used that can struggle to let in enough light to produce decent images. This might not matter in perfect lighting conditions, but it can have a drastic effect on everything else. To compensate, noise reduction filters are used that gives softened images that lack impact.
This isn’t the case with the i8510, which works well in all conditions, although it can slightly over expose if you take extreme close ups with the super bright LED flash.
Besides the shutter lag you’ll need to get used to, the i8510 produces sharp photos that are comparable to a standalone digital camera.
The camera interface is also different to the one used by Nokia, introducing a wealth of cool features like face, smile and blink detection (photos can be taken automatically when the subject smiles), easy access shortcuts via the keypad and GPS geotagging.
There’s also an improved picture viewer and lots of video options including slow motion.
- 3G + HSDPA + Wi-Fi
- 8-megapixel camera
- 8 or 16GB + microSD
There’s too many good things to mention here; this is the ultimate multimedia powerhouse
Signal reception can be an issue in weak coverage areas
If you’ve been looking to upgrade from your Nokia N95, it’s sensible to assume the N96 is your logical choice. However, ignore the i8510 at your peril. Not only does the specification list impress, but the quality and performance is exceptional; from the media player (with DivX support) to the pictures produced by its amazing camera.
Because it employs Nokia’s S60 user interface, it’s easy to use and work just like any Nseries phone. In fact, the only reason this isn’t a five star handset is because it can lose signal a little too quickly in rural areas. If you can live with that, this is the best S60 smartphone ever (at the time of writing!).
RATINGS (OUT OF 5)
Watch the tutorial video that comes on the i8510: