Amongst the horde of Windows Phone 7 handsets that arrived on launch day, the Samsung Omnia 7 was the one that stood out from the crowd for me.
Each of the devices had their own selling point, but personally I would take the incredible Super AMOLED display over a few extra megapixels, for example. Suffice it to say I got one and my hopes were high from the outset, so in case you were wondering whether it lives up to expectations, here’s the full review.
In terms of design the device is very slim and relatively light, which took me a little by surprise as I was unpacking the device. Considering it is almost comparable size to the likes of the HTC Desire HD, it’s a featherweight in comparison. The front of the device is obviously filled mostly with the 4″ Super AMOLED display which I will touch on later, but below that it features the customary Windows Phone 7 back, start and search buttons.
Samsung has decided to go with a physical, very iPhone-esque start button, sandwiched in between a pair of touch-sensitive buttons. This has caused a little problem for me during normal use, as it is extremely easy to tap the search button in particular (as I’m right-handed) bringing up an albeit handsome Bing search application, which gets annoying after a few times. At the top there’s a speaker above the traditional Samsung logo.
Round the outside of the device you have various controls, quite typical of modern smartphones, though one addition that I find extremely useful at times is the physical camera button which gives you the advantage of not having to launch the camera application, you can simply tap from the start screen and go.
Above that on the right hand side you have the lock button, atypically positioned but means if you hold the phone like me, you don’t have to move anything but your thumb to operate it. On the left you have only the volume controls, which are quite tactile, though just stiff enough so you don’t accidentally press them. On top we have a 3.5mm headphone jack and a sliding-door covering the microUSB port.
On the rear of the device we have the 5-megapixel, 720p shootin’ camera with LED flash positioned above the detachable back which is removed by a simple press on a lever-type button at the bottom of the device. Apart from that we have not a lot bu the rear speaker and Samsung and Windows Phone 7 logos.
Unlike many, if not all, of Samsung’s devices, the Omnia 7 is not crafted from a cheap-grade plastic, instead opting for a seemingly cheap-grade metal. Despite that, it feels structurally solid and is generally an improvement. It also aids in keeping the device light and gives it a smooth and polished feel when holding it in your palm. The back of the device, interestingly, is a sort of dark bronze colour, whilst the front and edges remain a traditional black. I have to say the design, whilst quite generic, is one of the real strong points of the Samsung Omnia 7.
Internally it has the customary 1GHz Snapdragon processor and a meagre 8GB of internal storage, though you do get 16GB on the Asian version for some unknown reason. Apart from that, connectivity is all there: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G, GPS etc. Nothing new nor exciting here instead just opting for the now expected and necessary options.
The key selling point of the device is of course the display, as I mentioned briefly earlier. The 4″ Super AMOLED display is probably the second best display on any mobile device right now, being pipped only by the Retina display on the new iPhone 4 and iPod Touch.
With 480×800 becoming the de facto standard for modern displays it is no surprise, however it would have been nice to up that for the Omnia 7 to really knock the competition for six, as well as create a platform for the plethora of Android devices coming next year. However, this is not the case and that’s not to say that the display is bad, far from it in fact. It is by far and away the best display available on a Windows Phone 7 device and when compared to the HTC HD7 it really is a case of quality over quantity. The 4″ screen estate allows for plenty of room when browsing the web and the sheer brightness and sharpness of the colours on the Super AMOLED is visually quite striking, though this does mean that several of the coloured themes become extremely bright, almost unbearable.
The quality of the display plays a big part in determining how usable the device is. Having owned a Sony Ericsson Satio for almost a year I know just how frustrating a poor quality touchscreen can be and just how restricting too. Thankfully, the Super AMOLED allows the on-screen keyboard and browsing the web perfectly accurate and when swiping around the WP7 interface, which you do alot, feels smooth, snappy and comfortable.
The camera on the Samsung Omnia 7 is nothing out of the ordinary. With 5-megapixels and the ability to shoot 720p video it isn’t bad, but it is not the key selling point, the differentiation of the device at all, which means what you got is nothing more than ordinary. For basic shots in good light it can be excellent quality and the autofocus works well, but shooting in the dark is a bit of a let down with the LED flash slacking behind the xenon flash in the HTC Mozart, for example.
There is no doubt that this a strong device. Out of the Windows Phone 7 devices I have tried and tested in store it is definitely my favourite and I am warming to the size of the display over any other. There just feels a balance to it that you don’t get with the monstrous 4.3-5″ devices found in an increasing number of smartphones.
It has its flaws, though, for example no obvious support for expansion of storage and the built in 8GB isn’t really enough if you’re a keen media horder. On the other hand though there is always the Zune Pass which Microsoft are obviously trying to push and it’s only a matter of time before SkyDrive integration arrives.
Having used the phone for roughly a month, I have found it very easy to live with as I have with Windows Phone 7 in itself, I am still enjoying the device and find it a solid all rounder. Not the best device, nor the most outstanding in the general smartphone market, but until the next batch of WP7 devices come out next year, I would strongly recommend that if you are looking for a device running Microsoft’s new mobile OS then look no further than the Samsung Omnia 7.