Reviews  

Samsung S8500 Wave

Nikhil Pradhan 2010-08-14
87 Very Good
Price: Rs 18,000

Full Review

The S8500 Wave represents a bold move from Samsung. Instead of coming out with another smartphone based on Symbian, Android or Windows Mobile, Samsung decided that through the Wave they would debut their very own OS- Bada (and not just a UI like TouchWIZ). Although, with all the various mobile OSes floating about, what we needed least was another OS fragmenting the smartphone ecosystem, Bada seems determined to impress and so does the Samsung Wave.

Colors on the screen look very rich and vibrant and it even maintains visibility under sunlight making the Wave’s screen one of the best smartphone screens in the market today.


The Bada OS- Larger Than Life?

Although the inception of a brand new OS seems like a risky move, one look at Bada suggests that Samsung wanted to work from what they already knew.

Therefore, if I was to casually generalize what the OS was, I would say it was a mix-up of Android with Samsung’s own TouchWIZ interface. There are many small and noticeable touches that Bada shares with Google’s mobile OS, the primary being the notification bar. Like in Android, the top of the Wave’s screen hides a notification bar that displays if you have a missed call, a message/e-mail and the status of the battery, Wi-Fi etc. You can slide it down to get further details and the bar remains constant throughout the UI except when you are in certain apps and games.

Another similarity is the homescreen (or should I say homescreens). Like in Android, Bada allows you to have multiple homescreens which can host your widgets, shortcuts, favorite contacts etc. There is even a slowly panning wallpaper that slightly shifts as you flick between homescreens. Even the settings menus are arranged in a clean and organized manner that’s similar to Android. And finally, most apps will throw up a context sensitive menu from the bottom just the way Android does it.

(From l-r) the Samsung Wave's Homescreen, Main Menu & Task Manager.

The TouchWIZ touches exist in the form of a side scrolling main menu that can span out to multiple pages. Also, the widgets bar is similar to other Samsung phones such as the OmniaHD and the Monte except for the fact that it has moved to the bottom of the screen rather than on the left side.

Now that all the similarities have been pointed out, how does the actual OS work? Well, I’m happy to mention that the OS worked smoothly without any major hiccups. The Wave displays its multi-tasking capabilities front and center and all you need to do is press and hold the central hardware button and a simple task manager opens up that lets you either close running apps or switch to them. I came across a couple of minor issues with multi-tasking; the most irritating of which was the absence of a permanent back button. Although many apps have a virtual back button, many still don’t. In the case that there isn’t a back button, the Wave expects you to either kill the app by pressing the Call End button or press the central button to go back to the main menu. There is no “one-step back” button, which was missed. Also, in many of the games and apps I installed on the phone, there was no exit button, which meant that after jumping to the main menu, I was being forced to open the task manager and end the task from there. Another issue is that all homescreen widgets exist as one application in the task manager which means that if by mistake you press the end all applications button in the task manager, you will have to re-organize all the widgets on the homescreens. Fortunately, the phone runs smoothly even with multiple applications running in the background and I noticed no slowdown issues.

The Samsung Wave is supplemented by the newly built Samsung Apps store. Although there aren’t that many apps in the store to speak of, the fact that there are close to 500 apps already present paints a rosy picture.

Design & Usability

The Samsung’s 3.3-inch capacitive touchscreen offers a very smooth touch experience. In fact, this was probably the best touch experience that I have had on a phone after the iPhone 3GS. Of course, the screen itself is marvelous to look out. It’s a Super AMOLED display capable of 16M color output at a resolution of 480x800 pixels. Colors on the screen look very rich and vibrant and it even maintains visibility under sunlight making the Wave’s screen one of the best smartphone screens in the market today.

The Wave itself is a sleek phone with the right mixture of glass, matte metal and glossy plastic. It offers solid build quality, is quite slim and has a slim profile.

Features

The Samsung Wave ticks all the right boxes in terms of connectivity features. It offers support for Wi-Fi, 3G and GPS. The Wave also has a 5MP camera (capable of recording 720p video) with an LED flash and internal storage of 1.5GB, 390MB of which is usable by the user. It comes bundled with a 2GB microSD card and its slot can accept cards up to 32GB.

Multimedia, Browsing etc.

When it comes to multimedia performance, the Samsung Wave is an exceptional performer. Its 5MP camera takes good looking (albeit color-wise slightly dull) pictures with very low noise levels. Its LED flash is really powerful and you will definitely have no problems taking night shots. As mentioned before, the camera can shoot 720p videos. The videos I shot were crisp and were comparable to videos shot by many entry-level cameras.


An outdoor image and a close-up image shot with the Samsung Wave's 5MP camera (click on images to enlarge in new window).

Predictably, the Samsung’s music playback is also very good. Music (especially acoustic, jazz and classical tracks) sounded natural with no unnatural sound coloring. The Wave offers plenty of sound enhancements and EQ options and comes bundled with a high quality pair of in-ear phones. The external speaker could have been louder and looking at how plenty of phones nowadays come with external stereo speakers, I’m surprised Samsung didn’t pack the Wave with a pair.

The Wave supports playback of plenty of video formats including DivX/XviD. So, I popped in plenty of DivX movies and even some 720p .MKV movies and the Wave played them all without fault. The video player also has a cool feature which splits a video into multiple segments letting you choose and jump directly to that segment instead of blindly dragging the timeline around. Of course, the screen makes even full-length movies watchable in spite of the relatively small size.

The Wave sports a WebKit based browser that has features such as multi-tab/window support, bookmarks manager and Flash support. Unfortunately, the browser doesn’t fit text on webpages automatically to the screen so you will be forced to use your fingers to zoom in to the text. Apart from that, I had no complaints with either the browser’s rendering or speed.

The Samsung Wave’s battery is surprisingly powerful and although the phone heats up after gaming for about 45 mins, the battery had just gone down by a bar. The Wave’s call quality was also good except that at times voices on the line tended to go a little soft.

Bottom Line

At its Indian price of Rs. 18,000, the closest competition that the Samsung Wave has is from Nokia’s N97mini, another touchscreen phone with good multimedia features. However, irrespective of a hardware QWERTY keyboard and a more mature OS with app support to match, I would pick the Wave for its great screen, excellent touch UI and top-notch multimedia performance.

Also read the reviews of:

Nokia X6

Samsung i9000 Galaxy S

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10

Nokia N900

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