The Samsung Omnia 7 is the second Windows Phone 7 handset we’ve seen, following the excellent LG Omnia 7. It boasts a Super AMOLED screen, advanced photo features and an eBook hub.
Note: We discuss the Windows Phone 7 interface, including People and email more in our LG Optimus 7 review
Samsung Omnia 7: Design and build
Alongside volume, shutter and power controls, the micro USB port has a slide-out cover. Samsung’s opted for touch control Back and Bing search buttons, although there’s a press-down Windows button. You get a 3.5mm jack and 16GB internal memory, but no card slot.
The screen is excellent. Despite having the same 800x480 resolution of the LG Optimus 7, Super AMOLED technology make a real difference, blacks appear deep and inky, white text is pin sharp and colours are incredibly bold. We’d liken it to comparing the sets of a plasma TV to an LCD from a few years ago.
Controls such as pinch to zoom, double tap (for resizing) and swiping are effective. Despite running a 1Ghz processor browsing via Internet Explorer isn’t as quick a we’d have liked. There’s no Flash support either.
Samsung Omnia 7: Interface
The start screen consists of tiles. These are either interactive ‘hubs’ like People and Gaming, which move (the People hub is continually updated with tiny pictures of your contacts) - or shortcuts to applications, web pages and favourite contacts.
The tiles snaky vertically down the screen and you can drag them up and down, or add new ones from the main menu. It’s good to see something different to Apple IOS and Android, but it’s not quite as customable.
Each handset manufacturer has supplied unique content, but there’s very little here from Samsung at the moment, especially in relation to LGs offering. In Jan 2011 users will be able to access The Ebook Hub, for news, eBooks and periodicals.
Our test handset was on Orange, which included Orange Wednesdays. Enter the name of the cinema or film you want to see and it, there’s also news portal Orange Daily. Orange Maps is coming soon.
Elsewhere you can open Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents using the Office hub, although ridiculously cut and paste isn’t coming until 2011 either.
The virtual keyboard is fine, we rattled off a section of messages without any trouble, predictive text is accurate, and usefully all messages appear as a conversation.
Samsung Omnia 7: Camera and video
The Omnia has a good rather than outstanding cameraphone. 5-megapixels will prove more than enough pixels for most people. A solid shutter is our preference and it’s fairly responsive, but there’s a bit of lag, but even worse when holding the phone in your right hand it’s easy to keep activating the Bing search button.
Pictures are not quite as sharp as we’d have liked and detail can look soft, but colours seem natural and makes a better job of high/low contrast areas then the LG. The LED flash is ok, but we'd expect a Xenon really.
There are a wide selection of adjustable features, including five white balance settings, ISO to 800, Exposure Compensation and Metering. Fun effects include seven filters, including Negative, Sepia, Antique, Green and Blue and Wide Dynamic Range Unusually for a phone the sharpness, saturation and contrast are also adjustable to five levels.
The Omnia 7 also shoots VGA and 720p video. Like still images, footage isn’t as sharp as the LG Optimus 7, but colours are more natural. Unfortunately there’s no HDMI for hooking it up to a flatsceen.
Samsung Omnia 7: Zune and XBox
At moment Windows Phone 7 handsets won’t work with Mac computers, which is incredibly frustrating, although this is supposed to be rectified with an update later this year.
They don't work as plug and play devices on Windows computers either. This means in order to transfer footage to a computer you need to download the Zune software, which looks great, but is a bit fiddly and takes too long to transfer videos.
Zune on the handset is a far more pleasing affair. The interface is excellent, the bright screen, colour text and album artwork make it really easy to use as you choose between music, videos, podcasts, radio and marketplace.
Xbox Live integration adds your avatar to the homepage. You’ll be able to play turn-by-turn games with other users. At the moment game choice is limited to 2D games like Sims2 and Flight Control, most cost around £2.49, although you do get a free trial of each game. Once again the excellent screen proves its worth when gaming.
To use Zune, Xbox Live and Hotmail all the Windows 7 handsets require you to have a Windows Live Account. If you’re buying a game or downloading music, the default is to use any exiting credit car you’ve got attached the account, although you can opt to add a new card.
Samsung Omnia 7: Apps
Like LG’s handset, the Marketplace is split into the Samsung Zone, with a scant four apps and the bigger Window Marketplace. Again, the excellent WP7 interface makes the whole experience easy - and is far better than the Android Market. The interface is simple to use, with categories including: games, entertainment, music & video, photo, lifestyle, news and weather and sports. Each category is split into top, free and new categories, each with screenshots, reviews and similar apps.
Microsoft won't say how many apps there are at the moment, but there’s a good selection of free apps including Ebay, Tesco and Twitter application Twitter, expect to pay from 79p up to around £5.99 for gaming apps.
Samsung Omnia 7: Conclusion
With a great screen, 1Ghz processor and decent camera the Samsung Omnia 7 is a good handset to showcase Windows Phone 7. Altoough it’s not perfect – it's a bit bland to look at and the camera isn’t as good as we expected, however the intuitive interface makes it very enjoyable to use. We love Xbox integration and the Marketplace has more in common with the Apple App Store, than the haphazard Android Market. At the moment, game and choice is limited, although this should grow.
The OS isn't perfect, it's closed to start with. We’re not a big fan of having to use Zune software to transfer files - it just doesn’t seem very smooth. Smart Multitasking lets you listen to music, sync email, load web pages and download photos simultaneously, but not run all the applications you want at once - sure this saves battery life, but Android handsets offer it? Ultimately the Samsung Omnia 7 is a really good handset, Windows Phone 7 proving Microsoft is back in the smartphone game.