The next Windows Phone 7 experience comes from Samsung in the form of their recently announced Omnia W I8530. With the likes of the Nokia’s Lumia 800 and the possible under Rs.20,000, Lumia 710, the competition is getting quite fierce. The Omnia range has been relatively inactive for quite some time, since Samsung has been focusing on its Galaxy series, it seems. But with the W, things could be looking better for the WP7 fans, especially with the rather reasonable price tag attached. Here’s a closer look.

Form Factor
If compared to some of the recent launches from the Korean company, the Omnia W seems rather out of place. In terms of aesthetics, it’s quite sound, but going by looks alone, the handset is quite plain. A singular ‘Home’ button resides at the bottom of the 3.7-inch Super AMOLED display and bears the Microsoft logo. On either side of this button are touch sensitive keys for ‘Return’ and Bing Search options. A micro USB port is positioned at the bottom and a standard 3.5mm handsfree socket is located at the top of the handset.

Not the best looking handset from the company

Not the best looking handset from the company

This is, as of now, one of the few WP7 handsets that isn’t sealed right as the rear panel can be removed completely to slip in a SIM card (hot swap) or reboot the handset by removing the 1500mAh battery. It’s a pity Microsoft has been taking lessons from Apple and decided that we don’t need microSD cards, just the internal storage of 8GB is good enough. This is one of the few disappointments with the new OS.

Features and Performance
Interface
There’s nothing more we can say about the UI than we have already in other reviews on WP7 Mango handsets like the HTC Radar, for example. To give you a quick run through, though – WP7 uses a ‘Tile’ system for what Microsoft calls the Metro interface. It’s simplistic and extremely easy to navigate and use. With the help of a 1.4GHz Scorpion processor the Omnia W is able to optimize usage to a great extent making the UI smooth, responsive and fast. One minor issue could be that the listing of apps in the main menu is in alphabetical order and there’s no room for customization or categorically listing apps. Games automatically show up under the Xbox Live games tab. There are a few colour options to choose from in the Theme section and you can opt to keep the background White or switch to Black. Go with Black, as it does help boost your battery life a little bit.

The simple but smooth WP7 UI

The simple but smooth WP7 UI

Tiles on the Home Page can be moved around and can be added or removed. The People section or contacts is very well designed and merges your social networking with contacts in a simplistic and user friendly manner. Except for a few “Freezing” issues that occurred from time to time (something we haven’t faced in any other WP7 handsets) the Omnia W functioned smoothly. It scored 47.93 Mflops in a Linpak benchmarking test, which is quite impressive. Typing, voice clarity and screen rotation were a non-issue. The display however, was quite hard to use in bright sun-lit conditions. Even with the colours and brightness turned up, reading messages, while outdoors wasn’t an easy task.

Media
The most annoying aspect of using any WP7 device is Zune. Like iTunes, you need the Zune PC software to transfer media back and forth to a WP7 device. To make matters worse, while Samsung has a reputation of including multiple codecs into their Android and Bada devices for video playback, WP7 does not allow it. This means you’ll have to either convert files to a WP7 friendly format for the Omnia W or suffer the dreadfully slow transfer speed as the software converts your files to an acceptable format for the player to read.

Buttons and 3.5mm handsfree socket

Buttons and 3.5mm handsfree socket

What the Omnia W lacks is enhancement features of the music players. There are no presets, as such to make any adjustments to audio output. On its own, the Omnia W offers fairly decent audio quality, but the decibel level is a little low when compared to some of the other WP7 devices available. Another disappointment! The FM radio worked out quite well and was able to get pretty decent reception in most locations. Overall, the Omnia W’s media prowess could have been better and does not live up to the standard that Samsung has set for itself.
Connectivity
The Omnia W is a 3G handset with support for EDGE/GPRS Wi-Fi and DLNA support as well via Samsung’s AllShare app that’s preloaded. Bluetooth with A2DP is also present, but of course sharing pictures or videos via this medium is not on the cards. You can upload it to your Microsoft Sky Drive account, send it via email or share it on Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp, PhotoBucket, Picasa, but that’s it. Internet Explorer for the mobile is truly a well-designed browser and is quite capable of providing you with a rich browsing experience. Although we seemed to have a few issues with setting up our personal Gmail accounts on the device, our work accounts that are also Google-based seemed to work without a hitch. Social Networking integration is quite solid and embedded quite well into the various relevant aspects of the handset.

Samsung Apps best designed for the handset

Samsung Apps best designed for the handset

Bing Maps is pre-loaded for your GPS needs, but you could opt for other third party apps from the Market Place. Samsung has also pre-selected a few free apps that the company believes could help provide you with a better experience with the handset. The Omnia W also features a forward-facing camera (VGA) for video calling.

Misc. Features
Samsung has thrown in quite a few extras that come pre-loaded onto the handset like MiniDiary that lets you store notes with locations, add voice recordings, photos and even create drawings etc. to save for later. The Daily Briefing app keeps you updated with the latest weather report, news via Yahoo! News, Currency rates via Yahoo! Finance and even Stock market rates. An RSS reader is also provided as well.

A few fun photo apps thrown in au gratis

A few fun photo apps thrown in au gratis

Camera
The Omnia W is equipped with a 5 Megapixel autofocus camera with an LED flash. It features settings like White Balance, ISO settings and Macro mode. For the more fun features, Samsung has pre-loaded a couple of camera apps like Photo Studio that comes with all kinds of goodies like Lomoshot, auto-stitch Panorama etc. and a separate app called FunShot that has some effects you can use for capturing images. Image quality in general was just ok. Colours did seem to be a little dull in indoor lighting and slightly grainy with a few artifacts here and there. Outdoor pictures were much better, but the dark tone still seemed to persist.

Battery
In our stand-alone battery drain test, we switched off all connections and ran a video back to back till the battery went dead. We clocked in 6 hours and 10 minutes, which is average. In our tech2 Loop Test, we managed to get one full loop, which consisted of two hours of video, audio and audio streaming via 3G and 1.5 hours of talk time totaling up to 7 and a half hours of non-stop usage. We were barely able to get more than 10 minutes out of the next loop. Real time usage provided us with just a about a full day’s use with mails, messages, calls and some audio thrown in. Not really what we expected.

Samsung Apps best designed for the handset

Samsung Apps best designed for the handset

The Bottom Line
The Omnia W is the cheapest Windows Phone 7 right now and is available for a price of Rs.19,990 (MOP). That may seem like a great price for a handset with specs like these, however taking overall functionality into account, we were not impressed and you wouldn’t be missing too much by opting for another Windows Phone 7 device, right now even if it cost you a little more.

Publish date: December 5, 2011 10:03 am| Modified date: December 18, 2013 9:05 pm

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