Review Samsung Wave II GT-S8530 Smartphone
The perfect wave? The successor of the S8500, the Wave II GT-S8530, has been available since the beginning of the year. However, there aren't many novelties apart from a larger display and an upgraded operating system. Is that enough to meet the high expectations set by the predecessor?
Samsung achieved unexpected success in mid 2010 with the Wave S8500. Buyers could purchase an all included bundle comprised of a GHz-CPU, AMOLED display, GPS and a 5 MP camera with HD video recorder for about 300 euros – even today an interesting value for money ratio. The attractive pricing was likely also due to the attempt to make the own "Bada" operating system (www.bada.com) more popular by means of the sales figures expected from the compelling smartphones.
The predecessor owed its name not least to its waved shape, which was created by the cell phone's slightly elevated top and flipside. There's nothing of this left in the Wave II GT-S8530 – the new Bada smartphone is a monolithic, flat block; the touchscreen's surface closes flush with the case's top and bottom.
The waved design gave the predecessor a filigree look. Nevertheless, the Wave II GT-S8530 also has an attractive design: slim and black and without superfluous design components, the Wave II GT-S8530 strikes you with a classic, restrained elegance. The Wave II GT-8530 is also available in a silver gray case, besides the black alternative we reviewed.
The workmanship is also impressive. The Wave II GT-S8530 is precisely assembled. Irregularities, for example in gaps, are looked for in vain. The case's bezel and the battery cover are made of brushed aluminum, which gives the Wave II a very qualitative touch. In return, the flipside is comprised of plastic for signal reasons, just like the top where the multifunction jack, headset socket and loudspeakers are found. The rounded corners on both sides make the Wave II look slimmer, and it also adds to the holding comfort.
We have to mention a manufacturing flaw on the flipside here. Obviously, our test device slipped past quality control with a flaw in the coating. This actually shouldn't happen.
Besides the phone and the front camera lens for video telephony, the light sensor and menu keys are also on the cell phone's front. The lock button and camera button are on the right and only the microphone is on the bottom. The multifunction jack, speaker and headset, respectively TV socket are installed at the top.
The buttons' logical arrangement facilitates use. All important actions can be accomplished with one hand, for example locking and unlocking the display, accepting calls, switching between various applications or volume control.
Since the cell phone is always at hand, it has replaced the compact camera for many hobby photographers in the meantime. Accordingly, the response time should be kept as short as possible and also take good pictures even in adverse ambient light conditions
The camera installed into the Wave II shoots pictures with a resolution of up to 2560x1920 pixels and records videos with up to 1280x720 pixels. Pictures are saved in jpg format, videos in mp4 format. The frame rate is 30 frames per second. The camera can record location data when GPS is enabled.
The camera's viewfinder can be placed anywhere on the preview screen in order to focus on decentralized objects when required. It automatically focuses on faces when the optional face recognition is enabled. The picture can be zoomed in and out via the volume rocker – however not seamlessly, but in steps.
The predefined settings can be opened via the "Scene Mode" and "Recording Mode". Here, various picture options can be defined. For example, you can set the camera to automatically shoot pictures of smiling persons or to achieve better results in backlight pictures or with fast moving objects. A series of pictures can also be taken or panorama pictures can be created. The option of imitating older cameras is also interesting. For example, you can take snapshots that look like Technicolor processed pictures.
A basic picture editor is also installed. It allows you to modify pictures with effects, such as add distortion, adjust brightness, contrast and color, or change the picture size or picture orientation.
Overall, the Wave II's camera bids above average and a viable, picture quality for most hobby photographers. However, we have to complain about the fact that nothing has been changed in the technical data, not to mention hasn't been improved in comparison to the predecessor.
The scope of delivery is typical for today's smartphones. Besides the cell phone and battery, Samsung also includes a 2GB memory card, a German user's manual, as well as a charging cable and a USB connection cable. There is also an in-ear headphone that stands out with an acceptable sound quality in the box.
The Wave II is controlled via the user interface "TouchWiz 3.0". The intuitive "TouchWiz" user interface responds immediately to inputs thanks to the GHz-CPU – however this is paid for with a few restrictions in regard to expandability options.
The 3.7 inch touchscreen can be used with the usual multi-finger gestures. After a certain time, which can be altered by the user, the light is turned off for energy saving reasons. Moreover the display can also be locked and unlocked via the lock button.
The quick access display at the upper display edge informs the user about incoming emails or SMS messages, missed calls and news from social networks, such as Facebook. Information about the signal strength and connected network is also displayed.
With a click on the quick access screen, you can enable and disable wireless connections, mute the phone or switch to new emails or SMS messages.
The task manager is opened when you keep the menu button pressed. It allows you to change among the opened applications. A big drawback of the control concept: there is no "back" button. The frequently, intuitively pressed on/off button on the right just simply closes the whole application – a condition that will cause strained nerves at least in the beginning.
Inputting texts on the Wave II is easy and comfortable due to the automatic text recognition. Besides conventional text inputting, where every letter is pressed singly, texts can also be entered via T9 Trace (http://www.nuance.com/for-business/by-product/t9-trace/index.htm). "T9 Trace" is keyboard software that makes it possible to enter text by simply swiping over the letter, alike Swype text inputting known from Android.
The display has grown from 3.3 to 3.7 inches with the same resolution (800x480 pixels). This provides a noticeable gain in comfort especially for Internet surfing. However, since the Super AMOLED display wasn't available in sufficient quantity, a Super Clear LCD has been installed (see Samsung Google Nexus S).
The maximum brightness is 380 cd/m2, according to our measurements. Black is reproduced up to a brightness of 0.42 cd/m2, which results in a very good maximum contrast ratio of 874:1.
The Super Clear LCD is brilliant enough to also allow reading the display content in direct sunlight when the brightness is set to maximum. Nevertheless, you have to reckon with reflections, as practically on all other smartphones.
The viewing angle stability turns out very good. Pictures and colors remain almost unaffected even in particularly narrow viewing angles. Merely an insignificant change in the gray nuances is noticed.
The hardware has hardly changed in contrast to the predecessor. The new Wave II is also run on a 1GHz clocked Samsung Hummingbird CPU. It is a so-called systems-on chip, where a graphics core (PowerVR SGX540) and other processing and control units are incorporated besides the actual processor core (ARM Cortex A8).
Thus, the hardware configuration actually complies with the current standard and is comparable with that found in many other smartphones. However, the executed browser benchmarks as well as our subjective impression ultimately prove that it is not always a matter of bare specifications. Surfing on the Internet isn't as smooth and sleek as hoped for. Our input attempts are often simply ignored although the touchscreen responds perfectly to our inputs somewhere else. The slow opening of pages adds to our mixed impression.
Both executed browser benchmarks also verify that this is not only a subjective feeling. The Google V8 benchmark test score of less than 30 points is very disappointing. The Wave II doesn't do much better in the Sunspider benchmark, either. The smartphone even falls behind the first edition of Dell's Streak 5" with Android 1.6, which also included a number of known weaknesses in terms of performance.
Samsung's self-developed "Bada" version 1.2, which is based on a Linux kernel alike Android, serves as the Wave II's operating system. According to Samsung, the reason for developing an own operating system was the need to give even affordable smartphones a high functionality. The main motivation was likely not least the wish to also earn on the booming market of paid apps, though.
At present, small apps with a limited usefulness are found in Samsung's app store. For example, various little games. Really useful apps, such as German Rail timetable information are very rare. Overall, the array in Samsung's own app store can't keep up with the Android market or Apple's app store in terms of quality and quantity.
Beside the standards like browser and media player, as well as apps for YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, there is also a test version of the navigation software "Route 66" pre-installed. The latter can be activated for unlimited use for about 30 euros.
Up to 10 different start screens can be created. Mini applications (so-called widgets) can be placed on it, for example a weather report from Accuweather, a Google widget for fast access to Google search, Google Mail and Google Maps, or even a widget that informs you about upcoming tasks, appointments and memos. More widgets can be installed from Samsung's app store, such as widgets from well-known news sites. However, only the downloaded widgets can be deleted.
The availability of widgets is still fairly limited so that hardly anyone will need all of the 10 start screens. Moreover, links to frequently used programs can't be set. Consequently, you will always have to use the main menu for starting frequently used applications. Unlike Android, the widgets can't be modified in form or size for the Bada operating system, and thus can't be adapted to suit personal needs is another drawback.
Internet & Multimedia
The Wave II's media player supports all standard file formats from MP3 over WMA up to DivX. Therefore, audio and video entertainment shouldn't be a problem. The Wave II's computing performance is strong enough to render HD videos smoothly.
The loudspeaker is found left of the headphone jack at the top. It supplies a sufficiently loud, but thin and bass-poor sound. The playback gets distorted and unclear when the volume is turned up to full.
On the other hand, it looks different with a connected headset. The tones sound clear and genuine. An equalizer, as well as pre-defined sound effects allows detailed modification to meet personal preferences. If desired, even a 5.1 surround system can be enabled. There is also a VHF radio available when the headset is connected. It bids every conceivable comfort with automatic tuning and recording radio programs. The function to render media content to DNLA capable devices is also handy (e.g. T.V. sets).
It doesn't look as good with Internet surfing. Due to the lack of Flash support, a lot of content is only displayed insufficiently or not at all in the Dolfin browser based on Webkit (http://www.webkit.org/). The Internet streams of various German television stations can't be viewed at all. In return, YouTube has its own app, which only opens YouTube's mobile version of the site in the end, though. Opened YouTube videos aren't played in the browser's window, but in the separately starting media player instead.
Email accounts are created in no time. Mails are shown only with the subject in the list and are first really downloaded when "receive" is clicked. This minimizes traffic. It's possible to select if the mails are only to be deleted from the phone's memory or also from the email server in the delete options. You are conveniently informed about new mails via the cell phone's upper status bar.
The Wave II can be used as a mobile hotspot, like known from Android cell phones. Thus, it's possible to surf with a notebook via the existing smartphone flat rate, for example. Caution: tethering burdens the battery extremely and empties it in no time.
The manufacturer states a standby time of up to 620 hours and a talk time of up to 13.8 hours. However, a standby time of about 6.5 hours was determined with a permanently turned on screen in maximum brightness and enabled WLAN and GPS. When WLAN and GPS are disabled, and the automatic display off function is permitted to deactivate it after 2 minutes, the standby time is about 108 hours.
The battery is drained after about 3 hours when you play a video in HD resolution in a loop (also with maximum display brightness and enabled WLAN and GPS).
The Wave II has to go back to the mains after about 11.5 hours of average use (e.g. sporadic surfing, checking emails and occasional calls while all wireless modules are enabled). Consequently, it has to be recharged at least once a day.
A completely drained battery is recharged after about 3 hours via the included USB data cable.
After the predecessor had set the expectations quite high, the Wave II GT-S8530 brings them back down to earth. Beside the larger screen and a new version of Samsung's own operating system, the successor hardly has anything new to offer.
Alike its predecessor, the Wave II GT-S8530 also suffers from the small amount of feasible apps and consequently from the lack of expandability possibilities. However, if you can live with the modest choice of apps, you'll find a well balanced smartphone bundle that still presents a convincing value for money ratio thanks to its outstanding workmanship and above average configuration in the Wave II GT-S8530.