John's Samsung Ultra Touch S8300 review

John Walton
Cell Phone Editor
Published: August 10, 2009

Overview


What's good:
8MP auto-focus cam with *bright* dual LED flash; 30 FPS wide screen video; lovely, high-contrast 2.8" AMOLED capacitive touch screen at 400 x 240; great phonebook and in-call UI; TouchWiz now has more widgets and a multi-panel home screen; accelerometer, GPS, proximity sensor.

What's bad: typing is a serious chore; browsing is WAP; unlocked GSM, but no 3G in US.

Introduction


Known as Tocco Ultra Edition and Player Ultra in some markets, the Ultra Touch brings a beautiful touch screen to a smaller, slider form-factor that's only 12.7 mm thin. And Samsung knows how to show that screen off with wallpaper and a lock screen that POP. Seriously, the display is amazing. 

An 8 MP cam with dual LED flash is probably the biggest draw here. You won't find messaging and social hounds coming after the Touch Ultra - this one is for semi-serious consumer photographers, though the widgets bring this device some functionality beyond its primary roles of phone and camera. The S8300 is also a competent music player. (cont.)

Samsung S8300 Ultra Touch - Tocco

Design & Features

Sleek design and a very pocketable size make this one a sexy phone/camera combo. Send, end, back (looks like a d-pad), camera, and hold buttons, along with a volume rocker, comprise the controls you'll see when the phone is closed. You've got to remove the 880 mAh battery to get to the SIM and SD card slot - which can handle 16 Gigs. Micro USB is the only port.

The sliding mechanism feels smooth and solid, and the red, cross-hatch pattern revealed when you prepare for a snap is sophisticated and polished. The red keypad employs four shared strips of plastic for input, which work fine for dialing numbers or entering letters old-school, but fail when you're trying to hit shift and mash the * key.

The screen is capacitive and is therefore more sensitive that you'll find on a phone like the Behold, for example. Be aware, responsiveness is not at the quality of an iPhone or of HTC's capacitive screens. Then again, you can pick up an unlocked Ultra Touch for around $400, without a contract. You won't be using 3G in the States, though.

Very good 8 MP pictures can be found in low and high light situations, and the video is among the best I've seen from a phone. The camera software is easy to learn and use on the surface, but provides advanced settings for those so inclined. It's just too bad that the hold button is right next to the shutter button. That bothers me no matter which one I'm going for.

TouchWiz is progressing nicely, and Samsung has thrown in some great widgets - I'm glad to see so many available for download. This is a strong selling point. But the screen is a bit tight and space is precious. Thankfully, you can swipe the home screen up and down to reveal three different panels for planting your widgets on. This will be enough for the average user. (cont.)

Samsung S8300 Ultra Touch - Tocco



Usability & Performance


The screen is not sufficient, however, for web browsing. The S8300 can handle the most basic, minimal websites, and that's about it. I was also disappointed to find that the software keyboard seems to be little more than an afterthought - an addendum to the hardware keys that makes special characters a tad bit easier to access.

There's no full QWERTY here, and typing in a password with upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols, is a serious task. I avoided text messages during the time I used the Ultra Touch, knowing that every typing system requires some adaptation. This, I could not acquire a taste for. Instant messaging wasn't even considered.

Sharing photos, on the other hand, is a piece of cake, and upload to Facebook, Flickr, and other sites is just a touch or three away after accounts  setup - reaffirming that this phone is first and foremost, a camera.

Battery life was pretty decent, considering the monster flash this thing is packing. With light-to-moderate camera use, two full days on a single charge is not a problem. Voice quality was O.K., and while I didn't test out a bluetooth ear piece, I did send a goofy image Noah left on the phone to my Mac via BT. I love being able to do that - it really saves time and hassle over cables, swapping cards, sending an email, etc. I had a 2.2 MB photo transfered in under 20 seconds from the instant I decided to send it.

Conclusion

Samsung's S8300 isn't going to fulfil your needs if you are big on texts, instant messages, mobile email, and browsing the web on your phone. But if you're looking for a handsome camera phone that can handle diverse lighting environments and shoot great video, this is one solid device. It feels like it will last, and would be suitable for adults and teens who care more about capturing bits of real life than about interacting virtually.

Samsung's product page can be found here.

Products mentioned