Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Samsung S8530 Wave II - Bada All The Way


Enter the Samsung Wave II, Exit stage right, the Samsung Wave. Spotting the differences between the two devices is not an easy task. Samsung has merely tweaked the Wave ever so slightly and re-launched it, which could be a good thing to some or not, to others. The previous model fared quite well in our tests, but operating systems have evolved considerably since then and Bada is yet to make it to other devices. So far it’s been restricted to just the Wave I and II. Here’s a closer look at the Wave II to help you make decide if this is an OS and a handset you should be investing your money into. 

Form Factor
There are subtle differences between the original and the Wave II – for one thing, the Wave II is heavier (135g) than its predecessor and is also about one millimeter thicker. The display is now larger at 3.7-inches as compared to the 3.3-inch version on the original. The AMOLED screen has also been replaced by a Super Clear LCD also sporting a 480 x 800 pixel resolution. Gorilla Glass also present and accounted for. The center button is larger as well with the screen lock and camera shutter release/activation buttons still on the right and volume keys on the left. The micro USB port is also still on the top (slider cover) near the 3.5mm handsfree socket. The worst part about the Wave II is still the fact that there’s no hot swap slot for the microSD card even if the handset does come with 2GB of internal storage.
Super Clear LCD is a sure fire winner
Super Clear LCD is a sure fire winner


Although there isn’t anything substantially different between the two devices save the display, I’m still a big fan of the design. It’s still sleek quite sturdy in its metal enclosure.
Metal body adds class
Metal body adds class


Features and Performance
Interface
Bada has not changed… much, in the last few months since the Wave was launched. The OS is pretty much an extension of Samsung’s existing proprietary platform that powers their lower end devices on with smartphone functionality. It’s a clean OS that performs quite smoothly although there’s just a tiniest hint of lag in certain instances. Powered by the same 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor on a Hummingbird chipset, overall speed and ease of access issues are nothing to be concerned with. 

I’m not particularly fond of the TouchWiz UI but it does serve a Smartphone’s purpose quite well, I’ll admit. You can customize the multiple desktops with preloaded widgets or get more off of the Samsung App Store. The apps in the main menu can also be moved around to suit your preference. What would have been just great is if Samsung managed to get Swype on board for the keypad. Handwriting recognition is supported, however.
Plenty of connectivity
Plenty of connectivity


Social network integration with your contacts sheet was a problem. It is a manual process and for some reason I was unable to sync my FB account with my contacts. Twitter was no problem. There was also no option to sync the device with my Google account. I also found a few bugs that prevented me from joining contacts. 

A rather weird issue I noticed was that the thumbnails be it in the media, video galleries or anywhere for that matter, were all extremely pixelated to the extent that some were indecipherable. Keeping the center button pressed will pull up the task manager so you can move between running apps or close those you don’t need. 

So aside from a few bug fixes and very minor cosmetic changes, Bada v2.1 is still the same, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Media
The Wave II is by far a fully loaded media friendly mobile handset. It’s provisioned with enough media functionality to deter you from even considering a purchase of a PMP. The music player dishes out clear tones with a punch in the bass line that will have you tapping your feet even in a crowded street. Seven EQ presets are provided along with a few additional audio enhancement settings that help boost audio quality. Samsung’s DNSe enhancement is the key to all of this and even adds virtual 5.1 surround to movies as well as your music. A music recognition option is also built-in. SamsunThe FM radio took about 13 seconds to find and store 6 of the 9 available radio stations while indoors. Reception was much better outdoors in almost all locations including on my commute. The app also has a built in recording feature.
Loud and clear
Loud and clear


Thanks to the vivid colors that the handset’s display is designed to offer, the black levels on videos turned out to be superb. Very much like the Sony Ericsson Arc’s. The Wave II supports 720p HD video files in .MOV and .MKV formats and of course DivX and XviD support is also supported. 

The image gallery works with on a axis based scrolling system so tilting the handset to the left or the right is an alternative to swiping your finger on the screen. A face recognition option is also provided but it really didn’t seem to do much other than locate a person’s face. You can create a video with images or even edit them to a certain extent with built-in apps. Samsung has also thrown in a few try and buy games, and for more you can download off of Samsung apps
Connectivity
With Wi-Fi the Wave II is also equipped to handle DLNA via Samsung’s All Share networking system. There’s also an option for wireless tethering i.e. using your handset’s internet connection and creating a Wi-Fi hotspot for other devices. Other connectivity options include 3G, EDGE/GPRS, Bluetooth v3.0 with A2DP and USB 2.0. TV Out (Pal NTSC) via the 3.5mm handsfree socket is also supported. Samsung Apps gives you access to all kinds of applications for the Bada OS. The number of apps available now are quite high from games to entertainment apps and more. If you’re looking for Angry Birds though, they haven’t made it to Bada just yet.

One app for FB and Twitter access
One app for FB and Twitter access


Facebook and Twitter apps are preloaded and so is Samsung’s Feeds and Updates combined widget. Here you can update both your Twitter and FB status and view other’s updates all from one screen. For chatting Palringo has been provided again. Setting up your email is just a little harder than doing so on WP7, iOS and Android as it might just require you to have a little more information than just your username and password. 

For the handset’s GPS module Samsung has thrown in Samsung LBS which uses Route 66 mapping for navigation. Bada 2.1 does manage to speed up the sync process but only just a little. 

Misc. Features
A few extras that Samsung has thrown in include a Mini Diary app that allows you to add images with geo-locations and weather details to notes. There’s also a universal search engine that simplifies looking for stuff on your handset, a calculator, memo pad, a calendar that unusually synced perfectly with my FB accounts storing and listing all my contacts birthdays etc. A to do-like Task setting app is also provided. 

Camera
The Wave II’s 5 megapixel autofocus camera is also pretty much the same as the originals that includes the presence of an LED flash. It’s loaded up with all kinds of goodies from face and smile detection to multi-direction, auto-stitch panorama mode, plenty of scene modes White balance and much more.
Quite sharp compared to others in the same range
Quite sharp compared to others in the same range


Image quality, be in it the outdoors or inside is really quite good. Although details aren’t as sharp as some higher end devices, colors are retained quite well and overall clarity in native resolution is good.
Colors look good, quite a bit of detail
Colors look good, quite a bit of detail


Macro images look really good with quite a high level of detail and focus retained. What’s most impressive is the level of depth in the colors. For a mobile phone camera, the Wave II’s is top notch.
Well stitched
Well stitched


Video recording in 720p also turned out quite well.

Battery
Another area where the Wave II excels is battery life. I found I had no need to charge the device for two full days with regular usage of calls messages, email and videos… yes videos, too thrown in. This battery just refused to die. What does drain the battery very heavily though, is the camera. 

The Bottom Line
Sure for the price of Rs. 15,400 (best price, MOP) you could get an Android device or a Symbian smartphone, but for you could do no wrong whatsoever with the Wave II. It’s an excellent multimedia handset that delivers on all those fronts. From music to video and the 5 MP camera, it’s all good. So if you’re looking for a smartphone that isn’t too complicated to use, has a few tiny quirks with the UI but offers great battery life and covers all connectivity basis, the Wave II is your phone.

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