As far as mobile phones go, we've seen a slew of them that have gone the portable music route, as evident from the lineups from both Nokia and Samsung. Recently, we got our hands on the Samsung i450, one of Samsung's "Live Loud" series of music phones, now running on the latest Symbian S60 operating system.
The body of the i450 is solidly put together and it feels nice and firm in the hand. Though there's some similarity to the dual sliding screen on the Nokia N95, you'll discover it's a very different product altogether. Particularly after we slid down the display to reveal a loudspeaker with a red hemispheric rubber strip. This rubber strip in question here is actually a touch-sensitive pad, with its other half completed on screen, surrounded by the menu options.
While it seems like a wonderful idea, working the rubber strip can be a hit or miss. Like many touch-sensitive devices, it's either too sensitive - the options scroll by too fast - or it's not sensitive enough, requiring a hard rub of the thumb. As such, we would have loved a way to tweak sensitivity settings for future touch-sensitive devices. On the other hand, the strip's ability to recognize up and down rubs/swipes and downward presses as the Enter key scored some points with us.
Luckily, if you don't fancy the finger-work and just want to get to tracks fast (like on a bumpy bus-ride where your fingers are all over the place), you can also use the main directional pad to navigate the music menu with your screen slid down. Sliding the screen upwards reveals the i450's keypad, which is ergonomic, easy to use and comes in a cool metal texture.
It's no surprise that the i450's loudspeaker performs beautifully, thanks in part to the audio technology supplied by Bang & Olufsen and their ICEPower (Intelligent, Compact and Efficient) amplifiers. More importantly, Samsung has kindly included a 3.5mm jack at the top of the i450, allowing you to use your favorite headphones without any adapters, unlike the usual proprietary jacks. In short, the i450 definitely does justice to your music with its audio playback prowess.
The camera produces decent images under good lighting conditions, but an altogether different story for indoors or macro shots, as we had blurry and pixelated results. Noise level is still substantially high with the integrated flash. With all that, we hope that Samsung's mid-range mobile phone cameras can soon catch up to the excellent quality of their new flagship camera phones, the G600 and G800.
Battery life is impressive. The i450 sports a beefed-up 1140mAh Li-on battery, which is significantly stronger than even the latest Samsung G800's 1000mAh battery. That explained the obscene battery life we got out of the i450, nearly four days worth with moderate use of the music player and phone (yours might last shorter if you're more popular with the calls than we were).
Excellent build quality matched with above average audio delivery but marred by a mediocre 2MP camera. That's an apt description for the i450. It's perfect if you're looking for a marriage of the Symbian OS with a good music phone, or just a good music phone in general at a recommended retail price of S$688. Time to break out the tunes, cue the moonwalking and karaoke!