Unveiled at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the Ultra Touch S8300 is Samsung's first flagship phone for 2009. While the Ultra series was famously known for its slim phones, the latest breed of Ultra phones has evolved into a more feature-oriented handset and while still slim, that appears to be its secondary priority.
Though the Soul scored high in the looks department, some folks were put off by its touch sensitive buttons and less than impressive battery life. This is not the case with the latest Ultra models. Samsung has been a steady rock in dishing out alluring and attractive handsets and the S8300 manages to maintain this ideology.
For starters, the phone is pretty attractive. While the S8300 may look slightly longer than usual, it is nevertheless easy to hold. What strikes us as being impressive is its slider. Due to its smooth gliding motion, it is easy to slide up and down when in use. Weighing in at 105 grams, the S8300 also doesn't feel too heavy in our pockets.
The new phone features a 2.8-inch AMOLED full capacitive touchscreen coupled with a 3 by 4 alpha-numeric keypad. The layout on the front panel is rather simple with just three buttons namely the call, end and back button. The keys on the alpha numeric keypad may be flat but they are nicely spaced out and provide good tactile feedback. However, we did wish that there was more leeway on top of the front keypad so that we could tap on messages faster.
One of the key differences with this phone is the updated Samsung TouchWiz User Interface. The new system lets you get more Mobile Widgets on your phone's home screen, which should be familiar to Omnia and Pixon owners. There are preloaded Widgets such as Calendar, Calculator and Games but you can also download Online Widgets like Google Search, CNN Mobile and more for instant updates right on your mobile phone screen.
There is about half a second delay when switching between items or when opening up applications. But we can live with that, especially as compared to the older version, the new user interface already feels more snappy.
Viewing images is a breeze on the S8300's glorious screen. Decked out with an 8-megapixel camera and dual LED flash, pictures come close to the Pixon's quality. The camera interface is also all too familiar to us, having used the Pixon to death and we found the UI easy to use as all the settings are right on the screen. When it comes to music, there is no 3.5mm earphone jack in sight. But its saving grace is that Samsung packs an adaptor in the package plus a pair of in-ear earphones if you don't already have your own.
For connectivity, the S8300 utilizes microUSB for charging and PC connectivity. It comes with Bluetooth, A-GPS and ships with an 8GB microSD card for loads of storage for music and pictures.
Unfortunately, the business functions leave much to be desired. The lack of Wi-Fi, for one, will irk some folks but with data plans so much less expensive these days, users would probably not see the lack of Wi-Fi as a deal breaker.
Armed with a battery capacity of 880mAh, one can expect the handset to last at least 1.5 days with sporadic use of calls, messaging, photo snapping and audio playback.
At a sticker price of S$838 without contract, the S8300 is slightly on the high side but it brings a good balance of style and substance to a slim handset.