Samsung i780

Smartphone with an 'optical joystick'

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Samsung i780
  • Samsung i780
  • Samsung i780
  • Samsung i780

Pros

  • Slim design, full QWERTY keyboard, optical joystick, 3.6Mbps HSDPA-capable, GPS with navigation software

Cons

  • Odd-sized display, keypad may be a tad small for some, proprietary headphone/charging jack

Bottom Line

The i780 improves the usability of an otherwise regular Windows Mobile 6 device by offering a redesigned home screen and an optical joystick.

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A fully fledged smartphone running Windows Mobile 6, Samsung's i780 features a redesigned home screen that provides access to frequently used features. The HSDPA-capable i780 also offers a new control system in the form of an 'optical joystick', making it one of the easiest Windows Mobile devices to use.

The design of the i780 is fairly standard for a smartphone. Perhaps the biggest advantage of the i780 is its size — at just 12.9mm, this is one of the thinnest smartphones we've reviewed. Despite the reasonably compact frame, Samsung has still managed to squeeze in a fairly large touch screen display and a full QWERTY keyboard. Unfortunately, the 320x320 pixel resolution display could pose some problems for third-party Windows Mobile applications, as these are developed for 4:3 aspect ratio screens.

The keyboard is well designed, but we feel that the keys themselves are a little small. They are well spaced, however, and tactile feedback is fair, so typing messages and e-mails isn't too much of a concern.

The best feature of the i780 is undoubtedly the 'optical joystick'. Sitting just below the display and replacing the traditional navigational pad, the optical joystick is similar to a notebook TrackPoint device.

Despite its small size, it's quite responsive — dragging your finger across it moves the mouse cursor in any direction, while pressing it selects a function. Although some may feel the need for such a control system is negated by the inclusion of a touch screen, we still think it's easier and more convenient to use than the included stylus. However, if you want you can turn it off it will then act as a standard four-way navigational pad.

Aside from being HSDPA-capable, this handset is also equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This unit includes a built-in GPS receiver and comes with Samsung Mobile Navigator software. The Route 66 application uses NAVTEQ maps; the navigation experience is similar to the one seen on the i560, with the exception of a redesigned main menu and interface. Conveniently, you can use the optical joystick to browse and select options in both the main menu and submenus, and also to select points on a map.

The GPS experience is similar to using a dedicated in-car unit, minus the large display but with added portability. Voice guidance is excellent, with the volume easily loud enough at its highest setting, allowing you to keep your eyes on the road.

Running Windows Mobile 6, the i780 naturally has the latest mobile versions of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as well as the OneNote Mobile application for taking notes. Windows Live, the Opera Web browser, Windows Media Player and Windows Messenger are also included, along with an RSS reader. The home screen provides quick and easy access to commonly used features such as phone calls, Messenger, e-mail and SMS messages.

Built-in 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and HSDPA-connectivity mean the i780 is excellent for e-mail, while Bluetooth 2.0 with support for A2DP means you can stream your music to a pair of wireless headphones. For synchronisation with a PC, there is a USB cable included in the sales package; unfortunately it uses a proprietary connection. The i780 also ships with two batteries — this is ideal for road warriors.

Multimedia buffs will be disappointed to learn there is no 3.5mm headphone jack — Samsung has once again stuck with its proprietary charging/headphone port, meaning you can't listen to music while charging the handset. The 2-megapixel camera is disappointing. It works as well as you would expect, but on a relatively advanced device with the latest features, a 2-megapixel camera lacking flash or autofocus is a let down. However, as it is a business-centric device the quality of the camera won't be an issue for many. A VGA camera on the front is present for video calls over a 3G network.

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