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Hands-On with the Samsung SGH-i780 - CES 2008

The Samsung i780 has all the right pieces to be a full-on Treo Killer: Windows Mobile 6, flush 320x320 touchscreen, front-facing QWERTY (a must-have for Treo lovers), WiFi (b/g), 400Mhx proc, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, A-GPS, a 2mp camera, HSDPA, and a little mouse.

Yet Treo-Killer it is not. As we're fond of telling people, you can't just throw Windows Mobile software and sweet hardware at a device and assume it will come out right. You have to think about the integration of the two - how well they work together and what your various buttons and interfaces do with Windows Mobile.

After the break, a gallery and the deets on why the i780 won't be taking the front-facing QWERTY/Touchscreen crown in its current iteration.

The i780 is European-only, no 3G support in the US. That makes it a non-Treo-Killer since the Treo's homebase is here. No matter, though, the US is actually a relatively small market for a company like Samsung so I can't be mad at them about that.

What I can and are mad at them about is the “Optical Joystick/Finger Mouse.” It's a nice enough idea, but it works ...poorly. Let's set aside the fact that using a mouse on a touchscreen is sort of a silly idea in the first place, that it really doesn't add that much one-handability. So what do I have then? I have a tiny little square where the 5-way usually is (more on that in a second). I suspect you could adjust the settings, but I found you had to keep pushing and sliding the mouse around to get where you wanted to go.

So no big deal, right? Like when I discovered that the scroll wheel on the T-Mobile Shadow up to snuff, I figured I could just revert to the old 5-way to get around. Wrong. The SGH-i780 lacks a 5-way. It's touchscreen, mouse, or nothing at all. Not the way I want to interact with a mobile device. Not the way you do, either.

Ok, so saying there is no 5-way is a bit of a lie. You can switch from “Mouse mode” to “D-Pad” mode to get that little touchpad to revert to a 5-way. So to go down you slide your finger down on the pad. To go down again - move your thumb up and then slide down again. And so on.

So, the SGH-i780? Feature-packed, implementation challenged.

Gallery below, in case you haven't been scared away yet. Actually, take a look, that flush 320x320 screen is gorgeous

WC Staff
WC Staff
12 Comments
  • Moved to cross-platform chat for two reasons:
    1) it's essentially an i780 vs Treo article. Treo Wins - seriously.
    2) A reminder that there's very little Treo/Centro action (well, *official* Treo/Centro action ;) ) at CES, so if you're looking for our take on stuff most of it is over at WMExperts.com :)
  • Hey Dieter, that's exactly what I was thinking when Arnie did that demo over at his site a month or so ago. The Treo form factor is essentially still to be beat. My only requests: flush 320x320 screen, GPS, 15-16mm thick, and maybe some other hardkeys, and of course 128mb/256mb.
  • Nice write up Dieter.
    I was curious has Samsung would fair on this device--it really looked like a winner just by specs but that d-pad/mouse issue sounds quite odd (the device also looks too wide for my liking, cost of making it thin I suppose).
    It seems a lot of these OEMs have great ideas on design but ultimately fail at full implementation and as you point out, marrying the hardware to the software, something that Palm for the most part nailed on the 7xx WM series.
    It will be quite interesting to see Palm's new 8xx WM series to see if
    [LIST=1]
    [*]Those optimizations are still there
    [*]Have they gone even further with them
    [/LIST]
    I assume #1 is still true, but I really hope Palm did #2 as well since companies like HTC are finally taking that first baby step into OS optimization.
  • As we're fond of telling people, you can't just throw Windows Mobile software and sweet hardware at a device and assume it will come out right.
    Great write up and you are right on the money. So many of these companies forget about usability. Luckily for Palm, Apple is about the only company that really pushes UI. Even Palm drops the ball now and again, as the new Phone app seems stuck on the Treo 680.
    BTW, nice find on the white Centro.
  • hmmm, you examined EXACTLY one feature and that makes this new
    great device a non-Treo killer? What about all the other features
    we have been drooling for for years like GPS, WiFi, BT2.0, etc. etc. etc.?
    And, perhaps it just takes some practice to work with the new
    mouse-like device?
  • hmmm, you examined EXACTLY one feature and that makes this new
    great device a non-Treo killer? What about all the other features
    we have been drooling for for years like GPS, WiFi, BT2.0, etc. etc. etc.?
    And, perhaps it just takes some practice to work with the new
    mouse-like device?
    I'd be hard-pressed to be convinced that any amount of practice could save that silly little mouse pad. Words can barely express how much of a pain it was to use.
    As for those extra features - yeah, you are right. That's what makes it so aggravating - they get the feature list down but failed on the implementation.
  • .. now that I have the device in my hands, it is really not that bad to move the cursor with my finger. I am surprised but its actually usable. Perhaps they did fine tune it a bit since you tested it?
    If I just could figure out how to get the GPS thingy to work ...
  • .. now that I have the device in my hands, it is really not that bad to move the cursor with my finger. I am surprised but its actually usable. Perhaps they did fine tune it a bit since you tested it?
    If I just could figure out how to get the GPS thingy to work ...
    Since it comes with the touch screen, why not simply use the finger to tap the screen? :confused: (This is one of the selling point of tabletpc.)
  • Any screen shots showing the standard application on *flush* 320x320 touchscreen. Thanks.
  • I've been a long time Treo user, currently have a 750. I just received my i780 today and it is such a joy. The mousepad/joystick is a breeze and this device is very responsive, the form factor is awesome, lighter and thinner than the 750. For me it is a definite Treo killer (selling he 750 tomorrow) but Palm killed the Treo , not this device or any other.
  • I've seen some hatchet job reviews but that takes the biscuit - I got one of those last week, I didn't like the mouse either, so em.. I turned it off and used the d-pad. :confused:
    I looked at swopping at a treo again and had one for a couple of days but it looked a dog next to the samsung.
  • hahaha nice..