The first collaboration between Danish hi-fi gurus Bang & Olufsen and Samsung resulted in the Serene. It was a uniquely designed handset, but lacked features and was an ergonomic disaster.

Far from being perturbed, the self-styled ‘dream team’ has returned with the Serenata, an HSDPA-powered handset that still indulges B&O’s whimsical design. And this time it focuses on iPhone-rivalling music playback.

Lacks the luxury feel

First impressions are that you’re not in the presence of a £1000 piece of kit. In fact, you would feel short changed at £100. Its hard rubber and metal bodywork is expertly constructed but doesn’t scream ‘luxury’ like the Serene.

B&O has continued with its switcheroo ergonomics, positioning the display below the track-wheel. Initially it feels slightly uncomfortable but you acclimatise quickly and the handset’s curved lines means it fits the palm better than the Serene.

The Danes have also dispensed with any kind of keypad and camera, with the phone relying largely on the track-wheel and a 2.6in ‘sensi-touch’ display for navigation, making calls and sending texts. Tap the screen and a virtual circular keypad appears, letting you use the aluminium track wheel to select the numbers like an old Bakelite telephone. Similarly, writing SMS involves skating around a ring of letters. Both prove exasperating and longwinded.

However, the moving track-wheel is quite possibly the smoothest ever to grace a mobile phone. Sizeable with a nice thumb grip, this wheel is a slick mover and highly receptive to speed change. It also doubles as five-way mechanised navigation pad.Best ever mobile speaker

With 4GB of onboard memory, there’s enough room for around 1,000 tracks and you fire up the player via dedicated Music touch-pad, like Sony Ericsson’s K850i. The Serenata’s music player menu interface is iPod –esque in layout, but its controls feel a tad disjointed in location.

The Serenata sounds so accomplished it only needs three bass boost settings to add some low-end thump. Its slick audio performance is mightily impressive. Slide up the Serenata and a whacking great speaker reveals itself. It’s driven by B&O ICEpower technology and proves to be the best speaker ever to grace a mobile phone. And we thought the N81’s airshifters were impressive.

B&O likes its products to fit into its homogenous luxury world and the Serenata has a folding desk stand to let it perch smugly in your B&O home. You can either slide open the built-in speaker and let fly or stream music to Bluetooth airshifters. Designer Bluetooth speakers, naturally.

Sure, the Serenata is exclusive and luxurious but it’s definitely not worth the asking price. Then again we can’t deny it’s probably delivers the best audio performance, along with the iPhone, of any music handset on the market. Your call.

Stuff says... 

B&O Serenata review

Pure B&O – fanciful design and ergonomically challenging, but the Serenata has a sound to die for