You don't need a GCSE in Gadget Studies to realise that if manufacturers can perfect a camphone with optical zoom, it means almost certain death for the point-and-shoot digicam.

Such zoomage has already been seen on a mobile – the Sharp 903 and Nokia N93i both flaunt optical zooms alongside a 2MP lens. But now Samsung is upping the ante big time with the G800, teaming a 3x optical with five-megapixel power.

You're the one for me, fatty

Samsung is no stranger to the 5MP camphone scene – the excellent G600 arrived in the summer of 2007 – but the G800 is an altogether more serious proposition.  

First impressions aren't great: this is a supersized handset, a world away from Samsung's diet-conscious Ultra handsets. The optical zoom may be of 'inner' variety, meaning close-ups are carried out behind the lens glass rather than via a protruding telescopic appendage, but it still results in a chunky monkey profile. The classy sliding lens cover doesn't help either, considerably adding to its waistline.

But this thickset physique does mean the G800 is solidly constructed, lifting its classy design cues and armour-plated jacket from the LG Shine. Even the keypad is pure Shine, while the buttons are big and bold for heightened user-friendliness. It's a great phone to handle.

Low-light lethargy

The camera is ready for action the moment you slide open the lens cover. Taking and saving pictures is also pretty swift, and you get a sophisticated mix of autofocus, macro focus, ISO, white balance and red-eye reduction treatment.

It's clear the 3x optical zoom beats its crude digital zoom counterpart, but it can't quite match the quality of standalone camera rivals. Picture quality remains consistent in close-up, but it sometimes struggles for focus in low-level lighting conditions.

In fact, this is a constant problem with the G800: it only really flourishes in natural light. But in these (good) conditions, it does delivers vibrant, colourful and detailed snaps.

Of course, there's a Xenon flash to help out in the gloom, but compared to the bulbs currently blinding us on the Sony Ericsson K850i and Nokia N82, the G800's is pretty feeble. It's definitely the most disappointing aspect of this phone.

Face recognition, however, works surprisingly well. Once you've taken your snaps there's also an embedded ShoZu app to post your pics online.

HSDPA, but no Wi-Fi

Happily, Samsung has futureproofed the G800 with HSDPA. Mobile download speeds of up to 7.2MBps help make up for the lack of Wi-Fi, and you can view your full-fat internet feed on the 2.4-inch display in either 'Desktop' or 'Smartfit' mode. We recommend the latter.

The music player is decent enough, although it does sound a bit muddy. The lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack means you're stuck with the cheap supplied 'phones.

On paper the G800's photographic features are impressive, and for the most part it delivers. For picture quality, it's certainly up there with the Sony Ericsson K850i and Nokia N82, despite the subdued Xenon flash. But as a phone, it falls short of its rivals – and misses that coverted Hot Buy rating.


Stuff says... 

Samsung G800 review

The G800 mostly makes good on its photographic promise, but feels too much like a camera and not enough like a phone