Plenty of camphones have now leaped over the 5megapixel bar, but to get in the real mobile elite a handset must now marry considerable snapping talents with a smart operating system. So far, this rat pack includes Nokia’s upcoming N96, Sony Ericsson’s C905 – and now Samsung’s i8510.

Known as the Innov8 outside of the UK, the i8510’s rap sheet certainly qualifies it for membership. There’s 16GB of storage (an 8GB version is also available), built-in GPS, Wi-Fi and HSDPA connectivity, a Symbian Series 60 OS and an 8megapixel camera that has autofocus, a slow-mo mode and can record VGA quality video. On paper, it looks pretty much invincible.     

The incredible bulk

In the flesh, though, the first compromise for this power becomes obvious – it’s a bulk-a-maniac. Its dimensions are almost identical to the N96, but it’s a pocket-sagging 15g heavier and the slightly chunky slider action doesn’t help its unwieldy physique.

With a Symbian-flavoured UI reminiscent of Nokia’s smartphones, the i8510 is intuitive to use but still throws up some infuriating operational quirks. These niggles centre on the mechanical joypad that doubles as a touch-sensitive joystick. You can tinker with the sensitivity but this doesn’t stop it being an overly nervy customer.

Unfortunately, turn off the touch moves and the mechanised joypad isn’t much of an improvement either. We kept inadvertently pressing the centre button when using the outer directional keys, which all proved a bit frustrating.   

Super snapper

The Sony Ericsson C905 may have been the first 8MP camphone to be announced, but the i8510 has pipped it to the high street. Despite criminally leaving out a Xenon flash – you will have to make do with the next best thing, a dual power LED – it’s easily the best camphone in terms of picture quality we’ve seen.

Fire up the camera via the shutter key and the classy automatic lens cover opens, a la Sony Ericsson’s K850i. It takes about four second to kick in, and there’s a handy switch on top to toggle between camera, video and the gallery. It’s also bursting with capable photo mods including blink, smile and face detection, anti-shake, geotagging and ISO settings up to 1600.

The lack of Xenon flash, optical zoom and a top-level sensor means the i8510 won’t replace your digital camera, but it produces photos with strong colours and good contrast and is more than a handy alternative for printable photos.

Review continues after the break...



Mammoth storage

With 16GB of onboard storage and the ability to expand a further 16GB with microSDHC cards, the i8510 can store a very sizeable dollop of multimedia content.

The music player is also well equipped and dynamic with an 18-option equaliser, although we’re not sure who plays ‘Soft Rock’ anymore, and the integrated 3.5mm headphone jack is also a boon for mobile music fans.

Elsewhere, the i8510’s expansive 2.8in screen is ideal for Google Maps and the embedded Route 66 Mobile 8 software (although this requires a licence and subcription). And with support for network-powered A-GPS, locating a satellite fix was relatively speedy.

There’s no doubt that, in terms of features, the i8510 has set the benchmark for all to follow. But the irksome joypad and brute size mean it falls just short of both five stars and the title of being a compact replacement.


Stuff says... 

Samsung i8510 review

A smartphone powerhouse that misses out on five star billing due to an annoying joypad