February 22, 2013

SAMSUNG S8530 WAVE II REVIEW


When we reviewed the original Samsung Wave, we were greatly impressed by the overall performance of the phone. But what we really liked about that phone was that despite the laundry list of features that it had, it was quite affordable. Due to shortage of its Super AMOLED displays, Samsung had to discontinue that phone but since it was its flagship bada handset, it couldn't just let it go. So, in its place, comes the new Samsung S8530 Wave II. 

 
Wave 2

The new phone brings some notable changes. First of all, the display is now bigger and instead of Super AMOLED, Samsung is now using the Super LCD. The new phone also runs on bada 1.2, which brings about some useful changes. The new Wave II is also a bit cheaper, which makes it even better value. Read on for the full review of this handset. 

Bundle

  • Samsung S8530 Wave II
  • Battery
  • Charger
  • Stereo Headset
  • Data Cable
  • User Guide
  • 2 Software CDs
  • 2GB microSD Card
Design and Build:

The Samsung Wave II looks almost identical to its older brother. The design shows subtle differences, the most prominent being the new chin, which houses a different looking set of buttons. The front side is now completely flat as against the concave front of the original Wave. The phone is obviously longer because of the bigger display. From the back, the two phones look exactly the same, except for one minor difference. We noted in our Wave review that the battery cover looks to be of a slightly different color than the rest of the body. In the Wave II, this issue is fixed and everything looks just the way it should. The camera lens cover and the LED flash are diamond shaped just as they were on the original Wave, even though the front menu button no longer has that shape on the new model. One more thing I'd like to note is that the black plastic at the base of the phone is actually translucent, so you can see some of the circuits inside when you are under a strong light. 

 

Wave 2




Wave 2


Wave 2


Wave 2
 

As before the design of the phone is very nice. It has a very premium feel to it and the dimensions and finish of the materials makes you want to hold the phone in your hand. The build quality is terrific, as is usually the case with Samsung phones. Just based on its looks and build, the phone manages to create a very good first impression. 




Display
The biggest change to the phone is the display. When Samsung moved from Super AMOLED to Super LCD, a lot of people worried that this would adversely affect the image quality of the display. Samsung's Super AMOLED has become some sort of a benchmark in mobile phone displays, along with Apple's Retina display and people feel anything less would be a serious downgrade. But one must not forget that this is Samsung and even if it is not Super AMOLED, it will never ship its phones with sub-standard displays.

Whatever fears we had regarding the display performance were put to rest when we first switched on the phone. Quite honestly, Super LCD looks as awesome as the Super AMOLED. If you feel it is inferior, it is possibly because of a placebo effect. The only time Super AMOLED's superiority comes across is in viewing angles, which were a bit better. But apart from that, we had no complaints with the Super LCD on the Wave II. As an added bonus, it is now bigger compared to the one on the Wave.
The display is also covered by a scratch and smudge resistant glass, although there is no information on whether it is Corning's Gorilla Glass. We tested it by rubbing our keys against it and couldn't produce any visible damage.

Hardware
The Samsung S8530 Wave II runs on Samsung's Hummingbird platform. It consists of a 1GHz ARM Cortex A8 CPU and PowerVR SGX 540 GPU. This is the same combo that was found on the I9000 Galaxy S and is actually superior to the one on the I9003 Galaxy S. The phone has 2GB of internal memory for applications, messages and files, 512MB of RAM and expandable memory via microSD cards, which, unfortunately, is placed under the battery, just like on the original Wave.

Software
The Wave II has bada v1.2, which brings some improvement over its predecessor, although most of them seem to be under the hood because we did not spot anything that was radically different apart from the browser, which is now better than before. bada is still one of the better mobile operating systems out there with a good, easy to use interface and plenty of features. But what holds it down right now is the poor choice of apps that are available for it. It is hard not to get depressed when you browse through the Samsung apps store, trying to find something interesting but failing to do so. We could only find a few applications and games that we actually wanted to download. Everything else was just rubbish. 

 



Unfortunately, we don't see the situation really improving on the application front, not unless Samsung drops Android and only focuses on bada, which it won't do. Its original plan was to launch several low-end touchscreen phones with bada but now it seems it has chosen to go with Android in that segment as well. When the manufacturer itself is showing so little interest in the platform, the developers cannot be blamed for sharing the enthusiasm. 

Connectivity
The Samsung Wave II is a quad band GSM 3G handset. It supports HSDPA 3.6Mbps, HSUPA 2Mbps, EDGE, GPRS, Bluetooth v3.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and A-GPS. We felt that the HSDPA speeds were quite low; most phones these days support 7.2Mbps and although none of the networks in India seem to be delivering higher speeds, it makes sense to have a phone that supports higher speeds and is future proof. The Bluetooth 3.0 support is a good thing but when we tried to transfer a file between the Wave II and the Nokia E7, which also supports Bluetooth 3.0, we got abysmally slow speeds that were more in line with Bluetooth 2.0. Even when we tried to transfer a file between the Wave II and a MacBook Pro with Bluetooth 2.1, we got speeds of around 100KBps, which is far too less. 

Wave II supports Samsung's AllShare feature, which lets you stream the content on the phone to a compatible device or watch the content on another device on the phone wirelessly. We did not have a compatible device to test this feature though. 

The browser has now been updated and has a much better interface than before. The browser on the older Wave had floating buttons above the bottom bar. In the new version, the browser close button has been integrated in the bottom bar and the other buttons have been done away with, which is fine as they were extremely annoying. Strangely though, with the controls, Samsung has also done away with the functions. You no longer have the brightness control and more importantly, no full-screen mode, which is really unfortunate. 

The browser performance has improved slightly but some of the older annoyances remain. The address bar on top pops down every time you touch the screen, blocking the links on the top. Things are even more annoying in landscape mode, with half the screen occupied by the bottom bar and the address bar at the top. The browser supports Flash but a lot of the content does not load properly. The browser also runs out of memory very fast and starts choking when you open a page with lots of images. 

Unfortunately, there is not much of a choice available if you don't like the built-in Dolfin browser. You can download Opera Mini but it isn't properly optimized for the Wave II's display. 




Multimedia
Camera
The Samsung Wave II has a 5 megapixel camera with auto-focus and LED flash. The lens cover on the back, although easy to clean, is vulnerable to damage. Unlike Nokia, Samsung does not use the Gorilla glass for the lens cover. The LED flash automatically controls its intensity, so if you are close to a subject, the flash drops down the intensity.

The camera interface is the same as that on Samsung's other phones. You get options such as face detection, smile detection, beauty shot, panorama mode, multiple scene settings, macro mode, etc. It is one of the better designed camera interfaces out there. And unlike some of them, it can retain the setting changes when you quit the application.

The camera quality on the Wave II is good. The images generally look very nice with a good amount of detail and natural colors. In bright areas, however, the camera tends to overexpose certain parts of the images, creating white patches that cannot be fixed in editing. This also happens in low light images when you use flash on closer objects. Although the flash reduces its intensity, the sensor blows up the lighter colored objects and turns them white. 

Click on images to open the high resolution version. Note that the image quality is slightly reduced as imgur compresses them after uploading. 

 













The video recording quality is also pretty good. The Wave II records in 720p resolution and produces some of the better looking videos we have seen from a phone. 

Music
The bada OS has a really nice looking music player. But perhaps the best part about it is that it can also play FLAC files, a fact that Samsung chooses not to advertise for some reason. The audio quality is excellent and the phone can also go very loud. Even the loudspeaker is pretty powerful. 

There is also a built-in FM radio. The radio interface was well designed and you can even store shortcuts to your favorite radio stations for quick access. The radio quality was good, even indoors. 

Videos
The Samsung Wave II supports HD video playback in a variety of formats. Unfortunately, unlike with the older Wave, video playback on the Wave II was bit choppy. It kept dropping frames even on SD resolution video. Format support wasn't reliable as well. At times, it would fail to play the audio in the video. The phone actually has a very good display for watching videos but these issues put a real dampener on our prospects of watching videos on the go. We hope the issues are related to software and that Samsung issues an update which would solve them. 
Note: A lot of people are mentioning that video playback is working smoothly on their Wave II. This could mean that the phone we received may have had some software issue, which resulted in the imperfect video playback. Still, we would advise you to check the video playback yourself if someone you know has a Wave II before taking the jump. 




Battery Life
The Samsung Wave II has a 1500mAh Li-Ion battery. In our testing, the Wave II lasted for a day and a half, which is quite an achievement for a smartphone these days. Our usage generally consisted of calling and web browsing over 3G network and audio playback for a few hours through headphones. The mail application was running in the background and downloading mails after a fixed interval. 

Verdict
The Samsung S8530 Wave II is priced at Rs. 16,499. For that price, the phone is very good value for money. It looks great, has very good build quality, the display is excellent and the phone is packed with features. Unfortunately, as a smartphone, the Wave II does not fare well. The lack of good applications makes it nothing more than a feature phone on steroids. Although that may be fine for some people, most people now want to use applications on their phone would hence find the Wave II very disappointing in that department. We also had issues with the video playback and the web browser, although better than before, could still use some improvement. Actually, we would like to urge Samsung to drop the Dolfin altogether browser and employ Opera Mobile in the next version of bada. 

 
Wave 2


For undemanding users, the Wave II could serve as a very good phone. It looks impressive and has a very nice display and an easy to use interface, things that some people value over anything else. Others are, however, advised to look elsewhere, particularly in the direction of Android. 
 

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