Samsung's love affair with touchscreen phones has produced some gems -- and some stinkers. The latest direction both LG and Samsung are taking touchscreens is the high-end camera phone. The Samsung Pixon aims to delight you with an 8-megapixel camera, but is it an annoying pap or a bona fide Rankin?
The Samsung Pixon is currently available for free on a monthly contract.
Compared to the LG Renoir, the Pixon takes itself a little more seriously. A solid-feeling black casing houses a large touchscreen and on the back an 8-megapixel camera that juts out in a similar fashion to the one on the LG Renoir. Unlike the Renoir though, the Pixon's lens cover opens and shuts automatically.
The Samsung's touchscreen is as responsive as the Renoir's screen, but not as responsive as the iPhone's or T-Mobile G1's. You may find that at times the screen doesn't respond as expected, but with a little practice it is usable. Unlike the iPhone, there are mechanical keys for taking pictures, which is a relief.
The Pixon's software is Samsung's own mix of cute icons and widgets. You can drag several apps on to the homepage for easy access and flick photos left and right as you would on an iPhone -- there are no multi-touch gesture controls, however. It looks good, but it's no Google Android, which we hope to see on Samsung phones soon.
Just like you'd use a standalone camera, to take a picture you hold the Pixon sideways and press the dedicated shutter button. A simple to use on-screen interface offers up a series of camera options, including shooting mode, flash, exposure value and auto-focus, among others.
Pictures in daylight and well-lit areas came out really well -- colours were balanced and the pictures looked sharp. In low light we were less impressed by the picture quality, because the dual LED photo lights didn't provide enough illumination. It would have been great to see a xenon flash on the Pixon instead.
Similar to the LG Renoir, the Pixon's texting interface offers a traditional on-screen keypad layout or a full Qwerty keypad, depending on which way you hold it. While it can be fiddly at times, it does work and after some practice you'll be able to tap out messages fairly easily.
Viewing photos is a noteworthy experience, as the Pixon gives you the option to view one photo at a time or zoom out and view them as if they were sprawled out on a table. You can use your finger to flick each photo to the side and view the next one -- it's actually very useful when you're trying to view several photos in one go.
You can geo-tag pictures, marking the location they were taken using the Pixon's GPS. We expected to be able to use the GPS alongside Google Maps, but oddly the option doesn't appear. Shooting video was a more satisfying experience -- the Pixon allows you to shoot at up to 120 frames per second, which creates a smooth-looking video.