Samsung has long been at the forefront of the camera phone market with it boasting the UK's first 8-megapixel model, the i8510 (Innov8), among its accolades. Sadly that milestone didn't mark the end of the megapixel race, though, so today I'm looking at a 12-megapixel model, the Samsung M8910 Pixon 12. Thankfully, there is more to this phone than just a pixel bump so let's take a look.
First and foremost, this is possibly the most camera-like camera phone we've ever seen in terms of ergonomics. This is mostly due to the proper textured hand grip that makes this by far the easiest phone to hold and use as a camera - assuming you're right handed that is. The lens is also much larger than those found on most phones and its housing protrudes a fair distance from the body of the phone as well. The lack of a keypad or keyboard (due to this being a touchscreen phone) also enhances the camera feel. Finally, there's a dedicated camera power button as well as the shutter button. This brings the phone out of standby and straight into the camera application without the need to unlock the phone first, so you've more chance of capturing that fleeting Kodak moment.
Further physical camera based features include a proper Xenon flash above the lens, and off to the side is an additional LED for shooting video in the dark - a very welcome addition.
Unsurprisingly, due to all this extra hardware, the Pixon 12 isn't the most attractive of phones. That said, with dimensions of 108mm x 53mm x 17mm, it's actually quite a sensibly sized phone that fits comfortably in the hand and is easy to handle. We also like how all the buttons are positioned in such a way that you don't ever need to shift your grip to reach them (again, this is a slightly right hand-biased point) - something large phones like the iPhone classically fall down on.
Looking round those buttons, we find call answer, menu, and call end ones on the front while the right side is home to the aforementioned shutter button and camera button with the volume rocker/zoom control above these. A lanyard loop also nestles in the bottom right corner (top right when in camera/landscape mode). On the left is the lock button and, above this, a microSD slot. The phone only comes with 150MB of onboard memory but does come with a 2GB card to get you started and will accept 16GB microSDHC cards.
Up top, meanwhile, is the micro-USB data and charging socket that's hidden behind a little flap. This also doubles as the headset socket and there's a micro-USB to 3.5mm headset adapter in the box. Initially we thought sound quality from it was appalling. Samsung appeared to have cranked up the bass level in the EQ so that with its own earphones (that normally lack any semblance of bass) it sounds passable. However, if you plug a half decent set of headphones in it gives your music that same unique and disappointing timbre that you get when standing outside the venue of a gig on a cold November night, slowly getting soaked to the bone by the UK's famed drizzle as you desperately try to woo the bouncers into letting you in, and all you can hear is a muffled rumble accompanied by the occasional snatch of guitar or vocals floating on the fetid steamy air that drifts from the high windows.
Hmmm, got a bit carried aware there. As it turned out, though, this was the effect of turning on the '5.1 channel' mode, which automatically comes on when you insert headphones. It took us noticing this setting on another Samsung phone (where the button was actually visible without having to tap the album art first) before we worked out that this same setting must've been in use on this phone. Long story, short; don't use the '5.1 channel' mode for music.