Over the years that I've been following the digital camera market I've seen a number of attempts to create multi-function cameras, and very few of them have been even remotely successful. Usually these attempts have come from minor brands producing low-quality cameras, who attempt to hide the inadequacies of their products by stuffing them full of extra features. Unfortunately this just means that you end up with a gadget that does a number of things very badly, rather than just doing one job well, which is what one hopes to get with a single-function camera.
It's unusual then to see a respectable brand like Samsung venturing down this path. It already makes some excellent cameras, such as the NV30 that I reviewed last week, so it's not like it's got anything to hide. Of course Samsung also makes a wide range of other electronic gadgets, including some highly-regarded MP3 players, so I suppose it's only natural that some bright spark in Samsung's design department should try to combine the two.
The i8 incorporates a fairly well featured MP3 player and comes with a decent pair of headphones. That's not all though, because the i8 also includes a text viewer, a multimedia viewer and an unusual Tour Guide function which can offer advice and information about a range of worldwide tourist destinations that can be pre-loaded into its 190MB of internal memory. It also takes photos, with an internal 3x zoom lens and 8.2-megapixel sensor, which at least in theory should make it the ideal holiday camera.
At first glance the i8 doesn't look like anything terribly special. It has a fairly unassuming shape, a plain rectangular slab with rounded corners, with the lens mounted in the upper right corner of the front face. The body is made of plastic and comes in a wide range of colours, and to be honest the overall build quality isn't that impressive. The front panel flexes a little when squeezed, and the general feel is a bit on the cheap side, more like a toy than a serious bit of consumer electronics. However the rounded shape is inherently strong and the lack of any protrusions means there's not much that can be broken off.