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Samsung Galaxy K Zoom review

Andrew Williams

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Samsung Galaxy K Zoom
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Summary

Our Score:

7

Pros

  • Optical zoom is great for photo composition
  • High customisable software

Cons

  • Screen not pin-sharp
  • Bulky and heavy
  • Oversaturated display colours
  • Poor battery life

Key Features

  • 4.8-inch 720 Super AMOLED
  • Hexacore Exynos 5 CPU
  • 20.7-megapixel camera
  • Manufacturer: Samsung
  • Review Price: £400.00

What is the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom?

The Samsung Galaxy K Zoom is a phone-camera hybrid, and not Samsung’s first. Last year it made the Galaxy S4 Zoom.

Both phones are based on the same rough idea: a phone with the lens of a 'proper' camera. But the K Zoom offers better specs and sensibly distances itself from the Samsung Galaxy S5 in its naming. Just like last time, though, it is only really for people who must have an optical zoom.

Galaxy K Zoom – Design

The Samsung Galaxy K Zoom is the sort of device you might imagine resulting if you put a compact camera and a phone next to each other and pushed them together really hard. It has the dimpled back styling of Samsung’s latest phones, and looks just like a normal phone from the front. But on the back is a giant lens housing that sticks out and alters the weighting of the phone substantially.

Its lens is a key feature – this is one of just a few phones to be released in the UK to feature an optical zoom. It is a 10x optical zoom too, offering the kind of focal range you get in a superzoom compact, not just a bog-standard one.

SEE ALSO: Galaxy S4 Zoom review

We fully appreciate that Samsung probably had to do some clever design work to get the Galaxy K Zoom to its current size, but it remains seriously chunky by current standards. It’s 20mm thick by its lens, and 16.6mm thick across most of its middle. If this was a teenager, it’d constantly have its self-esteem chipped away at by suggestions that it “really likes its food”.

The odd shape of the phone does take a little getting used to as the lens housing sits your hand naturally wants to lie. It’s fairly comfy to hold with one finger resting directly on the lens, even though this seems a little odd at first – most of us are taught when growing up not to poke TV screens, camera lenses or speaker cones – but the lens is actually covered by a layer of Gorilla Glass 2 to keep it safe.

The weight of the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom is also unusual. It’s a heavy phone, and Samsung doesn’t make many of those. It weighs 200g, 55g heavier than the Galaxy S5. Thanks to the camera lens optics, quite a lot of that weight sits up at the top end of the phone. Unusual weight distribution makes the bedding-in process take even longer.

If you’re going to fall in love with the K Zoom, it’ll probably be a slow-burner. And you need to bear this in mind, or you might take an instant dislike to the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom.

As well as being a lot chunkier than Samsung’s other phones, the K Zoom misses out on several hardware extras you get elsewhere. There’s no waterproofing, and no fingerprint sensor, both of which feature in the Galaxy S5. We don’t miss the finger scanner, but a bit of waterproofing would come in handy when out shooting some pics on a rainy day – not that the phone will instantly die as soon as it touches a raindrop.

SEE ALSO: Nokia Lumia 1020

Galaxy K Zoom 8

What the Galaxy K Zoom shares with the Galaxy S5 is its slightly plasticky feel. We used the white version, and it tends to have a less soft finish than the company’s latest black phones - there’s more to picking a colour than just the look these days.

The Galaxy K Zoom has a microSD card slot too, and it is – thankfully – on the side of the phone. Normally Samsung puts its card slots under the battery cover, and normally that makes perfect sense. But with a camera-obsessed phone where you’re much more likely to be swapping out cards regularly, the little plastic microSD flap on the left edge is a welcome sight.

Galaxy K Zoom – Screen

The Samsung Galaxy K Zoom has a 4.8-inch screen, and it feels a year or two behind the current top phones.

Like the Galaxy S5, the K Zoom uses a Super AMOLED display, but the resolution is 720p rather than 1080p. In an LCD phone a 720p display would offer a pretty sharp image, but thanks to the phone’s PenTile-type OLED screen, it looks a little fuzzy.

So what does PenTile mean? It’s a screen type that sees pixels share subpixels. In a normal LCD pixel, there are red, green and blue (RGB) sub pixels in each pixel. In a PenTile array, one red, one blue and two green (RGBG) subpixels form two pixels. Unless a screen has an oversampling of pixels, a PenTile arrangement looks a lot less sharp than a standard RGB rival.

K Zoom

To put this into some greater context, the Galaxy K Zoom screen looks much, much less sharp than the Motorola Moto G. And it’s on-par with the Galaxy S3 in sharpness – which feels pretty ancient these days.

The Galaxy K Zoom also has none of the colour saturation improvements we saw in the Galaxy S5. Colours are severely oversaturated, and unlike some other Samsung phone there are no custom screen modes to let you tone this down. We’ll be frank – we’re disappointed, and it marks a real step back after the fantastic screen of the Galaxy S5.

Top brightness is also a little low to take on bright daylight with the same ease that some of the latest high-end phones manage, though it is still just about usable in these conditions. Also, whites aren’t as pure-looking as those of a good LCD either, with a slight blue tint.Galaxy K Zoom 2

You do still get the traditional benefits of an OLED screen, so contrast, black level and viewing angles are all excellent. The screen looks very vivid and rich, it just that colours are about as realistic as a kid’s cartoon.

Your eyes will adjust to the screen’s overblown colours, and despite the PenTile style the display is reasonably sharp. But if you’re expecting a real top-end display you’ll be disappointed.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

Sue

June 13, 2014, 7:18 am

The k zoom DOES have a 2 stage shutter button!

Andrew_TR

June 13, 2014, 9:29 am

Hi Sue, It's likely the one we tried was pretty pre-production. Sounds like they've improved it for the final model!

Karen Miles

June 17, 2014, 4:37 pm

Hi Sue I take it you have one of these phones - are you pleased with it I have the S4 at present and the video is superb how does the video on the k compare:

Arpit Agarwal

July 28, 2014, 5:13 am

I think there are lots of incorrect things mentioned in this review. I am using this phone for past 1 week and I do not agree with most of the points mentioned in this review. Below are the pros and cons as per my usage:

Pros:

1) The best camera phone. Performs better when compared to both Lumia 1020 and Galaxy S5. Both Lumia 1020 and Galaxy S5 have tendency to over saturate the colors. This might look pleasing to eyes but the photographer loses out the original setting. Galaxy K Zoom gives you realistic colors without over saturating and over sharpening the images. Any casual photographer would love what K Zoom has to offer.

2) It works very well as a phone. It has a hexa core processor with 2 GB RAM and a very good MALI GPU. This combination provides lag free user interface and gaming experience.

3) Better sound quality when compared to S5. Being thicker this phone has more room for the speaker system to breath and therefore produces better sound clarity and bass.

4) Good battery backup as opposed to what has been mentioned in this review. I easily get 24 hours with single charge.

5) Very good charging speeds. I am able to charge the phone in 1 hours 20 minutes flat to 100% from 10%. i don't know how the reviewer was charging his phone. May be he had a loads of background services running.

6) Very good to hold with rounded and grippy back.

Cons:

1) A little bulky at 200 grams.
2) Not top of the line specs for a smartphone.

Arghya Chakraborty

August 29, 2014, 4:33 pm

yes absolutely right. i am also using this mobile. this is so good.

Meysam Shojaee Nejad

September 2, 2014, 2:13 am

Any camera has maximum and minimum shutter speed factor. While this factor is highly significant for professionals, I couldn't find any information about this factor in this camera-phone.

amit

September 27, 2014, 6:03 am

sir i also want to purchase galaxy k zoom please give me your contact no i want to contact you please my no. is 9890330550

chris

October 9, 2014, 4:41 pm

wondering how it compares to the s4 zoom eg what are the upgrades?

pzete

May 4, 2015, 7:37 am

Where can I purchase this phone? I have s4 zoom and love it but I wouldn't mind trying this out when I upgrade. Any info is appreciated thanks pzete

toptenreview

July 10, 2015, 1:05 pm

Recommendation : Don't buy (See bottom of review)

Not the best travel zoom, not the best smartphone. But the best combination of the two which means you'll never be without a zoom camera. Which as a parent is invaluable.

I thought memory would be too small, but actually better than my previous Galaxy Note 1 which had an annoying partition limiting user accessible area. Speedy enough for anything I needed to do with it. (I'm not a big games player, but not sure this device is really aimed at you if you are anyway.)

Removable battery which extends life of device as battery performance degrades. SD card slot which you don't need to remove the battery to access.

Some issues with occasional dropping 4G signal on Three when stationary which appears to be a software issue, as restarting always resolves.

One significant design flaw that I hadn't seen mentioned in reviews before purchase is that the retracting lens cover is under the outer layer of glass. I can understand why, to protect sensitive mechanism, but it means that is open to becoming scratched and then useless. Think Samsung should include a more manual lens cover mechanism over the lens and/or include a case with lens cover built in.

However can't recommend purchase as, despite keeping in a soft pouch rather than directly in my pocket to protect the lens from scratches, dust has got into the lens mechanism. (Between the first and second layer of glass, under the lens cover mechanism as far as I can tell.) This dust becomes very visible in photos as you zoom in, rendering the whole point of carrying the slightly bulkier phone pointless.

I have returned for repair under warranty twice in subsequent weeks. Both times with detailed examples of the issue. (Clear description along with prints of photos showing the issue.) Both times it was returned without the dust issue being resolved or an explanation why, along with an issue I wasn't reporting shown as fixed! (New battery first time, some charging issue the second time. How come charging not an issue when returned the previous week?!?!?)

Googling ('k zoom dust issue') this seems to be a known issue carried over from the original S4 Zoom. Samsung should not be allowed to sell these devices until this design flaw is fixed.

Recommendation : Don't buy this camera or its successor until you have read the real world reviews of people using for an extended period

Max

January 3, 2016, 11:37 pm

Thanks!

Kat zijn viool

February 9, 2016, 1:01 pm

Any idea if there will be a new and improved version of the zoom out any time soon? I absolutely love my s4, and it seems this one, the K, is out of stock everywhere in the Netherlands. So I hope/ assume that is because an improved version is comming out soon.

Bob Monster

May 7, 2016, 11:03 am

There is only one reason not to buy this phone: being unable to care for it properly.

With a cover that protects the lens and a little care is all that is needed to use as any other device, the "extra weight" it is insignificant, any person who has or had a device that slightly larger size or know that only much lower quality appliances is significantly lighter.

Reason to buy:

Photos - If you know taking pictures of fact, instead of just clicking the button, there are only two mobile phones to have, the S4 Zoom or K Zoom, because only they have manual configuration, but the qualities of the K Zoom are superior the S4 Zoom (I have both) at all, just what was missing to be perfect is the infra red, but fortunately it is possible to buy super cheap and engage in place the headset.

Battery:

It lasts much, just need to use correctly: the first 4 loads should be complete, that is, from 0% to 100%, never recharge before, after that it passes the last well and it does not matter how you load in the future.

Secret

May 29, 2016, 2:43 am

Recently purchase the samsung galaxy k zoom sm c115 white 4G Lte cellphone just because of it's Hybrid design (combination of both Digital camera and Cellphone) which let me reduce my load of carrying the separate Camera as well as cellphone. Just gonna Love it. The important thing missing as compare to normal cellphone is the Torch Light. i have to use an app such as Screen Light to brighten the Screen and use as torch light.Also, there is no FM radio.Nevertheless to mention, the bulky shape puts some extra weight and thickness. But over all, the cellphone is worthy to invest.

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