Samsung-Bang & Olufsen Serenata (GSM Triband) Mobile Phone - Review

Samsung-Bang & Olufsen Serenata (GSM Triband) Mobile Phone - Review

Samsung-Bang & Olufsen Serenata (GSM Triband) Mobile Phone - ReviewBang & Olufsen isn't a name that comes up frequently if you ask the average man-on-the-street about mobile phone brands. Better known to audio enthusiasts as a name synonymous with high-end consumer electronics, the Serenata is the second brainchild born of a partnership between Samsung and Bang & Olufsen. If you remember the Serene, you'd probably recall that the designer phone was more of a showpiece than a practical, everyday gadget. So is this new iteration, positioned as a music device with phone capabilities, any better?

Design of the Bang & Olufsen Serenata Mobile Phone

The first thing we notice about the Serenata is that it looks nothing like a mobile phone. The only signs that would probably blow its cover are the green/red dots which are reminiscent of Call/End buttons on a phone. In fact, if we didn't refer to the user manual, we'd still be trying to figure out where to insert the SIM card.

Samsung-Bang & Olufsen Serenata (GSM Triband) Mobile Phone - ReviewOur next immediate thought is that the Serenata is a beauty to look at. Although it's a little bigger than what we imagined it to be, the build quality and soft matte-black fascia make handling a pleasant experience. A built-in aluminum stand props the Serenata at a 45-degree angle and the material used for both the stand and the hinge lends extra confidence to the construction of the device. The only minus point is that the stand clacks loudly when its returned to closed position.

If we rotate the Serenata upside down, it almost looks like an iPod. One problem with the rotary wheel, which doubles as a four-way directional control, is that it's above the 2.26-inch LCD screen. When our thumb is on the wheel, the fleshy part below the digit ends up obscuring part of the panel. Regardless of whether we use the device as a music player or a phone, it's still a problem, no matter how minor.

Samsung-Bang & Olufsen Serenata (GSM Triband) Mobile Phone - ReviewThe Serenata is also an unconventional slider, and we don't mean that in a bad way. Instead of sliding up the top lid like what we usually do for mobile phones, the back piece slides up to reveal the hidden onboard stereo speakers.

There's only one connector port on the Serenata and it's at the bottom of the unit. A sliding cover protects the port from being exposed. Otherwise, it connects to either the charger or bundled earphones.

Features of the Bang & Olufsen Serenata Mobile Phone

The Serenata is, in fact, a very basic device. It has only two callings (no pun intended): To play music and provide basic mobile phone capabilities. There are no signs of fancy camera tricks or features which people don't use everyday. To put it bluntly, there's only one reason anyone would be interested in paying a premium (we don't have local pricing details because the unit is not available yet, so we are gauging the tab on the previous Serene) for a music player/handset such as this: The lifestyle design associated with Bang & Olufsen.

Samsung-Bang & Olufsen Serenata (GSM Triband) Mobile Phone - ReviewBesides the wheel (we call it the nerve center since almost every action associated with the device requires us to roll the disc), the LCD panel also has active areas which are touch-sensitive. To switch between the music player and the phone modes, we tap the top left corner of the screen. The top right corner calls up additional menu options, while the bottom of the screen pulls up three shortcut options. Tapping the centre of the LCD once brings up the numeric dial pad. These areas are mapped to different functions depending on whether we are listening to music or using it as a phone.

As a mobile phone, the Serenata will test the patience of many people, especially those who text a lot. The wheel is a tad too sensitive for precise navigation. That said, the handset is not meant for that crowd anyway. So if you happen to have heavy texting habits, look elsewhere. Basic phone features such as Web browser, organizer functions, file manager including other miscellaneous applications are all available. While we managed to get up to speed typing text messages by using a combination of the scroll wheel and the bottom stretch of the touch-sensitive screen, sending a message on a phone with a hardware keypad would probably shorten the time taken by a considerable bit.

The menus on the Serenata are categorized with color codes. Phone-related functions are in blue whereas music-related functions are in red. Whether there's any real practicality is another story, but to the user it's clear when we switch between using it as a music player, or a phone.

Samsung-Bang & Olufsen Serenata (GSM Triband) Mobile Phone - ReviewMusic on the Serenata is sorted alphabetically by artist, albums, tracks, covers, podcast and genres (no equalizer controls, though). There are also options to create playlists and favorites. What's slightly more interesting is the Pure Music option. When activated, incoming calls will be directed to a voicemail automatically and messages will be received in the background so it won't interrupt playback. Music navigation on the device has an iPod-ish feel to it, but we suspect that's because of the scroll wheel.

Although it's marketed primarily as a music player, the Serenata does miss out on some features. For example, the player doesn't show track time during playback and there's no option to fast forward music. Sonic-wise, the mids are clear and clean on our test tracks, though the bass is light and requires artificial bass boost to compensate. Besides lossless, the Serenata also support various formats including MP3, WMA and AAC.

The Serenata comes with 25MB of standard memory and 4GB of multimedia memory, which should be ample for most users. It would have been a bonus if there's an external expansion card slot.

A pair of EarSet 3 ear phones is bundled in the package which can be plugged into the bottom of the phone. It has a typical Bang & Olufsen style with a trendy and minimalist design, although the proprietary jack on the phone means only the company's buds can be used. Alternatively, you can make use of the unit's Bluetooth stereo support for wireless headphones.

Performance of the Bang & Olufsen Serenata Mobile Phone

According to the specifications, the Serenata has a rated talktime of 3 hours and 280 hours on standby with the 1,000mAh battery. When used solely as a music player (in offline mode), the onboard speakers are able to playback music for 5 hours straight and 13 hours when on headset. The unit is currently available in Europe with Asia still unknown, although our guess is it should land here some time in 2008.


It is also noted that the company refuses to service in one country equipment bought in another, even when the local infrastructure to do so exists. Diplomats, expatriates, international shoppers, people with the slightest chance of moving should think twice before acquiring B&O products
Serenata does have rewind and fast-forward features. When the music is playing, tap the bottom half(not the upper half) of the screen and a left arrow and a right arrow will appear. Tapping once on the right arrow will bring up the next song, but tapping and holding the arrow will show you the track time and enable you to fast forward. Tapping and holding the left arrow will allow you to rewind.