Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos: Hands on
Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos Specifications:
- Dimensions: 143.5 x 76.9 x 9.6 mm
- Weight: 162g
- Display: 5-inch WVGA(480 x 800 pixels) capacitive touchscreen
- CPU: Dual-core ARM Cortex A9 1.2 GHz processor
- GPU: Broadcomm VideoCore IV
- RAM: 1GB
- OS: Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean)
- Memory: 8GB storage, microSD card slot
- Camera: 8 megapixel auto-focus rear camera with LED flash, 2MP front facing camera
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0+HS, MHL-enabled standard microUSB port, A-GPS, GLONASS
- Misc: Built-in accelerometer, gyroscope sensor
With the release of the Galaxy Grand Duos, it is pretty clear that Samsung wants a big chunk of the budget phablet market, especially in India. The tag ‘ budget’ though is misleading. For a company that produces high-end phones like the Galaxy Note 2 and the hugely popular Galaxy SIII, Grand’s price looks budgetish, but when you compare it with other phablets like A116 HD from Micromax, the price is not to be seen anywhere near the ‘Budget’ range.
Most of the reviews over the web might suggest that Grand is a stripped down version of S3 or Note II and they are right in labeling it so. Samsung has compromised on aspects such as display and processor to cut down on the price but mind you, it still comes with a Dual-core 1.2 GHz processor that makes the phone’s performance reasonably good. There is not much to discuss about the looks mainly because almost all major phones from Samsung follow the same design philosophy. Let us take a look at different aspects of the phone in detail.
Design and Form Factor
As mentioned earlier, there is not much to speak about the design primarily because most of the Samsung’s smartphones look pretty much the same. With 143.5 x 76.9 x 9.6 mm dimensions, the device sports impressive design and resembles the S3 and Note 2 with curved edges, plastic build, button configurations and a metal finish plastic bezel. It’s a bit heavier than S III though, weighing in at 162g. This phablet feels big for one with small hands, but fits comfortably in large hands and comes with a 5 inch display (not Gorilla Glass). While it isn’t the thinnest 5-inch smartphone we’ve come across, it does feel decent in-hand. At a weight of 162g, the phone does feel solid in-hand and weighs in its authority, though it does feel slippery when used over a long period of time.
There are two touch buttons (Menu and Back) below the screen and a hardware home button between them. The 3.5 mm audio jack is at the top and the microUSB port sits at the bottom. The volume rocker is placed on the left hand side and the power button is on the right. The rear looks clear with an 8MP camera at the center, LED flash and speaker on either side of it. That’s pretty much everything about the design.
The screen on this 5 inch phablet sports a woeful WVGA resolution (800 x 480) display. At 187 ppi, the images and videos are not as sharp as you might expect them to be. With many Indian brands coming out with displays having better resolutions on phones that cost less than the Grand, it is surely not something people would want on a phone that is priced at Rs. 21,500. Having said this, you can still be happy with its quality. Its just that, for this price a better display was expected. For basic use like browsing, texting etc., you will not realize that the display is poor. But when it comes to playing games, this screen gives it away. The display is LCD (not AMOLED).
The display is quite bright. We used the phone under bright sun light and were still able to make out what was on the display. Samsung has chosen to go with LCD display for this phone , instead of the AMOLED displays that usually come with all their flagship models.
Grand is powered by a 2,100 mAh battery, the same battery that is also used in Samsung’s flagship model S3. The dual-SIM feature means that both the networks need to be active always, impacting the battery life. Otherwise, we really liked the fact that the battery can store enough juice to run the device for a whole day.
Browsing on this phone is not bad at all. It’s just that the screen isn’t up to the mark. Though the text and images on the screen are clear enough to read and watch, the resolution does feel a little inferior. The text is unreadable when zoomed out.
The browser comes with handy features including display brightness controller which is a part of Samsung’s standard WebKit browser. Phone responds quite fast even when multiple tabs are open.
Grand comes with a dual-core Broadcom CPU (ARMv7 rev 0) clocked at 1.2 GHz, good enough for multitasking. The processor uses Cortex-A9 architecture which is also found on Apple’s A5/A5X and Samsung’s Exynos 4 chipsets.
The graphics are powered by a Broadcom VideoCore IV GPU, which can support faster 2D and 3D graphics rendering. The same GPU is found on Nokia 808 PureView. We played a few high graphic games and the performance was not bad at all. The lower resolution of the display actually helped the device perform better without getting stuck anywhere. There is 1 GB of RAM to store all those temporary files adding to better multitasking.
The accelerometer and gyroscope sensors allow this phone to switch between portrait and landscape mode swiftly. Proximity sensor kicks in to stop the touch panel from working when your phone is close to the ear during a call.
The 8 MP primary camera does not disappoint. The stills and videos come out quite well. The videos do not drop frames and can record videos at 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second. There is no or very less lag while using the camera for taking stills. The interface is same as most of the other devices. It offers a lot of preset scene settings and various tools to enhance the photo right on the phone. The quality of photos was satisfactory in all aspects like contrast, definition, clarity etc. The camera adjusts to different light settings very quickly. There is a 2 MP camera on the front for video calls and it does its job well.
Ease of Use (Interface)
So you have a 5 inch screen, what do you do with it? The TouchWiz makes sure that you get enough out of this 5 inch screen. The multi-window feature makes effective use of the screen space. You can now multitask by keeping two windows open simultaneously. Also, there is Pop up play feature which was originally designed for flagship models. This feature is really unique and lets you watch a video while you are surfing or mailing. Have a look at the video about “What is Pop Up Play“. Project Butter, which was announced as part of 4.1 Jelly Bean makes this device ‘lag free’. The lag, which was very prominent in the initial versions of Android has been worked upon and removed. Better run time and smoother screen switches and scrolls.
For those who are a tad worried about the average specs, the Galaxy Grand DUOS pulls itself up into the competition with the multi-window feature. A dedicated button in the notification bar for enabling this facility makes it easier to capitalize on the screen space to get more done. As is apparent from the name, two windows can be viewed and worked upon at the same time on the screen and resizing options are available for allocating required space for any particular app. If multi-tasking is your thing and you are willing to forgo a few digits on the ppi front, the Grand could be your pick of the season.
Call quality and Connectivity
Taking calls on the Grand is a regular affair and we didn’t find anything to complain about. The sound quality while both talking and receiving is competitive. The only apparent downside is the absence of a second mic for noise cancellation which has been seen in some high end models. Being a model that supports Dual SIM, the Grand makes good on that front with two-source voice (simultaneous calls on both SIMs) and data usage facilities.
The connectivity segment has not received any special treatment. The spread is pretty routine – Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi etc, but there is a glaring omission of NFC which is all the rage these days.
Samsung is known for its plastic build and sturdy design. Though we can’t promise you that the phone wont break if subjected to nasty falls or impact, the build quality does look strong. There is an optional front flip cover (coming free for the initial introductory period) that can help you protect the front screen from scratches and dust. Remember, this is not Gorilla Glass, so you better have this cover on. The negative aspect of using this flip cover is that the phone starts to looks thick.
Media Support and Storage
1080p videos can be played with ease and the player supports a range of video formats including DivX. Streaming media from YouTube is also a very nice experience, watching HQ videos will not disappoint you.
The 8 GB internal memory looks small but you can always use a microSD card to increase the storage. Its a ‘budget’ phablet, remember? So this is how they cut down on the cost.
The Galaxy series of phones are known to come with a bouquet of apps, the most popular of the lot being the ‘S’ Apps, namely S-voice, S-note, S-planner etc. The S-voice is Samsung’s voice assistant, comparable with Apple’s Siri, used to perform basic functions like sending texts, making calls, setting reminders, searching the Internet etc. It is a convenient tool for getting work done hands-free. S-choice/S-planner is a perked up calender app with a neat interface and it covers all the basics that one might use a calendar for – logging in anniversaries, marking appointments, setting reminders and the like. S-Note is by far the most interesting and creatively steeped app of all. Intended originally for the Galaxy Note to be used with the S-Pen, the app fits in nicely with other phablets even when a stylus is not available. The ample screen size measures up nicely and your fingers can double up as a stylus. Your phone morphs in to a sketchbook, notepad, diary, photobook, route map and any other use you can think up for it if you have the S-Note app. On the app front, any Galaxy smartphone can be safely assumed to come well stocked.
While the ‘budget’ tag might only hold good in the specs department, the success of the phone relies heavily upon market trends and the current state of customers’ ever-changing requirements. While the screen size is in contention with many other phones out there, the resolution is a major cause of worry. This might be a deal maker/breaker for many smartphone enthusiasts out there. For those who are strictly looking at the functional aspects, the Grand would be a winning choice with its smooth multi-tasking capabilities and svelte looks. This is one of the best dual-SIM phones available in the market as of now. Sales might be impacted with the release of variants of the same model, either positively or otherwise. To each, his own. The acid test lies in whether the number of takers for the Grand tip the scales in favor of the smartphone titan. The fate of Samsung’s latest remains to be sealed.
- Very good Camera
- Adequate performance
- Dual SIM
- Multi Window UI/Touchwiz
- Display resolution (187PPI)
- No NFC
- High cost
Rohit currently heads the team at Gadgetronica. His interest in gadgets and technology is as old as mobile phones themselves. Rohit keeps on top of happenings in the consumer electronics segment in particular and tech world in general.
4 March, 2013