The past decade has seen mobile phones evolve into feature-packed, high-powered, multi-purpose smart devices. The past year, however, has seen some evolution of its own in terms of mobile phone technology, specifically for Samsung – it’s been the year of the ‘Phablet’.
The success of the Galaxy Note led to the Note II, and as Samsung already have the technology available, along with the relatively untapped market for feature-packed, dual-sim phones, the Galaxy Grand entered production.
Much like the S3 in looks, but bigger! A chrome trim wraps around the edge of the 5-inch screen and houses the power button to the right, volume rocker on the left, micro-USB interface at the bottom and a 3.5 mm audio connecter on top. It is significantly bigger, thicker and heavier than the S3. Weighing in at 162 grams, the Galaxy Grand is no lightweight, but gets away with it because of its massive screen.
The back cover is thin and flimsy, but the fine pattern on it masks fingerprints well. There is a rounded square cut-out on it for the lens, and a similar but smaller cut-out to its left for the flash. To the right of the camera you see two slits for the speakers caged underneath. Once you lift the back cover off there is space for SIM 1 on the top left and SIM 2 on the bottom right of the battery. There is also space for a micro SD card allowing an extra 64GB of storage, apart from the internal 8GB.
Using a ‘Phablet’ such as this takes a little while to get used to it, but once you make your peace with using both hands, it’s actually not bad. The TouchWiz user interface enables much smoother navigation and seamless response. Using the keyboard, for example, was not as excruciatingly painful as it normally is on touch devices, and if you use the dictionary then typing messages becomes surprisingly quick!
Control over the dual-sim function via the in-house app is brilliant. For example, SIM 1 could be used for packet data, while being able to receive calls from SIM 2. Despite its average specs, the Grand Duos works seamlessly in the multi-window mode activated by a clever switch in the notification bar navigation. This enables you to run two apps on the screen at any given time. Furthermore, you can resize the space they occupy at will and use a floating keyboard to input comments and watch something at the same time.
The 5-inch screen is a bit of a disappointment since we’re used to seeing everything in high definition – I personally think it defeats the purpose of having all that space on a screen if the resolution is 480x800 resulting in 187ppi and bigger icons which use too much space. Samsung chose to go with LCD instead of AMOLED on the Galaxy Grand, unlike the S3 or the Note II. Overall it has decent viewing angles and is bright enough for you to see in bright sunlight, making its low pixel density its only display concern.
Processor and Memory
The Galaxy Grand Duos is powered by a dual core 1.2GHz ARM cortex A9 processor with a VideoCore IV GPU. I ran a couple of free standard benchmark tests – AnTuTu and NenaMark2 – the Grand scored surprisingly well for GPU results on Nenamark 2. Supposedly this can be attributed to the fact that there are fewer pixels to power in comparison to other HD devices.
1GB of RAM comes factory fit with 8GB of storage, although you can expand that via a micro SD card. Numbers aside, I used the phone for roughly two weeks before writing this review and in that time I played games, surfed the internet, typed documents and streamed videos – sometimes all at once, just because I could!
The Duos is equipped with an 8MP camera along with LED flash and endless tweaking options – ISO, white balance, resolution, auto and macro focus, timer, exposure, flash control, shooting modes and a multitude of filters and effects. The camera works exceptionally well in natural light. Indoor or low-light images were not the best we’ve seen, but even so, I managed to capture better images with less noise than the iPhone 5.
Video recording is as easy as a flip of a soft switch, and the quality maxes out at 1080p, there are also a few post-production tricks you can use through various filters that come in handy. It is very quick, easy and addictive – taking pictures or videos and editing them, tagging faces or places and sharing them with people on any network. The front facing camera is nothing to brag about – pictures are 2MP and video 480p.
The 2100 mAh lithium-ion battery gives the Grand an average of 14-16 hours before requiring a recharge. This includes roughly 2-3 hours of gameplay, watching videos, two hours of calling time, and lots of messaging. I Ran the Antutu and Nova battery tests as well as the video drain test which went on for a little over 8 hours and 20 minutes. The battery depletes faster when you use the dual-SIM function.
There is a power saving mode which limits the maximum performance of the CPU while utilizing low power for the screen, proving to be handier than I had initially thought.
The Duos ships with Jelly Bean – its ecosystem is very fluid despite having 1GB of RAM. It navigates flawlessly while using multi-window mode through which you can stream media and type e-mails simultaneously.
You can also take screenshots, tag your friends and share on multiple platforms while streaming video. If you happen to be reading long articles while you’re online, the low pixel density handicaps your ability to read clearly without zooming in. The Grand comes with GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, 2G and 3G support, GPRS, EDGE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, so you pretty much never need to worry about not being connected.
I like what Samsung has tried to do with the Galaxy Grand Duos; they have kept the looks of the S3, but toned it down under the hood. Smartphone manufacturers are generally in the rut of making bigger and faster phones packed with more features than before, while shedding thickness and weight. Samsung has gone out on a limb and tried a different approach by pushing the appeal while limiting the price-tag.
There were a few shortcomings I noticed while this phone was with me – for instance the built-in alarm clock did not work. Most games were fun on the 5-inch screen. Temple Run 2, Subway Surfers and Diamond Dash were great, but I cannot say the same for Hungry Shark Evolution, which was very buggy on the unit I got for review.
Due to the size of the display and S3 standard build, the Galaxy Grand does not look like a mid-range phone at all. I was surprised to find out its priced 10k under the S3 at roughly PKR Rs.38,000/-. It’s a big bang for the buck; apart from a few glitches, this phone runs great. These glitches do not necessarily have to be in all units – keep in mind that we did not get a brand-new phone for review and all devices come with a warranty.
Overall the display is bright, camera has great colour reproduction, connectivity is seamless, and the touch and ecosystem are incredible. The low resolution seems to be the only real drawback of the Galaxy Grand Duos.
Screen Type: TFT Capacitive Touchscreen
Screen Size: 5 inches
Resolution: 480 x 800
Processor: Dual Core 1.2GHz ARM cortex A9
Internal Memory: 8GB, 1GB RAM
Extendable Memory: microSD, up to 64GB
Sensor Resolution: 8MP, 3264 x 2448 pixels
Features : Auto Focus, Macro Focus, LED Flash
Video resolution / frame rate: 1080p / 30fps
Front facing camera: 2MP
OS: Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
Dual Sim Support: Yes
Messaging: SMS, MMS, Email, Push Mail, IM, RSS
GPS: Yes, with A-GPS Support
USB Connector: 2.0
Available colours: White, Blue
2G GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900: SIM 1 & SIM 2
3G HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100: SIM 1 only
Speed: HSDPA 21 Mbps; HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
EGPRS or EDGE: EDGE
Wi-Fi: 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz
Dimensions: 76.8 x 9.6 x 143.5 mm
Formats: AAC, AAC+, AMR, AMR-NB, eAAC+, IMY, MIDI, MP3, OGG, WAV, WMA
Alert Tone: MP3, WAV
Audio connector: 3.5mm
Talk Time: 610 mins (2G / 3G)
Standby Time: 440 hours
Other Features: Accelerometer, Geo-magnetic, Gyro-sensor, Proximity Sensor, Predictive Text Input, Calendar, MMS Enabled, Mini SIM, Clock, Calculator, Call Barring, Call Waiting, Offline Mode, Own Number Indication, Voice Input
Built in Applications: Smart Stay, Smart Alert, Direct Call, Popup Play, S Voice, Face & Voice Unlock, Multi-Window, myMovies, myMusic, myMobileTV, myStation, myReader, myEducation, All Share Play, Google, Gmail, YouTube, Google Talk, Picasa, Instant Messaging, Facebook, Twitter
After Sales Service: Warranty Period 1 Year