With the budget market flooding the stores with 5.0-inch display equipped smartphones, it was time for the big players to stand up and take notice. The first one, which was rather inevitable, is Samsung. With the recent launch of the Galaxy Grand aka Grand Duos, Samsung has once again decided to tap into the mid-range smartphone segment that it seem to have neglected for a while. We were on hand at the launch and had the opportunity to check out the new smartphone for a bit; here’s what we think of the Galaxy Grand.
We can’t really say that the design is truly boring, but it is nevertheless a lazy attempt on Samsung’s part to simply continue with an existing design, albeit one that worked for it, and incorporate it into yet another model. To be succinct, it looks like the Galaxy Note II. One might go as far as to call it a “Lite” edition of the Note II. The Grand, it would seem, has been designed to entice those users who want the Galaxy Note II, but can’t afford it. Does it deliver on this? Most certainly! Telling them apart is not easy.
Not altogether uncomfortable to hold or use
The display is smaller than the Note II’s at 5.0-inches with a much lower resolution of 480 x 800 pixels. While this might seem like a deal breaker, from what we saw, you’ll have to be a real sticker for perfection to make an issue out of this. There is a visible difference between the two displays, naturally, and the Note II’s superior Super AMOLED display is much richer in terms of colour and legibility in brighter conditions. We’ll have to put the Grand’s display to test when it’s in for review.
The handset, like it’s brethren that came before, is a slender device that’s a little smaller and narrower, but a little thicker than the Note II. The volume rocker is on the left and the power/sleep button is on the right. A micro USB port is at the bottom and handsfree is located at the top. It’s a simple and uncomplicated design, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to exciting.
An elegant design, but one that we've seen too many times
Under the rear panel is the 2100mAh battery and a set of SIM card slots. Unlike most dual-SIM handsets, these ports are placed on either side of the battery – SIM 1 is located above the battery and SIM 2 below. A microSD card slot (not hot-swap, unfortunately) is placed just below the battery. The Grand will support 64GB memory cards, allowing you to seriously up your storage space over and above the 8GB of internal memory. An 8MP camera with an LED flash is strapped to the rear.
A 1.2GHz dual-core processor with 1GB RAM powers the Grand Duos that will be running on Android Jelly Bean (4.1.2). Samsung’s TouchWiz UI, with most of the trimming you’d find on the Note, is prevalent. To start with, all of Samsung's Motion based settings like tilt to Zoom, flip to silence and more are available. Samsung’s smart features have also been added to this handset’s make-up. These include dual screen support for running apps that seemed to work quite well with a few minor glitches in some of the demo units. There’s also Smart Stay, which was a bit finicky while testing; Direct call, which worked without a hitch; and Pop up Play for the videos, which was also a non-issue irrespective of the resolution of the file.
Quite a few of the Note II's features thrown in
A Blocking mode for calls, messages etc., which could be manually selected, was pre-installed in the system settings. Like the more affordable dual-SIM devices, the Grand’s SIM Management settings were also quite simple and user friendly. Overall functioning appeared relatively stable on most demo units with a hint of lag. We’re hoping this will not be the case with the actual test device. We also found the on-screen keypad comfortable enough to use with both hands.
Although the screen’s resolution might not be at par with even the much lower priced Micromax Canvas HD, watching full HD videos was an enjoyable experience. Videos appeared crisp and ran smoothly without a hint of framing of any kind. The native player will support quite a few existing codecs for drag and drop playback. We didn’t get a chance to test the handset's audio capability, but it’s rarely an issue with Samsung phones. Of course, we'll be able to speak in more detail about this when we receive the test device. The Grand also comes with an FM radio app.
Plenty of storage with a comfy keyboard
The only thing lacking in this device was NFC. Other than that, the Grand is loaded with all kinds of connectivity features from Wi-Fi with hotspot creation to 3G (Dual Band), EDGE, GPS with A-GPS support and GLONASS, Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP and EDR and USB 2.0.
The 8MP camera seemed quite feature rich. There’s not much we would like to get into at this time without proper testing, however, here’s a sample image from the handset with the flash switched on in auto mode. The results seem quite impressive in low lit conditions.
An image sample from the Grand's 8MP camera
First Impression in a Nutshell
At Rs. 21,500 (MRP), Samsung could have cornered the market on mid-range smartphones. It’s possible that a few fans and other users might have issues with the low resolution display. The Grand Duos comes off as a fine piece of hardware. The threat of Micromax’s Canvas HD is ever looming, but for this price, it seems like the best smartphone from any of the tier 1 companies. It could just be the best smartphone at this price, but let’s wait and see. You can expect to see the Grand hit shelves sometime in the first week of February.
We've given the Samsung Galaxy Grand 8 out 10 in our review. Read the review here.
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