Samsung has really hit it out in India. Right from budget handsets with features that are value for money, to high end smartphones with everything under the sun! Another segment that’s pretty much dominating the scene is the mid-range segment. The South Korean company has declared the Galaxy Ace as their best in this category, but here’s what I think.
A first look at the Ace might result in a, “Oh it looks similar to the iPhone!” expression. And although it does (just a little bit), the Galaxy Ace has a 3.5-inch capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels which for some reasons fails to look as sharp as it should be. Not that it’s a big problem for viewing, but I would have been a lot happier with a better resolution. The screen is encased in Gorilla Glass that means it can sustain a few clumsy falls, here and there. Surrounding the screen is a glossy black finish with a chrome frame which gives the Ace a slick and classy look.
Aces in classy looks
There’s a 3.5 mm audio jack with a micro USB port for charging and file transfers at the top. The lock button and a hot-swap microSD card slot are housed on the right. Also, there’s a volume rocker on the left of the Ace. The fine textured back panel makes for a good grip and at 113 grams, the Galaxy Ace is definitely a very light weight smartphone.
Textured back panel gives a good grip
Overall, the build quality and design of the Galaxy Ace is nothing out of the box, but at the same time, it’s a simple yet a stylish handset.
The Galaxy Ace comes with Android FroYo and Samsung’s TouchWiz 3.0 UI on top and there’s news that the smartphone might also be upgradable to Gingerbread. The 800 MHz ARM 11 processor coupled with an Adreno 200 GPU handles everything very smoothly but I found that in a few apps like Angry Birds Rio, there were some levels that played sluggishly.
The Swype keyboard comes pre-loaded with the Ace and helps speed up typing, after you get used to it. The application’s dictionary is well equipped. There are settings for Swype that include auto spacing and auto capitalization. Plus, once you get accustomed to Swype, you can try out the Speed VS Accuracy bar where you can choose either faster and a little inaccurate words or slower but accurate words.
DNSe sound enhancement sounds awesome!
Once you startup and login using your Google account, integrating your phone book and Social Networking might be a onetime thing. However it’s still not a very easy thing to do.
This handset boasts of Samsung’s DNSe sound enhancement technology and comes with a total of twelve Presets. There’s also virtual 5.1-Stereo functionality and in one word, the smartphone’s DAC (digital-to-analog converter) does an awesome job! It’s not very surprising that the bundled earphones are quite sub-standard, but I tried the handset with a pair of in-ear Creative EP-630 earphones and that’s where you recognize the true potential of the handset’s audio capabilities. For all FM Radio lovers, the Galaxy Ace has Stereo FM with RDS and the signal quality is really good, even in some closed areas. Other media options include a voice recorder as well as Google’s Voice Search application.
Watching videos is really comfortable
Coming to its video playback, I tried videos with different resolutions and in various formats like MP4 and 3GP. MP4 video files converted for your iPhone/iPod Touch played quite well and were comfortable for lengthy viewing. High definition videos on YouTube were also very comfortable to watch. With Rockplayer though (free off the Market) you’ll be able to watch almost all video formats.
One area where the Galaxy Ace seriously came through for me is with the kind of connectivity options it had to offer. The handset is 3G enabled with HSDPA that has down-link speeds of 7.2 Mbps. There’s Wi-Fi (b/g/n) capability and the Ace, being a FroYo handset, can also be used to create a 3G enabled Wi-Fi hotspot. The handset also boasts of DLNA capabilities as well which means an easier way to share media files between compatible devices. Apart from these major connectivity options, the handset also has Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP and of course, USB 2.0.
No Flash support is a boo boo…
Unfortunately, the Ace doesn’t support Flash content. We tried downloading from the Market, but the device was shown as incompatible. So although browsing websites is not difficult; it’s not very intuitive either. The handset’s resolution is good enough for comfortable browsing and there are plenty of optional browsers to choose from if the native option doesn’t meet your fancy. It’s a shame that custom applications for Facebook or Twitter were not pre-loaded and that means users will have to download them from the Android Market. It’s not an issue really, but it would have been nice to have them in straight out of the box.
The Galaxy Ace comes loaded with all Google applications like Latitude, Maps, Navigation, Places, GTalk and YouTube which is standard fare for most Android smartphones these days. The handset does not have any native GPS applications so we used Latitude, Google Maps and Places and saw it work smoothly without any hassle. Of course if you’re on EDGE there will be a slight delay when you are receiving real-time co-ordinates, but that said, the GPS works pretty well.
Like any smartphone, the Galaxy Ace also comes pre-loaded with a Calendar that syncs with your Google and Facebook accounts, a Voice Recorder, Alarm, Memo plus there’s the ThinkFree Office suite which lets you view and edit regular Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. It can also read PDF formats. The Android Market is always there for those looking for some more applications or games.
The 5 megapixel camera comes with autofocus and an LED flash. It took outdoor images which did not show the best of details as compared to some other mobile cameras in this range. Indoor images, too were very poor, in terms of both details and colour. The primary camera boasts of some handy features such as geo-tagging, face and smile detection. There are also settings for White Balance, ISO and metering. Apart from the normal image mode, there’s a Smile shot, Continuous burst image mode and an auto-stitch Panorama mode as well.
Outdoor pictures look a little below average
The camera can also record videos at a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels and at 15fps.
Not that great for Indoor pictures
At about 3 hours and 30 minutes of talk time, the Galaxy Ace’s battery life is average Joe. Play games, watch videos or listen to some music for about an hour and you’ll see the battery meter hovering at the tail end. It is advisable to switch off services like Wi-Fi and/or GPS if you’re not using them as they do tend to consume a lot of power.
The Galaxy Ace is priced very attractively at Rs. 15,500 (Best Price, MOP). Dissecting the handset’s features, there are a few issues like no support for XviD or DivX video codecs, average image quality and a display screen with a slightly low resolution. At the same time, if you can do with these minor issues, the Galaxy Ace is a decent buy, the interface is pretty smooth and the audio quality is great as well. Plus it’ll also be getting Gingerbread love which makes it bit future-proof. If you’re not too convinced to spend that money, there’s the Motorola Quench XT5 which also performs pretty well and is priced at Rs. 13,900.
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