Review: Samsung Galaxy Ace

While the Samsung Galaxy Ace is certainly a new phone, it is definitely trying not to be the most powerful smartphone on the market. Not every smartphone owner wants to (or can afford) a high-end piece of technology, and so the Ace is at the rescue as a dependable phone that still mostly copes with most software thrown at all smartphones these days.

We take a look at this phone that fits in the middle of the stack of intelligent devices out there, which you can read right after the break.

Hardware

As previously mentioned, the Ace doesn’t topple the tall stack that peaks with the iPhone 4S, HTC Rezound, or even Samsung’s own Galaxy Nexus. The device measures in at 4.43 x 2.36 x 0.45 inches, a fraction smaller, but not at all thinner, than an iPhone 4.

The internals of the Ace seem proportionately scaled down from the top dogs, as if looking back in time to the devices yesteryear such as the iPhone 3GS and HTC Legend. An 800 Mhz Qualcomm processor sits at the heart, connected to a dedicated Adreno 200 GPU, 5 megapixel camera with LED flash and 278Mb accessible memory all under a 3.5 inch TFT LCD screen. A modest affair, of course, and the front casing, while elegant, faintly resembles that one device we cannot name (cough, iPhone). The rounded, removable, back cover has a rough, grippy feel to it, should you use the standard black back cover. An additional white, glossy cover is provided, but I feel it gives a cheap plastic feel, again comparable to the feel of the iPhone 3/3GS. The device has a weighty feel despite feeling more plastic-like than metallic, and feels good in the hands, especially at a weight of 113g. My favourite part of the Ace is the charging port cover; it just slides right over to keep dust from occupying the mini-usb port.

As standard with android phones in the Froyo/Gingerbread era, there is an physical iPhone-like home button alongside two backlit touch-sensitive keys for menu and back. All fairly standard and useful. However, despite being fully responsive at all times, it only takes less time than usual for the backlight to deactivate and hide the menu and back keys without warning and can be easily forgotten. That may take a little while to get used to.

Software

The Galaxy Ace, as standard, comes pre-installed with Android 2.2 but chances are that it will likely reach your hands sporting 2.3.3, and has been known to allow an upgrade (at time of writing) to 2.3.5, which may help battery efficiency and GMail, amongst other areas. The fairly rich yet stuttery UI comes from Samsung TouchWiz. It seems that TouchWiz is trying to perform animations, such as swiping across the home screen to seperate sections feels a tad unresponsive, and sometimes delayed, just like in gaming. It proves that the phone is far from superior, but the Ace doesn’t try to be anything better.

The icons from Samsung TouchWiz are far from glamorous. Dotted around the home screen and menus are blunt and square icons from Samsung, based on a fairly bland setting. I imagine if the graphics were much more detailed or demanding, then the device would probably suffer.

The rest of the device is unremarkable, but reliable. The web browser copes with the majority of surfing, but the major drawback is the lack of flash compatibility.

Camera & Video

It is a good job that the phone comes with a 2Gb micro-SD card, otherwise photography (alongside downloading applications) would be impossible with the pitiful onboard memory. The 5 Megapixel camera actually captures impressive pictures. The focus settings can be a bit awkward, but overall the lens hardware can be as good as the leading devices. The camera options reveal a menagerie of adjustments, such as picture size, fidelity, scene mode, focus mode, flash, the list goes on. As an iPhone owner, I find the lack of touch-to-focus a little unsettling, instead relying on either macro mode (which was hard to find, in the focus section rather than the usual picture mode) or auto-focus, whereby the camera chooses the focus after committing to the picture. The led flash does a good job of lighting up the darkness, and seems to have no dramatic effect on the battery, no more than usual.

There is no dedicated camera button, but the icon to take a picture is large enough to jab at with stubby fingers out in the cold outdoors. Viewing photographs is as easy as pie, with full access at a touch of a button. All standard work, no surprises but nothing too special. See below for some example pictures.

Performance & Battery

This phone manages to break what is now a tragic tradition by lasting for more than one day without charge. Two days of use can be reached on a single charge, even with Wifi and GPS enabled. Very heavy usage will cripple this achievement of course, but will reach the end of the day with plenty to spare. You can expect a mid-range device to last a while due to the lack of demands on the power. It is this lack of demand which hinders graphical intensive applications, like games.

Angry Birds is a game we’re all familiar with. But we are familiar with a smooth running version of the game. On the Galaxy Ace, the age of the hardware clearly doesn’t match the compatibility of the software, as gliding across the battlefield stutters with almost every swipe. Not overly prominent, it is easy easy to forget the graphical lag cropping up in some games, but don’t expect exhilarating performance.

Pricing

The Samsung Galaxy Ace has been around for a while now. Considering that other, more powerful devices have been released since, the pricing is quite fair.

Pay As You Go will set you back at Three UK a one-off purchase cost of £129.99 (about $200). If you go with pay as you go, bundles are on offer for £10 which gives ample; plenty of texts, minutes and internet. Choose pay monthly and the cheapest offer is a paltry £15 ($23.30) per month with 100 minutes, 5000 texts and 500mb of data, which is more than a casual smartphone user needs. All offered by Three UK.

There will be a lot of people who would like a high-end smartphone, but can’t afford it, and the Galaxy Ace will be more than perfect for this situation. Price plans for mobile data have become a lot more affordable as you will no doubt be using email, twitter, facebook and other social networks on the go, with maybe the occasional youtube video. 500Mb of data will cover that usage adequately, so there should be no worry of limit-crossing.

Conclusion

Throughout this article the common theme is adequacy, in hardware, software and pricing. Adequacy is good; reliable, dependable, like the good quality camera and impressive battery life. The Galaxy Ace may not be impressive, or even look that impressive, but it gets the job done, and can easily cope with modern living. This device will be great for novices to the smartphone, or young people who can’t afford the iPhone 4S or Galaxy Nexus.

Gadgetsteria Rating:

  • Hardware: 7
  • Software: 7
  • Performance: 6
  • Battery: 8
  • Final Score (Average): 7 / 10

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  • bob

    i want to get this….pricing is great for what you get.and it looks hectic