5-inch smartphones seem to be the talk of the town these days. You'll find every other company launching a smartphone in this genre in a desperate need to gain the consumer's attention. Samsung, which is balances its high end device portfolio featuring devices such as the Galaxy S III or the Galaxy Note (now Note II) with budget offerings like the Galaxy Ace Plus or Galaxy S Advance, has now taken the middle way and launched the Galaxy Grand Duos in the country priced at Rs. 21,500. Not only does the device offer a good performance but has a popular nationwide brand acceptance.
Micromax, a homegrown manufacturer of budget devices has surprised Indian audiences by challenging the Samsung behemoth and taking the 5-inch category to a whole new level with the A116 Canvas HD and offering the smartphone at a lucrative price of Rs. 13,990. So much so, that 9,000 units of the device were sold out in just 24 hours.
Though we separately reviewed both the Micromax A116 Canvas HD (Review I Pictures) and the Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos (Review I Pictures), we pitted the two devices against each other in a head-on comparison to see which of the two emerged triumphant in the ultimate battle of the 5-inch budget smartphone.
While the Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos draws inspiration from the Note II and the Galaxy S III to a great extent, the Micromax Canvas HD looks more like the Galaxy Nexus and not the Canvas 2 on first impressions.
Design wise, the Galaxy Grand Duos looks like other Samsung devices keeping it plain and simple with a plastic back panel and a glossy finish with a chrome strip running along the perimeter of the device. The Micromax Canvas HD, however, sports dual-colour schemes, the front being white and the back in black that may put a user in the 'like it' or 'leave it' sort of a situation.
Coming to the build quality, the Galaxy Grand Duos is pretty solid and sturdy and in no way feels cheap. However, the same cannot be said for the A116 Canvas HD that overall feels plasticky and could have been better in terms of build quality.
Both 5-inch devices have ports and slots in the right places. While the bottom of the A116 Canvas HD has just the microphone, the Galaxy Grand Duos accommodates an additional Micro-USB port as well.
The former has the notification light, front camera and earpiece above the screen and three capacitive touch keys at the bottom. The latter has the sensors, earpiece and the front camera finding place on the top alongside the Samsung branding and the physical home and capacitive menu and back buttons at the bottom of screen. The back cover of both devices is removable and features the rear camera with LED flash, only differing in the placement.
The Galaxy Grand Duos has an added advantage of a free flip cover the company is offering to protect the screen, apart from a spare back cover as well.
Of the two devices, the A116 Canvas HD is thicker at 10.7mm, though the Galaxy Grand Duos is heavier at 162 grams. It's pretty close between the two when it comes to design. But we'd root for Samsung for offering a more sophisticated look and feel.
This is one of the key strength areas of the A116 Canvas HD. The device wins this round hands down for its IPS screen sporting a resolution of 720x1280 pixels as opposed to the Grand Duos' measly 480x800 pixels on a TFT LCD display. No doubt, the A116 Canvas HD boasts sharper images, text and videos, but contrast issues seem to exist making the images appear washed out.
It's noteworthy that despite a reflective screen, the under sun visibility for the A116 Canvas HD was better than the Galaxy Grand Duos. Micromax also scores here for better and wide viewing angles, but the Galaxy Grand was also decent enough and did not disappoint much. Samsung offered a pleasant experience in reading text, playing games or watching videos for that matter.
A large number of people are now considering the camera on a smartphone as an important feature. With companies like HTC setting benchmarks, other manufacturers are now beginning to offer anywhere between 5-megapixel to 8-megapixel cameras in decent budget offerings.
Our two contenders feature an 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash and autofocus capabilities, though the results achieved are quite different. The Galaxy Grand Duos has a similar sensor as seen on the Galaxy S II that produces detailed and crisp images with almost accurate colour reproduction, including macro shots. Also, you'd experience next to zero shutter lag while clicking stills. Indoor shots are however, only average.
On the other hand, the A116 Canvas HD tends to overexpose images with greater whites and also making them appear dull. The device offers burst mode, but again, there is a lag between two consecutive shots. Both these devices feature a 2-megapixel front camera as well. While the Canvas HD offers 720p recording, the Galaxy Grand Duos is restricted to 480p.
Both have their own set of software features, though Panorama is a miss on the A116 Canvas HD. In the end, the Galaxy Grand Duos claims this section for overall better image quality.
Both devices ship with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. The Galaxy Grand, however, is layered with a polished TouchWiz UI offering a fluid interface and a smooth experience. A combination of both offers deeper social integration and various options compared to the stock Android apps.
Samsung exclusive features such as Smart Stay, S Planner, S Memo, S Voice, S Suggest, Chat On, Games Hub and myServices along with an array of motion based gestures make the experience worthwhile.
The device also comes with certain Premium Suite features like Multi Window, Facebook Lock Ticker, Contextual Menu and Tag, Page Buddy and Sound Balance amongst others. In addition to the Google Play Store, the device also features Samsung's Apps Store offering additional assortment of apps.
Micromax has a different UI layering the stock Android Jelly Bean, noticeable in some elements like the app icons and the notification tray. But the experience is closer to raw Android.
The company has also included some of its own apps such as content stores - M! Store and M! Live and services store - M! Zone, in addition to its messaging app, HookUp, and friends locator app, M! Buddy and a few 'try and buy' games (Fruit Devil, Cricket Fever). It also has FM Radio and recording. Users can always head over to the Google Play Store for more.
User Interface depends from person-to-person. But amongst the two, the Galaxy Grand Duos wins for the sheer variety and exclusivity of Samsung features that offer a premium user experience in better-packaged software.
If you're shelling out a decent amount of money for a smartphone, the least you'd expect is that it deliver when it comes to gaming, watching videos or multitasking. So how do the two opponents fair in this section? Let's take a look.
The A116 Micromax Canvas HD is powered by a 1.2GHz MediaTek MT6589 quad-core processor with 1GB RAM onboard and a PowerVR SGX544MP GPU. It's needless to say that it's snappier and currently the best in its category for the price tag it carries. Multitasking is handled pretty well by the device.
The Galaxy Grand Duos is powered by a 1.2GHz dual core processor coupled with 1GB RAM. There are no lags whatsoever when playing games, watching games, browsing the web or simply switching apps.
Micromax Canvas HD comes with 4GB of internal storage, which is expandable up to 32GB via a microSD card, while the Galaxy Grand Duos claims 8GB, with only 4GB of user accessible storage that is expandable by an additional 64GB and 50GB of free Dropbox storage as well. The company is also offering Rs. 8,000 worth of movies and music from the myServices app.
Certain users reported frequent reboots on the A116 Canvas HD, but we didn't experience any such issues with our unit. When it comes to the Grand Duos, the place where it hurts most apart from the display (which is still acceptable) is the battery life. The 2,100mAh battery of the device maxes out in about 6 hours with various activities especially watching videos.
The Canvas HD allows you to squeeze enough juice from the 2,000mAh battery lasting an entire day with heavy device usage. Of course, better productivity can be achieved on customising various settings like brightness etc on both devices.
The video watching experience on the Canvas HD is better than the Grand Duos courtesy the sharper HD display. But the Grand Duos doesn't completely disappoint. It's just about average. The audio quality on both devices is better with the bundled earphones than on the loudspeaker.
In a holistic sense, the performance of both devices are almost at par but by the narrowest of margins, we'd give this one to the Micromax A116 Canvas HD.
After having gone through the comparison, you'd figure that the devices are head strong in their own set of domains. While the Galaxy Grand Duos scores in the design, camera and software features, the A116 Canvas HD outperforms its opponent in the performance and display sections, that are the vital aspects of a smartphone buying decision. The biggest disappointments for the Galaxy Grand Duos are the battery and display.
Coming to the price points, the A116 Canvas HD is being offered at Rs. 13,990 as opposed to an expensive Galaxy Grand Duos at Rs. 21,500. The former is a power performer in a budget, while the latter banks upon the Samsung branding. Both devices are good performers in their own sense.
So if you're a budget conscious user looking for high-end specs in a device, the A116 Canvas HD is the best choice for now. But if you're willing to forego battery life and display, not to forget spending close to 8 grand more, then you could consider the Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos.