Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos review

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Samsung pioneered the trend of a new breed of devices, now more commonly known as 'phablets', smartphones that are (almost) nearing tablets in size. After the company's successful Galaxy Note device, many followed suit including homegrown manufacturers like Micromax and Karbonn who are offering devices in the under-15k, and even under 10K price point.

To compete with these, Samsung has launched the Galaxy Grand Duos, though it has been priced at Rs. 21,500. Is it the 'Samsung' brand value or does the device really live up to user expectations? We take a look.

Design/ Hardware
On first impressions, the Galaxy Grand Duos bears striking resemblance to the Note II mainly due to its huge display. But Samsung has managed to keep the Galaxy S III essence alive in the device. We reviewed the Elegant White unit, and the device is also available in Metallic Blue.

At 9.6mm, the Galaxy Grand Duos is pretty thick and feels quite bulky as well weighing 162 grams. Those blessed with little hands will find it tiring to carry the device around. But the overall build quality of the device is quite sturdy, though the back does feel cheap, just like the Galaxy S III. The back has a miniscule-chequered pattern that manages to cover your fingerprints very well. It is prone to attract scratches very fast and we'd suggest you to be careful while using it. A chromium strip runs along the device's perimeter that is sure to wear off overtime.

The 5-inch display takes up most of the space in the front with a thin bezel on either side and like the other Galaxy handsets, we have the sensors lined up on top alongside the earpiece and the front-facing 2-megapixel camera. The bottom has the physical home button in the centre with the capacitive menu and back buttons on either side. The rear of the device features an 8-megapixel camera with LED flash and the loudspeaker sitting adjacent to it.

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Samsung has allocated a port/button on each side of the device. The right side houses the power/wake button, the left has the volume rocker, the bottom has the Micro-USB/charging port and the headphone jack is situated at the top.

Some users may find it difficult to open the rear cover at first, since the trick is to open from the top left side, as opposed to most devices that need to be opened either from the top or the bottom, including the Galaxy S III.

Once you're through, you'll find the 2,100mAh battery, two GSM SIM card slots (one on the top left and other on the bottom right) and a microSD card slot adjacent to the bottom SIM slot.

A scratch guard for the Galaxy Grand Duos isn't available in the market yet, but our retail box came with a white navigator flip cover. Not just that, the company has also thrown in a spare rear cover for the device.

Display
The display of a smartphone is one of the key elements that users consider when making a purchase decision, and companies are setting higher benchmarks each year based on new innovations.

The Galaxy Grand Duos has been criticised quite a bit for its poor resolution and we thought that this would be the biggest disadvantage for the device. We weren't wrong. The 480 x 800 pixel resolution translating into 187 ppi, is way lower than the company's Note devices and it is quite poor.

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The Galaxy Grand Duos has a 5-inch TFT LCD display with decent viewing angles and colour reproduction, that isn't the best in the industry, but gets the job done. Reading text, playing games or watching videos offer a pleasant experience. The icons do appear slightly larger than normal, but we aren't complaining.

However, it is difficult to view content on the screen under bright outdoor conditions even at full brightness levels. You'll find yourself constantly using your palms to cover the screen and attempt to see what's on it.

Camera
The Galaxy Grand Duos comes with an 8-megapixel auto focus rear camera with LED flash and has the same sensor as seen in the Galaxy S II. Outdoor stills produced are detailed and crisp with almost accurate colours. Pictures clicked indoors don't disappoint either, though background noise does tend to creep in. The device also handles macro shots pretty well.

Software wise, the Galaxy Grand Duos offers an array of camera options as seen in the Galaxy S III or the Note II. Users can choose from a host of camera settings like Panorama, Face detection, Flash, Exposure value, Scene mode, ISO, White balance and so on. You can also GPS tag photos, set a timer ranging from 2-10 seconds or use grid lines to capture a well-balanced picture.

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The Share Shot feature allows you to share photos with other users via Wi-Fi Direct. The Buddy photo share option lets click and share photos with friends via face detection.

Burst shot mode, however is a miss, possibly due to the processing capabilities of the device. It is capable of full-HD video recording and you have the option of adding filters as well. The front facing 2-megapixel camera is pretty average and offers 480p video recording.

It would have been easier to click pictures with a dedicated camera key owing to the sheer size and bulk of the device.

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Software/UI
The Galaxy Grand Duos ships with Android 4.1.2 on-board skinned with Samsung's TouchWiz UI atop. The amalgamation of both, especially Jelly Bean's Project Butter, offers a pleasant and smooth user experience. The interface is pretty fluid that can be attributed to the ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore SoC powering the beast.

Though many would like to see Samsung get rid of the TouchWiz UI from its devices, the skinned UI does offer deeper social integration and various options compared to the stock Android apps.

There are seven customisable home screens that can be populated with apps and widgets as per your convenience and preferences. You can take screenshots by holding down the power and home buttons. The Gallery app quickly stores these and imports other pictures via your Facebook and Google accounts.

Apart from the stock Android browser, the device also has the Chrome browser that offers a refreshing experience. You can choose from a variety of options when it comes to sharing, saving or just adjusting your reading preferences.

The device inherits most of the nifty Premium Suite features such as Multi Window, Facebook Lock Ticker, Contextual Menu and Tag, Page Buddy and Sound Balance amongst others. In order for these to work, you'll need to head over to the Settings menu and accordingly change them for the features you wish to access.

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Contextual Menu lets you choose to view the most frequently used ones first and comes in handy especially when you're looking through apps to find files to attach. Contextual Tag lets you tag the weather, date and place immediately when you take a picture on the phone.

With Page Buddy, your phone will smartly predict what you intend to do according to your actions, while Facebook Lock Ticker allows quick access to your Facebook News Feeds on your lock screen. Sound Balance allows you to adjust the balance of volume on each side of the earphones.

A host of other proprietary applications include Smart Stay, S Planner, S Memo, S Voice, S Suggest, Chat On, Games Hub and myServices along with an array of motion based gestures. The standard Google apps including Gmail, Youtube, Maps, Chrome, are present as well. As a Jelly Bean user, you can enjoy the benefits and convenience of Google Now, that gets better and better on device usage overtime.

Performance
The Galaxy Grand Duos is powered by a 1.2GHz dual core processor coupled with 1GB RAM. It offers 8GB of internal storage with additional expansion support up to 64GB. As part of the company offer, users can also avail 50GB of free Dropbox storage along with Rs. 8,000 worth of movies and music from the myServices app.

The device runs pretty smoothly without any lags, especially while playing games like Temple Run 2, Jetpack Joyride or even multi-tasking for that matter. The browsing experience on the device was pleasant as image heavy websites rendered flawlessly with panning and zooming being smooth and lag free.

The stock keyboard works well and offers a "floating keyboard" in split-screen mode that can be positioned anywhere on the screen while using two opened apps simultaneously.

That said, typing messages on the device could be tedious for someone with small hands, especially in the landscape mode due to the device's size and weight. It does get tiring after a while. An alternate solution is to use the handwriting prediction mode, where you can write the words with your finger. This works pretty well.

Apart from display, the other feature that is really disappointing is the battery life. The device has standard Li-ion 2,100mAh battery that has just enough juice to last about 6 hours or so on a single charge. Wi-Fi connectivity, web browsing, playing games or watching videos at decent brightness levels, totally take a toll on the device's health and you'll find yourself reaching for the charger in no time.

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The smartphone performs well over both Wi-Fi and 3G cellular networks. The device offers quad-band GSM support and tri-band 3G support, dual-band Wi-Fi with hotspot capabilities and Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0 and GLONASS. Samsung has tied up with Vodafone and is offering 2GB of data download free per month for the first two months. You can choose to configure which SIM should use 3G packet data.

Samsung Galaxy Grand offers dual-SIM (dual-standby) functionality, though it claims to use software to forward calls from one number to the other if users have call-forwarding on one SIM and call-waiting on the other. However, it didn't work for us with default settings, with users calling SIM 2 getting the 'unreachable' message typical of dual-standby phones. The phone also makes use of the 'Smart Dual SIM' feature that allows the flexibility of selecting different mobile billing plans for either SIM to enable switching between them and make the most of competitive call and data plans. The call quality is pretty good too, even in low network areas.

The audio quality of the device is pretty good with the bundled headphones as well as the rear speaker. Higher volume levels aren't jarring and movies and music are enjoyable on the big screen. The video watching experience is a bit disappointing, especially YouTube videos that get pixelated even when watching in High Quality (HQ).

The video player supports most formats including AVI and MKV and offers a decent experience and 1080p playback also seemed flawless. You even get a screenshot feature along with the option to tag your friends in the video, edit and also set a timer to switch it off automatically.

Verdict
The Galaxy Grand Duos looks like the Galaxy S III and is as big as the Note, which is being offered at a cheaper price. As an all rounder device, this is the best you get from Samsung at a price of Rs. 21,500. The device does offer a good overall performance with a smooth Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean experience.

The device has great media capabilities, dual-SIM functionality, a good camera with 1080p recording and most of the features of the Note II such as multi-window and a few other Premium Suite features along with a good build quality.

If you are brand conscious and can stand the poor battery life and the low resolution display that aren't in its favour, then you wouldn't mind flaunting the Galaxy Grand Duos amongst friends and family.

But if you don't want to go over budget and are looking for an HD experience, you'd definitely want to consider the Micromax A116 Canvas HD priced under 15k, that is the hottest selling budget Android phone right now boasting impressive specs such as a 5-inch IPS LCD 720p display, a 2,000mAh battery, 8-megapixel rear and 2-megapixel front cameras, a quad-core 1.2GHz MediaTek MT6589 processor coupled with the PowerVR Series5XT GPU and 1GB RAM.


Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos in pics


Price: Rs. 21,500

  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery life
  • Camera
  • Value for money
  • Good
  • Solid performance
  • Good camera
  • Bad
  • Poor display
  • Disappointing battery life

Display

5.00-inch

Processor

1.2GHz

Front Camera

 2-megapixel

Resolution

 480x800 pixels

RAM

 1GB

OS

 Android 4.1

Storage

8GB

Rear Camera

8-megapixel

Battery capacity

2100mAh

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