CurvyThe Galaxy S isn't very thin, but it's certainly light, and very easy to forget about once you've slid into your pocket. It sports a classy, elegant design on the outside, although it's somewhat lacking in originality: it looks an awful like the iPhone 3G S.
If you want to upgrade the look for your phone without upgrading the phone itself, Samsung supplies two external cases, one black and one white. The handset is well put together, even if Samsung has once again insisted on only using plastic.
The black case has good grip thanks to an anti-slip coating
There are two great usability aspects that are worth pointing out because manufacturers so rarely get them right, even on more expensive phones. First of all, there's direct access to the microSD card slot without having to remove the battery or the case, while the covers over the MicroUSB and memory card slot are also solid. It wouldn't be fair to expect a HDMI port on a phone in this part of the market, but it still offers support for DLNA, allowing you to share content with compatible TVs.
The individual keys are well-spaced making typing a breeze
Underneath the 3.5'' 320 x 480 pixel TFT screen is just a single home button, while the display itself is fast and accurate. Colours take on a blue tinge while blacks are mostly grey and rarely look very deep. It's a long way from the quality of an AMOLED, Super AMOLED or Retina Display, or even the Mobile Bravia that we saw recently on the Sony Ericcson Xperia Arc. The viewing angles are narrow and you need to be right in front of the screen to see properly, especially if you're in bright environment. It's hard to disguise the lack of contrast in bright sunlight and you really can't make out much.
Navigation and interfaceJust like the Galaxy S, the Galaxy S runs Android 2.2 (Froyo) with customisation in the form of Samsung's TouchWiz 3.0 interface which adds some interesting features and good ideas. The combination of the two means that just about anybody will be at home with the user interface. But hardcore Android fans will be disappointed: it's impossible to uninstall Samsung's customisations to get to the 'basic' version of Android.
With an 800 MHz Qualcomm MSM7227 processor, the Galaxy Ace is in general pretty responsive. Moving from one of the seven homescreens to another is smooth and apps launch quickly.
You can customise seven different homescreens with your own apps and widgets
MultimediaAs is normal for a phone in this price range, the multimedia options aren't as wide and varied as on more high-end phones.
Web pages take quite a while to load, even with 802.11n WiFi (see inset). Pages aren't always resized properly, meaning you often have to reach for the zoom, and scrolling through longer sites can be a little bit tricky.
The Galaxy Ace's camera proved to be something of a welcome surprise: with just 5 Megapixels, it managed to produce shots with plenty of details and good colour reproduction. You're still better off in well-lit environments so you won't have to use the flash. It isn't very powerful, but at least it doesn't lead to over-exposure. Compared to the LG Optimus 2x, which is much more expensive and has an 8 Megapixel camera, we have to say the Ace does better: it doesn't overdo contrast and reproduces colours more accurately.
To turn the camera on, you need to use the touchscreen: there's no dedicated physical button for taking photos.
If you're looking for a smartphone that can record video, you should probably try elsewhere: instead of HD, you just get 320 x 240 pixels and plenty of jerkiness, too.
As usual, we can only recommend you choose a decent pair of headphones if you want to get the most out of the audio player which is decent if nothing to write home about. Both the line out and the speakers lack power and impact.
Despite a relatively lightweight 1350 mAh battery, the Galaxy Ace managed to last nearly two days with plenty of WiFi use. That's a perfectly adequate performance.
- Usability and handling
- Clear, intuitive interface
- Reasonable finish, even if it is all plastic
- Generally responsive
- Battery life
- Poor quality video recorder
- Screen doesn't have much contrast and narrow viewing angles
- Get rid of the hands-free kit
- Not much support for music and video formats
The Galaxy Ace is a nice little smartphone for anybody who wants to give Android a go without breaking the bank. Apart from the camera, which did better than we'd expected, it's rather limited in multimedia features. But overall, this is a fast, handy mobile that stood up to the rigours of everyday use. It's probably best-suited to people who aren't absolutely addicted to their mobile, though ...