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Samsung Galaxy Grand: FULL REVIEW

Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos
(I-9082)

It's been a long time since I've reviewed any gadget. So here it is, the much acclaimed device from Samsung, Galaxy Grand. Just got my hands on this behemoth phone a week back. True to its name, this phone is grand indeed. A huge 5 incher phablet with decent specs and affordable price tag with features of all high end Samsung phones (S3, Note II).

Now the reason i am reviewing it is because there are 'grand' rumors and misconceptions about this device, tons of fake 'paper reviews' and a general lack of knowledge about almost everything that this device offers. Forums are filled with haters and it seems like this phone is being bashed left-right and center before even laying hands on it. Samsung is keeping much of information about this phone locked in their own compound, call it a bad marketing strategy or deliberate attempt to generate curiosity. 

Let's get on with the review.

SPECIFICATIONS

PRICE: 21,500 INR

DISPLAY: 5" TFT DISPLAY WITH WVGA SCREEN 

RESOLUTION: 480x800 Px (187 PPI)

TOUCH: 10 FINGER CAPACITIVE TOUCHWIZ UI

CPU: 1.2Ghz DUAL CORE ARMv7 

GPU: BROADCOM VIDEOCORE IV HW

RAM: 1GB (800MB AVAILABLE)

STORAGE MEMORY:  4GB USER AVAILABLE + 64GB

OS: 4.1.2 JELLYBEAN

CAMERA: 8MP + 2MP, 1080P RECORDING@30FPS

BATTERY: Li-Ion 2100 mAh

WEIGHT: 162 g

FIRST HAND EXPRESSION
I will discuss the first hand expression, look, feel and overall performance of this phone and some tweaks which will make the interface as fluid as it can get. 



A 5" display does have its pros and cons where pros are completely technical and cons are completely dependent on user. So from technical point of view, larger the screen more the fun. Games will provide more immersive experience than ever before. Watching movies on mobile will actually be fun. Lot of space to swipe your fingers and much bigger view of web pages and ebooks. Experience was definitely enjoyable more so because i was travelling a lot last week and journeys are tend to be boring if you are not with your best buddies (books, laptop). GPS navigation was superb thanks to google and also, thanks to the couple in my coach who cared to share their wifi with me (I believe they will never repeat the mistake again).

Here are some shots from start screen and app menu. Initially i felt it was okay, swiping across my fingers and i was having a smooth and lucid experience. But then i compared it to Note 2 and the difference was there. It does lag a bit scrolling in between app menu(Power saving was turned ON on both device). I multitasked a bit (4 apps running simultaneously including temple run 2) and lag was clearly noticeable. Final verdict: Phone lags as compared to high end mobile phones. However after a couple of simple tweaks, it was fluid. Major difference is seen when i turned off power saving mode(quite obvious) and disabled 'hardware overlays'. However undesirable effects were seen with later turned off, so keep it on. Rest of the tweaks are quite obvious, i don't need to point them out i guess.

Their were pre-installed samsung apps which are quite good and useful (S memo). However, the qwerty keyboard is a real pain. Samsung provided some great features with qwerty keyboard like svoice integration, hand writing recognition, Swype support, advance predictive text etc. but the keys are placed very badly. Space between keys are too much and i end up hitting between two keys leading to wrong letter being shown on screen. This never happened in atrix 2 or lumia 610 (my previous phones). Swift key app is inferior to stock qwerty in terms of feature so i ended up removing it.

Phone crash quite often, mostly when tweaking your live wallpaper settings (Paperland to be specific) or too much multitasking. Few apps keep crashing frequently like blackmart,  chrome and even playstore. But apps do load without any lag and work smoothly without hiccups.



Phone is bulky and Samsung seems to love the cheap plastic and pathetic dull design. Like all galaxy phones, this is no different looks wise. For me, a 5 inch device is impractical and uncomfortable. Same is the case with this phone. I have big enough hands but the width is just too much to be operated single handedly, let alone operate, you can't even open your lockscreen with one hand. Samsung design team is very poor indeed, they should conduct a survey to decide dimensions of their phones. Free flip cover further adds to the misery. That was just my opinion. If you love brick sized phones, go for it eyes closed.

After playing through touch, scrolling through menu and multitasking till my phone ran on fumes, the first thing i checked out is one of the biggest downfall of this phone. Let's move on to our next section: DISPLAY.


DISPLAY
Now here comes the deal-breaker OR NOT, lets find out. A meager resolution of 480X800 and an embarrassing 187ppi pixel density, display can be stated as one of the worst by Samsung in recent times. But what else do you expect at such a low price? 

I am going to reveal some very exciting and surprising facts about the display so all those 'paper reviewers', keep your eyes open and read it completely word by word. Here is an interesting fact: "Samsung Galaxy Grand is much more brighter than Galaxy Note II". You don't believe me, go ahead and check it out yourself. Although it wasn't as bright as my eye-blindingly bright Moto Atrix 2 but that's a plus because you don't want to go blind while operating your phone, do you? 


The display is absolutely soothing to eyes even at max brightness. Color reproduction is great. Text, icons are just perfectly sharp enough not to irritate you with eye poking sharpness as many other phones nor they are dull and bland. I have absolutely NIL complaint about the display.






What you guys should worry about is game graphics and HD/BR video playback. If you are stretching a small resolution on a huge 5" screen, the obvious result are poor, jagged graphics. That's where this phone falls behind in the race. In video games, character edges were jagged and hence graphics didn't really came out great. In 1080p videos, noticeable amount of noise and blur is visible coz they were compressed to match the resolution. I wouldn't say it was bad, the quality was still however excellent and vivid with colors coming out very well. In fact they were surprisingly much better than i expected. But then i tested it on some quality games like asphalt 7 and real racing 2 and that's where i was left heart broken. Let's put it this way: They look like SHIT!
Final verdict: If you are watching HD videos or blue ray movies, you won't be disappointed at all however if you fall under gamer category, the experience will be super smooth due to low resolution yet lack luster. So make your choice wisely. Display is in absolutely no way as bad as people think it is. In fact it will be twice as good as you thought it to be. 

TOUCH, MULTITASKING AND SENSORS
If you have already tried the 'incredibly creative' NOTE II then don't bother reading this section. 95% features of Note II are present in this phone. You may even name it as 'Note II Jr'. I will quickly go over all the 'incredibly creative' features that this phone boasts.

* Multitasking tab: Much like windows 8 tab (exactly like it), touch on small hemisphere and it will bring a tab listed with most commonly used apps like mail, messages, gallery etc. Gets very frustrating at times. Tricks: Hold on to tab for a while and move it wherever you want; Hold the small hemisphere and do the same; long press back softkey to get rid of the tab. 

* 10 finger touch: excellent touch, very sensitive.
* Double tap to top: Just slap your phone on head twice like some fixing old TV and if you are in the middle of a looong list of contacts, files anything, pointer will come to top of the list. I loved it.
* Pan and zoom: hold your photos with index fingers of both your hands and tilt the phone towards yourself to zoom the photo. Tilt it backwards again and it will zoom out. (Creativity ends here, you will find out yourself)
* Shake and update: shake your phone like crazy and it will update automatically.
* Maximum Palm bust: Irritated of crappy music coming out of your music player? just give a palm bust to your phone and it will stop. You can even do that by turning your phone over but i prefer former coz its fun.
* Photo note: hide notes behind photos.
* Samsung apps: They are okay-ish.

For full features, i just bumped into a video made by someone explaining most of the features. Just have a look at it. I hold no copyrights of this video.




Some of the best ones are, joining contacts. Suppose you synced your FB, gmail, Twitter contacts. Your contact list will be full of millions of contacts. Some may appear twice, thrice even 10 times. Note: This list also includes those contacts which are present in your SIM already. Now what you can do is open a contact with many similar entries and find 'join contact' option in menu. You can join all those contacts as a single contact including info from all those entries. Soon you can discover new ways of communicating with your old and left out friends. 


Another superb feature is Page Buddy. If you have plugged in your ear phones or traveling out of town, a new homescreen is added, featuring apps specific to the occasion. New screen itself looks gorgeous design wise. I wish all other homescreens look the same.

CAMERA
Device features an 8MP front cam with 1080p recording @30 FPS. I have a good enough camera and personally i believe that mobile cameras still have a long way to go before they could even considered to be benchmarked against any basic point and shoot camera leave apart DSLRs. So here i was testing the 8mp camera and 2mp front cam. I was greeted with a nice easy to use straight forward interface. Quite a few filter options available, scene mode consist of all basic point n shoot features, Auto contrast works well. Pretty much all the basic options were there. Touch to focus was not one of the quickest, but it works perfectly. Zero shutter lag does put a smile on my face. Time to take it for a spin. I did a couple of shootouts at various lighting levels with and without flash. Planning to do more, so keep a check on this section for updates in coming days.

I took my first shot in an outdoor setting and shoot the most common thing a toddler with a camera would shoot, a flower (or a bunch of it). Results were surprisingly good, focus was perfect and the DOF i got was fantastic for a mobile camera. Color productions and contrast were spot on and there was no noise in the sample at all. I was happy with my first shot. But these were ample setting for any camera in the world. So i thought of testing it indoor in artificial light and quite a dull environment, a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of noise. In search of an object, 'hookah' kept on table in front of me seems like a perfect choice. (Well i was at my friend's PG and you know what guys do at a weekend). I hope my mom doesn't find out. Anyways, i focused on the burning coal and clicked a photo. Me and my friend were astonished by the next thing we saw. To my surprise, the result was absolutely stunning! Just look at the quality of the image i got, super sharp and clear as water. There was no sign of noise whatsoever and damn! the seductive DOF. I'm posting a 100% zoomed result of the same. Next thing i did was take a couple more shots and see if this performance is constant. I'm also an okay photographer and believe me(pictures will do the talking), i was awestruck to see the quality of images that this phone was churning out. 


Samples are listed here:



First shot taken outside in natural light, a bunch of flowers


A shot of 'hookah' with focus on the burning coal in dull lighting conditions

100% of previous image
Similar lighting conditions, this time with auto contrast turned ON

Flash ON

At 50%

Ummm....
Time to test the video quality. At 1080p, videos came out razor sharp and very stable. It felt like recording from my own camera. You can find samples on youtube. Without much blabbering, i would rate it a 9/10 and is hands down as good as any high end mobile phone can offer. 

8 mp camera of this mighty phablet is spot on. I'm surprised and happy with the results

GAMES AND MEDIA
Stock video player supports almost all kinds of commonly used formats. It offers all basic features and I didn't felt the need to switch to other players like mx player, winamp etc. 
There is a small option visible on screen for taking a screenshot of running video.

Music player is again top notch with good looking and feature rich UI. There is something called 'music square', a bunch of tiles which can play music according to your mood. Just swipe your fingers across your mood and let it select the perfect songs for the occasion.  Very useful and accurate. Phone speakers are clear and loud. Plugins provided by Samsung are inferior to my skull candy. 






All timepass games like homerun battle 2, Temple run 2, Subway surfer, angry birds, rope escape etc works like charm. Heavy weights like Asphalt 7 and Real Racing 2 run smooth and without a single hiccup. However due to low resolution, graphics are compromised badly. AAA titles have to sacrifice on their graphics unfortunately but performance will be as good as any high end phone in the world. Death Dome provided some eyecandy though. Much like grand daddy of fruit ninja. Graphics came out good as compared to asphalt 7. Yet to test out more AAA titles. Keep checking this section for updates.




It is currently having major issues with some popular titles like Subway surfer, Trials xtreme 3. Both these games i tested are having serious bugs. In subway surfer, character poses like Kate Winslet in Titanic and runs backwards. Its rather funny actually, characters floating in air and on top of that, the epic pose. In trials xtreme 3, bike rider sleep on his bike instead of sitting on it. Ironically he doesn't fall off the bike even after crashing it. They will more likely be fixed with an update.

CONNECTIVITY
Phone is equipped with almost all the various connectivity features you can thing of. It has got Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, Wi-Fi hotspot, Wi-Fi Direct, VPN, dedicated option for Kies to connect with PC and much more. 

Here comes the current biggest issue with this phone and one of the bigger things to worry instead of display. The Wi-fi connectivity is horribly poor. It failed to detect more than half the wifi connections i get in my home and connectivity was very poor. It raises a serious concern and this issue must be resolved by Samsung as soon as possible. Few updates were already launched in Russia, i expect them to arrive in India soon.


BENCHMARKS
Posting results from various popular benchmarking tools. More results will be added later on. 



BATTERY
Average battery which last for a day even with music player turned on most of the times. Power saving mode is very helpful to get some extra oxygen to breath. If you are on GPRS, battery drains down rapidly. Better buy new trousers with extra long pockets to fit in both the phone and the charger. Someone better develop an alternative more efficient source of power or borrow tech from our friends on mars. 

CONCLUSION
No matter what people say, this phone does justify its price. Performance is great, everything runs just fine and lag free(browsing,apps n games). All it needs is a bit of oiling, phone is bugged weather its the lag in scrolling, buggy games, random crashes, poor wifi connectivity, poor soft keys sensitivity etc. Updates surely will be rolling out in future. Camera is superb and it has almost all the features of current heavy weight champion, Note II. Their is a major sacrifice in quality of AAA titles honestly. If you have a tight budget and a sweet tooth to large screen phones/phablets, then look no further because you can't get a better phone than this one in that kind of budget. For those who are more inclined towards high end gaming and better quality graphics with a dimension that fits in their palm can keep looking. 

BONUS
Best live wallpaper: Paperland Pro
Best game: Homerun Battle 2 (Multiplayer)
Best app: Flipboard

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