It’s not easy finding a high-end dual-SIM phone from a top-tier manufacturer. The only one available in the market until recently was the HTC Desire SV, which is a well-designed and built handset with an impressive spec sheet but is heavily crippled in the multimedia department due to its chipset. This leaves the playground wide open for the just launched Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos, which has been making a lot of noise in the market. We quite liked it when we first saw it, and now it’s time to put it through our gruelling tests to see if it manages to come through unscathed.
Design and build
The Grand Duos looks like a clone of the Note II, but with the finish and build of the S III. The phone seems a bit chunkier than the Note II and that chrome trim around the edge will wear off with time, so it’s better if you use a cover with it. The finish of the plastics is more akin to the Galaxy S III. The rear cover has a fine mosaic-like pattern which actually manages to mask most of your fingerprints. However, it does scratch easily if you’re not careful with your usage. The same goes for the chrome trim.
A snug fit for the large-handed
The Grand Duos feels strong and durable but is on the thicker side at 9.6 mm and quite heavy as well at 162 g. Just like the other Galaxy handsets, we have all the sensors lined up along with the front facing 2MP camera. The 5-inch display takes up most of the space in the front with a thin bezel on either side.
The two SIM slots
Underneath the rear cover, we have the two GSM SIM card slots and a microSD card slot. Samsung also bundles along a separate rear cover with a flip-style screen protector. Other than the fact that it’s a bit on the thicker side, the Grand Duos has a very good build quality and even looks very striking.
When Samsung first announced the Grand Duos, there was a lot of cry about the low resolution display. Even we thought back then that this would be the Achilles’ Heel of the handset. As it turns out, the 480 x 800 resolution is not completely terrible and other than a slightly larger set of icons, it’s not bad at all. The display is a standard TFT LCD, but a good one, so the viewing angles and colour reproduction is very good. The phone runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean along with TouchWiz and the two seem to get along just fine. The UI is fluid just like it is on the Note II, all the new features introduced in it and the S III – Multi-window, Pop-up play, Smart Stay, S Voice and a whole fleet of motion based gestures – are present here.
Buttery smooth UI
The fluidity of the interface can be attributed to the spiffy ARM Coretex-A9 MPCore SoC under the hood. This consists of a dual-core CPU running at 1.2GHz each along with 1GB of RAM. The SoC also has support for NEON video decoding extensions and ARM TrustZone technology, amongst others. The GPU is not the typical Adreno or Mali chipset but is a Broadcom Video Core IV. Thanks to the low resolution screen, this GPU manages to pump out very similar performance to the GPU in the Note II. NenaMark 2 benchmark recorded a similar 58FPS and this is also reflected in actual games. For instance, Temple Run 2 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted run smoothly without any issues.
The Grand may lack the famed Wolfson audio chip, but this hasn’t stopped Samsung from delivering a really good media experience. We’ve talked about the new media player at length in our Galaxy Note II review, so we won’t go too much into detail about it here. Audio quality is pretty good through the headphones as well as the rear speaker. The volume level is good and movies and music are enjoyable on the big screen.
Good media playback
The video player is very functional and supports most formats including AVI and MKV. Full HD 1080p playback is also flawless. You even get a screenshot feature along with the option to tag your friends in the video, edit it or even set a timer to switch it off automatically.
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The Grand Duos is a quad-band GSM handset with tri-band 3G support. You also get dual-band Wi-Fi with hotspot capabilities and Wi-Fi Direct, GPS with A-GPS support and GLONASS, DLNA, external storage of up to 64GB, Bluetooth 4.0, which should cover all your basic connectivity options. TV-out and NFC seem to be missing, but we doubt it will be missed much. Dual-SIM management is also handled well. You have the option of dual standby for the SIM cards and also configure which SIM should use 3G packet data.
Good connectivity options
The stock keyboard works well and in split-screen mode, you get a "floating keyboard" so that you can position anywhere on the screen while using both of the opened apps. One-sided keyboard operation is not present since the screen isn’t that big and the resolution is quite low. Browsing through image heavy websites didn’t pose problems of any kind, as panning and zooming is smooth and lag free.
The Galaxy Grand seems to have the same sensor we had in the Galaxy S II. The 8MP sensor is accompanied by an LED flash and is assisted by the multitude of tweaking options we saw in the Note II and the S III. Burst mode has been left out though, possibly due to the lack of processing power. Outdoor shots come out really well with good detail and accurate colour capture. Indoors is also pretty good with very little noise creeping in. The Grand manages macros very well, too, with a good helping of depth of field. Video recording maxes out at 1080p and you have the option of adding filers as well.
Captures good macros
The front-facing camera is strictly average in terms of quality and the video recording mazes out at 480p.
The 2100mAh battery puts on a very good show as the Galaxy Grand ran for nearly 8-hours and 40-minutes in our video drain test. This is very good if you watch videos a lot on the move. The battery life will be lesser when both SIMs are active, but even so, we feel you should easily be able to pull off around 16-hours of actual usage.
Looks grand in white
Verdict and price in India
The Samsung Galaxy Grand is priced at Rs. 21,500, which makes it a very good buy, not only because of its dual-SIM feature but because of its overall performance and functionality. The Grand offers much better value as compared to the HTC Desire SV and is by far the best all-rounder you can buy right now at this price point. The low resolution screen and the fact that it’s a bit heavy and chunky are the only things going against it, but they are in no way deal-breakers. If you can make peace with that, then you’ll love the Grand. It has very good media capabilities, good battery life, dual-SIM functionality, a good camera with full HD recording along with most of the features of the Note II, like split-screen mode, and a good build quality.