February 27, 2013

Samsung Galaxy Express review: Jelly Bean Express


Introduction

The Samsung Galaxy Express represents an interesting mix of features. The latest Jelly Bean flavor, the impressively fast processor, the LTE connectivity, the spectacular 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus screen, and the Galaxy S III looks are all attention-grabbers.
Yet, the Galaxy Express only offers a 5MP camera with 720p video and the screen is only of WVGA resolution. As usual, unless you go for the flagship, it's always a question of compromises in the midrange and the Galaxy Express is yet another mix of gives and takes, which would hopefully satisfy a good part of the consumers.
Ever since Qualcomm's dual-core Krait made its debut on the HTC One S, it has been making the headlines with its top-notch performance at a decidedly more affordable price point. While other chipsets have since narrowed the performance margin, the Krait architecture continues to be one of the most successful chipsets around, particularly in the dual-core arena.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730

Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express official images
However, despite its proven track record, Krait-powered Android Galaxy smartphones are as rare to find as two-headed snakes, especially outside the US. Samsung released an AT&T variant of the Express this past November, which is part of a growing family dual-core Krait devices available for the US market.
Now Samsung seems finally ready to test out the processor in international waters, and the I8730 Galaxy Express is its first such foray. Let's take a look at what it brings to the table:

Key features

  • Quad-band GSM, 3G, and LTE support
  • 21.1 Mbps HSDPA and 5.76 Mbps HSUPA support
  • 4.5" 16M-color Super AMOLED Plus capacitive touchscreen of WVGA (480 x 800 pixel) resolution
  • Android OS 4.1.2 Jelly Bean with Nature UX
  • 1.2 GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8930 Krait CPU, Adreno 305 GPU, 1GB of RAM
  • 5MP autofocus camera with LED flash, face and smile detection, image stabilization
  • 1.3MP secondary camera
  • 720p HD video recording at 30fps with stereo sound
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n support; DLNA and Wi-Fi hotspot
  • GPS with A-GPS connectivity and GLONASS; digital compass
  • 8GB of inbuilt storage, microSD slot
  • Accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity sensor
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
  • microUSB v2.0 port with MHL
  • Stereo Bluetooth v4.0
  • FM radio with RDS
  • Great benchmark performance for its class

Main disadvantages

  • No dedicated camera key
  • Preinstalled video player lacks DivX video support
  • Poor low-light camera performance
  • WVGA resolution wears thin on the 4.5" screen
The included Jelly Bean update makes the Galaxy Express I8730 a bit more than a simple rehash of the AT&T's version, which is still stuck on Ice Cream Sandwich. We also shouldn't forget AT&T's propensity to include a good amount of carrier bloatware in the form of preinstalled apps and services, which bring down the user-available storage in the US version from 8GB to 5GB.
And although the dual-core Krait in the I8730 is downclocked to 1.2GHz (compared to 1.5GHz on the I437 Express for AT&T), the updated Android experience should still provide you with a better out of box experience than what you'd find Stateside. Plus, the lower CPU clock will certainly go easier on the battery.
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The I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express
Anyway, we'll go more in-depth with what you can expect from software point of view a bit further in our review. Up next, we'll get started with our usual hardware tour.

Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express 360-degree spin

The Galaxy Express has the trademark white paintjob we've come to associate all new Android-powered Samsung's ever since the S III came out. It measures 132.2 x 69.1 x 9.3mm, which is marginally smaller but thicker than the US variant.
Weight-wise, it is a negligible 3.1g heavier, but it's still the same slim handset that's pretty comfortable to handle and easy to pocket.

Design and build quality

The Samsung Galaxy Express design is a pretty strong reference to its standing in the pecking order. It has borrowed heavily of the Galaxy S III design and finish, which results in a surprisingly good feel. And while looks are strictly a matter of personal preference, the good grip and the fingerprint-resistance are not - and they are both present here.
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Our white Galaxy Express next to the Galaxy S III
The Galaxy Express back tends to become more slippery, the more you handle it. While the 4.5 inch screen is manageable, it lies on that tricky precipice between too large and just right, depending on your preference.
As far as durability goes, the Samsung's hyperglaze coating has performed very well since its inception on the S III, so we have no reason to believe the paintjob will fade or chip anytime soon.

Controls and ergonomics

The controls on the Samsung Galaxy Express are more or less identical to what's become a proven formula for Samsung since the S III. Below the screen we find the same three keys as on other Galaxy's - the capacitive Menu and Back buttons either side of a hardware Home key, which can be set to either always illuminate or just when you interact with them (or the screen).
The white paintjob can make them a little harder to see than on a darker finish.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
The three-button combo below the screen
The keys are well-sized and spaced to allow for comfortable use and the capacitive touch technology makes sure the transition between them and the screen is seamless.
Above the display we have the earpiece, as well as the proximity sensor. There's an ambient light sensor to to control automatic brightness. There's a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera for video calling as well.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
The usual array of sensors and the front-facing camera surround the earpiece
The 3.5mm headphone jack is at the top of the phone. There's also a secondary microphone, which allows stereo sound recording in videos.
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The top is where the secondary microphone and the audio jack are located
At the bottom are the microUSB port and the mouthpiece. The microUSB port supports MHL, enabling HD video out and multi-channel audio output.
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The primary microphone keeps the MHL-enabled microUSB port company
On the left side of the Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express we find the volume rocker, while the power/lock key is symmetrically placed across on the right. There's no dedicated camera shutter key.
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The power key is on the right, while the volume rocker is on the left
The 5 megapixel camera lens and the single LED flash can be found on the back, alongside a loudspeaker grille in the bottom right corner.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
The 5MP camera is the star backstage
The back panel comes off easily, and underneath you'll find a microSD card slot which is hot-swappable, and a micro-SIM card slot, which is not.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
The two card slots are located under the back panel
Samsung have included a respectable 2000 mAh battery with the Galaxy Express, and its performance is very good indeed - the Express was able to reach a score of a whopping 59 hours.

Display

The Samsung Galaxy Express employs the same 4.5" Super AMOLED Plus screen as the AT&T version. This means you can count on excellent viewing angles, as well as sky-high contrast and reasonable brightness levels.
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The Galaxy Express display has pretty decent image quality
The WVGA resolution is stretched a bit thin on the 4.5" display, making for a pixel density of just 207ppi, but it's by no means bad to look at. Of course, those 720p and 1080p monsters out there look way sharper, but this one is pretty crisp, too.
Sunlight legibility is nothing short of great, too. Check out how the Galaxy Express did in our dedicated sunlight legibility test.
Display test50% brightness100% brightness
Black, cd/m2White, cd/m2Contrast ratioBlack, cd/m2White, cd/m2Contrast ratio
Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express02010364
HTC Butterfly0.1417312000.455011104
Sony Xperia Z---0.70492705
Oppo Find 50.1717611230.515651107
Sony Xperia S---0.484951038
Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III01740330
HTC One X0.1520013750.395501410
Nokia Lumia 920---0.485131065
Nexus 40.2231414470.456081341
LG Optimus G0.1419714450.334171438
Apple iPhone 50.1320014900.486401320

Contrast Ratio

You can find more information on our display test here.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView4.698
  • Samsung Omnia W3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S3.155
  • Nokia N93.069
  • Samsung Galaxy Note2.970
  • HTC One S2.901
  • Samsung Galaxy Express2.861
  • Samsung Galaxy S II2.832
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus2.801
  • Huawei Ascend P12.655
  • Nokia Lumia 9002.562
  • Sony Xperia Z2.462
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 21.114

Handling

Overall, the Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express is a phone of commendable ergonomics. Slim and lightweight, it's pretty easy to handle and slips comfortably into pockets. The grip is somewhat compromised due to the slightly larger screen, but shouldn't be much of a problem for the average (male?) user.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
Despite the larger screen, the Galaxy Express handles nicely

Nature UX powered by Krait

The Samsung Galaxy Express runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean out of the box, skinned with the latest TouchWiz launcher, dubbed Nature UX. The user interface is basically identical to that of the recently-released Galaxy S III mini, Galaxy S II Plus, and Galaxy Grand: all have the same Android version and screen resolution.
Beyond the obvious benefits to the user experience compared to stock Android, the I8370 Galaxy Express takes advantage of the same premium combination that powers the Galaxy S III and the Galaxy Note II.
The lockscreen is a standard "tap and drag in any direction to unlock" affair and there're ripples accompanied by water-drop sound as you drag your finger. There are a number unlock routines to choose from: motion, face and voice among others.
There're three customizable lockscreen shortcuts (down from five on the bigger S III and Note II), and you can drag one to activate the corresponding app.
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The lockscreen
The dock at the bottom of the homescreen fits five custom shortcuts or folders. The rightmost one always opens the app drawer, but the other four can be set to any shortcut or even a folder.
As usual, you can pinch to zoom out and manage homescreen panes - add, delete or just reorder them. You can have 7 panes at most, which are enough to fit plenty of content even if you use widgets that cover an entire pane.
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The Galaxy Express homescreen
The notification area is quite feature-rich and offers quick toggles for Wi-Fi, GPS, Silent mode, Screen rotation, Bluetooth. You can swipe to the side to get even more: Mobile data, Blocking mode, Power saving and Sync.
Below the toggles is the brightness slider (there's no automatic brightness toggle here though). There are also a couple of other useful things like the Settings shortcut in the upper right corner, the time/date to its left and the carrier name at the bottom.
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Notification area
In Jelly Bean, you get expandable notifications to get more info about them. They can be expanded and collapsed with a two-finger swipe and the top one is expanded by default (if the app that put up the notification supports it, of course).
The app drawer accommodates both app shortcuts and widgets. Unlike stock Android, you cannot move between tabs by swipes - you have to explicitly hit the widget tab. Some will find this more logical (scrolling past the available apps to find yourself in the widgets takes some getting used to).
Using pinch-to-zoom reveals an overview of the pages and lets you rearrange them, but you can't create new ones. Hitting the menu key reveals some more options, including hiding apps or enabling tap-to-uninstall mode.
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The app drawer
The app drawer has three view modes: a Customizable grid (where you can freely rearrange icons), Alphabetical grid and Alphabetical list (this one makes shortcuts easy to hit, but isn't very space efficient). You can also view just the downloaded apps by hitting the Downloaded apps icon.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
The widget list
Jelly Bean comes with a selection of widgets, with some custom additions by Samsung. Some widgets are resizable too - a feature we've seen in some custom UIs is available natively in Jelly Bean. Widgets automatically move out of the way when you're reorganizing the homescreen.
Once you get several apps running, you can use the task switcher to go back and forth between them. It's a Jelly Bean-style vertical list with a screenshot and a name for each app. A sideways swipe removes the app from the list.
There are three buttons at the bottom of the list - one to bring out Samsung's home-brewed task manager, one to launch Google Now and a 'Kill all apps' button.
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App switcher • Task manager
Overall, the Nature UX on top of Android 4.1 looks great and the Galaxy Express does pack most of the cool software tricks of the flagship Galaxy S III.
And despite the lack of a quad-core chipset, the Galaxy Express handles the heavy Samsung skin equally well. It wouldn't choke on heavy live wallpaper either.

Synthetic benchmarks

Like we mentioned in the intro, the I8730 Galaxy Express is the first internationally available Galaxy to feature a dual-core Krait CPU. Qualcomm's processor has impressed ever since its smartphone debut on the HTC One S, and we expected some good results from the Express, particularly amongst other dual-core midrangers.
BenchmarkPi sees the Express land right in the middle of the pack when it comes to single-threaded CPU performance. Nevertheless, it beats out some top competitors in the Galaxy S II and Nexus, putting it right next to the Galaxy S III in this test.

Benchmark Pi

Lower is better
  • HTC One X (Snapdragon S4)279
  • HTC One S306
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)338
  • Samsung Galaxy S III344
  • Samsung Galaxy Express346
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1351
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus408
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus409
  • Samsung Galaxy S II452
  • Sony Xperia S536
Quadrant gave us some great results from the Express, where it handily beats out the likes of the Galaxy S II/Plus, giving us comparable results to the HTC One S, even though the dual-core Krait on the One S is clocked higher.

Quadrant

Higher is better
  • Samsung Galaxy S III5365
  • HTC One X (Snapdragon S4)5146
  • HTC One S5047
  • Samsung Galaxy Express4998
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)4842
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus3542
  • Samsung Galaxy Note3531
  • Sony Xperia S3173
  • Samsung Galaxy S II3053
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus2316
GLBenchmark runs offscreen at 1080p resolution - putting all our tested devices on equal footing. The Adreno 305 GPU inside the Express gives us a result of 12 fps, which is about par for the course when it comes to dual-core performance.

GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better
  • LG Optimus G29
  • Apple iPhone 527
  • Nexus 426
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II17
  • Samsung Galaxy S III15
  • Samsung Galaxy S II13
  • Samsung Galaxy Express12
  • HTC One X+12
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus11
  • HTC One X9
Finally, the SunSpider and Browsermark benchmarks gave us results that weren't the best, but still good for its class. The Express managed to beat out the One S in SunSpider, which can be attributed to the higher Android version, and Samsung's ability to optimize the browsing performance. Browsermark 2 gives us results that aren't as great, but still do well in their own right.

SunSpider

Lower is better
  • Samsung Galaxy S III1447
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus1460
  • Samsung Galaxy Express1654
  • HTC One S1708
  • New Apple iPad1722
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)1757
  • HTC One X (Snapdragon S4)1834
  • Samsung Galaxy S II1849
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus1863
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.11891
  • Apple iPhone 4S2217
  • Sony Xperia S2587

BrowserMark 2

Higher is better
  • LG Optimus G2555
  • Acer CloudMobile S5001877
  • Nokia Lumia 8201760
  • Samsung Omnia W1632
  • Samsung Galaxy S III (JB)1247
  • Samsung Galaxy Express1154
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus1079
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini714
  • Sony Xperia J587

Phonebook has room for everything

The phonebook packs an incredibly wide range of features and virtually unlimited storage capacity. There are four tabs on top accommodating the Phone app, Groups, Favorites and Contacts.
As usual, there are various options to filter contacts by phone numbers, groups and multiple sorting. You can import/export contacts to/from the SIM card but you can't display them alongside the phone memory entries.
Samsung has kept the swipes in the phonebook, enabling quick dialing (right swipe) or sending a text (left swipe). The Quick contacts feature is there too, displaying, upon a tap of the contact picture, a pop up menu with shortcuts to call, text, email or Google Talk.
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The Galaxy Express phonebook • Quick contacts
Tapping on a contact reveals all available details, and now shows two tabs instead of four. The first one is the About tab, with the person's photo on top. If configured, the right tab displays their latest updates from social networks or Google Talk.
Information is perfectly organized into different sections for phone, email, etc. If the phonebook finds duplicate contact entries, it'll prompt joining them. Furthermore, there're a plethora of options once you hit the Menu button. You can view the call history, as well as join, unjoin and share contacts.
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Detailed contact view
Samsung has even added a built-in reject list. A new feature lets you choose a specific vibration pattern as an incoming call alert, just like you would a ringtone. A set of predefined patterns is offered, but you can make your own too.
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Adding a contact to reject list • Vibration patterns can be assigned to each contact
There's plenty of contact information you can assign to each contact and it still remains neatly organized. You have all the types listed (numbers, email addresses, etc.) and, just like in the previous version of TouchWiz UI 4.0, there's a plus sign on the right - tapping it adds another item of that type. Pressing the minus sign under it deletes any unneeded field.
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Editing contact details
Of course, the real flexibility of the phonebook becomes apparent when you sign into your social networks. After syncing, the phonebook will automatically merge contacts (you can do it manually too), so that the contact details are pulled from those sources as well.

Telephony with smart dialing, voice commands

The in-call quality of the Samsung Galaxy Express is really good with crisp and loud sound. Reception was also problem-free and we didn't suffer dropped calls though in areas of very poor coverage the sound would occasionally break up.
Smart Dial is available and works as advertised - it searches names and numbers simultaneously. Only one contact is shown (with contact photo) and you can tap the down arrow to view the rest (the number above the arrow indicates how many contacts have matched your query).
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Smart dial works like a charm
Another cool feature that the Samsung Galaxy Express offers is Direct Call, which lets you dial a number by lifting the phone up to your ear while browsing contacts or reading/composing a message. Smart alert will vibrate the phone when you pick it up, if there are any missed calls or messages. You can, of course, use the old flip to mute gesture too.
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Direct call and smart alert
Voice dialing is available too and taken care of by S Voice, which activates on a double tap of the home button.
The dialer also offers quick shortcuts for making a video call or sending a message instead.
Thanks to the proximity sensor, your screen will automatically turn off during a call. The available options during a call include using the keypad, muting, holding the call or adding another call to this conversation.
The call log is the tab next to the dial pad. It displays all the dialed, received and missed calls in one list sorting your call history by contacts.
We also ran our traditional loudspeaker test on the Express. It managed a rating of Good, which means that you should be able to hear it well, even in loud environments. More about our loudspeaker test as well as other results can be found here.
Speakerphone testVoice, dBPink noise/ Music, dBRinging phone, dBOveral score
Apple iPhone 566.866.167.7Below Average
Samsung Galaxy Nexus66.260.569.0Below Average
HTC Desire X63.661.669.6Below Average
Samsung Galaxy S II Plus65.761.566.6Below Average
Apple iPhone 4S65.864.574.6Average
Samsung Galaxy S III mini66.563.076.0Average
Sony Xperia S72.761.869.6Average
HTC One S65.164.676.7Average
Samsung Galaxy S II70.066.675.7Good
Samsung Galaxy Express67.766.675.7Good
LG Optimus L766.766.675.6Good
Motorola RAZR XT91074.766.682.1Very Good
HTC Desire76.675.784.6Excellent

Messaging

The messaging department is quite straightforward: there are no folders here, just a new message button. Under that button is a list of all your messages organized into threads.
Swiping on a message header will do exactly the same as in the phonebook - a left swipe starts a new message, while swiping to the right will start a call. There's application-specific search that lets you quickly find a given message among all your stored SMS and MMS.
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The Galaxy Express messaging center with swipe functions
One thing we really appreciate is that the tap to compose box grows as much as it needs to - it can fill the entire screen (above the on-screen keyboard that is), growing to 10 lines.
Adding multimedia content to the message automatically turns into an MMS. You can either quickly add a photo or an audio file to go with the text or compose an MMS using all the available features (like multiple slides, slide timing, layout, etc.). The multiple slides are all shown inside the compose box.
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Responding to a message • Attaching a file • Message options • Scheduling a message
You can schedule a message to be sent automatically at a later point in time. There's a list of all scheduled messages in case you need to cancel or send a message ahead of time manually. You can also mark certain numbers as "spam", in case some automatic promo texts get pushy, and lock messages to prevent their deletion.
Moving on to email, the Gmail app supports batch operations, which allow multiple emails to be archived, labeled or deleted. The default app supports multiple Gmail accounts, but there's no unified inbox. Another cool feature in Gmail is that you can swipe left or right to move between messages in your inbox.
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The Gmail app should be pretty familiar to everyone by now
There is also a generic email app for all your other email accounts and it can handle multiple POP or IMAP inboxes. You have access to the messages in the original folders that are created online and messages are displayed as usual, or you can switch to a Gmail-like conversation view.
The Galaxy Express also features a combined inbox, which brings together all your mail in a single folder. This can be quite handy if you have lots of accounts and you just want to check if there is a new message needing your attention.
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The standard email app also does a good job • The combined inbox
For each email account, the app gives you security options (e.g. encrypting outgoing email and signing it with a private key) and a sync schedule, which can be set to check for new mail more often during "peak schedule" (you can pick the days of the week and start and end times when "peak schedule" is active).
Google Talk handles the Instant Messaging department. The G-Talk network is compatible with a variety of popular clients like Pidgin, Kopete, iChat and Ovi Contacts. There's also Samsung's own ChatOn service.

Text input - keyboard, gesture and voice

The Samsung Galaxy Express comes with several text input options. You have the traditional QWERTY keyboard in portrait mode (which is a little cramped) and landscape mode.
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Portrait and landscape QWERTY keyboards
There are a handful of clever tricks that this keyboard can offer. You can swipe left and right to switch between letters and symbols or you can enable "Continuous input", which lets you input words by swiping over the keyboard (yes, like Swype).
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Continuous input • using the clipboard option
If you like swiping your finger around but Continuous input isn't your thing, you can try using the handwriting recognition. It's quite accurate too.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
Handwriting recognition
The Samsung Galaxy Express has very advanced text prediction features to minimize typos. If you allow it, it will scan through your emails, Facebook posts and Twitter posts and learn how you write (which words you use more often and so on).
Another option shows you a list of all recent items in the clipboard (both text and images) that you can quickly paste. This is great as it lets you juggle multiple copied items.
You can, of course, use voice input and, since the Express is running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, this will work even if the phone is offline as long as you have downloaded the required language package.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
Voice input

Stock gallery with a pinch of TouchWiz

The Samsung Galaxy Express comes with the default Jelly Bean Gallery which, as you'd imagine, has been treated to some TouchWiz flavor. It opens up in Album view, which is what we're used to seeing. Rather than the familiar stacks, the app uses a grid of photos, two on a line.
Besides Album view, photos can also be sorted by Location, Time, Person (photos with tagged faces) and Group.
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The Gallery app
Getting inside an album displays all the photos in a rectangular grid, which is horizontally scrollable. When you try to scroll past the end, the photo thumbnails will tilt to remind you you're at the bottom of the list.
When viewing a single photo, you'll find several sharing shortcuts and a delete button above the photo, while below is a line of small thumbnails of all other photos in the album. You can tap those small thumbnails to move to other images or you can just swipe sideways.
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Viewing a single photo • Simple editing options
The Gallery also supports highly customizable slideshows with several effects to choose from, as well as customizable music and speed. You can also highlight specific images to be included in the slideshow.
When viewing a photo with people's faces in it, the Galaxy Express will try to detect them automatically (and you can manually highlight faces where it fails). Buddy photo share will use your contacts' profiles to try and recognize people automatically.
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Putting a name to the face • Manually marking a face
Social tag makes sure that whenever a face is recognized in the photo, their status message appears and you can easily call or message that contact.

Music player with SoundAlive

The Galaxy Express employs the same TouchWiz-ed music player as the Galaxy S III. Samsung has enabled equalizer presets (including a custom one) along with the sound-enhancing SoundAlive technology, which features 7.1 channel virtualization. The company also uses SoundAlive in some of their MP3 and Android-powered media players.
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SoundAlive offers an extensive list of presets • creating a custom preset
The music is sorted into various categories and one of the options, called Music square, is quite similar to the SensMe feature of Sony Ericsson phones. It automatically rates a song as exciting or calm, passionate or joyful and places those tracks on a square (hence the name).
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
Music square creates automatic playlists based on your mood
From here, you can highlight an area of the square and the phone will automatically build a playlist of songs that matches your selection.
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The music player benefits greatly from the TouchWiz UI
You can swipe the album art left and right to skip songs. You can also put the phone face down to mute the sound or place your palm over the screen to pause playback.
The Galaxy Express player is DLNA-enabled, so you're not limited to tracks on your handset - songs on devices connected to your Wi-Fi network are as easy to get to as locally stored songs.
If you've enabled the Motion gestures, you can mute and pause a track by placing the phone face down.

Very capable video player

Samsung has put what is easily one of the best default video players on the Samsung Galaxy Express. It offers several view modes - grid, list, folders and nearby devices (which accesses DLNA devices).
The grid view shows static video thumbnails (unlike the handset's more powerful siblings, which animate the thumbnails).
The video player on the Express does feature Pop up play - it moves the video in a small floating window and you can use other apps on the phone with the video on. You can pinch-zoom the video window to adjust its size.
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Browsing the video gallery • The pop up play can be resized
The video player lets you choose between three view modes for how the video fits the screen (fit to screen, fill screen, 100% resolution). The SoundAlive audio-enhancing technology is available here too.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
The video player has a simple interface but is quite capable
Samsung's video player has extensive codec support, and played almost everything we threw at it. It can play AVI (XviD only), MP4 and WMV files up to 1080p resolution. The only major thing we couldn't get to work was movie files with the DivX codec, although it did play the audio sans picture. MOV files were a no-go either, but most devices don't come with MOV support out of box, so it's nothing major.
The video player lets you squeeze the best viewing experience out of the screen - you can adjust video brightness, Auto play next, play speed, SoundAlive and enable subtitles.
The Samsung Galaxy Express made a good impression when it offered us a list of available subtitles and let us pick the one we wanted. It scans for all subtitles in the folder, so the file doesn't need to have the same name as the video file.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
Tweaking the video playback

FM Radio with RDS, broadcast recording

The Galaxy Express is equipped with an FM radio with RDS too. The interface is simple - there's a tuning dial and you can save as many as 12 stations as favorites. You can also play on the loudspeaker, but the headset is still needed as it acts as the antenna. You can record radio broadcasts as well.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
The FM radio app

Very good audio quality

The Samsung Galaxy Express did really well in our audio quality test. The smartphone has almost perfectly clean output in both of our test scenarios..
When connected to active external amplifier the Express managed very good scores all over the field, with the only average volume levels the only thing that might make you frown.
There was next to no degradation when we plugged in a pair of headphones either. Stereo crosstalk increased, but the rest of the readings remained virtually unchanged. The volume levels remained only average, though, which is the only thing that prevented the Express from getting a perfect score.
TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
Samsung Galaxy Express+0.37, -0.27-82.582.30.00940.023-82.0
Samsung Galaxy Express (headphones attached)+0.49, -0.35-81.681.50.0280.089-44.3
Samsung I9105 Galaxy S II Plus+0.08, -0.03-83.384.00.0110.026-82.7
Samsung I9105 Galaxy S II Plus (headphones attached)+0.36, -0.09-81.082.10.0250.220-59.3
Samsung Galaxy S III mini+0.03, -0.04-82.182.00.0120.024-80.7
Samsung Galaxy S III mini (headphones attached)+0.19, -0.13-82.582.40.4440.305-53.4
Samsung Galaxy Nexus+0.11, -0.69-90.690.60.00850.014-91.8
Samsung Galaxy Nexus (headphones attached)+0.41, -0.61-89.589.50.0970.267-63.5
LG Optimus L9+0.06, -0.32-82.682.50.00630.019-81.5
LG Optimus L9 (headphones attached)+0.44, -0.12-82.382.30.0180.293-54.5

Samsung Galaxy Express frequency response
Samsung Galaxy Express frequency response

Decent 5MP camera

The Samsung Galaxy Express comes with the same 5MP camera as its US counterpart, and is able to capture photos at a maximum resolution of 2592 x 1944 pixels. It has an LED flash to assist it in low lighting conditions.
The interface is virtually the same as on other Jelly Bean-running Galaxy's. On the right there's the still camera / camcorder switch, a virtual shutter key and the gallery shortcut (which is a thumbnail of the last photo taken).
On the left, you get several controls and the good news is that you can pick any four shortcuts to put there - its let you easily have all frequently used features just a tap away.
The fifth shortcut always points to Settings. You can also move the icons around to your liking.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
The camera interface
The Express has an extensive set of features: touch focus, smile shot, continuous shot, panorama mode and can snap photos during video recording (but at only 720p resolution, basically a frame from the video). The only thing that's missing is built-in HDR functionlity.
Unfortunately, the weather didn't permit us to get the most ideal shooting conditions we would have liked, but it did allow us to get a general feel about the performance of the 5MP shooter on the Express.
Noise reduction isn't too aggressive and the fine detail is mostly intact. Colors are very accurate (with just a hint of oversaturation) and the dynamic range is good. There is also a slight pink spot in the middle of the frame.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
Samsung Galaxy Express camera samples

Photo quality comparison

The Samsung Galaxy Express has plenty of 5MP shooters to compete with in our Photo compare tool. The tools page gives you info on what to look out for.
Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool
Samsung Galaxy Express in our Photo compare tool

720p video recording is as advertised

The camcorder interface of the Galaxy Express is almost the same as the still camera's - you get the same customizable panel on the left with five shortcuts.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
Camcorder interface
The Galaxy Express doesn't take advantage of 1080p video recording like some newer, more powerful smartphones out there, but it does give you 720p video recording at an unwavering 30fps @ 10Mbps, complete with stereo sound at 128Kbps / 48kHz.
Again, the poor weather prevented us from getting a real taste of what the camcorder is able to deliver, but overall, the image quality is good, with no noise or compression artifacts. There are some jaggies on diagonal lines and some slight oversharpening halos, but the color reproduction is accurate, as is the contrast ratio.
In low lighting conditions the Galaxy Express left much to be desired, as the sensor was only able to provide a blurry image with poor color reproduction and even worse resolved detail.
Here is the untouched 720p (0:16s, 20.1MB) video sample taken directly from the Galaxy Express.

Video quality comparison

The Samsung Galaxy Express enters the video quality comparison tool to face off against other 720p-capable smartphones. The low-light charts shows its poor performance in inadequately lit areas, and the ISO chart shows the same pink spot, which was prevalent in still images as well.
Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool
Samsung Galaxy Express in our Video quality comparison tool

Well connected

The Samsung Galaxy Express has a long list of connectivity features. Let's start off with the basics - quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and quad-band 3G calling are onboard. The 3G connectivity is backed by HSPA, and there's a quad-band 4G LTE antenna as well.
The Wi-Fi support covers a/b/g/n, with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz band compatibility, with Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA also part of the package.
There's also Bluetooth 4.0 LE, which builds on Bluetooth 3.0 with the efficient Low Energy mode.
In some regions, the Express has NFC connectivity. It lets you share all sorts of media via NFC by simply touching the devices back-to-back. You'd need two S Beam-enabled devices to get this to work - while not many models support it, there are plenty of later generation Galaxy's around.
You can share with other NFC devices as well, but the functionality is limited to what is provided by Android Beam - Android's stock NFC tool.
And finally, for wired connectivity we have the MHL port. By all appearances it is a normal microUSB port and works as one (a charger port as well). But the MHL port enables video output by using a MHL-to-HDMI dongle. Sadly, there isn't one included in the retail box.

Tweaked Jelly Bean browser

The Samsung Galaxy Express has a tweaked version of the Jelly Bean Android browser, but Chrome also comes pre-installed, if that's what you prefer.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
The Android browser
Anyway, the default browser supports both double tap and pinch zooming along with the two-finger tilt zoom. There are niceties such as multiple tabs, text reflow, find on page and so on. A neat trick is to pinch zoom out beyond the minimum - that opens up the tabs view.
The Web browser comes with Incognito mode, which lets you surf the web without the browser keeping track of your history or storing cookies. You can also switch to a more minimalist UI, which currently is in a Lab stage. It disables most of the browser's user interface and gives you a quick five-button layout to access the basics.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
Tabs view • Incognito mode • Quick controls

Organizer and apps

The Samsung Galaxy Express comes with a number of cool apps preinstalled. The one glaring omission is an Office document editor - perhaps Samsung finally came to terms with the sheer amount of free office editors available on the Play Store.
The S Planner is a skinned calendar that is easy to use with your fingers. The tabbed interface lets you easily toggle between year, month, week, day list and task views.
The S Planner app can sync with multiple calendars and you can switch off individual ones to reduce the clutter.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
S Planner
Samsung has enabled its new S Cloud service on the Galaxy Express. It can sync contacts, calendar and S memos and back up logs, messages (SMS and MMS) and the wallpaper. You can choose not to back up some of those things and you can set up automatic backups.
The clock app features is laid out across five tabs, each with a different function. The first tab lets you create multiple alarms (each with a distinct repeat time and ring tone), then there are the World clock, stopwatch, timer and desk clock tabs.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
The Clock app handles many extras
The Calculator features big buttons, but you can enable one-handed operation to make things more manageable. The text size is adjustable and if you flip the phone horizontally, you get some advanced math functions too.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
Calculator has adjustable font size and advanced math functions
The My Files app lets you browse all the files in your phones' memory or on an attached microSD card. The app is launched automatically when you hook up a USB mass storage device (a USB drive, another phone, an SD card etc), which we find to be a nice touch.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
The My files app

Google Maps with offline caching

The Samsung Galaxy Express comes with a GPS receiver, which took about a minute to get satellite lock upon a cold start (it supports GLONASS for faster, more accurate locks too). You can use the A-GPS functionality to get near instantaneous locks. Alternatively, network positioning will also do if you only need an estimate of your location.
Google Maps is a standard part of the Android package and we've covered it many times before. It offers voice-guided navigation in certain countries and falls back to a list of instructions elsewhere.
3D buildings are shown for some of the bigger cities and you can use two-finger camera tilt and rotate to get a better view of the area.
You can also plan routes, search for nearby POI and go into the always cool Street View. The app will reroute you if you get off course, even without a data connection.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
Google Maps • Street view
Google Maps uses vector maps, which are very data efficient. The latest version has an easy to use interface for caching maps - you just choose "Make available offline" from the menu and pan/zoom around until the desired area is in view (there's an indicator showing how much storage caching that area will take). You can later view cached areas and delete ones you no longer need.
Note that there's a limit to the size of the area you can cache - you can't just make all of Europe available offline, not even a whole country. We managed to cache London and some surrounding regions before Maps told us the area is too big. Also, there's no address search in the cached maps and you can only cache map data in supported regions of the world.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
Making all of London available offline

Play Store

Running on Android Jelly Bean, the Samsung Galaxy Express has access to the latest apps and the available microSD slot guarantees you won't have trouble with space. Keep in mind though that some apps might have issues with JB at first, but those should be ironed out soon enough.
The Store is organized in a few scrollable tabs - categories, featured, top paid, top free, top grossing, top new paid, top new free and trending. The in-app section is untouched though and it's very informative - a description, latest changes, number of downloads and comments with rating. There is usually a demo video and several screenshots for most apps too.
Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 Samsung Galaxy Express I8730
Google Play Store

Final words

Throughout our examination of the I8730 Galaxy Express, we've touched again and again on the dual-core processor under the hood. We've seen quite a lot of Samsung devices with the latest of Android on comparable screen sizes, but it's really the Krait CPU and the LTE connectivity that make the most significant difference here.
Granted, the camera department seems to be the major compromise in the Galaxy Express feature mix, but if camera performance is not critical to you, the Jelly Bean experience on the Krait processor is not something you should easily pass on. Battery performance was also top-notch - especially the standby times.
Yes, the Express's Krait processor is class-leading and hard to beat. The addition of LTE connectivity will help expand the smartphone portfolios of many European carriers, which are staking a lot on the LTE connectivity and need all the help they can get to make the service more desirable and accessible on more devices.
This combination makes recommending an alternative to the Galaxy Express quite hard. The Galaxy SII Plus will probably come really close once prices settle (the Galaxy Express is only now starting to make it to stores and is quite overpriced off-contract).
However the Galaxy Express almost reaches Tegra 3 performance levels in CPU-intensive tasks and is way ahead the SII Plus in this respect. The SII Plus however comes on top in graphics performance, not to mention it has a much better camera. The smaller screen can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending how you look at it. So in the end it all boils down to the LTE connectivity at a relatively affordable price (most LTE droids are high-end devices).
Samsung I9105 Galaxy S II Plus
Samsung I9105 Galaxy S II Plus
Looking to other manufacturers, why not go with the dual-core Krait pioneer - the HTC One S? With the One S you'll get a slightly smaller but higher-resolution screen covered in Gorilla Glass, double the onboard storage, a very capable 8MP camera with 1080p recording, and a more compact, lighter profile - only 7.8mm thick. You will be giving up on expandable storage, however, settling for a weaker, non-removable battery, and arguably a less complete Jelly Bean experience with Sense 4.0.
HTC One S
HTC One S
If the qHD Pentile AMOLED isn't your thing, you can check the recently released HTC One SV. It comes with the same chipset as the Galaxy Express and matches its internal storage and camera capabilities.
HTC One SV
HTC One SV
As you see, the I8730 Galaxy Express is a very solid offering from Samsung. It shows that Samsung can perfectly target competition-free market segments with great precision. Rather than throw in everything but the kitchen sink alongside the fast processor, they've given the Galaxy Express a good screen, a robust 2000 mAh battery and the trendy LTE connectivity. Carriers with budding LTE networks would love going after the Galaxy Express and Samsung will happily oblige. Buying one off contract however most probably won't be such a good deal for end users.
So if your carrier has already whipped an LTE network where you can experience the ultra fast data speeds, the Galaxy Express is a nice and rounded package with the latest Android OS. Without an LTE network and a carrier deal in sight, we can hardly recommend it. In the case the Galaxy SII Plus or the HTC One S are much better options, currently going for about €320 commitment free.




1 comments:

DroidUser said...

Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
thank you :)

 

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