March 6, 2013

Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 review: GrandisSIMo


Introduction

This is by no means intended as a moment of relief from the building tension, but our timing isn't without a sense of humor. Assuming that all eyes are set on Samsung to, again, deliver the godfather of Android smartphones, the one we're about to review is more like the...grandfather.
It may seem quite unfortunate for the Galaxy Grand that a week from now it'll be yesterday's news. But on a second thought, it has a better insurance policy against irrelevance than most of last season's Samsung phones that tried too hard to emulate the Galaxy S III.
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Samsung Galaxy Grand official pictures
Dual-SIM support is obviously not a universally sought-after feature but demand for smartphones that can operate two SIM cards has been consistently strong in certain markets. This fact should at least begin to explain why the Galaxy Grand is currently the second most popular handset in this website's database.
So, Samsung has been busy lately releasing phones styled after the outgoing flagship, the Galaxy S III. Think a particular screen size and level of equipment, and the Koreans most likely have it. Now, a massive screen and dual-SIM support doesn't sound like the combination on many people's minds but what do we know. It may've made all the sense in the world for Samsung to unleash a big fat five-incher in a niche that other smartphone makers like Sony, HTC and LG are very much interested in too.

Key features

  • Quad-band GSM (SIM 1 & SIM 2) and 3G (SIM 1 only) support
  • Dual SIM stand-by
  • 21.1 Mbps HSDPA and 5.76 Mbps HSUPA support (SIM 1 only)
  • 5.0" 16M-color TFT capacitive touchscreen of WVGA (480 x 800 pixel) resolution
  • Android OS 4.1.2 Jelly Bean with Nature UX
  • 1.2 GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, Broadcom VideoCore IV GPU, 1GB of RAM
  • 8MP autofocus camera with LED flash, face and smile detection, image stabilization
  • 2MP secondary camera
  • 1080p 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

Main disadvantages

  • The five-inch diagonal stretches the WVGA resolution really thin
  • Middling screen contrast and overall quality
  • Poor low-light video recording
  • No dedicated camera key
The dual-SIM Galaxy Grand is powered by the same dual-core chipset as the recently released Galaxy S II Plus. Switching from Exynos to Broadcom looks like a minor step down in terms of GPU, but as we saw on the S II Plus the superior power efficiency more than makes up for it. In fact, combined with the low (by today's standards) screen resolution this might turn the Galaxy Grand in one of the longest lasting smartphones on the market.
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Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 live pictures
Oh well, that's at least one redeeming quality of a screen that has the pixel density of an entry-level HVGA unit - the Galaxy Mini II should be a proper reference. The huge 5" diagonal obviously stretches the resolution (480 x 800 pixels) thin.
Other than that though, there isn't much else that's seriously wrong with a handset that clearly positions itself in the midrange. The Galaxy Grand has some of the advanced features courtesy of Android Jelly Bean and the latest TouchWiz. The build quality is above average and the battery backup sounds promising - and that's an important asset for a dual-SIM phone. Let's see. We start with the design and build, as usual.

Unboxing the Galaxy Grand

The Galaxy Grand has the very basic set of accessories in the box. You'll find Samsung's white pair of stereo headphones, a microUSB cable and an AC adapter.
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Galaxy Grand's retail package

Samsung I9082 Galaxy Grand 360-degree spin

The Samsung Galaxy Grand size is about halfway between the original Galaxy Note and the Galaxy S III. To silence potential alarm bells, we'd go ahead and say that the Grand feels decisively more comfortable in-hand than the first-gen Samsung phablet, and we're happy that Samsung managed to keep the thickness below 10mm.
The smartphone tips the scales at 162g, which is more than reasonable for a device this size: 143.5 x 76.9 x 9.6mm. The first generation of the Galaxy Note weighs 178g.

Design and build quality

The design is - unsurprisingly - influenced by the Galaxy S III, and the similarly sized screen means you will have a hard time telling the Grand apart from the smartphone flagship from a distance.
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The Galaxy Grand next to the Galaxy Note
The Galaxy Grand features a similar paintjob to what you get with the other post-Galaxy S III Samsung devices, but the finish is slightly different. It doesn't look quite as nice as the Galaxy Note II plastic, so we assume Samsung were after some cost-cutting too. This applies to both the white version we had for the preview and the Black one that is here for the review.

Controls and handling

The controls on the Samsung Galaxy Grand follow the same general layout as most Samsung smartphones. Below the screen we find three keys - the capacitive Menu and Back keys on either side of a hardware Home button.
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The three-button combo below the screen
The keys are well sized and spaced to allow comfortable use and the capacitive touch technology makes sure the transition between them and the screen is seamless.
Above the display you can see the earpiece, a couple of sensors and the 2 megapixel front facing camera, which can do video-calls. The duos logo is there to remind you that you can pop in two SIM cards at once, in case you ever forget, and is only present on the I9082 model.
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The usual array of sensors and the front-facing camera surround the earpiece
The top of the phone features just the 3.5mm audio jack.
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The top is where the audio jack is located
At the bottom are the microUSB port and the mouthpiece. The microUSB port supports MHL, enabling HD video out (up to 1080p) 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 Galaxy Grand 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 8 megapixel camera lens, a single LED flash, and the loudspeaker grille are the things to note at the back of the device.
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The 8 megapixel camera is the star backstage
The back panel is fairly easy remove, but still fits tightly in place, no wobble whatsoever.
Underneath the battery cover, you'll find the two SIM compartments, as well as the microSD card slot. The primary SIM and microSD slots are only accessible after you remove the 2100 mAh battery, which means hot-swap is out of the question. The secondary SIM (on the dual-SIM I9082 model) is in the bottom right corner and is hot-swappable.
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Taking a peak under the hood
In terms of handling, the Galaxy Grand is about what you'd expect from a 5-incher. The bezel is a bit too wide and the slippery plastic would occasionally cause problems, but if you have bigger hands (or are willing to use both of them most of the time) you will be fine.
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The Galaxy Grand plastic is more slippery than that of the Note II





Nature UX ready to impress

The Samsung Galaxy Grand 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 Galaxy S III mini and the S II Plus: they have the same Android version and screen resolution.
Beyond the obvious benefits to the user experience compared to stock Android, a clearly midrange handset takes advantage of the same premium combination that powers the Galaxy S III and the Galaxy Note II.
We've shot a brief video showing off the user interface here.

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 big 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 Grand 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 and the automatic brightness toggle. 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.
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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 Grand does pack most of the cool software tricks of the flagship.
And despite the lack of a quad-core chipset, the Galaxy Grand handles the heavy Samsung skin equally well. It wouldn't choke on heavy live wallpaper either.


Synthetic benchmarks

The Samsung Galaxy Grand is powered by a Broadcom chipset with two Cortex-A9 processor cores clocked at 1.2 GHz, the VideoCore IV HW GPU and 1 GB of RAM. Although nowhere near the best configurations you can get these days, it is more than adequate to run Android Jelly Bean without a hassle. The relatively modest 480 x 800 screen resolution isn't all that testing on the GPU either.
The Galaxy Grand failed to impress at BenchmarkPi, which tests the per-core calculative performance of the CPU. It's closely behind the Galaxy S II Plus but far from the Krait-powered Galaxy Express and the Xperia V.

Benchmark Pi

Lower is better
  • Sony Xperia V 279
  • Samsung Galaxy Express 346
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus 409
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 443
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini 499
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2 552
  • HTC Desire X 639
AnTuTu is a compound benchmark that tests the GPU and CPU alike. Here the Galaxy Grand was handsomely outperformed and scored just short of the Galaxy Xcover 2. Of course, the rest of the competition here is clearly out of the Galaxy Grand's league, but you would still expect it to be a little closer to the flagship than it turned out.

AnTuTu

Higher is better
  • HTC One 22678
  • Sony Xperia Z 20794
  • Samsung Galaxy S III 15547
  • Oppo Find 5 15167
  • HTC Butterfly 12631
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2 6650
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 6053
Quadrant was another test where the Galaxy Grand failed to make a great impression.

Quadrant

Higher is better
  • Sony Xperia V 5816
  • Samsung Galaxy Express 4998
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 3931
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus 3542
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2 3045
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus 2316
Moving on to Epic Citadel and GLBenchmark, which evaluate GPU perfromance.
It's important to note that Epic Citadel renders graphics at the device's native resolution. So when comparing the Grand's 51.8 frames per second and the Xperia Z's 55.6 fps, keep in mind that the Xperia pushes 55 fps on a 1080p playing field whereas the Grand does so on a much less impressive WVGA.
Still the score here is indicative of the smoothness you'll get when you're playing different games on different phones and it is, basically, the same. What's different is the quality of the graphics.
As for GLBenchmark - it tests the graphic chip's raw performance - offscreen. The Galaxy Grand didn't shine here, but it didn't do too bad either compared to phones with similar specs.

Epic Citadel

Higher is better
  • Sony Xperia Z 55.6
  • Nexus 4 53.9
  • LG Optimus G 52.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 51.7
  • Samsung Galaxy S III 41.3
  • Oppo Find 5 38.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2 36.4

GLBenchmark 2.1 Egypt (720p offscreen)

Higher is better
  • LG Optimus G 113
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 32
  • Sony Xperia U 19.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 16.3
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini 16
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini 16

GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better
  • Apple iPhone 5 27
  • Nexus 4 26
  • Samsung Galaxy S II 13
  • Samsung Galaxy Express 12
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 11
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus 11
  • HTC One X 9
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2 6.2
We now come to JavaScript and HTML5 performance. This is important for your browsing needs and tells you how well the device can handle different web standards. The Galaxy Grand held its own in both SunSpider and BrowserMark 2.

SunSpider

Lower is better
  • Sony Xperia V 1189
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 1470
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus 1460
  • Samsung Galaxy Express 1654
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus 1863
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2 1901
  • HTC Desire X 2259

BrowserMark 2

Higher is better
  • Sony Xperia V 1957
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 1252
  • Samsung Galaxy Express 1154
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus 1079
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2 1036
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini 714
There's no grand prize here - the Galaxy Grand is just about average. But judging by its day-to-day performance, we'd safely recommend it to a friend. It goes about its business smoothly and there are no major hiccups to speak of.


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 Grand phonebook • Quick contacts
Tapping on a contact reveals all available details, across two tabs. 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.
All the 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. You choose a specific vibration pattern too 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.

Dual-SIM calling and dialing

The Samsung Galaxy Grand has a dedicated SIM Manager to configure how calls and data are handled on both cards. As we said, SIM cards on the Grand are not hot-swappable, so a reboot is always required when changing cards.
Whenever you add a new SIM card and power the device on, an interface pops up allowing you to rename and even change the icon to easily identify different SIMs. This interface can be accessed at any time from the settings menu.
The Samsung Galaxy Grand remembers the settings for any SIM you customize, which is great if you've got more than two SIM cards.
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SIM cards can customized for easy identification
The Galaxy Grand allows for both SIM cards to be active simultaneously, meaning that you can receive a call on one SIM even while you are on a call with the other. What happens is that calls from your other SIM are forwarded to your currently active SIM's network, which you can put on hold to answer (this might incur additional network charges). You can put the two calls on and off hold as you please.
You can toggle the Dual SIM Always On option on or off for either SIM card. Effectively, this enables call waiting and call forwarding so you can switch each SIM card on and off individually (which can help save battery).
You can also pick which SIM is to be used for mobile data - only one can be used at a time. Another option is whether or not the phone should be able to receive calls on the other SIM while using mobile data on one SIM.
The notification area is involved in SIM management too. Underneath the quick system toggles, there are big buttons labeled SIM 1 and SIM 2, for quick switching between cards before dialing a number. During a call, the active SIM gets displayed at the top of the call interface.
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The call interface
The Samsung Galaxy Grand had no issues with reception even in areas with poor coverage. Sound in the earpiece was crisp and reasonably loud.
Smart Dialing is available and whenever you tap a digit and both contact numbers and names containing it are displayed. The catch is that name searching works with only the initial letter. On the other hand, number searching looks up recent calls too. If more than one contact is found, a button with a number and an arrow will display the rest of the matches.
With the proximity sensor onboard, the Grand turns its screen off once you lift it up and turns it back on when you finish a call. The available options during a call include using the keypad, muting the call, or adding another call to the conversation.
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Smart dial works flawlessly
The Call log is the tab next to the dial pad. It displays all the dialed, received and missed calls in one list. A tiny icon identifies the SIM that made or received the call.
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Call history
We also ran our traditional loudspeaker test on the Galaxy Grand. It managed a Good mark, so it should be loud enough for most situations. The vibration could have been stronger though. 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
HTC Desire X63.6 61.669.6Below Average
Samsung Galaxy S II Plus65.7 61.566.6Below Average
Samsung Galaxy S III mini66.5 63.076.0Average
Sony Xperia V65.5 61.166.2Average
Sony Xperia go66.5 66.177.9Good
Samsung Galaxy Express67.7 66.675.7Good
Samsung Galaxy Grand74.1 66.276.0Good
LG Optimus L766.7 66.675.6Good
Motorola RAZR XT91074.766.682.1Very Good
HTC Desire76.675.784.6Excellent

Messaging and email

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 Grand 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 Grand 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 Grand 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.
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Handwriting recognition
The Samsung Galaxy Grand 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 Grand 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.
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Voice input


Stock gallery with a pinch of TouchWiz

The Samsung Galaxy Grand 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 Grand 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 Grand 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).
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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 Grand 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.

Okay video player

The video player offers several view modes - grid, list, folders and nearby devices (which lists DLNA devices).
The video player on the Grand features 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.
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The video player has a simple interface but is quite capable
Samsung droids usually have excellent video players, and although this one isn't the best among them it still does pretty fine. It can play 1080p videos, but sadly, it lacks support for MKV files. It sticks to MP4 and AVI (some XviD files didn't play smoothly).
The video player lets you tweak the viewing experience out of the screen by adjusting video brightness, Auto play next, play speed, SoundAlive and enable subtitles.
The Samsung Galaxy Grand did win some points for its subtitles support. It scans for all subtitles, so the file doesn't have to have the same name as the video file.
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Tweaking the video playback

FM Radio with RDS, broadcast recording

The Galaxy Grand 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.
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The FM radio app

Good audio quality

When connected to active external amplifier the Samsung Galaxy Grand managed very good scores all over the field, with the only average volume levels the only thing that might make you frown.
There was some degradation when we plugged in a pair of headphones, but nothing too bad. Some distortion crept in and the stereo crosstalk worsened, but none of those will be easy to detect with the naked ear. The volume levels remained only average though, so while it's a solid overall performance it's not the best we have seen.
TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
Samsung Galaxy Grand+0.19, -0.45-80.881.30.0047 0.022-80.7
Samsung Galaxy Grand (headphones attached)+0.28, -0.19-79.580.10.0230.226-51.3
Samsung I9105 Galaxy S II Plus+0.08, -0.03-83.384.00.011 0.026-82.7
Samsung I9105 Galaxy S II Plus (headphones attached)+0.36, -0.09-81.082.10.0250.220-59.3
Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II+0.04, -0.09-91.491.90.0042 0.066-89.7
Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II (headphones attached)+1.05, -0.22-90.090.20.013 0.647-49.4
Samsung Galaxy S III mini+0.03, -0.04-82.182.00.012 0.024-80.7
Samsung Galaxy S III mini (headphones attached)+0.19, -0.13-82.582.40.444 0.305-53.4
Samsung I9070 Galaxy S Advance+0.03, -0.03-88.687.60.0086 0.018-88.0
Samsung I9070 Galaxy S Advance (headphones attached)+0.39, -0.09-88.687.70.025 0.240-42.3
Samsung Galaxy Nexus+0.11, -0.69-90.690.60.0085 0.014-91.8
Samsung Galaxy Nexus (headphones attached)+0.41, -0.61-89.589.50.097 0.267-63.5
LG Optimus L9+0.06, -0.32-82.682.50.0063 0.019-81.5
LG Optimus L9 (headphones attached)+0.44, -0.12-82.382.30.018 0.293-54.5

Samsung Galaxy Grand frequency response
Samsung Galaxy Grand frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.


Great 8MP camera

The Samsung Galaxy Grand comes with the same 8MP camera as the recently-released Galaxy S II Plus and is able to capture photos at a maximum resolution of 3264 x 2448 pixels. It has a single LED flash.
The interface is virtually the same as on the Galaxy S III. 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 - you can have all frequently used features just a tap away.
The fifth shortcut always points to Settings. You can also move the icons around the way you like them to be.
Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082
Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082
The camera interface
The Grand has an extensive set of features: touch focus, smile shot, continuous shot, panorama and can snap photos during video recording (but at only 720p resolution, basically a frame from the video). What's missing is HDR.
The actual images are not bad, but lack in dynamic range. We've taken a few side-by-side shots with the Galaxy S III, where the flagship manages to develop the shadows slightly better. Dynamic range aside, the camera quality is nearly identical, providing good color rendering and great detail.
Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082
Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082
Samsung Galaxy Grand camera samples

Photo quality comparison

The Samsung Galaxy Grand has plenty of 8MP shooters to compete with in our Photo compare tool. The tool's page provides tips about what to look out for.
Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool
Samsung Galaxy Grand in our Photo compare tool

1080p video recording is one of the best around

The camcorder interface of the Galaxy Grand is almost the same as the still camera's - you get the same customizable panel on the left with five shortcuts.
Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082
Camcorder interface
Just like on the S II Plus, the image quality is very pleasant, with almost no noise or compression artifacts. There are some jaggies on diagonal lines and, while the colors are a bit overblown, the videos are smooth and better than most other 1080p-capable midrangers we've seen.
1080p videos are shot @ 30fps and are stored in MP4 files with an overall bitrate of 17Mbps and mono sound at 128Kbps / 48kHz. Unlike the camera on the S II Plus, the Grand's camera is able to use the entire sensor during 1080p recording, which means there is no zoom applied when recording in FullHD - manual zooming is enabled.

Here the untouched 1080p (0:16s, 33.3MB) video sample taken directly from the Galaxy Grand.

Video quality comparison

The Samsung Galaxy Grand enters the video quality comparison tool as an HD-capable contender.
Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool
Samsung Galaxy Grand in our Video quality comparison tool


Well connected

The Samsung Galaxy Grand has a long list of connectivity features. Let's start off with the basics - quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE for both SIMs and 850/1900/2100 (SIM 1), 900/1900/2100 (SIM 2) support. The 3G connectivity is backed by HSPA (21.1Mbps downlink, 5.76Mbps uplink).
The Wi-Fi support covers a/b/g/n, with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz band compatibility.
There's also Bluetooth 4.0 LE, which builds on Bluetooth 3.0 with the efficient Low Energy mode.

Tweaked Jelly Bean browser

The Samsung Galaxy Grand has a tweaked version of the Jelly Bean Android browser, but Chrome also comes pre-installed, if that's what you prefer.
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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.
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Tabs view • Incognito mode • Quick controls


Organizer and apps

The Samsung Galaxy Grand comes with a nice selection of preinstalled apps. The 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 easily thumbable. 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.
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S Planner
Samsung has enabled its new S Cloud service on the Galaxy Grand. 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 are 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 ringtone), followed by a World clock, stopwatch, timer and desk clock tabs.
Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082
Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082
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.
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Calculator has adjustable font size and advanced math functions
The My Files app lets you browse all the files in the phone memory or on a 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.
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The My files app

Google Maps with offline caching

The Samsung Galaxy Grand 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.
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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 of the surroundings before Maps told us the area is too big. There's no address search either in the cached maps and you can only cache map data in supported regions of the world.
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Making all of London available offline

Play Store

Running on Android Jelly Bean, the Samsung Galaxy Grand has access to the latest apps and the available microSD slot guarantees you won't have trouble with storage.
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.
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Google Play Store


Final words

Going by the sheer screen size of the Galaxy Grand, Samsung is obviously looking to cater to a crowd that wants the most recent trend in smartphones. The catch is that it's a certain set of users that would love the extra real estate but not pay a premium price. Now, throw a dual-SIM into the mix and you end up with a target audience that will be hard-pressed to find something better than the Grand.
But... Not paying a flagship price entails compromise. In the Galaxy Grand, it's the size of a ... well... five-inch screen. The image quality isn't bad, but is far from top notch either. The contrast is decent if unspectacular, but more importantly, the WVGA resolution gets stretched pretty thin on this kind of screen diagonal.
The Galaxy Grand also won't give you some of the extra goodies that are a part of a flagship's standard equipment, like DLNA support or NFC.
Samsung's first-gen phablet, the Galaxy Note, has everything the Grand has (besides the dual-SIM support obviously), and then some. It will gladly offer a larger, crisper Super AMOLED display of 800 x 1280 pixels resolution, which is covered with Gorilla Glass to boot. Keep in mind that the Note, even after all the price cuts, is still notably more expensive than the Galaxy Grand and has no dual-SIM version in case that's what you are after.
Samsung Galaxy Note N7000
Samsung Galaxy Note N7000
If a massive screen and dual-SIM support aren't absolute must-haves, but keeping within the budget is the Samsung Galaxy S II Plus is the straightforward alternative. It has almost identical specs as the Grand, and while the screen is smaller at 4.3 inches, it is of the Super AMOLED Plus variety.
Samsung I9105 Galaxy S II Plus
Samsung I9105 Galaxy S II Plus
To be honest though, the defining feature of this particular package is dual-SIM support - otherwise it would've been the single-SIM version of the Galaxy Grand topping our popularity chart.
Samsung Galaxy Grand I9080
Samsung Galaxy Grand I9080
It's weird, considering dual-SIM phones are supposed to be niche devices. Well, the Galaxy Grand obviously doesn't mind being the big fish in a small pond. And Samsung are more than happy to send a strong message to the likes of the LG, HTC and Sony, who want a piece of the dual-SIM pie too.




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