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Samsung Galaxy Grand 2 review: Unexciting but reliable smartphone

Galaxy Grand 2 review: Unexciting but reliable smartphone

Top Features
1.Very good screen
2.Good build quality
3.Mostly fast performance
4.Very good battery life
5.Best-in-class camera

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Android is everywhere, especially in India. Here this mobile operating system dominates the smartphone market in almost all price brackets. Yet, in the mainstream market - Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000 - there is not a single phone that we can recommend without any caveats.

Samsung tried to address this problem with Galaxy Grand last year. It was a decent phone but in our opinion fell short of being a great mainstream device.

Now, we have a successor to Galaxy Grand. You guessed it right: the new device is called Galaxy Grand 2. On paper, it looks much better than Galaxy Grand.

Is this the device you should buy if you are looking to spend somewhere between Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 on your next phone?

We have an answer today.

Glossy plastic out, faux leather in
Samsung phones and glossy plastic go hand in hand. But last year with Galaxy Note 3, Samsung decided to fix it, even if only partially. Note 3 came with a backcover made of faux leather. Grand 2 uses a similar backcover. We say similar and not the same. Unlike the backcover on the Note 3, which felt closer to leather, this one feels closer to plastic. Still, it is better than the thin glossy plastic that Samsung has used so far on its phones.

The rest of the body is made of plastic. But it feels durable. The plastic frame with faux chrome finish fits the phone very well. The finishing and build quality is top notch.

Compared to its predecessor, Grand 2 is marginally longer. It packs in a 5.25-inch screen compared to 5-inch one on its predecessor. But it is also narrower by around one millimetre. You won't notice this difference unless you decide the measure the dimensions of the devices with a caliper.

The difference between the thickness of Grand and Grand 2 is, however, noticeable. Grand 2 is thinner by little less than 1mm. It is still chunky at 8.9mm compared to a device like Lenovo Vibe X. But compared to Grand, the lack of extra flab makes Grand 2 look better.

In terms of design, Grand 2 does not differ from the Samsung's recent Galaxy phones. It follows the same pattern - rounded corners, one physical home button, touch-sensitive menu and back buttons, the camera module in the middle of the back cover with LED flash on the left and speaker holes on the right. It is a familiar design and hence a little boring but it works well.

Grand 2 is powered by a quad-core processor made by Qualcomm. It is a Snapdragon 400 chip (MSM8226) running at 1.2GHz with Andreno 305 graphics processor. The phone has 1.5GB RAM, a screen with 720P resolution, 8GB internal storage (around 5.1GB is user accessible), an 8MP primary camera with ability to shoot FullHD videos and a 1.9MP front camera. The battery has a capacity of 2600 mAh. You can add more storage through a microsSD card. The phone supports 2 SIM cards. Both SIM can be active at the same time for calls and messages but for 3G data connection, you can use only one SIM at a time.

Plays high-end games (sort of)
For last one year or so, in mainstream market Samsung is churning out phones that may lack any attention-grabbing features but are usable and dependable. Grand 2 falls in the same category.

This is a fairly fast phone. Apps open quickly and the phone doesn't seem to drop any frames while a user scrolls through the installed apps. Pinch-to-zoom while web browsing is smooth and so is multitasking. GPS works reliably. Most of the video and music formats are handled without need for a third-party app like MX Player. If you have MP4 videos in FullHD, you can play them on Grand 2 with ease. The speaker is loud enough to fill a small room with sound.

Yet, Grand 2 is not a phone that compares well to high-end Android devices, especially Nexus 5 that costs just a few thousands rupees more. There is occasional lag in user interface. The browser doesn't load websites as fast as it does on a high-end phone.

What matters, however, is that compared to other mainstream Android phones, Grand 2 offers better performance and experience. Samsung has optimized the Touchwiz user interface well and it works better than the user interface that companies like Gionee, Lenovo and Huawei are putting in their phones.

Touchwiz will look familiar to anyone who has used a Samsung phone in the last one year. The icons are colourful and not as flat or slick looking as the icons in stock Android user interface. But they are not gaudy or cartoonish. The keyboard remains the same and hence largely frustrating to use (thankfully you can install a different keyboard). Touchwiz comes with a number of unique features. Smart gesture-based features like Smart Stay, which tracks your gaze and keeps the screen on if you are looking at the device, are useless. Half of the time they don't work. Bundled applications like My Magazine and Samsung Hub do not yet have enough content to make them a part of the good user experience. But the multi-window mode, which allows a user to work on two apps simultaneously, is useful.

Mainstream games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush run well on Grand 2. The touchscreen response is fast and there are no noticeable dropped frames. Games like Asphalt 8, which require top-notch hardware to run well, can be played on Grand 2. We enjoyed our sessions of driving through dusty roads in Asphalt 8 on Grand 2, but we did see some lag during gaming.

In terms of hardware, the three most important components are screen, camera and battery life. On all three, Grand 2 is above average.

Screen shows rich and saturated colours. The colours don't change or get dull if you change your viewing angle. The 720P resolution on a 5.25-inch screen is not as sharp as a FullHD (1080P screen) but the difference is not noticeable unless you are reading an ebook. For all practical purposes the screen in Grand 2 is sharp, clear, bright and vibrant.

The performance of the primary camera pleased us. In daylight, the performance is very good. We found the pictures shot with Grand 2 to have good focus, decent amount of detail and good colours. It tends to over-process and add extra bit of sharpening, but overall Grand 2 is a capable shooter. It especially clicks sharply-focused and detailed closeup shots.

But in low light, the performance is not so good. The image quality drops off fast when conditions are not favourable. In low light and indoor shots, Grand 2 captures images that have visible noise/grain. Compared to similarly-priced phones, it is not much worse but it is not better either.

Grand 2 records clear and sharply-focused FullHD videos in good light. You can definitely use it to snap minute-long clips at an outdoor birthday. The images from front camera lack contrast but it is good enough for video chats.

When used with a 3G connection and screen brightness on auto mode, which has a tendency to keep the brightness too low, the phone lasts around 15 hours of heavy use. If you set the brightness manually, something we recommend, the phone lasts around 12 to 13 hours. This is above average and we can confidently say that even if you use your smartphone a lot, you will probably be able to go through 10-12 hour long day at work without having to hunt for a charger in afternoon.

Buy it but only at the right price
Grand 2 is a reliable phone. It is definitely a better package than other mainstream phones in the market. It is a safe buy. If you get Grand 2, chances are that it won't leave you disappointed.

Unfortunately, it is slightly overpriced. It has an MRP of Rs 24,890. If you have to pay over Rs 24,000 for Grand 2, it is better that you add Rs 5,000 more and get Nexus 5, which is one of the best smartphones you can buy right now.

But as it happens with Samsung phones, MRP is not the price at which they sell in the market. Samsung says the 'best buy' price of Grand 2 is Rs 22,999. This is a much more sensible price for the device. But in the market, the price of Grand 2 is all over the place. Some retailers are selling it for more than Rs 23,000. Some are selling it for around Rs 22,000.

Our recommendation is that you buy Grand 2 if you get it for around Rs 22,000 or less. In this price, it is a very good deal, especially now when Nexus 4 is not available in market. But if you are planning to spend Rs 25,000 on your next phone, we suggest that you add a little bit more to your budget and get Nexus 5, which is in a different league.

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