Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos review
Last month I got the mobile phone itch again which meant I've got that irresistible desire to change my phone with a new one. My previous mobile phone, the Xperia Ion was a decent Android smartphone with some cool features - 16GB memory, excellent camera, fast processors but let's face it, it's a second hand phone. And you know how it is with second hand phones, the battery doesn't last half as long as new ones. So I thought I just had to get myself a new phone.
There's a few smartphone models that came to mind. Lenovo, Huawei, Samsung but I ultimately went for Samsung in the end just because it's a popular brand with lots of support in term of rooting and hopefully faster updates. My budget is under 1,000 ringgit so for a decent Samsung smartphone with that price in mind I was torn between the Galaxy Grand Duos and the Grand Quattro. The Grand Duos has 5" screen but only dual core processor and the Grand Quattro has 4.7" screen but 4 core processors and a slightly cheaper price. Since I was looking for a smartphone with a really big screen, I finally chose the 5" Grand Duos which sell for RM950 as of last month (now around RM840 at ipmart.com).
The Grand Duos is about 0.38 inch thin, not as thin as the S4 but for that price, I can't really complain. The body is 100% plastic front and back and also the bezel. Design-wise, it's typically Samsung so it's not really different with most middle to high end Samsung phone in the market. You can find the audio jack at the top and micro USB port at the bottom. The speaker grill sits at the back so if you put the phone flat while playing music or video the volume will drop significantly.
There's 2MP front facing camera and 8MP rear shooter at the back. Inside, the Galaxy Grand is powered by a 1.2GHz dual core Cortex A9 processor. Opening the back cover, you'll find 2 standard size SIM card slots and a micro USB slot apart from the battery. Having dual SIM card capabilities is a neat feature with the Grand Duos because you can always switch between either number when sending text, making phone calls and also data connection.
The Grand Duos comes with Android 4.12 Jelly Bean which is quite old by today's standard. The latest Android version is 4.4 KitKat which I doubt will come to this model anytime soon. Somehow I half expected that since the Grand Duos is not Samsung's flag-ship model like the S4 or Note 3 so it will be among the last to get the latest update. Still, Jelly Bean + Touch Wiz is not half that bad. It doesn't lag much and I get only a few application crashes a month while using it.
The main beef I have with this phone is the tiny internal memory. It comes with only 8GB of internal storage, 4GB is already taken up by system software and Samsung Touch Wiz UI which leaves you less than 4GB to play with. 4GB is quite big, 5 years ago but not much in this day and age. A decent game like Real Racing or FIFA 14 takes up around 1.4GB of space and leaves you about 2GB of space left. Install 10 more apps and you'll get the low-space notification in no time.
What's more, even if you have 16GB or even 32GB of external memory card, the Grand Duos won't let you install or run apps directly from there. The most you can do is install your apps on the main storage unit and move some of the app files to the external memory card. And that is only possible after rooting the Grand Duos. So basically I after installing some essential apps like Wharsapp, Dropbox, Google Drive, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, you hardly get anymore space for games. Which is why I'm using the Grand Duos mainly for email and work stuff.
After rooting the phone, I get to move much of the application files (not the whole app itself) to the external memory card which did free up a considerable amount of space on the phone. But the downside of this, all of my apps run a bit slower than usual since half the app resides on the memory card. There'll be a little lag whenever I open apps and the camera also opens and snaps a little bit slower since it saves directly to the memory card. Sure you can always save directly to the internal storage but you won't be taking much pictures let alone videos with that setting. Fortunately, rooting the Grand Duos is quite an easy and straightforward process since it's from Samsung and there's a large user base. I followed the rooting instruction from this website and got it done in less than 10 minutes. Why root this phone? Mainly so that you can remove much of the bloatware and unnecessary apps and also move apps and files to the external memory card.
Speaking of cameras, the Grand Duos shoots some really decent photos and videos. As you can see in the sample pictures above and sample video uploaded to YouTube below. You can actually take pictures while recording video but be sure to turn off the camera shutter sound or else it will be included in the video.
Just like the S4, the Grand Duos doesn't come with a stylus or stylus slot. You can always purchase the C-Pen stylus to scribble stuff on the S-Memo app or other 3rd party up but it'll cost you something around 50 ringgit which I find totally overpriced.
Battery life, the 2100 mAh would last my 8 hour work shift nicely from morning to late afternoon with 20% left to spare. Bear in mind I read and send a lot of email, some Instagram, some web browsing and occasional book reading with Fabrik. The battery is user-replaceable which is a plus since I can simply buy the replacement battery from my favorite mobile phone store unlike the iPhone or Nexus 4.
Wrap up. The Galaxy Grand Duos is a decent mid-level smartphone with a nice 5" screen but ridiculously small internal space. At RM950, the Grand Duos is basically the poor man's S4 and they took out a lot of the best features of the flagship phone to get that low price point. The 8GB or really 4GB space is definitely to little to get any meaningful app or game on the phone. 16GB is the minimum you should get with any smartphone in the market today because any lower it'll be almost useless. If you don't mind not playing any games on your smartphone, the Grand Duos is quite okay. Else you might want to save a little more for an LG Nexus 4 or 5, an iPhone 5C or any other smartphone with 16GB space or more with similar price range.