The original Ace was a very decent phone for its bucks last year, and the Ace 2 is quite on the way to cover that ground this year as well. It has a decent size screen with good resolution, slightly underclocked yet dual-core processor, and 5MP cam with flash plus a front-facing camera.
Indeed you can’t ask for much more from what this year fits into the lower mid-range Android device category. Its only disadvantage seems to be that it comes with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but read on to see what you get…
Nothing out of the ordinary can be said about the design. It is made with the usual for Samsung black plastic, with slightly patterned tapered back, and rounded corners. Despite the unassuming exterior, the phone lies very well in the hand. It is not overly thick or heavy, but feels solid, and is very easy to operate with one hand.
The power/lock button is comfortably placed on the right, directly under your thumb, facilitating one-handed operation as well. This button, along with the volume rocker on the left, and the physical home key are easy to feel and with good feedback. There is a hot-swap microSD card slot on the right, too, protected with a plastic flap.
The 3.8” PLS LCD display on the Samsung Ace 2 is of above average quality for the phone’s category. The colors are vibrant, it is bright enough for use in sunlight, and sports very good viewing angles. The 480×800 pixels resolution here translates to 246ppi pixel density, which is also above average, and you’d be hard pressed to call any interface elements jaded or pixelated.
Interface and Functionality:
Samsung TouchWiz 4.0 interface over Android Gingerbread is the proven formula on the Galaxy Ace 2, complete with its transparencies, transitional animations, and some helpful widgets.
Typing is easy on the Galaxy Ace 2, since your thumb can reach almost everywhere on the screen at that size, so you’ll be able to quickly shoot text message replies without having to resort to the other hand for holding the phone.
Samsung has loaded the usual Hubs that come with TouchWiz here, for music, books or video, and provides the common TouchWiz set of apps for notes taking, file browsing and media editing.
Processor and memory:
The phone behaves very well in the interface, powered smoothly by the dual-core processor with ARM Mali-400 graphics unit, the same that’s in the Galaxy S II.
At 800MHz by default, the processing unit sounds slightly underclocked to the 1GHz+ frequencies we are used to see in multicore chips, but it still managed to score well on the benchmarks, and the lower processor speed doesn’t affect your daily operations with the handset, yet acts favorably on battery life.
The phone has 768MB of RAM, just shy of the high-end 1GB standard, and 4GB of storage for your apps and data, plus a microSD card slot, but unfortunately only about 1GB of the internal memory is user-available for your music, photos and videos, so we’d recommend getting a memory card with it.
Internet and Connectivity:
Nothing belittling can be said for the stock browser of Android Gingerbread, and, thanks to the dual-core processor in the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2, rendering and Adobe Flash performance are zippy and fluid. As usual with Samsung, screen brightness can be adjusted directly in the browser, and when you start surfing a website, the address bar goes out of your way, leaving you with a full screen view.
The Ace 2 sports a 14.4Mbps HSDPA radio, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, A-GPS, FM Radio and DLNA function for media streaming, so you can’t complain from a lack of connectivity options.
The 5MP shooter on the back of the Galaxy Ace 2 is accompanied by an LED flash, and is managed by the tried and true TouchWiz camera UI with its transparent menus that help you keep sight of the framing while tinkering with the options. There is the usual rich amount of shooting and scene modes to choose from, like Panorama, Smile Shot and Action Shot for fast moving objects. The Cartoon mode transforms your photo into the jolly style of hand-drawn comics, but there is a relatively poor number of additional effects you can apply.
The camera is very slow to focus, especially indoors, when it needs three or four seconds, and you have to keep steady all the time otherwise you get a blur. The colors are washed out and the pics are soft and lacking contrast in comparison with what you get from the HTC One V, for example. Still, the level of detail is about what one would expect from a 5MP shooter, and for the usual computer screen view they will do the job.
Indoors we get what your typical run-of-the-mill smartphone cam offers, i.e. nothing spectacular, with soft images, carrying pale colors. The sensor returned a pretty good low-light picture without the flash – a sharp photo for the class.
The phone shoots 720p HD video with 30fps, which should be sufficient for any casual footage. It has a decent amount of detail, yet the white balance is off at places, and the colors look oversaturated.
We are met with the familiar TouchWiz music player on the Galaxy Ace 2, with its number of equalizer presets and sound modes, as well as the quasi-surround sound in headset mode. You can categorize tunes by albums, artists, folders and playlists, as well as chronologically, and even check the option to show lyrics, if those are available.
The handset plays most video files, including DivX/Xvid, up to 720p definition, and the video player has a pretty rich interface, which includes screen lock, subtitle support and screen brightness adjustments.
Call quality and battery:
Call quality with the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 turned out excellent, both in the earpiece, and on the receiving end. We could hear the voices very loud and true to the origin, whereas on the other side the microphone on the Ace 2 did a bang up job relaying our voice with strength and clarity.
The 1500mAh battery provides for about 8 hours of talk time in 3G mode, which is above average, and overall we didn’t find any excessive battery drains, neither in standby mode, nor when we were putting it through its paces – it should last you about day and a half with normal usage.
The Galaxy Ace 2 could have become a bestseller for Samsung, with the notable exception of a more distinctive design. The compact size and good PLS LCD screen will be a boost for the everyday interaction with your smartphone, whether you are in or outside, and the dual-core processor under the hood will make sure you don’t feel underpowered. Adding to these a decent 5MP shooter with 720p HD video capture abilities, and about the only things left to wish for in the category are at least Android Ice Cream Sandwich, and a less bland design.
With the current price, however, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus costs only about $50 more (in the US), and offers HD display plus 1080p video, not to mention Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Granted, it is way bigger than the Ace 2, so if you are looking for a more compact Android, you might want to check out the Sony Xperia U, with its trendy and versatile design, or the Xperia sola.
Even the HTC One V, which has a single-core processor, is a very worthy competitor since it is coming with Android ICS out of the box, and has an appealing design plus a cool camera with all the goodies of HTC ImageSense. With such competitors, firmly planted around the same price range, the Galaxy Ace 2 doesn’t shine among them with anything distinct but Samsung’s Android mojo, and might be facing a steep market hill, at least until it gets upgraded to Android Ice Cream Sandwich.