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Monday, 5 November 2012

Samsung Galaxy S Duos review: S goes Dual OUR RATING- 7/10

Introduction

Dual-SIM users generally fall in one of two categories - those on a tight budget who look to optimize spending by combining carrier plans, and frequent travelers, who don't want to carry two handsets all the time.

Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 official images
Top-tier manufacturers have been trying to wrestle away the first group from white-box makers for a few years now, but only recently have they started to pay attention to the second one. Smartphones are only now starting to emerge that have a decent spec sheet to go with the extra SIM slot. Looking to avoid astronomical charges for data traffic in roaming does not necessarily mean that you want the cheapest device possible.
Enter the Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 - the smartphone that aims to deliver a solid smartphone experience, while juggling calls between a couple of SIMs. As usual we'll kickoff this review with a quick rundown of the smartphone's key strengths and most notable weaknesses.

 

Key features

  • Quad-band GSM and dual-band 3G support
  • 7.2 Mbps HSDPA support
  • Dual Mini-SIM slots
  • 4" 16M-color TFT LCD capacitive touchscreen 480x800 pixels resolution
  • 1 GHz ARM Cortex A5 processor, Adreno 200 GPU, Qualcomm MSM7227A chipset; 768MB of RAM available to the user
  • Android OS v4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) with TouchWiz 4.0 UI customization
  • 5 MP autofocus camera with LED flash; geotagging, smile detection
  • Front-facing VGA camera
  • 4 GB of internal storage, microSD slot
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and DLNA
  • GPS with A-GPS connectivity; Digital compass
  • microUSB port (charging) and stereo Bluetooth v3.0
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
  • FM radio with RDS
  • Document editor
  • File manager preinstalled
  • Samsung Apps brings a few nice apps for free
  • Accelerometer and proximity sensor

Main disadvantages

  • Video recording maxes out at VGA@30fps
  • No shutter key
  • No ambient light sensor
  • No DivX/Xvid video support out of the box
  • Retail package is as basic as it gets
The lists above might seem familiar and that's no accident. The Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 is merely a Galaxy Ace Plus with a larger screen, getting a lift from a pinch of Galaxy S III stuling. There's no need to reinvent the wheel to create a mid-range device - Samsung are sticking to what's proven to work.
Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562
Samsung Galaxy S Duos live photos
The Galaxy Note (and more recently the Galaxy Note II) helped the world's biggest smartphone manufacturer discover and claim lots of new ground for itself in the high-end, and the company is undoubtedly trying to achieve something similar in the midrange with devices like the Galaxy S Duos. We'll know to what success by the time this review is complete, so let's waste no more time.
The unboxing and hardware inspection follow right after the break.

Display

The display on the Galaxy S Duos is a 4" TFT unit of 480 x 800 resolution, resulting in a density of approximately 233 pixels per inch. Those are some decent specs, considering the class of the smartphone.
Colors and contrast are good but the unit is too reflective (as seen by the sunlight legibility score). The S Duos doesn't offer an automatic brightness setting as it lacks an ambient light sensor.

Handling

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S Duos has a very pleasant feel in and. Nicely curved and very sensibly finished, the phone fits comfortably in the hand and easily slips in pockets.
Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562
The Samsung Galaxy S Duos in hand
We like the Galaxy S Duos - it's well-built and good looking. Borrowing the premium design of the Galaxy S III was risky but it was done quite tastefully. The Duos is elegant without being overdone - we wouldn't be surprised if some people find it as attractive as the flagship Galaxy S III.
Now, on to software where ICS will hopefully help the Galaxy S Duos keep up the good impression.

Gallery and file browser

The Samsung Galaxy S Duos comes with the default ICS Gallery. It opens up in Albums view, which is what we're used to seeing - it lists all folders with photos in the phone. Rather than the familiar stacks, the app uses a grid of photos, two on a line.
Besides, Album view, photos are sorted by Location, Time, Person (photos with tagged faces) and Group.
Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 Review Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 Review Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 Review
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 end.
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 to the side.
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Viewing a single photo • Simple editing options
The Gallery also supports highly customizable slideshows with several effects to choose from, customizable music and speed. You can also highlight specific images to be included in the slideshow.
Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 Review
The slideshow option is highly customizable
The My Files app hasn't changed really - it is an efficient and simple to use file manager. It can move, copy, lock and rename files in bulk, even send multiple files to another phone. My files will only browse the memory card and the large internal storage (it can't access the system drive).
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The My Files app

TouchWiz music player goes after Walkman

The Samsung Galaxy S Duos uses an updated version of the TouchWiz music player. Samsung has enabled equalizer presets (including a custom one) along with the sound-enhancing SoundAlive technology, which features 7.1 channel virtualization. Samsung uses SoundAlive in some of their MP3 and Android-powered media players.
Music is sorted into various categories, but the most interesting one is called Music square - it's quite similar to the SensMe feature of Sony Ericsson phones. It automatically rates a song as exciting or calm, passionate or joyful and plots those songs on a square (hence the name).
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Music square creates automatic playlists based on your mood • SoundAlive offers an extensive list of presets
From here, you can highlight an area of the square and the phone will automatically build a playlist of songs that matches your selection. For example, if you highlight the upper part of the square the selected songs will be exciting and if your selection is centered around the lower right corner, the selected songs will be calm and joyful.
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The music player has benefited greatly from the TouchWiz UI
You can swipe the album art left and right to move between songs. You can also put the phone face down to mute the sound or place your palm over the screen to pause playback.

Video player

Samsung have put a lite version of the video player from its flagship Galaxy S III onto the Galaxy S Duos. As a result, the device has easily one of the best video players around and is packed with various options.
The grid view, unlike the Galaxy S III, doesn't have the live thumbnails, as the S Duos lacks the brute quad-core power needed to support them. Instead, Samsung has replaced them with statics thumbnails, which do the job just fine.
Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 Review Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 Review
Two of the view modes available for browsing your videos
The video player lets you choose between three crop modes for how the video fits the screen. The same SoundAlive audio-enhancing technology is available here too.
Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 Review Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 Review
The video player has a simple interface but is quite capable
The video player lets you squeeze out the best viewing experience from the large, high-res screen. You can adjust video brightness, color tone and enable outdoor visibility too.
The video player had absolutely no trouble with any of the files we threw at it - starting with .WMV, through .AVI (DivX and XviD) and .MP4 to .MKV (H.264). The latter had some problems playing files with HD and full HD resolutions, though.
The Samsung Galaxy S Duos also made a good impression when it offered a list of subtitles and let us pick. Most players look for a file with the exact same name as the video file (save for the extension), which means quite often you have to rename the subtitle file to match the video file just so that the player will show you subtitles.

FM Radio

The Samsung Galaxy S Duos 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 8 stations as favorites. You can also listen 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

Decent audio output

The Samsung Galaxy S Duos did decently well in our audio quality test. It's by far not the most talented musician around but, it should still please everyone, but the most demanding audiophiles.
The Galaxy S Duos got some pretty good scores in the active external amplifier part of our test. The only two weak points of its performance were the cut-off extreme bass frequencies and the slightly higher than average intermodulation distortion. The rest of the readings were quite good, while the volume levels were about average.
There is relatively little degradation when headphones come into play. The stereo crosstalk spikes and the intermodulation distortion rises a bit, but that's about it.

Good 5MP camera

The Samsung Galaxy S Duos comes with a 5MP camera that can shoot photos at a maximum resolution of 2560 x 1920 pixels.
The interface is virtually the same as on the Galaxy S III, with two shortcut bars on each side of the viewfinder. On the right you get 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 easily have all frequently used features just a tap away. The fifth shortcut always points to Settings.
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Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 Review Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 Review
The camera interface
As far as features go, you get goodies like geotagging, smile detection, panorama mode, Share shot, scenes and effects. There's no touch focus, burst mode or HDR, but we can't expect the S Duos to match the S III in terms of features.
The actual images are good with pleasing colors and good dynamic range. Photos are a bit grainy, but there's no color noise, and there's a decent amount of fine detail. Overall, for its price range, the Galaxy S Duos is a pretty good 5MP shooter.
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Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 Review Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 Review Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 Review
Samsung Galaxy S Duos camera samples

Photo quality comparison

The Samsung Galaxy S Duos has synthetic resolution that's virtually identical to that of the Ace Duos, but there's a noticeable pink spot. It exhibits a lot less noise reduction and oversharpening than the HTC Desire V (that's even more noticeable in the second chart), which is a win. Artificial lighting is handled well by good white balance.
Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool
Samsung Galaxy S Duos in our Photo Compare Tool

VGA video camera

The Galaxy S Duos captures video in VGA resolution at around the 30 fps mark. The bitrate of the videos hovers around 3300 Kbps, of which around 130 Kbps are for the audio (mono, 38kHz).
The camcorder interface is almost the same as the still camera's - you get the same customizable panel on the left for up to five shortcuts.
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Camcorder interface
The video quality is good enough, though the resolution is nothing to write home about and the low bitrate results in visible loss of fine detail. Still, it would do in a pinch.
You can download an untouched VGA@30fps video sample if you want to have a look at the video quality.

Samsung-themed ICS browser

The Samsung Galaxy S Duos has the ICS version of the Android browser, but you can install Chrome if you prefer. Note that the default browser isn't quite the same as the stock Android browser - Samsung have tweaked the interface to match the rest of TouchWiz.
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The Android browser
The 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 to open up the tabs view. Handy options let you request a desktop site or print a web page (works only on Samsung printers).
The Web browser comes with Incognito mode, which enables you to surf the web without the browser keeping track of your history or storing cookies. You can also switch to a more minimalist UI, called Quick controls, 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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Incognito mode • Quick controls • HTML5 video playing on YouTube's page
Flash is not available out of the box and it failed to work even after we installed it. YouTube does support HTML5 videos, but they strain the chipset and the interface becomes sluggish.

Final words

The second SIM slot adds an extra dimension to the Samsung Galaxy S Duos, which will only be relevant to a limited set of users, and that's what makes it a lot harder to properly judge. If you look at it as a regular smartphone, it has neither the specs nor the real-life performance the price tag implies. Dual-cores can actually be had for less, so the Galaxy S Duos will always be struggling to keep up in that race.
However, any smartphone will have a hard time competing with one hand tied behind the back. And that's the important point here - you should only consider the Samsung Galaxy S Duos if the dual-SIM functionality is essential for you and not just a nice extra that you can probably live without.
That said, the Galaxy S Duos is easily among the best dual-SIM smartphone on the global market right now. Admittedly, the bar is not set too high as tier-one manufacturers are only now starting to pay proper attention to the market segment, but even so, Samsung deserve some credit what they did.
The only problem for the Koreans is that they are not alone at the top. The HTC Desire V matches the Galaxy S Duos specs sheet in everything, but the amount of RAM and costs about the same. When things are so close though even something as small can make a huge difference.
If you don't plan on installing a 3rd party launcher, you should also consider the UI differences here - TouchWiz does have an edge over Sense UI in terms of functionality, but the cleaner look of the HTC launcher wins in terms of aesthetics.
HTC Desire V
HTC Desire V
If you have no problem going a bit further down the brand pecking order, you should definitely consider the Acer Liquid Gallant Duo. Packing a 4.3" screen of qHD resolution and a more powerful chipset than the Galaxy S Duos and Desire V, this is arguably the best spec'd dual-SIM droid currently on the market.
Acer doesn't have the experience of the two big players in the software development department, but the Liquid Gallant Duo more than makes up for that with its lower price tag. However, finding a unit in your local market might turn out to be a problem, as the Liquid Gallant Duo isn't nearly as widely available as its two competitors.
Acer Liquid Gallant Duo
Acer Liquid Gallant Duo
The dual-SIM market is obviously expanding to cover new ground and Samsung is not going to let itself fall behind. Its offering is, as in most other segments of the smartphone market, at the forefront of the assault. This time however the Galaxy S Duos has been quite evenly matched by the competition so it will be looking at the brand recognition to boost its market performance.
A quick look at the smartphone's specs page and its daily interest rating will tell you that this might turn out to be a far more potent weapon than you may've thought.

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