We were blown away by the success of the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 last year. Don’t get us wrong, we thought it was a great handset, but within weeks of reviewing it, everyone around town was rocking Samsung’s stylish budget mid-range offering. Since then, the phone market has changed. 800MHz processors and HVGA displays just aren’t what they once were which means its time for a sequel. The Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 therefore builds upon the successes of the Ace, bumps up the processor and super charges the screen, and all for £240.
Samsung Galaxy Ace 2: Design
After Samsung’s numerous court dates with Apple of late, it’s little wonder the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 is styled so differently to its undeniably iPhone-esque predecessor. The second Ace is altogether more bulbous, rounder, with softer corners and sides. It almost looks like a rotund Galaxy S Advance and at 10.5mm, certainly isn’t one of the skinniest models on Samsung’s runway.
Buttons are typically Samsung with a home button in the bottom centre of the fascia and two capacitive buttons either side. The 3.8-inch screen has a fair bit of bezelling up top and bottom, but not too much at the sides. To the right is a power button, left is a volume rocker and microSD card slot. At the base is a microUSB port while up top is the 3.5mm headphone jack.
The back cover is a combination of smooth convex plastic around the base and a fine lattice texture along the main portion, with the 5-megapixel autofocus camera and single LED flash centred towards the top of the reverse. All in all, we’d say the design was uninspired, but functional, sitting well in the hand despite being chunky and markedly plastic.
Samsung Galaxy Ace 2: Screen
The WVGA screen on the Galaxy Ace 2 is head and shoulders above that of the HVGA Ace. Gone are the visible pixels and patchy viewing angles in favour of a sharp picture, generally rich colours and decent viewability. The size is good for thumb typing both in portrait and landscape and the resolution really helps make Gingerbread and TouchWiz look more refined.
Samsung Galaxy Ace 2: User Interface
Gingerbread? Yes, you heard, Gingerbread. It isn’t what we wanted in an age of Ice Cream Sandwich, but Android 2.3, also known as Gingerbread is the operating system running on the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2. Sitting on top of it is TouchWiz 4.0, the very same skin as found on the Samsung Galaxy S2. It looks good, it’s functional, but it’s also not going to be up to date enough for anyone who really wants the latest OS experience.
To give you a brief run down of what this all means, TouchWiz gives you up to 7 homescreens you can populate with shortcuts or widgets. All your notifications are up at the top of the screen and you can find a full list of your applications in your apps menu.
You also have access to the Google Play Store which in short means hundreds of thousands of apps, books and movies at the tip of your fingers. Anyone getting the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 is therefore getting a competent smartphone. Ice Cream Sandwich is expected to land on the Ace 2 later in the year, but until then the out of date OS will only likely irk mobile aficionados with the interface looking peachy for everyone else.
Samsung Galaxy Ace 2: Camera and Multimedia
5-megapixels and autofocus are a good combination we’ve seen time and time again, but coupled with Samsung’s own camera UI which is amongst the most customisable interface we’ve ever seen and we’re left wanting for very little given the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2’s price point.
Pictures look as sharp as you’d expect from a 5-megapixel camera with landscape shots being particularly strong in good lighting. Macro shots are also simple to capture with touch to focus, though the Ace 2 has a bad habit of telling you it’s locked focus when it’s ever so slightly off. Turning down the light and the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 starts to struggle naturally, but in true Samsung style packs a really great flash unit.
Video on the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 is shot at a steady 30fps at 720p which should be detailed enough for most people. The picture looks sharp and playback is smooth, though our one gripe is the unfaltering fixed focus, meaning macro video is a no go from the get go.
Samsung Galaxy Ace 2: Connectivity and Storage
With 3G and Wi-Fi as well as a GPS unit and naturally bluetooth support, connectivity on the Sasmung Galaxy Ace 2 is pretty standard, though there is a front facing camera for video chat. The lack of Ice Cream Sandwich means it won’t support our web browser of choice, Chrome for Android. The stock browser is atill competent, despite lacking the desktop sync of Google’s web crawler. Thanks to the sharp screen, text is handled well and the dual-core processor powers everything along nicely for smooth pinch to zoom and swipe to pan.
There is 1GB of user available memory on the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 and a micro SD card slot should you wish to expand this by up to an additional 32GB.
Samsung Galaxy Ace 2: Performance and Battery
What surprised us the most with the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 was its ability to handle games. Riptide played back incredibly smoothly and in all our time with it, the Ace 2 didn’t show any sign of slow down whatsoever. Call quality was also solid, though clarity is noticeably worse than handsets loaded with active noise cancellation.
With battery life just lasting just over a day with moderate use, this wraps up our impression of the Ace 2 on a subdued high. For such a chunky phone, we would have liked to see a larger cell and longer lifespan, but these days, anything more than a day is a bonus.
Samsung Galaxy Ace 2: Conclusion
While we don’t love its swollen physique, the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 packs a great screen, zippy processor, good camera and a host of customisations inside the user interface that help in day to day use. Samsung’s skin, TouchWiz won’t be for everyone, but the version on the Galaxy Ace 2 is a huge improvement to that found on the original Ace. At £240, it’s also priced competitively giving you a whole lot of smarts for your stirling.