- Respectable 5MP camera
- Occasional glitches
Get stylish with the compact Samsung Galaxy Ace Style, a basic TouchWiz mobile aimed at young ‘uns and smartphone noobs. Here’s our full Samsung Galaxy Ace Style review…
Samsung’s Galaxy Ace range is made up of entry-level ‘affordable’ smartphones, which are compact enough to fiddle with one-handed and designed for basic operation: web browsing, apps, and social blabbery. Last year’s model, the Galaxy Ace 3, is still Samsung’s cheapest 4G phone – but at £200 SIM-free, it’s not exactly a stocking filler.
Well, the Ace is back, this time in the guise of the Samsung Galaxy Ace Style, which costs just over a hundred quid online. The style itself is questionable and some of the features have been inexplicably slashed from the Ace 3, but you do get an upgraded camera compared to last year’s model.
Samsung Galaxy Ace Style design: Misnomer?
If you stick the word ‘style’ in your smartphone’s name, you’ve got to expect some pretty heavy scrutiny of the design. And Samsung’s Galaxy Ace Style doesn’t quite live up to its titular promise, rocking practically the same rounded plastic shell of last year’s Ace 3.
The plastic body comes in white or grey, and while the front is yet again shiny glass, the removable back plate now sports a matt finish. The Ace Style is a bit of a chunky mother, a little thicker than 10mm, but it’s also pretty light so it’s comfortable to handle. The phone also feels solid enough to survive a bit of a battering, although that glass panel might shatter if the Ace Style takes a tumble.
Prise the back off and you’ll find a battery that can be slipped out and replaced, plus a microSD memory card slot (essential given the meagre 4GB of storage space) and a micro SIM card slot.
The design may be a case of deja vu, but there is one significant change over last year’s Ace 3, and that’s the go-faster stripe down the centre of the plastic rear. It’s difficult to see on the sheer white model, but the stripe has a textured feel, like tiny teeth. It’s quite nice for scratching your nails across. It makes a nice sound when you do so, the kind of sound that could happily drive your work colleagues mental.
Samsung Galaxy Ace Style performance and features: 4G-free zone
Samsung has once again adorned Android KitKat with its so-colourful-it-will-melt-your-retinas TouchWiz interface, but thankfully this is a basic stripped-down version. Gone is the Magazine UI, Samsung’s social and news aggregate that couldn’t be removed from your desktop, and S Health has also bit the dust.
Our Ace Style going a bit wonky
Perhaps as a consequence, the Galaxy Ace Style runs a bit better than expected, despite making do with a basic dual-core 1.2GHz processor and 512MB of RAM. Flicking through the desktops and settings menus is usually a smooth experience, although we did see some stumbles and pauses when adding widgets or starting up apps. We also saw a couple of crashes, when the likes of YouTube or Asphalt 8 decided to freeze up entirely, and on one occasion the Ace Style went completely bonkers and refused to let us load up any apps at all – and this was after we’d installed Samsung’s updates to improve stability.
Get a game running and it’s not a bad experience, providing you aren’t pushing the little blighter too hard. Deadman’s Cross ran with a respectable frame rate considering that basic dual-core processor. Only fast-paced games such as Asphalt 8 struggled, with jutters and pauses. Gamers with not much cash to spare will get a smoother experience out of rival handsets like the Moto G.
When it comes to features, the Galaxy Ace Style packs in a few little bits like NFC and S-Beam (transfer photos and other bits to other Samsung phones by mating them). Unfortunately 4G support has been slashed since the Ace 3, which is basically inexcusable. The EE Kestrel/Huawei Ascend G6 4G and Alcatel One Touch Pop S3 both managed to squeeze LTE support in for under £100, and its absence here is all too glaring.
What you get instead is some proprietary Samsung software, including Samsung Apps (pointless as the Google Play store is supported) and S Planner (a decent enough organiser that thankfully pulls in your calendar entries for Google automatically).
Samsung Galaxy Ace Style screen and media: Bright and beautifully budget
One of the Galaxy Ace Style’s best features is its colourful 4-inch TFT screen. At 233 pixels-per-inch (ppi) it can’t quite match the competition for sharpness – the Motorola Moto G tops the charts at 329 ppi, and the excellent EE Kestrel/Huawei Ascend G6 4G boasts a gorgeous 4.5-inch screen with 256 ppi.
However, the Ace Style’s screen is still crisp enough to make out tiny text when fiddling in the S Planner, or browsing busy websites. And we’re impressed by the wide viewing angles: the panel loses pretty much no colour, brightness or clarity, even when tilted to around 70 degrees in any direction.
Of course, if you want to enjoy movies on the move, we’d have to recommend the likes of the Moto G instead. The more spacious screen handles HD media beautifully.
You get a tiny built-in speaker housed on the back of the Galaxy Ace Style, and although it’s not exactly built for music, it’s fine for watching YouTube clips if you can’t be arsed to plug in headphones.
Samsung Galaxy Ace Style battery life: Dead by dawn
If you’re after a device to keep you going all day, the Galaxy Ace Style ain’t the one you’re after. With regular use (emails, web browsing and texting), the phone is dead within about eight hours. If you try something more intensive like streaming video over Wi-Fi, you’ll see a full charge drain away in less than four hours.
That’s one of the worst results we’ve seen in a while sadly, with most other basic phones such as the Nokia Lumia 630 and Motorola Moto G comfortably surviving a day of regular play, and lasting for five hours or more when watching movies.
Samsung Galaxy Ace Style camera: Respectable snapper
One area that’s been updated over previous Galaxy Ace phones, besides that awesome go-faster stripe, is the 5-megapixel rear camera. Samsung has packed in a fair few shooting modes, like its more premium Galaxy phones, and photo quality is pretty good for a budget mobile.
On full Auto mode, we managed to grab some quite detailed shots when out and about. The lens struggles a little under harsh sunlight, producing over-saturated images, but with the usual British gloom it’s just fine. You get a range of scenario-specific shooting modes too, such as Sports and Anti-fog.
However, if you’re after something to take quick n’ easy shots in bars, clubs and other dingy locations, the Ace Style won’t suit. Unlike all of the previous Aces, there’s no rear-mounted LED flash, so photo quality really suffers in low light.
As for the rest of the features, you get a burst shot mode which is handy if you’re trying to capture an action photo, and you can also record 720p video. And although we’re not really sure of the point of it, the Sound & shot mode allows you to pair up a brief sound clip with your snap, which you can play back when checking out the photo on your phone.
Finally, if you’re a selfie fan or Skype lover, you’ll be relieved to hear that there’s a front-facing camera above the screen. And while it’s quite low-res, it does a reasonable job for chatting online.
Samsung Galaxy Ace Style verdict
Samsung’s Galaxy Ace phones used to be one of the better budget phones around, which wasn’t really saying much. However, these days you can pick up a slick, fast, 4G-enabled phone for under £100, so the Galaxy Ace Style seems rather clunky and pointless. It’s fine for basic use despite that terrible battery life, but you can do plenty better at this price point.