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Samsung Galaxy Fame Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Premium features (TouchWiz Nature UX, NFC, front-facing camera etc)

The Bad

  • TouchWiz too heavy
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Entry-level Android specs in a tidy little package, the Samsung Galaxy Fame is one of the company’s newest low-end Jelly Bean devices, but how does it fare in real-world use?

Samsung Galaxy Fame review: Design

In the hand the Galaxy Fame is a cute, compact little phone. Despite an entirely plastic body, both the design and material choices are clearly inspired by Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and S4 flagships; embodied by the mix of satin finish plastics and faux-brushed metal skirting the phone’s edge.

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The Fame’s small size means that its hardware controls are always within easy reach and the 3.5-inch screen should ensure that one-handed operation isn’t too taxing either. The right side features the power/lock key, the left the volume rocker and the front houses a rounded home button and the capacitive menu and back keys that we’ve come to know as a hallmark of Samsung’s Galaxy design language.

The earpiece, home button and rear camera surround also feature nice additional detailing in the form of chromed plastic accents that help reinforce that premium aesthetic.

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From a more practical standpoint we’re always glad to see Samsung’s on-going support for removable backs with replaceable batteries and expandable storage; an aspect that at the flagship end is fast dying out.

Samsung Galaxy Fame review: Screen

The screen on the Fame’s front is a 3.5-inch HVGA (320 x 480) LCD panel that although useable, is arguably one of the phone’s biggest weaknesses.

Being LCD-based, the screen is bright, but the handset’s low standing in Sammy’s portfolio means that it forgoes common features like automated brightness, with the notifications bar being the fastest way to manually adjust the intensity.

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Whilst such a drawback is only an inconvenience, the screen’s viewing angles and colour reproduction are both extremely weak and by design, permanent. Particularly when looking at the display from any horizontal angle save for head on, colour and contrast suffer heavy distortion.

Samsung Galaxy Fame review: Operating system

Running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean out-the-box, the Galaxy Fame feels like a current gen device as you’d expect. Samsung augments the basic Android experience with its own TouchWiz interface on top; bolstering the phone’s functionality even further.

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Users have the ability to customise the UI fairly heavily with folders, native widgets and a slew of Samsung’s own applications such as ChatON and Game Hub as well as having access to a vast array of quick settings from the notifications panel.

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In practice, the phone’s TouchWiz Nature UX may not appeal to everyone and what’s more it most definitely contributes to the handset’s often-sluggish performance. A trait that even appears on the Samsung Galaxy S4, TouchWiz and the myriad of features it adds can often result in UI lag, which on the Fame’s frugal hardware is even more apparent. A problem only really solved by disabling any unnecessary or unused elements of TouchWiz on a user by user basis.

Samsung Galaxy Fame review: Camera and multimedia

With a 5-megapixel rear camera paired to an LED flash and a VGA front-facing camera, the imaging hardware on offer punches above what we’d expect from an entry level handset such as the Fame. In practice we aren’t blown away by the images it produces, but there are a number of qualities that do grab our attention.

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In natural light, shots show promise; they lack fine detail and offer a fairly narrow dynamic range, but nonetheless result in a pleasing overall composition.  Low light environments greatly increase the risk of noise and image stability is minimal, but the LED does an impressive job of reducing noise and getting you better photos.

Video is noisy, audio baseless and at its maximum resolution the Fame can only record footage in 640 x 480. Although we’re not surprised, don’t expect much if you plan on doing a lot of filming with this pint-sized handset.

Samsung Galaxy Fame review: Performance and battery

As you’d expect for an entry-level device, Samsung has given the Galaxy Fame the bare minimum to work with when it comes to hardware. Headed up by a 1GHz single-core processor and just 512MB of RAM, the user experience would likely have been smoother were it not for the sheer amount of additional features Samsung like to cram onto their handsets.

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In fact looking at the phone’s 4GB of inbuilt storage reveals that nearly half of that space is taken up by Android Jelly Bean and the Sammy’s TouchWiz overlay. As such, start-up of both the phone itself and launching apps proves to be consistently slow.

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Popping the removable plastic back will let you slot in a microSD card of any capacity up to an impressive 64GB and the removable battery offers NFC on top of its power plant duties. Under general use the 1300mAh cell proves a little underwhelming, lasting only just a day; somewhat surprising when you consider the phone’s conservative spec sheet.

Samsung Galaxy Fame review: Conclusion

The design, camera and the inclusion of TouchWiz all help raise the Samsung Galaxy Fame above our initial expectations, but with a price tag of £130 and the fact that in practice the phone only truly excels at simple smartphone tasks like email, messaging and web browsing, we can’t recommend it without a little hesitation.

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For a little more cash, we’d be willing to make the jump to Nokia’s Lumia 620, which boasts dual-core functionality and a larger, higher resolution screen or for a different take on Android, Sony’s Xperia Miro smartphone is a cheaper alternative.

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