updated 05:40 pm EST, Tue February 28, 2012
Budget Galaxy Ace and mini updates checked
One of Samsung's at times unsung skills is in its mainstream smartphones: while phones like the Galaxy S II get the attention, it's the mid-tier that forms the backbone of its huge smartphone sales. The company is clearly aware of this, since it put out the Galaxy Ace Plus, Galaxy Ace 2, and Galaxy mini 2 in short succession. We had the opportunity to test all three at Mobile World Congress, so read on for our reactions.
While we saw a technically better phone in the Galaxy S Advance at the show, we had to admit that there was a certain pleasure to using the smaller phones. All three had a reassuring grip in the hand, and importantly, they mostly all kept the same base feature set. With the exception of no Apple Exposé-style home screen manager on the Galaxy mini 2, they all felt capable.
Performance naturally varied between the three, although it was clearly relative. The Galaxy mini 2 was acceptably fast; we saw the sweet spot as the Galaxy Ace 2, whose dual-core 800MHz processor both kept it humming and promised more futureproofing for those who like to run multiple apps or more demanding games. The Ace Plus feels a bit awkward as a result: the 1GHz clock speed doesn't feel worth the use of a single core.
The displays on each were generally good, with vivid colors, although you'll clearly benefit from going to the higher resolutions of the Ace Plus and Ace 2, and the Ace 2's slightly larger 3.8-inch screen versus the 3.65 of the Ace Plus can't help but win out. The 3.3-inch Galaxy mini 2's screen is still usable, though; it requires a bit more thought in typing, but it still works for quick messages with few typos.
Cameras couldn't be fully tested. There's a clear hierarchy where the Ace 2 wins through having a five-megapixel autofocusing camera where the Ace Plus and mini 2 are stuck on fixed-focus five- and three-megapixel sensors.
Our main complaints are the same we leveled at the Galaxy S Advance and S Blaze 4G: shipping Android 2.3 at this stage seems backwards. It's somewhat more excusable on the Ace Plus and mini 2, which use single-core chips and, in the mini 2's case, a screen too low resolution for the upped requirements. Still, at least the Ace 2 would have been a good candidate for Android 4.0.
There's also the question of glut. The Ace Plus feels like a superflous entity next to the Ace 2: it's slightly slower, has a slightly smaller screen, and overall feels like it didn't need to exist. For that matter, there's even overlap between the S Advance and the Ace Plus, which to us is a call for Samsung to start whittling back its model range.
The mix still suggested to us that Samsung is on the right track for mid- and entry-level phones and could hold on to a spot that's being contested not just by other Android makers but by Apple.
Galaxy Ace Plus
Galaxy mini 2