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Samsung Galaxy S Duos 2 Review

on December 24, 2013 – 9:24 amNo Comment

Samsung Galaxy S Duos 2 Review

The Samsung Galaxy S Duos 2 is the much awaited successor to the S Duos which was the Samsung phone to get in the mid range not long ago. It had offered pretty much similar specifications as the Galaxy S but at a far lesser price making it a good deal, although only for a short time. Mainly because a lot of local players got aggressive with the pricing and offered a lot of better deals for a similar price, not to mention Nokia’s Lumia 520, which has been a popular device at a lesser price offering more value. With such renewed competition, Samsung hopes to offer a better deal with the Galaxy S Duos 2. How better of a deal is it? We find out in our review.

Box contents

We had unboxed the S Duos 2 a while ago and found it to have the usual box contents, here is a pic of all of them laid out –

• Samsung Galaxy S Duos 2 Phone in White
• Micro USB Charger
• Micro USB data cable
• Information booklets
• Headset in matching colour

You can read about our first impressions and have a look at the box contents in our unboxing post.

Video Review

Hardware Walkthrough

The Samsung Galaxy S Duos 2 is practically indistinguishable from its predecessor because it has the exact same design and build. It is made to look like a Galaxy device and totally nails it, but again, exactly the same as its predecessor. Predominantly made of plastic, the white version’s matte finish back was surprisingly well made at first look, but started to show wear and tear as days progressed. It started picking up dirt and scratches and is definitely not ideal for long term usage but fortunately, it can be replaced.

The front of the phone is covered by a single sheet of glass, with cut outs for the ear piece and the hardware home button. Underneath the glass is the 4 inch WVGA LCD display below which resides the hardware home button and the capacitive shortcuts for back and contextual menu.

Above the display, we have the grilled earpiece, the VGA front facing camera and the pair of sensors for ambient light and proximity sensing. The notification LED is something we miss here.

The sides are made of the usual gray coloured plastic that is glossy and made to look like brushed steel. The power button is located on the right side, below which we have the hot swappable micro SD card slot.

Over at the left we have the volume rocker and a lanyard hole at the top of the same side.

Down at the bottom, we have the micro USB slot along with the primary microphone.

Coming to the top, we have the 3.5mm audio jack and that alone.

Over at the back we have the 5 megapixel camera with LED flash and the speakers along with the Samsung logo.

Underneath the back cover we have the battery and the dual SIM slots stacked on top of each other.

Overall, it was comfortable to use a 4 inch phone after some time with the big flagships, but there is always more to the hardware than this, lets talk about the display first.

Display

The Galaxy S Duos 2 comes with a 4 inch WVGA 800×480 LCD display. It might not have insane pixel density or is big enough to be called a phablet, but it’s quite decent on its own. Unlike bright and saturated AMOLED panels, this LCD is slightly dull, especially when used in the bright outdoors. Yes, the outdoor visibility on this is a bummer, but coming at this price, we could not expect much. Talking of the price, we are starting to see local manufacturers offer more pixel dense screens for the same price or lesser, but Samsung has chosen to stick with the same as its predecessor, which might be a deal breaker for people looking at an upgrade.

That said, the viewing angles on this screen are much better than the competition and we think it looks crisp enough even at a 233 ppi 800×480 resolution. Sure, a 720p panel or even a qHD screen will look better and so will a larger screen but there will be other models for that like before. Overall, this is a decent display, but need to crank it up to maximum when outdoors.

Camera

The Galaxy S Duos 2 comes with a 5 Megapixel camera on the back. This has been seemingly a standard on all the phones that come in this price range but we have certainly seen different levels of performance from each of them. And from what we have seen, the S Duos 2 manages to take some decent photos as well as video, slightly surpassing our expectations for a budget device.

The camera UI is typical Samsung with even some special features thrown in like Sound and Shot, Continuous Shot and best photo, among other modes like Panorama and Night. All these modes are accessible from a grid that appears when you press the mode button. The toggles are laid out under a sub menu on the top left while the other controls are laid out on the right. Everything works well expect for the lag which ruins the previewing experience as it takes quite an amount of time to load a picture when we hit the gallery thumbnail.

Also, Video Core 4 which packs the ISP has the capabilities to record 1080p videos, the S Duos sticks to 720p 30 fps for videos and a default 4 MP resolution for wide photos. We had taken a lot of samples for demonstrating the camera performance, here they are –

You can also check out the 720p Video Sample right below.

As you can see from the samples above, the S Duos 2 is above average for ideal conditions while it does wash out the colours on several non-ideal conditions. The low light performance is expectedly bad but that’s not a concern as the LED flash seems to be able to do its job at least without overblown highlights like most other phones. We’d say that the stills camera performance overall is above average for this price range and video performance quite good too.

Internals and performance

The Samsung Galaxy S Duos 2 is powered by the Broadcom BCM21664T processor based on ARM Cortex-A9 CPU and VideoCore 4 GPU. This is a big step up from the Cortex A5 based Snapdragon processor that was inside the predecessor. The processor now is a 1.2 GHz Dual core chip with the newer VideoCore 4 GPU that proves to be great for games. We think this is a much needed upgrade, which brings it close to the performance of a Galaxy Grand Duos which runs on a similar BCM28155 chipset.

We ran some synthetic benchmarks to see how better the S Duos 2 in terms of performance, and it turned out to be surprisingly good. Here are some of the test results –

To see the rest of the tests and their results, read this complete benchmarks analysis of the S Duos 2. You can also watch out benchmarks video to see how well it ran the tests –

As you can see from the graphs and the video, the performance is a step up from before, but still lacks the power the MediaTek 6589 devices pack. However, in some tests, we see it beating the likes of Xperia C running the aforementioned chipset but that is the exception not the rule. Also, synthetic benchmarks prove one thing, but real life performance tell the full story.

samsung-galaxy-s-duos-2-ram-and-storage-issue

The Galaxy S Duos 2 comes with 768 MB of RAM, which we found, to be insufficient for this device. Yes, even if the device is super fast on a fresh boot, the RAM swiftly gets filled up and slows down the app opening times and hampers general usability. We can tell you that this is not a deal breaker, but one has to keep clearing the RAM to keep the device up to speed with all the tasks.

We also tested out some games and gave a overall idea of how gaming looks like on the Galaxy S Duos 2, take a look –

Another factor that hampers the user experience is the low internal storage. With just 2.16 GB out of the 4 GB free for the user, the micro SD expansion up to 64 GB is seen as a boon. It could have worked out great, but the problem with a small internal storage is, inevitably, games. We usually test out huge games on all the devices, but we were unable to do so, even if the device gave us the option to move it to SD. It eventually only moved a fragment of the app but a major chunk remained in the internal memory which rendered it impossible even to download a big game like Asphalt. So, if you have already invested in a lot of games and big apps, the storage is a problem that you need to know.

Connectivity

The Galaxy S Duos is a Dual SIM phone that comes with the usual Samsung related advantages like Smart Dual SIM and so on. You have two full sized SIM slots stacked on top of each other underneath the back cover. You have the options to choose one of the two SIMs for voice, calls and data or set to ask everytime. The Smart Dual SIM feature we mentioned earlier works by using the call forward feature on your network, so it works only on networks that have them. The dual SIM functionality extends to the default apps for calling and texting too by the way.

The call quality was generally good and we didn’t face any abnormalities here and the loudspeaker is quite decent too, for calls as well as music. Other connectivity options include FM Radio with RDS, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS with GLONASS support, which are pretty much standard in all phones these days.

Software

The original Galaxy S Duos is now stuck in 4.1 Jellybean, so as an obvious check list item for S Duos 2 would have been newer software. The S Duos 2 comes with Android 4.2.2 JellyBean with Samsung’s updated TouchWiz UI out of the box. With 4.2, Samsung adopted stock features like Quick settings and lockscreen widgets and all of it is here on the Galaxy S Duos 2 but it does lack the other special features that the company usually boasts on its high end devices. No Multi screen or any fancy stuff here, nope.

Sensitive to the price, the unwanted features here are stripped out, but we don’t actually feel the difference. It’s just like using any other Touchwiz device. With it comes a lot of default apps that provide the same use as a Google app, like the default browser, the game and music hubs, the video player and more. A lot of third party apps too were NOT pre installed on this device, contrary to the tradition as Samsung usually  bundles Flipboard at the least.

Among the regional features of the OS, the keyboard comes with the support for local languages, a lot of them. The keyboard has typing support for Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Marathi among many others –

Screenshot_2013-12-24-19-56-09

The media apps are the same as before, but we noticed that the device fails to playback 1080p videos even when technically possible. We tried a normal H264 1080p file but the phone managed to play only the audio and MX Player’s SW decoder ran it a 5 fps. It was surprising because even puny little devices like the Intex Cloud X3 could play 1080p videos, but even if the S Duos 2 could have, the device misses it. We won’t be seeing this as a deal breaker but in this age of memory cards filled with full HD movies, roaming one’s collection on this device would require some re-encoding.

Update: We tried more 1080p (around 5) videos and got some of them to work on the MX Player alone, the default player still doesn’t play 1080p and MX Player too plays only some of the videos we tried.

That aside, this is a typical Samsung device with typical Touchwiz apps, you can take a look at the earlier reviews with 4.2 for an idea of how it will look and feel like. Here are some screen shots anyway –

Battery Life

samsung-galaxy-s-duos-2-battery-review

Among several non-upgrades from its predecessor is the battery too. The 1500 mAH Lithium ion unit stays the same on the Galaxy S Duos 2, also bringing similar battery life. The device easily lasts for a day on Single SIM usage with 3G on and constant use of Twitter and whatsapp with occasional video watching and some games. We even connected a smartwatch which forces bluetooth to be always on, but the battery kept going. It buckles under intensive load of course and we ended up almost always having to charge the phone daily, but it’s not bad. The battery takes a hit when in dual SIM usage but one can extend it further by using the display wisely, with lower brightness. surprisingly, the power saving features too are among the list of missing TouchWiz niceties that are available on other Samsung devices. Overall, we have above average battery life from the S Duos 2.

Conclusion

Priced at Rs. 10,990, the Samsung Galaxy S Duos 2 is primarily aimed at the first time smartphone buyer who has tons of options to look at, in the Indian market. Devices like the Xolo A600 or the Lumia 520 for example offer more value for the money you spend especially in comparison with the S Duos 2. With the Motorola Moto G expected to land in India next month, it makes the budget smartphone segment even more challenging for Samsung as the S Duos 2 simply cannot match the specifications of various devices that already exist in the market.

However, the brand still has trust and the Duos 2 is a decent offering nevertheless. It has decent build quality, a solid display and above average camera and battery life. But of course, we just wished it had more RAM for a lag free experience and better storage management for apps and games. At Rs. 10,990 it might be very hard to recommend this device when the Moto G is just around the corner but if you want a comfortable after sales experience, your only choice is Samsung in the Android space. Here is a list of pros and cons of this device –

Pros – Good display, Above average camera and battery life
Cons – RAM is a bottleneck for multi tasking, Need better storage management, Pricing with respect to competition

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Bharadwaj is obsessed with technology and is a self taught designer who covers news, writes features, reviews, loves to take photos and produces videos. He is currently using a review unit.
You can follow him on Twitter @bharadc23 and on Google+