A little while back, the Samsung Galaxy Express was launched for AT&T customers in the U.S. Now the phone is headed to the rest of the globe with an updated design and updated software. In a sea of Ice Cream Sandwich-powered phones, is Jelly Bean and the Samsung name enough to give the Galaxy Express I8730 an advantage? Read on to find out.
Samsung is known from producing some of the lightest smartphones on the market; they aren’t, however, known for producing the strongest. This could be an issue with the Galaxy Express, as it feels a little on the slippery side. The back, as with the rest of the device, is slick plastic, and it doesn’t feel like it would easily survive a drop. Here’s a hint: if you buy this phone, spring for a case too.
When it comes to the design, the redesigned Galaxy Express seems to fall right in line with the ever-increasing number of Samsung devices that look exactly like other devices. This is good for giving Samsung a recognizable brand identity, but if you want a phone that looks a little different, you won’t find it here. Your only option is what color you want it in. Of course, if you want to look like you’re carrying a higher-end phone to passers-by without spending a lot of money, this is a perfect choice.
It may not come as a surprise, but the 4.5-inch Super AMOLED display is the biggest flaw of the Galaxy Express. Stretching an 800 x 480 resolution over a screen so big just doesn’t work, leaving us with a pixel density of 207 ppi. But hey, at least it’s not 5 inches like the Samsung Galaxy Grand.
Strangely enough, pixelation isn’t all that noticeable in either icons or text. There is definitely a lack of sharpness, but things look a little on the blurry side instead of notably jagged. Whether this is a plus or a minus is up to you.
The display did seem a bit washed out when compared to the displays we’ve seen on other mid-range Samsung devices, though this was most noticeable on menu screens where it isn’t as likely to matter as it would in photos or videos. Still it’s worth keeping in mind.
Those dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 chipsets do a great job of packing a lot of performance into a small SoC, and the 1.2 GHz clocked CPU and Adreno 305 GPU in the Galaxy Express are no exception.
To get a handle on exactly how well the hardware performs, we started with a few benchmarks. First up was AnTuTu. Upping the ante from previous tests, we ran the benchmark 10 times. When all was said and done, the final average score came in at 10,994.
Then came Epic Citadel. Run in High Quality mode, the benchmark achieved an average framerate of 53.3 FPS. In High Performance mode, the framerate averaged 54.2 FPS. Of course, with a low res display, these numbers aren’t that impressive, but they do hold their own against other devices in the same class.
Looking at real world applications, performance held up. The very accurate and empirical “scroll as fast as you can” test produced little noticeable lag on the home screen and in the app drawer, though it could be a little jittery. Apps launched quickly and, though you won’t be playing top of the line games on the Galaxy Express, the few we tested worked well.
Unlike a whole lot of phones with very similar specs, the Galaxy Express I8730 runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. Of course, since it’s skinned with TouchWiz and the Nature UX launcher, it would be hard to tell what version of Android the device runs without looking at the “About device” menu in Settings or launching Google Now.
The Galaxy Express is fairly free of bloatware, though it does come with quite a few apps preinstalled. The usual suites of Google apps and Samsung apps are included, so expect to see S Voice, S Memo and S Planner, along with Samsung’s own counterpoint to the Play Store.
A file browser (aptly named “My Files”) is included, as are an FM Radio app and a Voice Recorder app. As is often the case, Flipboard is bundled and can’t be removed, but as it is quite a popular app, this shouldn’t bother many people.
The 5 MP rear-facing camera on the Samsung Galaxy Express is certainly among the best cameras we’ve seen in this class, as long as the lighting conditions are good. Images are sharp without much visual noise or noticeably overly-aggressive noise reduction. Colors are vivid and accurately represented, and high contrast seems to be handled well.
When you move into a low-light situation, the quality takes a bit of a nose dive. Without the flash, images are both dark and very noisy. Even with the flash, photos are on the blurry side and tend to be ugly. If you just need to grab a photo, this isn’t a problem, but if you like to take pictures of your food in dark restaurants, this camera is not going to be your best friend.
The most surprising aspect of the camera was the fact that it only shoots 720p video. Most every device we’ve reviewed recently in this class shoots 1080p, and as this is a recent revision of the Galaxy Express, this seems to be a curious omission on Samsung’s part. With that addressed, the video quality is good, with a solid 30 FPS framerate, though it does suffer from the same poor low-light performance that still photos do.
You might look at the 2,000 mAh battery and think that it’s a bit on the small side, but the juice that you’ll get from it is quite impressive. Snapdragon chipsets are often very good with battery life, and in this case, the CPU being clocked down to 1.2 GHz helps with battery life even further.
On the first day of testing, I took the Galaxy Express out of its box, popped in the battery and checked the level. It was at 60 percent. After 6 hours of heavy testing and benchmarking, I checked the level again. It was at around 30 percent. In comparison, I’ve seen batteries go from full to less than 30 percent with similar testing, and they were still fairly good for a full day’s use.
In case that isn’t enough, the battery is removeable and replaceable, so it should be fairly easy to pick up and use a spare or an extended battery.
The Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 is another example of a Samsung phone that looks and acts like a Samsung phone. The company seems to be pushing hard to give the same basic look and experience across a large range of prices, and if sales are a clue, it seems to be working for the company. For prospective buyers, the choices boil down to how fast you want or need your device, and how big you want it to be. If the Galaxy Express meets your needs, it does a great job of doing exactly what it claims to do.
Are you thinking of picking up the Samsung Galaxy Express I8730? Have you already got one? Let us know what you think or ask any questions you have in the comments below.