Look and feel
If you’re after a compact smartphone that’ll slip into your pocket or purse with ease, the Samsung Galaxy Fame ticks that box. It’s the usual glossy plastic design Samsung is famous for, but feels durable enough to take a few knocks.
Ease of Use
A compact 3.5-inch screen will prove too dinky for many, and is especially frustrating when typing out messages. Browsing the web is also a less-than-pleasant experience.
Samsung has included NFC support and a few cool little tweaks to Android, as well as a five megapixel camera that takes good outside shots. The low-res screen is a disappointment, however.
A single-core 1GHz processor copes fine with Android, but struggles when browsing the web and collapses when playing anything but the most basic games.
The Samsung Galaxy Fame can last a couple of days when limiting yourself to basic tasks such as emailing friends, but streaming video kills the phone dead in a surprisingly quick four and a half hours.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,2/12/2013 12:16:15 PM
Ease of use
Camera takes good outdoor shots;
Compact form factor;
Low-res display with poor viewing angles;
Samsung’s Galaxy Fame is a mid-range Android mobile that sadly fails to sparkle, despite sharing its name with a classic Bowie track. The five megapixel camera is a decent effort, but the Fame lags behind rival phones in almost every other area.
That said, if you can’t abide those enormous five-inch smartphones such as Samsung’s own Galaxy S 4, you’ll probably enjoy the compact, rounded form factor of the Galaxy Fame. It’s teeny enough to comfortably fit in even the daintiest hand, rocking a mini 3.5-inch screen. Design-wise, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a mid-range Samsung. A silver plastic rim separates the full-glass-frontage from the glossy rear, giving the Fame a simple, classic styling. It’s quite chunky but at 121g it won’t ache your arm, and it feels durable enough to take some punishment without crumbling into dust.
Google’s Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean runs the show, and unlike top-end Samsung smartphones, it hasn’t been tampered with too much. You can create up to seven pages to hold your app shortcuts, bookmarks and widgets, with a fair few apps coming pre-installed on the device. Samsung’s ChatON app, for instance, allows you to instant message other users, while S Planner is a personal organiser for keeping your affairs in order. Samsung has included a few of its handy features too, such as silencing a ringing phone by placing it face-down on the desk (although we wish we could mute a call in this way too).
Android runs well and is easy to navigate via the physical home button, plus touch-sensitive back and menu buttons beneath the screen. The back and menu buttons only light up when you push them, however, so you’ll have to remember which is which. Drag your finger down from the top of the screen and you’ll find the notifications bar, which shows you all waiting alerts and allows you to toggle features such as Wi-Fi and change the screen brightness.
Although Android runs without a hitch, we did see plenty of slowdown in other areas as the 1GHz single-core processor struggled to keep up. Only the most basic games run smoothly, with the likes of Vector (a simple 2D running game) either stuttering every couple of seconds or crashing entirely. Battery life is also weak for a phone this size when streaming media or playing with apps. We only watched four and a half hours of video before the Galaxy Fame died, a result we’d expect from a five-inch powerhouse smartphone.
Although the Galaxy Fame’s 3.5-inch screen is quite compact, especially compared to the massive screens found on premium handsets such as the Galaxy S 4 and Sony Xperia Z, you can still comfortably play with apps and browsing the web isn’t too much of a chore.
However, viewing angles are poor and the low resolution means you’ll have to zoom right in to read text, while the touchscreen doesn’t respond quite as fluidly as we hoped when swiping through sites. Images look a little blocky too. We preferred the capable colourful display of the LG Optimus L5 II, while web browsing was far more satisfying on the spacious 4.5-inch Huawei Ascend G510. That said, the Fame’s screen is fantastically bright, so will counter even harsh sunlight.
That compact screen means the Galaxy Fame’s virtual keyboard is a little squished, especially when holding the phone upright. We mis-typed fairly often that way, so took to holding the phone sideways which stretches the board out a bit, and we also stuck with Swype as an input method. This allows you to drag your finger across the board, from letter to letter, lifting your finger only when the word is complete. Occasionally it misconstrues your intentions, however, so you’ll have to go back and make corrections when you’re done.
We were also irritated by the way the keyboard takes up most of the screen, especially when texting, so you have to back out of it to review previous messages. Finally, we had some issues with predictive text, namely tapping one of the suggested words that pop up above the keyboard as you’re typing. Doing so often planted the word in the middle of our previous sentence, obliterating most of our message in the process, so eventually we simply stopped using them.
Although the Galaxy Fame doesn’t offer great value for money in most departments, it does admirably include NFC support, which means you can wirelessly transfer media, contact details and more with other NFC phones. Samsung’s S Beam software makes this relatively quick and painless.
You also get a basic five megapixel camera with LED flash. Our indoor shots often came out fuzzy, and when the light drops you really need that flash to combat graininess, but outdoor shots look surprisingly sharp and colourful when viewed back on a monitor. The camera’s features are limited to panorama and smile modes and some sepia-style effects, however, and you can only crop and rotate your snaps before sharing. The good news is you get a front-facing lens for portrait shots and video chats.
Samsung’s Galaxy Fame sadly offers too little for the asking price. Performance is laggy, the dinky screen is disappointingly low-resolution and battery life is barely average. Rival devices such as the LG Optimus L5 II and Huawei’s Ascend G510 give you a lot more bang for your buck.