Samsung Galaxy Ring review: Poor performance overshadows low price

The weak microphone wasn't able to pick up individual voices amid the din of outside traffic, and inside, a hilarious conversation among two co-workers and me went almost entirely mute from about 5 or 6 feet away, only picking up their audio when I got within 2 feet. Even then, my own audio sounded quiet when played back at maximum volume over the Ring's speakers. Video sounded louder through my high-quality headphones.

All photos were taken using automatic mode. You can click to enlarge each to its full resolution.

You'd never know from looking that this photo was taken on a clear, sunny, blue-sky day. The green and blue are oversaturated, but other colors are muted. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Details are sparse in this sunlit shot. The camera artificially overexposed the sunlight on these blooms. In real life, the white part was a lighter shade of pink. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

This indoor photo, taken in ample light, is passable. I focused on the large silver ball between the red and purple connectors. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

The Ring's camera couldn't handle the action in this picture: skin tones and colors are flat and dull, and half the background disappeared. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

This indoor shot of our CNET en Español video presenter was much better. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Taken with harsh flash indoor and at night, the Ring couldn't get a lock on CNET reporter Josh Lowensohn, and swathed his companions in unflattering blue light. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
This standard studio shot has a fairly even exposure, but flash is strong and colors look muddy. Josh Miller/CNET

You can also compare photos taken with other smartphones in this gallery.

Call quality
I tested the Galaxy Ring's call quality in San Francisco using Virgin Mobile's CDMA network (800/1900MHz bands). Call quality was actually pretty decent, so long as volume was on the highest setting. The background was totally clear, which was nice, and voices sounded human. The major drawback was that audio quality was intermittently pebbly, and never totally smooth.

On his end of the line, my main test partner said I sounded a little muffled and not entirely clear, but pleasant overall, plus warm and natural.

Samsung Galaxy Ring call quality sample Listen now:

The speakerphone was also quite decent when I tested it at hip level. Once again I maxed out the volume, and although warm and natural, voices also had a slight echoey, fuzzy, and pitched quality. My caller liked the speakerphone. Strong volume and minimal echo made up for my voice sounding a tad muffled.

Performance: Processor, speeds, battery
Don't expect much from the Ring's performance, and it won't disappoint. This 3G-only (EV-DO Rev A) phone surfs Sprint's network at a snail's pace here in San Francisco, though speeds may skip along at a faster rate in your neighborhood.

It took between 3 and 5 minutes to download game and app files and load up desktop versions of graphically heavy Web sites like CNET's. Even the legendarily quick-draw New York Times optimized mobile site took twice the time it usually does (which is seconds) to finish serving up its content.

Samsung Galaxy Ring Virgin Mobile (3G)
Install CNET mobile app (5MB) 8 minutes, 27 seconds
CNET mobile app load 17 seconds
CNET mobile site load 60 seconds
CNET desktop site load 4 minutes, 35 seconds
Boot time to lock screen 35 seconds
Camera boot time 3 seconds software; 4.2 seconds hardware
Camera, shot-to-shot time 2.5 seconds with auto-focus

While Wi-Fi was much faster, say 12Mbps downlink versus less than 1Mbps over 3G, photo sharing still experienced a multiple-minute delay.

3G speeds weren't the only derailment. The Ring's 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 MSM8655 processor may be dual-core, but its sluggish performance suggests otherwise. The camera took a long time to load, screen selections sometimes took a moment to sink in, and graphics-intensive games (like the ever-popular Riptide GP2) didn't seem particularly bright or rich, or render silky-smooth.

On the Quadrant diagnostic test, the Ring scored 2,545 versus the Galaxy S3 Mini's 5,734 score. For reference, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 garnered a (disputed) score of 23,048.

Diagnostic test results from Speedtest.net and Quadrant. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Anecdotally, a battery charge will last you a full business day, from morning to night, as long as you aren't taxing the phone with constant streaming. The Ring has a rated talk time of up to 8 hours and only seven days standby (!) on its 1,750mAh battery. During a battery drain test here at CNET, the Ring lasted 7.5 hours while playing back video. As a reference point, this puts it in the low middle range.

Storage-wise, you're looking at 1GB RAM and only 4GB internal storage, which makes the Ring a strong candidate for an external storage card. Luckily, it supports up to 64GB. FCC tests measured a digital SAR of 0.6 watt per kilogram.

Make this one a skip
It's a shame that the Samsung Galaxy Ring works better on paper than it does in real life, because its $150 off-contract price will fit nearly every prepaid smartphone buyer's budget. Unfortunately, the phone's price and good call quality can't overcome the slow internal performance, the vapid photography, and the wan screen quality. Ultimately, the Galaxy Ring doesn't justify its sticker price. Virgin Mobile customers should choose the LG Optimus F3 instead; it has comparable specs and 4G LTE for the same cost.

What you'll pay

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    Where to Buy

    Samsung Galaxy Ring (Virgin Mobile)

    Part Number: GALAXYRINGVMB Released: 20 Jun 2013
    Pricing is currently unavailable.

    Quick Specifications See All

    • Regional specs shown for US. AU specs are unavailable.

    • Release date 20 Jun 2013
    • Service Provider Virgin Mobile
    • Weight 3.4 oz
    • Diagonal Size 4 in
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