Samsung Galaxy buying guide

Navigate Samsung's universe of smart phones with our essential guide to the brightest stars and fading giants of the Galaxy range.

When it comes to buying a new smart phone, there's a galaxy of choice -- quite literally. Samsung's Android-powered range of Galaxy handsets have become firm favourites with mobile consumers all over the globe. The Galaxy S2 remains one of the best-selling blowers on the face of the planet, and -- along with its predecessor, the Galaxy S -- has shifted an amazing 30 million units in just two years .

There's more to the Galaxy range than just these two handsets, however. Samsung has clearly recognised the benefit of a strong brand name, and has pushed out countless phones bearing the iconic Galaxy moniker. To save you from drowning in this ocean of similarly named products, we've compiled this handy guide, which summarises the good and bad points of each model.

Galaxy S

Galaxy S (around £200)

It wasn't the first phone to bear the famous Galaxy name, but it's arguably one of the most famous. The Galaxy S marked a significant turning point in Samsung's Android fortunes, thanks to its nippy 1GHz Hummingbird processor, exquisite design (which has more than a little hint of iPhone 3GS about it), and lush 4-inch Super AMOLED screen.

It's since been surpassed by the Galaxy S2 and won't be getting Android 4.0 , but if you're able to pick one up cheap it will undoubtedly serve you well.

Galaxy Europa

Galaxy Europa (around £50)

One of the first true budget Android blowers, the Galaxy Europa offers Android 2.1 and a capacitive touchscreen for an incredibly low price. Granted, its humble processor and lack of Adobe Flash support count against it, but you can pick it up for less than £50 these days.

In that regard, it represents the ideal entry-level handset for younger mobile users. More seasoned pros will find the 2.8-inch screen too small and the lack of forthcoming firmware updates frustrating.

Galaxy Ace

Galaxy Ace (around £120)

Launched alongside the more illustrious Galaxy S2, the Galaxy Ace is basically a cheaper version of Samsung's world-beating blower. It has a smaller 3.5-inch screen (the same size as the one on the iPhone 4S , in case you were wondering), and a relatively lowly 800MHz CPU. But these negatives are balanced out by a considerable positive -- it's cheap.

Although it shipped with version 2.2 of Android's OS , the Ace has since been upgraded to 2.3 by some UK networks. Shop around to see which ones offer the newer firmware. For the modest amount of cash that's being demanded here, the Galaxy Ace represents a solid buy for those of you who want that iPhone feel but can't afford an expensive contract.

Galaxy S2

Galaxy S2 (around £400)

A handset that surely needs no introduction, the Galaxy S2 is so mind-blowingly amazing that we awarded it our Best Phone of 2011 accolade. Boasting a gorgeous design, bright 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus screen and a blisteringly fast dual-core 1.2GHz processor, it's hardly surprising that this handset has been selling like exceedingly hot cakes since its launch last year.

It's without a shadow of a doubt the most popular Android phone on the planet right now, and if you're looking to jump onto Google's mobile bandwagon, it's arguably the best option -- until the fabled Galaxy S3 is released, of course.

Galaxy Nexus

Galaxy Nexus (around £500)

The unholy union of Google's Nexus line and Samsung's Galaxy series, the Galaxy Nexus is seen by many as the premier Android handset, largely because it's officially sanctioned by Google and is running a totally pure version of the Android operating system.

The first handset to come with Ice Cream Sandwich installed (Android 4.0, in case you were wondering), the device has a massive 4.65-inch display, a near field communication chip for contactless data transfer and a dual-core 1.2GHz CPU. Plagued by technical issues at launch , it's since been patched up nicely and offers the most attractive choice for dedicated Android aficionados.

Galaxy Y

Galaxy Y (around £100)

Following the success of the Galaxy Ace, Samsung is clearly keen to ensure that its line of Androids remain within the grasp of the world's less-rich individuals. The Samsung Galaxy Y comes with Android 2.3 installed, but corners have been cut practically everywhere else.

There's no bright AMOLED display, and the processor is limited to 832MHz. Still, it's relatively cheap -- a fact that will help it find its way into the pockets of financially astute users, we're sure. But beware those of you with fat fingers -- you'll struggle to accurately thumb your way around the wee screen.

Galaxy Note

Galaxy Note (around £500)

Sat firmly in the middle ground between mobiles and tablets, the Galaxy Note is Samsung's latest addition to the clan. It has a massive 5.3-inch Super AMOLED screen with an eye-popping resolution of 1,280x800 pixels -- that translates as unmitigated viewing pleasure.

A super-quick dual-core 1.4GHz CPU beats at its heart, and the inclusion of a special stylus designed to work on capacitive touchscreens -- snappily branded the S Pen -- means you can write, doodle and play games with increased precision. The only stumbling block is the size of the thing. It's too big to be a phone and too small to be a tablet. The Note is also running Android 2.3, but it should get upgraded to 4.0 later this year.

Galaxy W

Galaxy W (around £250)

Launched at the same time as the Y, the Galaxy W is a slightly more upmarket proposition. The processor is faster -- clocked at 1.4GHz -- and the 3.7-inch display puts it on a par with the popular Galaxy S.

Aimed at buyers shopping on a mid-range budget, the Galaxy W's plastic casing betrays its humble roots. If you've been eyeing the aging Galaxy S and don't mind putting up with a smaller screen, this could be the superior choice.

Galaxy Fit

Galaxy Fit (around £100)

Samsung certainly has the budget end of the Android market sewn up, with plenty of low-price options on offer. The Galaxy Fit is one of those, cramming a small screen, outdated CPU and Android 2.2 into the frame of a bargain basement handset.

There are arguably better low-end Android devices on the market now, but if you can get the Fit for a cheap price, it could be a handy travelling handset, or even a spare.

Galaxy Xcover

Galaxy Xcover (around £200)

Samsung's answer to Motorola's rugged Defy , the Galaxy Xcover , is designed to withstand serious punishment without a whimper or a wince.

It has a scratch-resistant screen and boasts IP67 certification, which promises defence against dust and means it can repel water at depths of up to 1 metre -- handy if you work in a grubby environment, for sure.

Galaxy Pro

Galaxy Pro (around £130)

Proof that Samsung is hell-bent on covering all the bases, the Galaxy Pro is a BlackBerry challenger with a full Qwerty keyboard and a landscape screen. All those lovely physical keys make typing an absolute dream, but the low-resolution display is painful to look at and ensures that many Android applications don't work properly.

The Galaxy Pro is cheap and cheerful, but its weak processor and outdated OS -- it's stuck on 2.2 -- make it a very difficult phone to recommend these days.

Galaxy Mini

Galaxy Mini (around £100)

Released at the same time as the Fit, the Galaxy Mini is so similar it makes you wonder why Samsung even bothered. It's very much the same story -- the internals have been deliberately kept humble to ensure that the phone doesn't have a wallet-busting price tag.

Since its launch in 2011, the Mini's price has come tumbling down, and if you don't mind putting up with version 2.2 of the OS, it provides an inexpensive way of dipping a toe into the occasionally choppy waters of the Android world.

Galaxy Apollo

Galaxy Apollo (around £50)

Yet another cheap option, the Galaxy Apollo is getting on a bit now and you're only likely to find second-hand units on the market these days. It runs Android 2.1 and has a surprisingly sprightly multi-touch capacitive screen -- a common sight these days, but quite a rarity back when the handset was released in 2010.

Needless to say, Samsung has turned its back on this phone now and it won't receive any more updates. If you can look past that -- and the chunky casing -- then it could prove ideal for inexperienced smart phone users.

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About the author

    Damien McFerran has more than a decade of experience in the interactive entertainment and technology sectors. He is also the Editorial Director of Nintendo Life and co-director of Nlife Ltd. Damien is a freelance writer and is not an employee of CNET.

     

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