If you like the sound of a Samsung Galaxy S2 that's been chopped in half, the Samsung Galaxy Ace is for you. The Korean giant has squared the circle to create a trim, stylish smart phone that strikes our fancy -- and not just because it looks an awful lot like the .
Update: We've also reviewed the newer version, the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2.
Design and screen
The Ace's design is simple but sophisticated, with a smoothly glossy front and a pleasingly grippy back cover. Its 3.5-inch screen and squarish case definitely look similar to the iPhone 4, but it's mostly plastic rather than metal. The Ace still feels solid and well-made, however. Like many of Samsung's recent smart phones, it's also surprisingly light at only 113g.
The Ace's screen was quick and responsive, but its 320x480-pixel resolution isn't as sharp as more expensive phones. It has literally half the pixel density of the iPhone 4 -- 165 pixels per inch, compared with the iPhone 4's 330ppi.
But it's very usable for most things, although small text on webpages requires some serious zooming to read clearly. Thankfully, zooming in and out is fast and intuitive, thanks to multi-touch support.
The screen is the LCD type, not the AMOLED type Samsung is becoming famous for. Nevertheless, it looked bright and vivid even under blindingly bright lights.
Perhaps thanks to its smallish screen, the Ace's battery life is insanely good. We easily squeezed two days of use out of the Ace without charging overnight, with Wi-Fi and GPS both turned on.
The brains of the Ace is Google's mobile software, Android 2.2 Froyo. It's not quite on the cutting edge -- phones with version 2.3.3 are already arriving in shops. But 2.2 still has the best features of the Android operating system, so we don't think you'll miss the SIP calling and NFC support that's available on the newer versions.
The Ace sports Android's fantastic Web browser, which displays pages pretty much as they would look on a desktop PC. Unfortunately, with an 800MHz processor inside, the Ace isn't powerful enough to support Flash, so you won't get to play some videos and other Flash objects that pepper the Internet. At least there's a YouTube app to get your funny cat videos, but the BBC's iPlayer is a no-goer.
The lack of Flash is a major disappointment, but the Ace still has plenty of features to buoy our spirits. The portable
hotspot feature, for example, lets you share your 3G data connection with your laptop and other gadgets over Wi-Fi. You should be aware of how much data you're using, but if you're within your data allowance, this feature makes 3G dongles obsolete.
It's also easy to download heaps of progams and games from the Android Market. Although the selection is still second to the iPhone's app store, all the big brands are available, and much of the best stuff is free. Facebook, Twitter and Angry Birds are just a few of the free goodies on offer.