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Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime review: Top of the sub-$200 Android class

It was extremely bright when I tried capturing the bee here. Colors are a little oversaturated, but it's a usable photo. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Our standard studio shot had a noticeable blue cast, though focus is fairly good. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
This squirmy baby was hard to capture on camera. While not perfectly in focus, the Grand Prime did OK. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
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Our standard studio shot had a noticeable blue cast, though focus is fairly good. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Hardware performance

  • 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410
  • 8GB of storage
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 64GB of expandable storage
  • 2,600mAh removable battery

Considering its hardware limitations, the Galaxy Grand Prime is a good little performer. It booted up in about 20 seconds and felt responsive throughout. The camera launched within a few seconds as well, and auto-focus kicked in pretty quickly. Photos also rapidly fired.

Perhaps a combination of the screen and the processor -- quad-core may sound impressive, but this model is purposely lower-tier -- gameplay on graphically intense titles wasn't at its peak. The good news is that a lot of outfits optimize games for budget devices, so graphics are still engaging, if not the height of perfection.

Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime performance tests

Test 1 Test 2 Test 3
3DMark - Ice Storm Unlimited 4,565 4,548 4,557
GeekBench 3 1,424 1,460 1,433
Quadrant 12,142 12,238 12,251

Since storage and RAM are so low (this is expected on phones this price), that provision for a 64GB microSD card slot is going to be very important for prospective buyers. Storage space is relatively cheap, and a card gives you a place to offload your photos, videos, and bigger games without having to ruthlessly play favorites.

Now, a 2,600mAh battery isn't terribly impressive on its own, but it does top the Motorola Moto G (2014)'s 2,070mAh ticker in capacity and longevity. Motorola's lasted just under 9 hours; this Galaxy Grand Prime averaged 9.5 hours.

In real-world terms, you're looking at a work day on a fully charged battery, though you'll want to top it up midway through if you're planning to use it into the night without stopping to recharge.

Unlike the highest-end Samsung phones, this juice pack doesn't charge especially fast, so you'll need to plan on long stretches of refueling time if you deplete it during the day. I'd personally invest in an extra charger for work in addition to one for home.

Call quality and data

  • GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
  • LTE: 850 (band 5), 900 (band 8), 1800 (band 3), 2100 (band 1), 2600 (band 7) MHz
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b, g, n

First, the disclaimer. I tested the Galaxy Grand Prime here in San Francisco on Cricket's network, which also mostly uses AT&T's network, it's parent, as well.

Call quality was pretty good during my tests. I made appointments and conducted interviews, speaking for an average of 15 minutes per phone call. No calls dropped and I didn't hear major interruptions during the hustle and bustle of the day.

Put the phone in a quiet environment and listen for flaws, and you'll find them. Like many other Samsung phones, in noisy scenarios, you may want more volume than this one gives you. Just beware that the tucked-away extra volume booster amplifies every background crackle and hiss, not just voice audio. Speakerphone, while acceptable, echoes (although they all do to some degree).

speedtestgrandprime.png
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Results from the diagnostic Speedtest.net. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

A word on data speeds. The Grand Prime supports 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks rather than the much faster 5GHz technology. While this means slower Wi-Fi overall, good sites and apps optimize their pages to load quickly, so in real-life situations, you shouldn't notice unbearable delay.

The same goes for 4G speeds, to a point. Sites resolved in acceptable lengths on time, and photos and video uploaded and downloaded without incident. It's true that diagnostic test results in Speedtest.net did show much slower speeds than I'm used to with LTE. I saw double digits for upload speeds, but only single digits for download speeds, which usually register in the double digits for AT&T in San Francisco.

Te results could be a product of the kind of LTE radio used in the Grand Prime, or possibly the way AT&T maintains Cricket's network. It's very likely a combination of the two.

You should view these results as yet more proof of this handset's rank in the pyramid. In the end, I was able to do everything I wanted to online.

Buy it or skip it

The Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime is worth buying for Cricket's price (and a little less so for Sprint's $240 cost), but do your homework first; there's some strong competition in this under-$200 price range.

If you're looking to pay less, the Motorola Moto E 4G LTE is far more entry level across the board, but also costs much less ($130 retail, and closer to $80 on current promotions). That phone sells at Cricket and Boost Mobile.

For a larger device, the 5.7-inch Boost Max costs a bit less ($150 at the time of this review), but also has a slightly older version of the Android OS and a weaker front-facing camera (1 megapixel rather than 5).

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The Galaxy Grand Prime competes with phones like the Motorola Moto G (2014). James Martin/CNET

T-Mobile's closest rival, the now-$150 LG Optimus L90 , has stepped-down camera specs (5 and 1 megapixels) and less storage space, though it does support Wi-Fi calling.

My other suggestion, if you're willing to pop into the $250 bracket, is Alcatel's new OneTouch Idol 3 , which delivers beefier specs for the camera, screen and processor and delivers strong value.

Still, the Grand Prime's LTE functionality and better-performing 5-megapixel lens up front push this phone past its sub-$200 rivals, including its closest competitor, the likable Motorola Moto G (2014). Also priced at $180, the Moto G has a higher screen resolution and similarly performing rear camera, though its 3G-only status is a personal deal breaker. Cricket's Grand Prime would be my pick of the litter, though if you're thinking of spending $240 for Sprint's version, the $250 unlocked Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 is a stronger contender.

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