What is the Samsung Galaxy Fame?The Samsung Galaxy Fame is a 3.5-inch budget handset targeting the first-time smartphone user that's available in blue and white. It runs Google’s Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean OS and is a low-end sibling to the Samsung Galaxy S4. It’s fighting a very different battle to the S4, however.
Besides NFC, it lacks any headline grabbing specs or features, and is free on a £17 a month contract. With a 1GHz single-core processor, 3.5-inch touchscreen, and a 5-megapixel camera, the Samsung Galaxy Fame competes with the wallet-friendly likes of the Sony Xperia J, Nokia Lumia 620 and the LG Optimus L5 II. It’s available in blue and white.
SEE ALSO: All the latest on the Samsung Galaxy S5
Watch our Samsung Galaxy Fame video review:
Need more options? Read our Best Mobile Phones 2013 round-up
Samsung Galaxy Fame - Design & Build QualityThe Samsung Galaxy Fame design is not particularly attractive. Its squat, albeit functional, figure does nothing to hide the Fame’s budget nature. Neither does its hardened plastic body, which appears to take pointers from the Samsung Galaxy S3, nor the thick bezel that dwarfs the 3.5-inch screen.
Still, its round edged, pebble shaped design sits comfortably in the palm of the hand, almost engulfed in fact due to its small 3.5-inch screen. The oversized likes of the HTC One or Huawei Ascend Mate this is not. Measuring in at 11.6mm thick and 120g in weight, the Fame is neither particularly slim nor light, but it is small.
It’s often hard to keep the physical controls out-of-the-way of stray fingers on small phones, but Samsung has overcome this potential pitfall, just. Although the Fame’s power and volume controls still sit in the way of fingers and thumbs, there is enough resistance in the controls to avoid pesky unintended presses.
Despite the price and less than inspiring design, the Samsung Galaxy Fame is surprisingly well-built. There’s little bend or flex when put under considerable amounts of pressure, even with a removable back plate. All the same, we would not be keen to drop the Fame from any notable height onto a hard surface.
Samsung Galaxy Fame - Screen QualitySo the design is merely so-so, but the Fame’s screen… here we have a problem. In fact, the Samsung Galaxy Fame’s screen is a disaster.
Its 3.5-inch frame has a lowly a 480 x 320 resolution, equivalent to 165 pixels-per-inch image density. Web pages, photos and text look grainy and disappointing as a result. Moreover, it falls a long way short of similarly priced (on contract) rivals like the Nokia Lumia 620 (246ppi), and LG Optimus L5 II (233ppi). Even Samsung’s own, and similarly priced Galaxy Ace 2 (246ppi) topples the Fame's dire screen.
It’s not just the sharpness, colours appear washed and meek, too. It’s the polar opposite to the Super AMOLED displays found on many of Samsung's more premium handsets, which tend to over exaggerate colours.
When the likes of the iPhone 4 and its 3.5-inch retina screen are available for just £3 a month more than what you would pay for the Samsung Galaxy Fame, it is hard to justify opting for such a weak offering. Indeed, the Fame’s screen is matched bu much cheaper £50 phones like the Alcatel One Touch 983.
Samsung Galaxy Fame - PerformanceThe Samsung Galaxy Fame is sluggish, even for an entry-level phone, despite running the relatively recent Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean OS. While scrolling between homescreens is pleasingly smooth and fuss free, any further demands come with a stutter or lag.
Its 1GHz single-core processor and limiting 512MB of RAM are the main culprits. App load times on the Samsung Galaxy Fame are agonisingly slow, with even the most basic of functions (call menus, calculator, contacts) preceded by an unwelcome pause. Even switching from portrait to landscape feels like you have asked too much of the Fame, with a considerable amount of lag once again creeping in.
The Fame’s virtual keyboard is cramped and squashed together. Somehow, however, it’s just about satisfying to use. Although confined, the small keys are well placed, helping ensure mistakes and accidental key strokes are kept to a minimum. It’s a small comfort given the sluggishness elsewhere, though.
Samsung Galaxy Fame - BrowserThe Galaxy Fame’s browser is limited, unappealing and – like the rest of the
_phone_ – sluggish. It’s always playing catch up with your demands – it’s slow to respond with bookmark menus and opening separate tabs is a chore. There’s no text reflow, so you have to zoom in massively to comfortably view text and overcome the low-grade, pixelated text. Smartphones ought to excel at web browsing, but the Fame doesn’t.
Samsung Galaxy Fame - Call QualityCall quality is satisfactory. There’s no noise isolation, but in normal conditions are clear and crisp, even if the earpiece could be a shade louder. Signal strength doesn’t match other Galaxy-branded phones we’ve tested, but this did not result in any dropped calls during our time with the it.
Samsung Galaxy Fame - CameraThe Samsung Galaxy Fame camera is a minor highlight on an otherwise disappointing phone. A 5-megapixel rear-mounted camera has autofocus and an integrated LED flash, and more than holds its own compared to similar price rivals.
It’s a little slow to startup – it takes a full four seconds to spring to life – and colours are a little muted, but it takes decent, shareable shots more often than not. The inbuilt LED flash is a welcome addition, but can be a little overpowering, leading to some overexposed indoor shots.
Again, the VGA forward-facing snapper is an acceptable offering. It’s far from anything special, but it’s adequate for low quality video.
There’s video shooting, too, but at a lowled 640 x 480 resolution. The identically priced Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 shoots at 720p – a much more impressive option.
Samsung Galaxy Fame - Multimedia and AppsThe Samsung Galaxy Fame is not a true multimedia phone. With the combination of a single-core 1GHz processor and 3.5-inch 480 x 320 display, the Fame lacks the ability to run demanding games or offer absorbing video playback. We gave up trying to watch a film after five minutes as it was slow and pixelated.
Onto apps and gaming and the Samsung Galaxy Fame once again struggles. You can forget the likes of Real Racing 3 – it took 15 minutes to load and then decided it wouldn’t work. The Fame fares little better with more basic games. Stick Tennis, a simple game took close to a minute to kick into life. Once active, gameplay was laggy with the ball jittering rather than flowing across the screen.
Although claiming to feature 4GB of internal storage, just half of this is actually available given the demands of Android and Samsung’s TouchWiz overlay. Fortunately the Samsung Galaxy Fame adds microSD card expansion up to 64GB, which is a small bonus. No headphones are included, though there is a headphone jack to use your own.
Samsung Galaxy Fame - Battery LifeBattery life on the Samsung Galaxy Fame is one area where it wins back some credibility.
Thanks to the lower demands of the small, dull display, the 1,300mAh Lithium-Ion battery goes a surprisingly long way. The Fame saw us through more than two days steady use without need for a recharge. The Fame’s limited multimedia credentials help here, too, as it means you’re less likely to perform battery draining tasks than on other phones.
Standby time is hugely impressive – the Fame keeps chugging along with minimal use for the better part of a working week.
Samsung Galaxy Fame - ConnectivityConnectivity on the Samsung Galaxy Fame is a mixed bag of tricks. It has the basics (Wi-Fi 802.11, GPS, 3G, microSD and microUSB), but also includes NFC. It’s an odd choice given NFC is has yet to capture the public’s attention, especially as it no doubt adds to the price.
We suspect it has something with Samsung’s TVs support NFC and Samsung wanting people to use the two together, but we wish Samsung Galaxy Fame should have focused more on the basics and cut the price. The Wi-Fi signal strength, though satisfactory, is weaker than some phones and tablets we’ve tested, and on one occasion we had problems connecting to available networks.
Should I buy the Samsung Galaxy Fame?In short, no, probably not – not unless it comes down in price, at least. There are cheaper phones that are faster, have better screens and more features compared to the Samsung Galaxy Fame.
One such option is the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2, which has a better screen and faster performance for a similar price. And if you’re not bothered about performance, budget Alcatel and Huawei phones are just as good at a fraction of the price. Failing that, Windows Phones are another viable option, with the HTC 8S a far superior product at a similar price.
Save another £3 a month and there’s an even better option. You might not be able to get the iPhone 4 SIM-free for anywhere near the price of the Fame, but on a standard 24-month contract at £17 per month vs £20 per month it’s the obvious choice.