Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 review: Flying high

GSMArena team, 13 July 2012.
Pages: 123456789

Gingerbread with TouchWiz UX up front

The Galaxy Ace 2 is running Gingerbread 2.3.6 and Samsung's custom TouchWiz 4.0 launcher. It's not ICS (let alone Jelly Bean), but Samsung's customizations make using Gingerbread a smoother experience than the stock UI.

Here's a demo of the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 doing its thing on camera.

The lockscreen of the Ace 2 has the usual integration of missed events but doesn't go any further. It's the "drag your finger outside of the circle" type of lockscreen but no shortcuts like in the Galaxy S III. You do get music player controls though.

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The standard Samsung lockscreen

The homescreen accommodates plenty of widgets with lots of functionality. You can have up to 7 homescreen panes. A pinch zoom brings you to an aggregate view of all homescreen panes, which can be rearranged, deleted or added.

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Homescreen Thumbed preview

In typical TouchWiz fashion, there are four shortcuts docked at the bottom of the screen that are visible both on the homescreen and in the app drawer. The first three are user configurable (Phone, Contacts, Messaging), the fourth one being locked. It's the app drawer/home shortcut so it makes sense to always keep it in the same place.

Adding widgets, shortcuts, folders or changing wallpapers is done by a context menu that pops up on demand at the bottom of the screen. The list of available widgets can be swipe-scrolled, enjoying a smooth animation throughout. You can also swipe each of the homescreen panes, which is a nice bonus of TouchWiz 4.0.

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Adding elements to the homescreen

The app drawer is very similar to the homescreen - you can create folders and pages by dragging them to the appropriate icon at the bottom of the screen. You can also rearrange pages from the same aggregate view as the homescreen.

List view can be enabled in the app drawer instead of the regular grid view. There's also a preview of all your app drawer screens for quicker browsing.

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The app drawer

The notification area has toggles that give you easy access from anywhere in the interface to the following functions: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, silent mode and screen auto-rotation.

With the Galaxy Ace 2 you get a standard Android task switcher with the traditional Samsung modification - it has a button to launch a task manager.

The custom task manager offers a lot of functionality. It also comes with a handy widget, which shows you the number of active applications right on your homescreen.

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Notifications area Task manager

Most of the time, Android does really well when it comes to managing apps by itself (in fact, some claim that using a task manager is detrimental to the performance of a phone), so you would only need the task manager to occasionally kill a buggy app.

Synthetic benchmarks

The Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 is powered by a NovaThor U8500 chipset with a dual-core processor, though clocked lower than the 1GHz minimum we're used to seeing. With 768MB of RAM and Mali-400 GPU, the overall performance should be pretty good though.

Single-threaded performance is nothing to write home about - but we expected that out of the 800MHz Cortex-A9 processor. It does beat the 1GHz Snapdragon S1-powered Galaxy Ace Plus easily, but it falls behind the Sony Xperia U, which is also based on NovaThor U8500 (but the CPU runs at the full 1GHz clock speed)

Benchmark Pi

Lower is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S Advance
    530
  • HTC One S
    306
  • Sony Xperia P
    539
  • Sony Xperia U
    533
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2
    643
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace Plus
    1037

Multi-threaded performance is not all that high either if you compare it to most other dual-cores out there, but most of them are above the Ace 2's price point too, which is an important consideration.

Linpack

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S Advance
    64.74
  • HTC One S
    210
  • HTC One V
    34.4
  • Sony Xperia P
    66.9
  • Sony Xperia U
    64.9
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2
    54.9
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace Plus
    24.9

The U8500 chipset uses the Mali-400 GPU, the same one the Galaxy S II uses, but there's a difference - the NovaThor chipset uses a single-core GPU, while the old flagship had the quad-core version.

Even so, the Galaxy Ace 2 offers good enough performance - over 30fps on NenaMark 2. It even inches ahead of other U8500-based droids. It's surprisingly close to the Galaxy S II as well, considering both have the same screen resolution but the S II has more GPU power.

NenaMark 2

Higher is better

  • HTC One S
    60.5
  • Sony Xperia U
    28.3
  • Sony Xperia P
    29.9
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2
    31.6

The SunSpider results are surprising - the Galaxy Ace 2 comes very close to the Xperia U despite the 20% clock speed disadvantage. The expected ICS update should speed things up too. The BrowserMark score lags behind the rest of the dual-cores though.

SunSpider

Lower is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S Advance
    2663
  • HTC One S
    1708
  • HTC One V
    3299
  • Sony Xperia P
    2784
  • Sony Xperia U
    2814
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2
    2997

BrowserMark

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S Advance
    81557
  • HTC One S
    98435
  • HTC One V
    42342
  • Sony Xperia sola
    73840
  • Sony Xperia U
    75906
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2
    62252

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 is not bad for a mid-range device and beats most single-cores, but can't always keep up with the other dual-cores, particularly the Snapdragon S4 (which admittedly isn't to be found in a smartphone in this price range).

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