The Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 is an affordable little smartphone that provides an adequate user experience for its price. It’s compact, fairly lightweight and doesn’t lag too badly for a budget phone. Its best feature is its 4G connectivity, but its greatest flaw is lag, which can end up cancelling out the benefits that 4G usually supplies.
In terms of look, the Ace 3 is stuck somewhere between the Galaxy S3 and the original Galaxy S from way back in 2010. The silver rim around the edge and general shape is more like the original S, where the rear plate with its fake brushed metal is very GS3.
It's not the most interesting look for a smartphone in this price range. Both Nokia and now Motorola have released cheaper devices with colourful back plates that can be interchanged whenever you want. The Motorola Moto G is one of this and in addition to its customisable design it also looks more expensive than it really is, whereas the Ace 3 definitely gives the impression of a budget device.
The power button is on the right side, volume is on the left and the charging port is below. Like most Samsungs, the Ace 3 has a 'clicky' centre Home button with capacitive ones either side for Menu and Back.
The Ace 3’s 4-inch display looks pretty small these days, but it’s still enough to get by. The 480x800 resolution is ok on the smaller panel, which gives it 223 pixels per inch (ppi), but the pixellation does become noticeable at times. Once again comparing this to the similarly-priced Moto G's 720p HD display leaves the Ace 3 feeling a little lacklustre.
Unfortunately, there was a lot of screen lag at times. Occasionally the Ace 3 would get stuck in the middle of typing or after hitting the Home button and would take anywhere up to five seconds to get going again.
On top of this, some of the more regular apps crashed far more often than on other phones. Google Maps was the main example of this. We found that about one in every five times we tried to use maps for an extended journey it would end up crashing and we'd have to reopen it and start again.
One positive point was the 4G connectivity. Many cheaper phones still run on 3G only, so it was nice to have access to faster internet on such an affordable device.
The downside of all this is that the Ace 3's hardware lag and app instability ended up slowing the whole experience back down again. Sometimes it was easy to forget that we were using a 4G-enabled device thanks to the phone's own hardware creating a bottle-neck. Other times browsing and internet speeds were fine, but it wasn't exactly reliable.
The camera isn’t particularly great, but that’s to be expected on any budget device. It took passable shots during the day but suffered hugely at night time.
We won’t hold this against the Ace 3. Stellar camera performance is not something that is expected from the lower ends of the market, but we won’t give it any points for what is essentially a mediocre shooter. It's fine for instagram, but if you want nice family or nature shots then this isn't a camera that will deliver.
Battery life was pretty standard at a little over a full working day. We never found ourselves searching for a power-point before bed time, but you definitely don't want to forget to charge it nightly.
Our daily use included about an hour of streaming music and another of listening to audio files that were saved in the on-board storage. There was around an hour of reading and a fair amount of browsing. We didn't tend to find ourselves gaming too often, thanks to the laggy experience. When we did occasionally play something the Ace 3 lost charge at a rate that is consistent with most other devices.
Believe it or not this standard performance left us moderately pleased. Often smaller, cheaper phones suffer from poor battery life, but it wasn’t a problem here.
The Galaxy Ace 3 is definitely ‘ok’. For what you pay the lag wasn’t too bad, the camera wasn’t too bad, the design wasn’t too bad and the screen was passable.
The only real perk of this phone is its 4G support. It's still rare to find a phone this affordable that supports 4G. Whether or not this is good enough to choose it over the Moto G's better design, more powerful hardware and far superior screen will be up to you.
Personally, we'd go with the Moto G. The 4G on the Ace 3 was nice, but the lack of hardware power and slow browser ended up bringing the speed down in other ways that at times almost made the 4G unnoticeable.
Our Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 review unit was supplied courtesy of MobiCity, who currently offer it for sale outright and unlocked on their website.