The Galaxy Express sports a relaxed and pleasing design. It’s not unique or particularly interesting, but its obvious Galaxy S3 roots lend itself to an attractive end result. The feel is plasticy, and leaves the Galaxy Express feeling a bit cheap.
Size-wise it’s comfortable to hold in one hand, rocking a 4.5 inch display with very thin side bezels. It’s very light and quite compact for a device of its size and hardware.
The left-hand volume rocket and right-hand lock button do protrude out a bit too far. We had a lot of accidental activations and volume changes while carrying it around in our pockets. This is a problem we’ve heard about from readers regarding other recent Samsung phones – perhaps it’s time Samsung considered a repositioning of important toggles.
The 4.5 inch 480 x 800 pixel sAMOLED+ display offers great colours, but does suffer a little from its low resolution. Samsung used the same number of pixels in the Galaxy S2 a few years back, and though it is fine, we are growing accustomed to sharper screen images.
Blacks come out well but whites have the touch of that bluish hue that plagues all AMOLED screens. This is hardly noticeable unless you hold the Express next to another smartphone with a standard LCD display.
The device does lag considerably when swiping between menu screens, tapping icons or really doing anything at all. Opening an app can take so long that you might think the command hasn’t registered. Links that take you from one app to another, like links to the Play Store, are particularly bad. This sometimes generated delays upwards of a full ten seconds and became increasingly frustrating as time went on.
The strange thing is, the 1.2GHz dual core CPU and 1GB of RAM in the Express should have been enough to handle basic functionality but it just couldn’t. We would have liked to see how the Express functioned if the heavy-weight Samsung Touchwiz UI were removed but, alas, that wasn’t an option.
The biggest error we encountered was when we tried to attach pictures to any form of message or sharing service. Opening the gallery from a separate application was simply impossible. The option was there, but tapping it did nothing but open a blank screen with “Gallery” tantalisingly scrawled across the top.
The only way to send pics was to go in to the gallery, wait anywhere from two to ten seconds for it to load all our images, select an image and then go from there. This is a much more cumbersome way of doing things and meant that no more than one image could ever be sent or uploaded at a time. Not so bad for MMS; very annoying for Facebook or emails.
The shining light of the Galaxy Express experience was battery life. The phone simply wouldn’t die. No matter how much we tested it with gaming, image capture, music playback and downloads, the Express always had a healthy 20% or more left at the end of each day.
Considering that on-paper the battery in the Express is really no different to any other device, we think that this is a great example of how battery efficiency is far more important than capacity.
The 5MP rear camera was ok. It took fine photos during the day and surprised us with the quality of its low-light shots. It was certainly no HTC One, but it got the job done.
Colours were a bit washed out for anything other than a pic taken outside on a sunny day, but noise was at a minimum for a camera in this price range.
Unfortunately the usefulness of the camera was stilted by the aforementioned problems with image sharing. We found this considerably limited our willingness to bother documenting anything.
With the Galaxy S4 Mini either released or on its way, depending on region, and a variety of other high-quality, mid-tier Androids on the market we’d have to recommend avoiding the Express. The lag and performance issues, coupled with the annoying gallery glitch, just made it a more frustrating than enjoyable device.
At the end of the day the only thing that really impressed us was the battery life, which just meant that it was able to frustrate us for longer before needing a recharge. Samsung has made some great phones, but the Galaxy Express is not one of them.