Read on to find out what I think of the Galaxy S II.
- Exynos SoC with 1.2 GHz dual-core ARM Cortex A9 CPU and Mali-400MP GPU
- 1GB RAM and 16GB built-in flash storage
- 4.3" Super AMOLED Plus capacitive touchscreen with 480 x 800 resolution
- Quad band GSM and 3G
- 21 Mbps HSDPA and 5.76 Mbps HSUPA
- 8 Megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash and 1080p30 video recording
- 2 Megapixel front camera
- Bluetooth 3.0 and WiFi 802.11b/g/n
- GPS with A-GPS
- Digital compass
Despite being made entirely of plastic, the Galaxy S II's built quality is great. It feels great in my palms, and at 116g, is very light. The plastic does make it feel cheaper than say the HTC Sensation. Regardless, the Galaxy S II is also very thin, measuring 8.49mm at its thinnest point. A solitary 3.5mm headphone jack sits on the top, while the microphone and microUSB port, which supports Mobile High Definition Link (MHL) and USB On-The-Go, are found on the bottom. Unfortunately the MHL adaptor, required for HDTV-out, is not bundled with the device. On either side of the devices you will find the power button and volume rocker.
Below the display are three hardware buttons. One, the Home key, is physical and the two (Menu and Back) are touch sensitive. By pressing it down, the Menu key also doubles as a regular Android Search key. Not being a fan of touch sensitive buttons, I am glad that the buttons are not too sensitive. You will find the earspeaker, 2 Megapixel front camera, ambient light sensor and proximity sensor.
|The Galaxy S II is thin|
The design of the Galaxy S II is simple, almost understated. Overall I liked the design, though I do wish Samsung has put in a bit more effort in differentiating their products. The Galaxy S II reminds me greatly of a couple of phones from Samsung's own portfolio as well as this one popular phone from a competitor of theirs... ;) Overall I liked the design, though I still preferred Sony Ericsson's effort with the XPERIA Arc a little bit more.
|Did I mention just how thin it is?|
Connectivity wise the Galaxy S II is not slouch either. You can use it almost everywhere in the world thanks to the quad band GSM and 3G chipset. Data connection comes in the form of HSDPA (up to 21Mbps), EDGE, Wireless LAN and Bluetooth 3.0. You can even use the phone as a wireless modem (ala MiFi) if your service provider allows you. GPS including A-GPS completes the check-list. Even despite not having NFC, I found it very impressive that Samsung's engineers has managed to fit all this, and more in its incredibly slim body.
TouchWiz 4.0 UI supports up to seven panels on the homescreen. A dock with shortcuts to Phone,Contacts, Messaging and Application is found below, and these shortcuts cannot be customised. Samsung has thoughtfully included a bunch of resizeable widgets that are not only useful, but actually pleasing on the eyes. In addition to that, folders can be added onto the homescreen. These includes folders for applications,contacts and even recent documents. Unlike the regular App Drawer, the one here is horizontal like the found on iOS. Here you can create new pages or move applications into folders. Overall I like the new TouchWiz as it is a massive improvement over previous versions of yore.
As this is an Android phone you will need a Google account to make the best use out of the device. Access to the Google Market, as well as backing up your PIM details onto one of Google's cloud servers is dependant on that. Contacts can be pulled down from various sources, including Facebook, and paired together in the phone book.
Samsung has outdone itself with Social Hub. This is an all-in-one application for all your messaging needs, but the real deal is the way it handles emails. Unsurprisingly for an Android device, the GMail app is an excellent client who will serve most user's needs. But it lacks some features and more importantly (to me), a battery-optimised black theme. Social Hub's email client handles conversation view better than GMail and even supports push notification. The only thing missing the priority email view, and I do not know anybody who actually uses it.
The web browser supports multi-touch, has Flash support and multiple windows. Opening a new tab is as easy. The Webkit browser is very capable, fast ad renders most sites accurately. You can even switch the default search engine if you don't trust Google enough.The UI is clean with only the address bar and bookmark icon visible at all times. As Flash 10.3 is installed, Flash games and YouTube videos can be watched on the browser itself. It is a nice but very basic browser. For example it lacks the ability to change the user agent or turn on incognito mode (private browsing). If you require such features, I suggest installing the much praised Dolphin browser.
I don't normally do benchmarks preferring instead to judge a device's performance based on everyday usage. Believe me, the Galaxy S II is fast. I had my doubts on whether Android is would be able to take advantage of a dual-core processor, and truthfully, I didn't feel like it was twice as quick as the last high-end single core Android device I had, the XPERIA Arc, at least in most applications (which I assume have not been updated yet). It does feel much quicker when browsing and opening apps. In any case here are the results of the synthetic benchmark.
Built-in GPS receivers are normal on mid and high-range smartphones, and is even becoming a standard feature on some low-end smartphones. Being Samsung's flagship device, the Galaxy S II comes A-GPS. It does not ship with any dedicated navigation software apart from the standard and free Google Maps. This is fine as Google Maps mobile is slowly evolving into a great mapping and voice navigation product. Google Maps now allows you to precache map tiles up to 10 miles radius allowing you to use the navigation feature offline. The latest version has better check-in support via Latitude and Places, featuring the ability to create new venues.
The Galaxy S II has a 8 Megapixel autofocus camera on the back with LED flash. As I mentioned earlier, while some may prefer Xenon flash, I found the LED flash to be more useful as it you can use it as a video light. The camera is capable of full HD (1080p) video recording. File size can grow large quickly especially when recording in 1080p, so get a fast memory card or record directly to the in-built storage (which is quicker). Videos produced are recorded in MP4 format and is excellent in quality. Colours are well defined and (when focused) details are well preserved. Embedded below is a sample 720p video recording sample to demonstrate continuous autofocus:
Here are a couple of unedited but resized samples (blame Blogger):
|Standard no flash|
|Indoor with flash|
The Samsung GT-I9100 Galaxy S II, in its full name, is a monster. It is the pinnacle of the current high-end Android smartphone specs-war, equalled only by the HTC Sensation and EVO 3D. Having used it for a month, I find that there isn't a phone currently on the market I would trade for. It isn't perfect but what is? I do wish it had a slightly bigger battery even if it means putting on some weight, and I still dislike capacitive touch sensitive hardware buttons. Samsung could also have upped the resolution to something a bit more 2011. After all, the HTC Sensation and Motorola Atrix have screens with 540 x 960 resolution.
Still I have never had a more complete smartphone. It just works. And this coming from a person who disliked Android only a year ago due to its inefficiency at getting things done. You may just be looking at a contender for the best smartphone of 2011.
The Samsung Galaxy S II is available on the market now for around £470.