The Samsung Galaxy S 2 is the latest instalment of the hugely successful ensemble of Samsung Android devices, and this time, they mean business.
What the Samsung Galaxy S 2 has achieved, is to take the best and make it better – with the announcement of such competition as the HTC Sensation, Motorola Atrix and LG Optimus 2X & 3D, whom all of which are all expanding from Single-core to Dual-core technology, Samsung took the tried & tested formula of the previous Galaxy S and tweaked it in all the right places to create a much improved, yet familiar smart phone – Let’s take a closer look.
Upon opening the box I was instantly greeted with a huge, shiny screen which took up pretty much the whole area of the base of the packaging, the sheer flawless flat area with only a single button and small speaker grill was a refreshing welcome from the handset I hadn’t even turned on yet. Inside the box packed neatly were the standard Micro USB cable, very high quality wired stereo headset with spare in-ear plugs, standard device paperwork, and to my pleasant surprise there was a phone charger with its own attached cable, which in my opinion is much better than the now-too-common interchangeable USB/Wall charger.
Before turning on the device I held it in my hand for a minute, admiring the feel of the handset, the phone is very slim & light weighing only 116 grams, but not at all flimsy, it feels as if all the weight of the phone is in the huge, gorilla-glass display – which is a big plus as the screen really does have a robust feel to it tapping the display with my first finger confirms this to me with solid resistance. The location of each button seems to be in exactly the correct pace, especially in my right hand. With the standby/unlock key under my right thumb, the ‘home’ key perfectly in reach and the volume ‘rocker switch’ nicely in line with my first and second fingers of my right hand, it’s easy to tell Samsung have really thought about the form factor and not just ‘thrown’ everything together. The textured rear is both visually & physically very nice, housing the camera and the ‘lip’ at the bottom of the handset actually forms quite well as part of the otherwise simple design.
Inserting the battery, SIM card and the Micro SD card was relatively straight-forward, minus the very daunting task of removing the very thin, flexible, back cover and then replacing it, which did feel rather delicate – but once the cover was carefully replaced and all the little clips were properly clipped in place, the thin back cover forms solidly as part of the very sturdy phone.
Booting up and setting up
Once everything was in place and I turned on the handset which responded instantly – seeing the Samsung Galaxy S 2 logo for the first time was a delight, and it was less than 4 minutes before I had set up my Gmail, Wifi Connection, skipped the typing tutorials and was off on my own, exploring the pre-installed apps. The phone has Android V2.3 ‘Gingerbread’ out of the box and has the TouchWiz 4.0 interface as its overlay.
The first thing I noticed about the display is how vivid the colours are, flicking through the apps menu is like an explosion in a Skittles factory, I literally found myself flicking between screens just to see the transition of the icons which was so smooth, both in motion and richness of colour. The screen is yet another improvement on the original Samsung Galaxy S, the Super AMOLED plus, which is 480 x 800 pixels, which may be lower resolution than some newer displays, but this is the brightest display I have seen to date.
Adding new email addresses & social networking platforms is a breeze with the social hub, though I must admit, I am not a big fan of the social hub – but with android, there always is another way to do these things. Within an hour or so I did find myself reverting back to the original Facebook, Twitter and MySpace apps which are all free from the Android Market. On the other hand, Samsungs other hubs, the ‘Music Hub’, ‘Game Hub’ and the ‘Readers Hub’ are all a great way to kick-off your relationship with your new Android device, or to embellish your media collection.
I found the factory settings of the TouchWiz interface very welcoming which made it much easier to get going, set up my social networking, and tweak the home screens to my heart’s content. The initial placement of the widgets is just a taste of the potential contained within this amazing device.
Overall I must say I am very impressed with the TouchWiz 4.0 interface – coming from a HTC Sense background the bar was already high, but for simplicity I can confidently say TouchWiz is the superior Android interface, I also love how smooth screen transitions are - though I do find it annoying that you cannot flick through the home screens in ‘loop’ fashion, for instance, flicking from the last screen to the first – especially when the default home screen is located on the far left, moving from screen number one on the far left to screen seven on the far right can feel almost a pointless waste of precious milliseconds. That said, if TouchWiz isn’t your thing after serious trial and error, there are many alternative interfaces available on the android market such as Launcherpro and Panda Home, which offer limitless options to suit anyone’s taste.
Web browsing is an amazing experience on the Galaxy S 2, with its large clear screen and great touch response, the onboard browser is very simple and more or less bug-free, web pages opened quickly both over Wifi & 3G, the Dual-Core 1.2GHZ processor is by far more than enough to deal with multiple tabs, and creating bookmarks couldn’t be much simpler. Flash content loaded instantly and ‘HQ’ videos on YouTube were crisp and lag-free.
Storage for media on this handset is very generous, with 16GB of onboard storage with a Micro SD slot for up to an additional 32GB, it would be difficult to fill to say the least!
Viewing Video is extremely smooth, sharp and colour-rich, large video files are loaded instantly, and the viewing angle is very generous – viewing that hilarious clip from Fail Blog with a group of friends can be done in one playback due to screen size and quality, rather than the old ‘pass it around’ method necessary on so many so-called ‘multimedia smart phones’. The onboard media player is simply brilliant, offering tons of options such as ‘virtual 5.1 sound’, EQ settings and sharing options all in a simple media player interface. When it comes to media playback, including games and video, I do question the placement of the rear speaker, which is easily obscured by fingers holding the device – and covering the speaker really does diminish the effective output. As for photos, rendering of pictures is quick and zooming in is smooth and intuitive.
The battery on this mobile phone is a rather generous 1650mAh which allows for plenty of normal use, and after the initial few charges, normal use would drain the battery after about one and a half days, which is mighty impressive considering the power this device has. I found that by simply closing apps using the pre-loaded program monitor I managed to significantly decrease the need for ‘mid day charges’. There are other initiatives Samsung has taken to help power consumption, for example the Super AMOLED Plus consumes 18% less power despite greater contrast ratio. Another great innovation is the power-strip built into the pull-down menu which enables brightness adjustment, GPS toggling, Wifi toggling, sound/vibration switching and auto screen rotation in an instant.
The Samsung Galaxy S 2 Features a very impressive camera with an 8 megapixel sensor, capturing blur-free images is easy and the face recognition caters for multiple faces with great sensitivity, as you can see from a photo I took in a British summers afternoon light (below), the colours are captured with a great degree of depth, and I might add, the photo was taken on the first attempt. The camera is definitely an ample substitute for your main digital camera for days out, holidays etc. as the picture clarity is the best I’ve seen on a Smartphone.
The 2 Megapixel camera at the front captures both pictures and video with surprising clarity which would be very handy for self-portraits. Video calling is also achievable which is, connection permitting, very smooth and widely available on many free services from Android Market.
One important test I made sure to take was the all-important Angry Birds test, completing the initial 10 or so levels was smooth, responsive, lag-free and addictive as ever. Again, I cannot stress enough how amazing the colours appear, especially for gaming, the Super AMOLED plus display really does complete the multimedia experience. A more intensive test was ‘Gangstar: West Coast Hustle’(A GTA-style 3D game), I did see a small amount of lag at times, particularly when a lot of action was taking place on screen, but nevertheless I was impressed with the PS2-standard gaming graphics. After only a couple of minutes the rear of the handset started to heat up and I began to fear ‘overworking’ the processor but some minutes further on the phone had stuck at a constant heat which wasn’t too threatening, though the battery had suffered – more than half an hour of intensive gaming on some of Gameloft’s graphically rich games and we’d be in low battery territory, though simpler games like Angry Birds and Ninja rush would be much less power-thirsty.
After a week with the Samsung Galaxy S 2 I have noticed a steady increase in battery performance, due to the initial charges and being able to go without picking it up every five minutes, the battery lasts a good day and a half now, and managing applications using the pre-installed program monitor has become second-nature, which further increases the overall performance of the phone.
I am very, very impressed with this phone, it is by far enough to keep any tech-geek like myself busy indefinitely, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys media and social networking on the go. Battery life is good as long as you don’t overdo it on the games and close down un-necessary programs.
Visual performance *****
Battery Life ****
Camera performance *****
Processor performance *****
Build Quality ****