Samsung’s Galaxy S II 4G [Review]
Well folks, the time is finally upon us. After a grueling wait from last week’s delay we can finally get our grubby hands on this saught after device!
Check out our video review here: TechFibe’s SGSII Video Review (also embedded after the break) and continue after the break for the written breakdown.
The Samsung Galaxy S II’s slim body, magnificent Super AMOLED Plus display, and the powerful processing horsepower, that is the Exynos chispset, only touch the surface of what this device provides a user.
The specifications on this device are outstanding and the end product definitely reflects these qualities.
-Quad-band GSM and quad-band 3G support
-21 Mbps HSDPA and 5.76 Mbps HSUPA support
-4.3″ 16M-color Super AMOLED Plus
-Capacitive touchscreen of WVGA (480 x 800 pixel) resolution
-Android OS v2.3.3 with TouchWiz 4 UI launcher
-1.2 GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 CPU, Mali-400MP GPU, Exynos chipset, 1GB of RAM
-8 MP camera with LED flash
-1080p HD video recording at 30fps
-2MP front facing video-call camera
-Dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 b-n support
-GPS with A-GPS connectivity including a digital compass
-16 GB of internal storage, and up to 32GB for microSD slot
-Accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity sensor
-Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
-Charging MHL microUSB port with USB host and TV-out (1080p) support
-Stereo Bluetooth v3.0 FM radio with RDS
-Extremely slim waistline at 8.5mm and low weight (116g)
-Full Flash support and GPU-acceleration for the web browser and allows for 1080p flash video playback
-NFC support (optional, not without a software update)
-Document editor and File manager come preinstalled
-The richest video format support on a device
Overview of the device by Paul (Samsung Rep.) at Samsung’s and Bell’s launch party:
The design for the Galaxy S II is by far the most impressive in terms of slim dimensions and weight. The device is only 8.5 mm thin (125.3 x 66.1 x 8.5mm) and for the amount of top quality technology packed inside of the smartphone, this is definitely an impressive feat. Its weight is at a mere 116g and is 3 grams lighter than its predecessor, the Galaxy S.
Below we compare the size difference between the Samsung Nexus S on the right to the Galaxy S II on the left.
The rear of the device is made of what appears to be flexible plastic and gives the feel of a mesh finish. This thing can be bent past 90 degrees and snaps right back into place. When compared to other manufacturers like HTC, who opt for a hard metal backing, some critics say it makes Samsung’s product feel cheap. We will have to disagree with this, while the material used is not as hard as metal, it also does not share the weight and heft. That would be taking away a lot of this device’s appeal and form factor if Samsung were to add such heavy material.
The display is the focal point of this smartphone and the 4.3″ Super AMOLED Plus screen arguably provides the deepest blacks on the market. When compared to the alternatives, the Super AMOLED Plus display has been declared the most power efficient due to features such as powering on/off individual pixels. When discussing Super AMOLED Plus screen it is essential to know that when a pixel is displaying the color black it means the pixel is off and does not display anything, therefore saving the energy to power it and in turn saving battery life. Another great characteristic about the display is its impeccable viewing angles and crystal clear image quality.
The device carries the Galaxy brand’s recognizable controls on the bottom of the device. Samsung has opted to streamline their controls by allowing users to hold the capacitive touch buttons for secondary actions. Now the user is given the choice of three buttons; Menu (left side), Home (middle), and the Back (right side). When holding down the Menu button this brings up the Google search, and holding down the Home button brings up the task switcher, as well as double tapping the Home key which activates voice controls.
On the bottom of the device we find the microphone receiver and the microUSB port. Samsung provides a new functionality with MHL support built into the microUSB port. MHL, for those unfamiliar, is an alternative to mini-HDMI ports developed for smartphones that is built into the currently used microUSB ports. The only problem this creates is that users will require MHL to HDMI adapters in order to utilize this key feature, and sadly Samsung has not provided this with their Galaxy S II product out of the box. This new form of connectivity will be seen more frequently going into the future with current devices such as Samsung’s own Infuse 4G (which will be bundled with an adapter in the box), HTC’s Flyer Tablet as well as the Sensation.
The front facing camera on the SGS II has been upgraded to a 2MP camera opting out of the old and tired VGA. The rear facing camera on the other hand is 8 megapixels and that is absolutely amazing, at this point who needs to carry a digital camera…just take a look for yourselves (below).
The rear camera can shoot full 1080p HD videos and is paired with an LED flash. Check out our video tests on both 720p and 1080p below. The interesting thing we’ve noticed is that while recording in 1080p the recorded video appears to be zoomed in, while on the 720p recording we were able to capture a lot more area.
720p Video Recording:
1080p Video Recording:
While Samsung has implemented a useful control feature has been implemented for zooming in and out with the camera by using the volume rocker, they have failed to incorporate a dedicated camera key into their device. However when referring back to the size and weight of the device, its possible Samsung just could not afford to sacrifice the weight for functionality.
The Galaxy S II packs a 1650 mAH battery under the hood which powers the Exynos 4210 dual core processor clocked at 1.2 GHz, a brand new Mali-400MP GPU and 1GB of RAM for added measure. On 3G the battery is stated to accomplish 8 hours 40 minutes of calls and 610 hours of standby. We have gotten roughly two days of use off of one charge on average usage, but when we really put it through the test with heavy usage (using gps, video recording, image capture, etc.), it lasted a solid day. This is great considering previous Android devices barely got you through 3/4 of the day with heavy use, this is definitely an improvement. While users can see better battery life by minimizing any background running applications, Samsung offers their task manager (which can be made into a widget, see our video review for more) that allows for termination of apps that are taking up memory.
The TouchWiz UI has definitely received its much needed face-lift and the updates are showcased flawlessly on this device.
Here’s a video demonstrating many of the improvements you will see in TouchWiz UI 4.0
What really sticks out for us is the widget selecting tool that allows you to scroll through all available widgets and drag as well as arrange them on each individual home screen.
The messaging application is very interesting and adds a little depth to managing your incoming messages while in the midst of a conversation. As you can see below once the device is put into landscape, the conversation you choose will be displayed on the right side, while the other incoming messages and previously received messages are displayed on the left. This can be convenient if you are in the middle of multiple conversations so you can easily switch to whichever friend deserves your attention more.
The video playback is also worth mentioning as it is the most extensive we have yet to see on a smartphone. The list includes .WMV, .AVI (DivX and XviD), .MP4 , .MKV (H.264) and more! What does this mean for you? Well it means you can put on almost any video format and any size to be played seamlessly on your SGS II.
In terms of connectivity on the software side, the device supports Bluetooth 3.0 with High Speed promising speeds up to 21Mbps as well as a competing technology called Wi-Fi Direct which promises regular Wi-Fi speeds of up to 250 Mbps. WiFi Direct has been said to bring about the end to Bluetooth and is backed by the WiFi Alliance (incorporating all the big name companies such as Intel, Apple, and Cisco).
Sadly NFC capability has been overlooked on this device and to add insult to injury, it is now rumored the U.K. will be receiving the NFC enabled Galaxy S II devices later in the year. It is possible we might see the same happening in North America, but only time can tell. It is definitely a let down though, especially now with many companies such as Paypal integrating this technology into payment systems found in your local stores.
The Quadrant benchmark test we ran provided results of 3341 and roughly 3300 was the result the 3/4 times we had tested. This is a phenomenal score but in reality does not necessarily reflect real world use, meaning that the numbers may sometimes be inflated like in the case of the Nexus S overclocked benchmarks.
Based on the many speed tests taken throughout the day, we managed to captures speeds of around 5.5Mbps download and 900Kbps upload as our best result. While the device is capable of up to 21Mbps download speeds, Bell’s HSPA+ (or what many carriers are calling 4G) network failed to fulfill the maximum. However as the model provided was missing an update from Bell which is said to solidify the device’s connection on the network, we expect the finished product to provide more fruitful results.
The Galaxy S II sets the bar for smartphones to come and their overseas sales figures are enough to prove that there is a market for high-end devices no matter the price-tag. As long as there is quality and performance incorporated into an elegant design, a device has a high chance for success. There are many dual-core smartphones currently available on the market but none truly stack up to Samsung’s flagship.