The Samsung Galaxy S remains one of the most popular phones on the market today, so popular in fact that Apple have attempted to take out a law suit against Samsung centred around the device. With a beautiful 4” Super AMOLED display, and a snappy Hummingbird CPU, the Galaxy S touched the hearts and souls of Android enthusiasts around the globe.
With this in mind, has the Galaxy S II managed to uphold the family name? As an avid Galaxy S user, and enthusiast, I can happily say the answer is yes.
The only thing I could ever complain about with the original SGS was the build quality. Whilst not exactly poor it never felt solid in your hand; the plasticy feel, when combined with the lightness, left you feeling as if you were holding a cheap dummy phone, not a £500 android powerhouse. However I am glad to report that Samsung has addressed this issue with the SGS2. It still sports a plastic body, and is even lighter and thinner (8.49mm) than it’s predecessor, but it has lost the cheap feel. The back is textured and the angular shape makes it feel solid in your hand yet comfortable at the same time. And the gorilla glass is screen is (supposedly) pretty much unscratchable. And the coating on the screen reduces finger prints to a much greater extent than the SGS or Iphone 4. The one thing I thing I don’t like about the build of the SGS2 is just how thin the backplate is, granted it allows the profile of the phone to remain as slim as it is, but I can’t help thinking that some sort of sliding back cover would have made more sense. The scarily minute plastic tabs which hold the backplate on look, and sound, like they could snap off the wafer thin cover at any moment.
The screen on the SGS2 is a 4.3” Super AMOLED Plus display. This is without a doubt the nicest screen I have ever seen on a phone. It isn’t as bright as the NOVA display when it comes to whites, and it hasn’t the PPI of the Retina display, but what it does have is an amazingly deep colour contrast, and an unparalleled representation of blacks. Images on this look stunning, and the crispness of the new RGB matrix, having ditched the PenTile matrix of the SGS, is immediately apparent when using the device. Text is sharp and crisp, and images are recreated in brilliant colour which seriously pops in conjunction with the seemingly higher pixel density. The screen size is also perfect for my taste, the device feels large but not bulky, mainly due to its thinness, and once you get used to it you will love the extra real estate.
The 1.2 Ghz DualCore Exynos cpu certainly meets expectations. The phone is quick and smooth and I experienced only the slightest of slow downs if I was downloading something or streaming music as I played around with the UI and applications. The GPU of the processor is immense, however there is currently a lack of supported and optimised games. Tegra HD games will NOT run on this chipset, despite Tegra 2 being slower, and several games have texture rendering issues, such as DungeonDefenders by Trendy Ent. This is a shame as the speed of the GPU is palpable when you play games and you wish you had something more challenging to throw at it. However I am confident that developers will begin embracing the chipset soon. So if your after games a Tegra 2 phone may be for you at this stage, however the speed of the device is enough to convince me that I should keep the SGS2.
The ‘Hubs’ on the device are portals Samsung have pre installed which allow you to find content easily, a readers hub, music hub, social hub and games hub. The music hub allows you to browse and purchase from a library of 13 million songs powered by 7digital, as well as listening to samples and playing purchased tracks from within the apps music player. All in all it serves as usable alternative to Itunes or the Amazon MP3 store, and it it nice to see Samsung bundling media front ends with devices. The readers hub is again a front end application powered by PressDisplay, for news, Kobo for books and Zinio for magazines, all combined into one streamlined application with a nice UI.
I have to admit that I am slightly confused as to the purpose of the games hub. It contains two sections, premium games and social games. Premium games are just several Gameloft demos which then allow you to purchase the games for full via Gameloft’s website. However the games on offer are not the most recent applications Gameloft have released, and the hub has a slapdash feel. The second section contains free games powered by Mobage. Again I feel the hub to be near useless in this regard, it has only a handful of titles, non of which are impressive.
Where Samsung have done well with the other two media hubs the games hub feels rushed and poorly executed. The android market, and the Amazon app store both work perfectly for games, have a greater selection and have a greater quality of games to offer, the game hub left me feeling slightly confused as it seems utterly useless.
The social hub is basically an aggregated inbox for all your social feeds: Gmail, SMS, Hotmail, Twitter, Facebook etc. are drawn together into a single application. This is very similar to the social hub on the SGS, and if you enjoy being able access all your information in once place, I personally prefer using the separate applications, but if you like an aggregated inbox then you will be in social heaven!
TouchWiz 4.0 has been improved drastically since the SGS. It is now a fluid, visually pleasing UI which builds on the best features of its’s previous iterations. The app drawer remains side scrolling and paginated, and your home screen has to be set as the far right panel, out of seven, with 4 fixed, IOS esc, icons along the bottom. The inability to change which screen is my default screen is my main gripe with TouchWiz, I hate having to scroll for what seems like an age in one direction to get to a widget,however there is now a quick jump option which functions much like the carousel feature in the latest Sense UI from HTC, except it does not scroll infinitely, which addresses this issue. Samsung’s new widgets are of the typical TouchWiz flavour. I personally do not like the square, official looking widgets, however I know many people loved TouchWiz on the SGS, and 4.0 is a huge improvement in all areas.
The SGS2 has an 8mp snapper which takes the best stills I have seen from a phone perhaps excluding the Xperia Arc, however there is very little difference, and all photos look brilliant on the SGS2′s screen, and the night mode does well to take low light images. The camera is accompanied by a single LED flash, which doubles as a torch and video light, and the 1.3mp front facing camera does the job for video calls. In fact for a 1.3mp camera it takes remarkably decent stills, much better than what I have seen from previous generation 3mp cameras. Video quality on the rear camera is a crisp 1080p which has a stunning colour representation, again helped by the screen, and the slight motion blur of the SGS has all but gone unless you are in very low light conditions, however the video light should counter this problem.
Rear 8MP Camera
The SGS2 is the best Android phone we have seen. It combines an attractive, slim form factor with the impressive SAMOLED+ screen and the quickest mobile CPU out at the moment. The software is still not perfect, but I am confident that the updates, which Samsung have already started pushing out, will fix the minor niggles such as the auto brightness, which has been fixed already in the KE2 firmware update.
For all the hackers out there you will be glad to hear it ships with an open bootloader, is easily rooted, and the first custom ROM for it has already been released. You can buy it unlocked in the UK for just under £500, so what are you waiting for?