Samsung Galaxy S II Review–SLIM, SEXY and FAST!
By on June 21st, 2011

The Motorola Droid was the most popular Android phone in 2009. The Droid along with Verizon’s DROID campaign played a very major role in Android’s popularity. In 2010, the Samsung Galaxy S was the de-facto Android handset. The phone sold in excess of 10 million handsets within 7 months of its launch. The handset helped Android in gaining market share outside the U.S.

When Samsung announced the Galaxy S II at MWC this year, the expectations from the handset were pretty high. Everyone hoped that Samsung had solved the issues which plagued the original Galaxy S poor GPS performance and the lag issue.

The Samsung Galaxy S II has a huge task on its shoulder, meet the popularity of its original brother and also emerge the top-dog in this dual core race with HTC Sensation and LG Optimus 2X.

Read our review to find out whether the Samsung Galaxy S II lives up to the expectations or not.

Specs of Samsung Galaxy S II :

  • 4.27-inch Super-AMOLED+ screen with WVGA (800×480) resolution
  • 1.2GHz Dual-core Exynos 4210 processor
  • ARM-Mali 400 GPU
  • 1GB RAM, 16GB/32GB on-board storage
  • 8MP camera with Auto-Focus, LED Flash
  • 2MP Front Facing Camera
  • Dual-band Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0 HS, Wi-Fi Direct, HSDPA/HSUPA, USB O-T-G, MHL port, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, GPS with A-GPS, Proximity Sensor

Build Quality and Screen

Right out of the box, Galaxy S II will surprise you with its extremely light weight, slim waistline and the big screen. The handset weighs only 113gms, and is one of the slimmest Android handsets, measuring only 8.49mm.

The phone is constructed with plastic, like the original Galaxy S. However, the handset feels a hell lot better when held in hand, when compared to the original Galaxy S. Samsung also re-designed the back cover on the Galaxy S II so as to make it pleasant to hold and scratch proof. However, the back cover is extremely thin. However, I am pleased to say that the back cover won’t break so easily, even if you twist it.

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The top of the handset sports a 3.5mm audio jack, while the bottom houses the MHL or microUSB port. The microUSB port on the Galaxy S II can output videos at 1080p, when an MHL adapter is plugged in. The power button is situated on the right side, while the volume button is on the left side of the phone.

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Unlike most other Android handsets, the Samsung Galaxy S II sports only 3 buttons Menu, Home and Back, in the same order. Like its predecessor, the Menu and Back buttons are capacitive while the Home button is a physical one.

The build quality of the Galaxy S II is a HUGE improvement over the Galaxy S. The phone might not have a premium look or feel to it, but neither does it have a cheap build quality feeling.

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The handset sports a 4.27-inch Super-AMOLED+ screen with WVGA (800×480) resolution. Even though the SGS II sports a bigger screen than the Galaxy S (4-inch), it has a much sharper screen. This is because the Super-AMOLED+ screen has twice the sub-pixels, when compared to the Super-AMOLED screen on SGS.

The original Super-AMOLED screen has a PenTile Matrix display, while the Super-AMOLED+ screen has a RBG pixel arrangement. This is a major reason why the Galaxy S II has a bigger display than its predecessor. Excluding all the geeky part, the SAMOLED+ screen on the SGS II is absolutely brilliant. The contrast, viewing angles, and brightness are all top-notch. Sunlight legibility is decent as well.

User Interface and Performance

The Samsung Galaxy S II runs on Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread with TouchWIZ 4.0 on top of it. Samsung has tried to make TouchWIZ usable in its latest version. By default, user gets 7 home screens to fill up with Widgets and icons. The TouchWIZ clock, weather and other widgets look downright ugly, but do get the job done.

Samsung has also tweaked the whole Android experience with a nice dialer with smart dialing capabilities. Two useful features of TouchWIZ include the ability to adjust the screen brightness by swiping your finger across the status bar, and left-to-right swiping on a contact will initiate a call, whereas a right-to-left swipe will open up the messaging app with the selected contact as recipient.

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Samsung has also made use of the Gyroscope sensor to make the UI more interactive. The phone includes some Motion gestures like turn-to-mute and moving the device while holding the selected icon to navigate through the various home screens etc. The notification bar has toggles for GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Auto-Rotation and Silent mode, which are useful. There is over scroll effect in lists through-out the phone’s interface.

The original Galaxy S had a decent hardware at the time of its launch, but its performance was affected by the proprietary file-system (RFS) used by Samsung. However, the Galaxy S II suffers from no such problem. The handset absolutely FLIES. It is, by far, the fastest Android handset I have ever used. Even after installing more than 100 apps and games, the phone showed simply no signs of lag.

In fact, I down clocked the handset to 1GHz, and still the handset did not lag. The real-word performance of the SGS II carries over to Synthetic benchmarks as well. In Quadrant, the phone scores a whopping 3500 points.

However, the phone did get extremely hot when used heavily. Even while on charging, it is strongly recommended not to use the phone, since the phone might heat up considerably.

Web Browsing and GPS Performance

The web browser on the SGS II is GPU rendered, like its predecessor. This makes the browser extra smooth, and allows it to playback high quality videos embedded in websites.

The performance of the SGS2 web-browser, like the whole phone, is staggering. Scrolling and panning remains smooth even when browsing flash heavy websites. In fact, I opened up four different flash heavy websites, and was able to browse them all without a single hiccup. The SGS II was also able to playback Full HD (1080p) videos embedded in websites, without any issues. Scrolling remained smooth, even when the Full HD video was playing.

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A point to note here is that the Super-AMOLED+ screen sips a lot of battery while browsing web pages with white background.

The original Galaxy S and its various U.S. counterparts had a terrible GPS performance. Being an SGS owner myself, I tried every possible trick to improve the GPS reception. Sadly, neither did the GPS performance improve nor did the Compass ever worked properly.

However, I am pleased to say that the Galaxy S II suffers from no such issues. The handset got a GPS lock in less than a minute, and had no issues maintaining it. The compass also works as it should!

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I did notice that the accuracy of the GPS on the SGS2 was a bit weak, compared to other Android phones like the HTC Desire Z, Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc. In other Android phones, I got a theoretical accuracy of around 8-10 feet, while with the SGS2 the max accuracy I got was around 18 feet.

Music Quality, Camera and Video Recording/Playback

The Samsung Galaxy S II features an inferior Audio Chip from Yamaha, compared to its predecessor. The overall Sound quality of the phone is decent for casual listeners, but die-hard audiophile may find the sound to distort and hissing noise in the background.

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The major issue with the sound quality is the low volume and lack of bass through earphones. The full volume of music playback is definitely very low, and I expect many people to be troubled by this. The loudness of the external speaker is pretty good, and is louder than most of the handsets out there.

The Galaxy S II sports an 8MP camera with Auto-Focus, and an LED flash. In proper daylight, the 8MP camera can take some stunning pictures. The camera snaps are full of details, and are adequately sharp as well. The 8MP camera at the back of the Galaxy S II is definitely among the best cameras found in Android handsets. However, in low-light, things change and a lot of noise creeps in into the picture. Below are a couple of camera samples :

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The Galaxy S II is also among the few Android handsets to record videos in Full HD 1080p resolution at 30FPS. Surprisingly, at Full HD resolution, the videos pack in a lot of details and there is hardly any duplicated frame.

Battery Life and Conclusion

Even though the Galaxy S II is insanely thin, the handset packs a 1650mAh capacity battery. The battery life of the handset is pretty decent. It easily lasts me a day of mid-to-heavy usage, on 3G rather HSDPA+. On an average, I have been consistently getting around 15hours of battery life on a single charge.

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While not brilliant, the battery life of the Samsung Galaxy S II is still better than most of the high-end Android phones out there.

The Samsung Galaxy S II is the best Android handset ever produced until now. No lags, slim, sexy, fast, decent camera and battery life define the phone in just a few words. It’s the most complete phone any Android manufacturer could ever manufacture.

The Samsung Galaxy S was the most popular Android phone in 2010, and sold in excess of 10 million units. However, the phone had some serious shortcomings for which Samsung was heavily criticized. With the Galaxy S II, Samsung has not only solved all the issues, but has improved all the aspects of the phone. The Galaxy S II is easily going to be the highest selling Android phone this year. It might be priced a bit high in certain regions of the world, but that still does not stop me from recommending this phone to anyone who wants the absolute best dual-core Android powered handset.

Apple, you better step up your game with the iPhone 5!

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Author: Rajesh Pandey Google Profile for Rajesh Pandey
Rajesh is a 19 year old nerd, currently pursuing B.Com Hons from Bhawanipore college in Kolkata, India. He loves everything tech, especially Android. You can follow him on twitter @ePandu or mail to him at rajesh@techie-buzz.com.

Rajesh Pandey has written and can be contacted at rajesh@techie-buzz.com.
  • Nairit

    Hi Rajesh,

    Do you know of any website where the audio output of S2 has been tested against that of iPhone/iPod ?

    • http://www.lifeofrajesh.com Rajesh Pandey

      Hi,

      I can confidentially say that the music quality of SGS2 is not even close to the iPhone, iPod line from Apple.

  • Mukesh Kumar Singh

    Incapability of Galaxy S2: A user’s review

    After using the iPhone for four years, now I’m using the S2 since last 48 days. I’m of the view that majority of web reviews are stage managed and mainly focusing on the hardware side of the device. So, here is my review as a normal user, who mainly appreciates the functioning side of the device. I’ve compared the S2 with the iPhone mainly on angle of User Friendliness. Off course, S2 has many better features but iPhone is better to use on the day to day basis. Hopefully my feedback will help Samsung to improve this much hyped product. Till now, I have experienced the following short comings or the incompetency in S2:

    A USER’S REVIEW OF GALAXY S2

    1. Start from the shop…

    Samsung is unable to provide you a Screen Protector in the box of S2! It’s a must accessory and would cost them a very meager amount. Protector is NOT or easily available in the market even if you are ready to pay for it additionally. Samsung should make it mandatory for it self to provide a Protector for all type of its mobiles.

    2. The S2’s mobile case is the next bad thing a buyer is noticing at the time of purchase! It has a great designing bug! Samsung has absolutely ignored its user friendly quotient! I failed to use it even for a minute and rejected it at the first stance! Not because of its material but the reason is its design. What a poor lady hand purse type of shape, inconvenient to keep it in pocket and keep out from the case to use every now and then!

    3. Now, the operational part of S2…

    Samsung is not providing the Hindi Compatibility. Why? Android 2.3.3 is very much supportive of Hindi, which is the national language of 1.21 billion Indians! But Samsung ignored Hindi in its Indian market version also. You may recall that while Froyo (2.2) only had support for 26 languages, Gingerbread is empowered with a whopping 57 languages. Hindi, India (hi_IN) is very much there in this extended list of supported languages of 2.3.3! Then why Samsung’s S2 is deliberately NOT having Hindi Support? Its note worthy that the Samsung is enjoying a large foot print in the Indian market. Yet, they ignored Hindi. Only God knows why! At least professionals at Samsung Support India don’t have any guess about this apathy! HINDI COMPATIBILITY SHOULD IMMEDIATELY BE PROVIDED BY SAMSUNG IN S2!

    4. I’ve found that there few more bugs with the S2! First is with the built in GMAIL App. You can NOT copy anything from the attachments of your Gmail account using this App, be it of any type of file! You will witness similar COPY/PASTE failure with majority of materials while moving through the built in Google browser. Google’s Transliteration (not the translation) Tool is also not working in its own browser! Samsung needs to find out a remedy of it. It requires immediate resolution from Samsung or Google or both.

    5. With S2, you will confront with similar COPY/PASTE problem elsewhere also. For example: suppose you want to send two or more contact numbers of one person from your address book which are stored under one contact to some body else through SMS. Then you can’t do this without copying each contact number independently to the note pad and then to clipboard of your SMS protocol, that too, only after going in EDIT mode of the contact. This is quite tedious route for such top end smart phone from Samsung and needs betterment!

    6. In the SMS protocol of S2, there are few bugs also! Suppose you receive a long SMS from someone. S2 will show the full text in your mobile. But if you want to forward this lengthy SMS to someone else, then the whole text of SMS will first convert into a Multi Media Massage (MMS) and then it (the SMS) will be sent to the recipient as an MMS. Now, your SMS thread will show it as SENT and but the receiver will NOT get this SMS (Converted into MMS) in their ‘In-box’. This bug also needs to be solved on priority by Samsung!

    7. Its note worthy that the iPhone can send a SMS of unlimited characters. And when the limit of an SMS exceeds, the remaining text moves to the second or third or fourth or fifth packets, but never hesitate from sending the long SMS. The Charges for long SMS will be decided on the basis of these packets by the service provider. This is desired in the S2 also. Long SMS converted into MMS may save the cost for the sender by that is waste as the recipient is not getting the MMS in all type of mobile handset. If you want, you may develop an option for MMS or SMS before sending but please empower the S2 for sending the long SMS.

    8. There is one more issue with regard to forwarding of the SMSs. Suppose you have five SMSs in one Thread of your S2, and you quickly wanted to forward Two or Three of them to some body else. Then you can not select these Two/Three SMSs to be copied to your Clip board in one stroke and then send it as a combined one! This feature is available in the iPhone but not in Samsung’s top end mobile S2. In S2, one has to Copy/Paste these selected SMSs one by one. Samsung/Android should try to develop these user friendly features and update the phone as soon as possible.

    9. In your built in Weather update feature, one can just get the updates of 10 cities. I believe, iPhone is not having any such limit! Also, in this nice App, there shall be feature of auto update at the defined intervals.

    10. S2 is having a NICE feature of Black Listed numbers for calls and SMS. But its capacity is quite small. It was made large if not unlimited. 11. Now, the design part of S2… Location of USB port for charging the S2 is also not designed at the user friendly place. Its top location like of the Galaxy S is perfect. That gives us perfect grip to carry on the use of device while keeping it in hand and also charging.

    12. FM Radio is a good feature of S2. But it has a handicap with it too. It’s unable to work without the headphones attached to it. I can understand that the headphones are working as an antenna for the device. But it means that one should always carry the headphone in pocket! Suppose, you missed it at your home or in office or in your car and after a while you want to listen the Radio then you can’t do it. In technical term this may not an issue but from user’s point of view it’s a lacuna. This could have been avoided at the design stage by compromising a little more weight and slimness of the device. Probably, this might have led to some antenna radiation issue also and then a better hardware solution would have been developed by the R&D experts!

    In conclusion, may I submit that in spite of having several new features, S2 is not better then an iPhone especially in term of user friendliness! Samsung is supposed to come out of these challenges! Will the Samsung care?

    Lastly, I feel sorry for those professionals who are working in Samsung India (Support) that they are very severely handicap to serve the patrons better..! I extend my sincere sympathies with such people who bear the pain of being so much dependent on their Korean masters..! All of them had told me that my concerns are genuine but can only be rectified by the Koreans and hopefully by the time next update will be released. But most unfortunately they have NO idea that how much this may take!

    Regards,

    Mukesh Kumar Singh

    Assistant Editor, Zee News, India.

    M +91 9811207745.

    mukesh1765@gmail.com

    Description of my handset:

    Samsung Galaxy SII Model No: GT-I9100 (Version: 11.05.20.01).

    Browser: Google.com

    Baseband Version: I9100DDKE4.

    Kernel Version:2.6.35.7-I91100XWKF3-CL276555 root@DELL101#2

    Build Number: GINGERBREAD.XWKF3.

    Current Firmware Version: PDA: KF3 /PHONE: KE4 / CSC: KF3(INU).

    • http://www.google.com ttt

      Your comment was really funny. Ha ha ha.

      • Abhinov

        You have a poor view.That’s it. Give me one more name beyond SGS2.When you took the name of iPhone, i felt you were the last man standing who picked it longer.

    • bing

      Cheers for the heads up on the issues, but dude, stop using so many exclamation marks…!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000357839014 Khanin Pathak

    I bought samasung galaxy s2 at the end of February.the application features are awesome.but I am facing a little problem regarding the sound quality.sometimes when I use to call, then I have to repeat same sentences to the person whom I use to talk.because, the person on the other side does not able to hear my voice properly.the problem is minor.but is there any solution?

  • khanin pathak

    I bought samasung galaxy s2 at the end of February.the application features are awesome.but I am facing a little problem regarding the sound quality.sometimes when I use to call, then I have to repeat same sentences to the person whom I use to talk.because, the person on the other side does not able to hear my voice properly.the problem is minor.but is there any solution?

 
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