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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 :
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.
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!