My Samsung Galaxy S2 Review in Bullet Style™

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galaxy s II

When it was unveiled in MWC 2011, there was a lot of speculation whether Samsung Galaxy S2 will be able to take forward the legacy that Galaxy S started, to a new level. With this curiosity, I had set my eyes on this phone, I wanted this phone.

After 4 months of, when an official launch date of S2 was announced in India, several store owners still struggled to mention an exact date of availability. So I ended up in buying it from eBay (also available on Amazon as well). After 3 days, it finally arrived on my doorstep and the box was enough to make me feel like, Wow!

So, after playing with it for a week, here’s my Samsung Galaxy S2 Review in Bullet Style™:

The Good
The Bad
  • Gorgeous SAMOLED+ Display
  • Beastly Hardware Specs: 1.2Ghz Dual core processor and 1GB RAM.
  • Super Snappy performance.
  • Great Battery Life.
  • Not powerful enough speaker.
  • No dedicated camera button.

First Impressions

galaxy s II first impressions

  • The screen is simply Gorgeous and it’s the best I’ve ever seen. Moreover, the phone is equally beautiful, I often keep staring it and admiring it. At a first glance, it looks like the body is inspired by iPhone. The home button in bottom middle this resemblance stronger.
  • Thinnest smartphone ever, so thin that it won’t even fill up your pocket properly. Moreover, it is very light. Even the battery weighs more than the phone!
  • The phone boots up in 6 seconds. That’s very fast!
  • Although having a massive 4.3 inch screen, it fits perfectly in hand (and pocket too, if you’re still wondering.)
  • Some people complain about Samsung’s cheap build quality, but things are different with S2. Although it’s made of plastic, the phone quality feels solid in hands. Its mesh texture on the back makes it feel even better to hold. The battery cover is very thin. While opening it for the first time I feared I might broke it but it’s very flexible and strong.

vs HTC phones’ built? Sorry it’s not as tough as you’ll be looking for. But its feather like weight makes up for it.

IMG_0156 IMG_0148 IMAGE_033 100_1978

Display

display

  • The Super AMOLED Plus screen is incredible. Green, red, blue, yellow colors pop out and are thrown everywhere. The TouchWiz interface really makes the interface bright.
  • Its SAMOLED Plus screen, packed with a resolution of 800×480 pixels, produces a far better display than other screens do such as LG Optimus’s NOVA display or HTC Sensation which has a little greater resolution.
  • Since it only has a 800×480 resolution, the pixel count is relatively lower than the iPhone, Motorola Atrix or HTC Sensation and text may not be crisp in a zoomed out page but it’ll still be sharp enough for easy reading.
  • The screen is clearly visible under sunlight. See the 4th photo below, screen’s brightness is to 10% and is still clearly visible.
  • UnSynchronized Lighting of Buttons below the screen is a pain. That was very stupid of me that I never noticed the setting to turn it on permanently.
  • No LED notification is a drawback. How do I know if there’s a missed call or an unread SMS without unlocking the phone?

 

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Hardware

With 1.2Ghz dual core processor screaming inside the shell, it literally blows out every single competitor with its specifications which make it as the world’s current most powerful smartphone. Here’s a quick look at its specs:

Display SAMOLED+, 480 x 800 pixels
CPU Dual-core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 Processor and Mali-400MP   GPU
Storage 16GB/32GB (extendable), 1GB Ram
Connectivity GPRS, EDGE, 3G, WiFi, USB 2.0 and Bluetooth 3.0
Camera 8 MP rear and 2MP front. Video Recording: 1080p@30fps.
Battery 1650mAH, Standby: 710 h (2G) & upto 610 h (3G)
Talktime: Up to 18 h 20 min (2G) & upto 8 h 40 min (3G)
Storage 16GB/32GB Internal, 32GB extendable.
Miscellaneous NFC, SNS integration, HDTV output, Flash, DLNA etc.
  • The phone has a 3.5mm audio jack, volume control buttons, a power button and a USB output for three purposes: Charging the phone, Connecting to a PC/Mac and HDTV Output.
  • wifi directIt has WiFi Direct, using which you can wirelessly connect PCs and Printers (for printing over the air).
  • It also comes with “AllShare” that lets you to link wirelessly with a TV, laptop or even audio system to play multimedia files directly from the phone.
  • Further, it’s also capable of incorporating NFC technology which, I think, might be the future of shopping. (Only available in Korea though, but rumors say it’ll be available in UK, US versions.

Do Read my Views on NFC and Google Wallet: Could it be the Next Big Thing in Shopping?

Performance

galaxy-s-II-vs-Lg-optimus-2x-vs-htc-sensation-quadrant-scores

  • With world’s best specifications, I’ll say it again, S II literally blows out every single competitor with its specifications. A quadrant test gave a score of 3687 which is huge.
    (Wondering what’ll happen if it’s overclocked? See it here yourself)In context to this score, even the its nearest competitor, Optimus 2X is nowhere to be seen in the horizon, lagging behind with a whopping 1200 points! However, HTC Sensation’s low quadrant score could be blamed on its high resolution. Though, it’s still very low.
  • Applications load super quick and I haven’t experienced any lag while switching between windows.
  • Gaming is a wonderful experience. Thanks to its GPU chip, it easily runs NVidia NVidia Tegra 2 optimized games. I played some games like Guerilla Bob THD and the graphics was great.

vs iPhone 4? I’m not going to do this or this will become a yet-another-android-vs-iOS post. Ofcourse, S2’s specifications wipes out that of iPhone’s but it won’t be fair to compare S2 with a 1-year old phone. Let’s wait for iPhone 5 and see if it changes everything (Again! :P)

More Benchmarks

benchmarks

  • The Phone scored approximately 60fps in both Neocore and NenaMark1 test. Some of you maybe thinking, “Hey this is way less than Optimus 2x’s 90fps+ score!” right? Wrong.

No screen right now can display more than 60fps, except 120Hz 3D LCDs. Anything higher than the screen refresh rate will ultimately lead to wastage of battery used to calculate non-displayed images. So this way, Optimus 2x is probably cheating to win benchmarks?

(Described by supercurio.)

Lags

Although every app, every thing flies like a rocket in S II, I noticed some lags during a of my week of S II experience:

  • Rotation of screen while using the camera once froze my phone for few seconds. Though, this never happened again.
  • It takes a second for the phone to be unlocked after the power/lock-button is pressed.
    Update: It has been almost fixed in a leaked firmware update.
  • The display takes some time to appear after a voicecall is over. Samsung says a software configuration issue is the culprit for this.

Experience lags when you press the home button? It is because it waits to confirm whether the user has double pressed it to launch Voice or not, and not actually a flaw.

Camera, GPS and Multimedia

Camera

  • Samsung Galaxy S2 has a 8.0 megapixel camera, capable of shooting at full 1080p HD resolution. The picture and video quality is excellent. The colors are bright and photos taken in dark are equally good with Flash.
  • The camera interface is also simple. Though, Samsung missed a dedicated camera button in the phone which I’m used to.

Box on my Messed up Desk A Photograph of a Marriage Anniversary Party Green leaves Camera effect set to Dawn A view from my terrace

Secondary camera

  • front cameraThe S2 is also equipped with a 2.0 megapixel front camera and is the only phone to sport this right now.
  • It produces good image under good lighting conditions and is perfect for video calling.

GPS

  • It works! A critical problem in S2’s predecessor was its GPS which failed to give a good performance. But things have changed with S2 and it gets a very quick GPS lock. Navigation with Google maps is easy. Also, it gets locked quicker when the phone is in a WiFi network.

Video and Music Playback

video playback

  • When it comes to playing video, the Galaxy S II is capable of playing Full HD 1080p videos . Further, When combined with SAMOLED+ screen, watching videos is a vivid experience. With it’s battery, I once watched 3 movies back to back and was still left with 17% of battery.
  • The video player interface is clean and it supports so many video formats that you won’t need to download any video player (except for FLV).

Video Formats Supported: MPEG4, H.264, H.263, WMV, DivX, Xvid, VC-1

  • Galaxy S II can also playback several music formats (along with an option for 5.1 channel surround option, but only when handset is plugged in) without any loss in quality. Full list here:

Audio Formats Supported: MP3, OGG, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, WMA, WAV, MID, AC3, IMY, FLAC, XMF

Speaker and Handset

  • When everything in this phone was looking perfect, its speaker disappointed me a bit. The audio isn’t very loud, but it isn’t bad either and is enough for listening to music. But don’t expect something extraordinary from it.
  • Further, the speaker is located at the back end. So when kept on a horizontal surface, the audio becomes kinda hard to hear.
  • The audio through an earphone is just the opposite with the quality being very very high and very loud.

Software and UI: The TouchWiz Experience

  • touchwiz 4.0Samsung has done a good job in designing its latest user interface, TouchWiz 4.0. In simple words, it’s clean, neat, smooth and bright. Some people like it and some don’t and I’m on the former side. After all, it’s only a matter of personal preference.
  • I found the UI hell lot better than Touchwiz 3.0. It’s easier to use than ever before, and it isn’t too integrated as to disrupt the Android experience, but at the same time it includes some nice additions that actually improves upon stock Android.

vs HTC Sense? It is equally good as the Sense except the clock widget (the only thing I envy 😉 ). But the wonderful colors and neatness make up for it. On a whole, the interface is really beautiful, the app menu, notifications, colors everything is great.

At the end, it depends only on your preference, as I said already. Like it or leave it.

  • Another handy feature, you can surf through Homescreens by simply holding down screen number and then sliding it.
  • Lock Screen is stunning and I really liked it. One can directly access to unread messages, calls, control music or radio etc without unlocking the phone. At a glance, it looks like if its inspired from WP7’s Metro design.
  • As usual, touching an unused area and holding it brings up options for adding widgets, wallpaper etc. The widgets menu is is horizontal and appears at the bottom. Also, Touchwiz widgets are resizable; a handy feature.
  • Unlike Touchwiz 3.0’s iPhone-ish square icons in App menu, TouchWiz 4.0 has a stock gingerbread type of menu (screenshot). Though, I personally liked those squares.
  • Long pressing the home button will bring up 6 of your recently active apps with a button to enter the task manager, along with RAM and CPU cycle consumption view using which you can kill apps. But with 1GB of RAM, you’ll never need that, right?

SC20110618-155914The Hubs

Touchwiz comes in with four Hubs: Social Hub, Game Hub, Readers Hub and Music Hub (available only in Europe and USA)

Readers Hub: A virtual bookshelf from where you can access to thousands of magazines, books and newspapers.

Social Hub: Directly access, read and respond to emails, text messages, VM and SNS from Social Hub. Also, google talk is also integrated in it.

Music Hub: It offers access to over 13 Million+ tracks of songs where you can search, discover, preview and download songs to your phone for a charge.

Gamers Hub: A game app store which consists of about 20 multiplayer games and some premium games by Gameloft. Sadly, I only found few of the games entertaining in the hub. There are way better multiplayer games on Android.

samsung and galaxy S II voice commandsVoice Commands

  • Samsung has also integrated “Tap and Go” for voice commands. Press the home key twice and you’ll be presented with a bunch of voice command options. You can then execute major functions like calling, music, messaging, scheduling and launching apps with the ease of a voice command.
  • Though this doesn’t work well every time if you don’t have a perfect accent. Mine accent is Indian and I had some problems with it. Like, when I commanded it to write a memo, “My Galaxy S2 review: It’s a beast”, it resulted in “My Samsung Galaxy S to leave you in but it’s typed it for beast” 😐 Ohk, no problem, I can’t blame my phone for that.

 

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Battery Life

battery life

My Battery Usage Graph. Please note that I had charged my phone in between.

  • Poor Battery life is something what Android has never been able to boast. But looks like things can change a bit now. Galaxy S II manages about 2 days of battery life with moderate use (and a day if you’re a hardcore user), thanks to its dual core processors which helps in balancing CPU consumption.
  • With great power, comes great compromises. The screen eats about 40-50% of battery so lowering the brightness is the only way to reduce it. But the display still looks beautiful even when it’s set to minimum.
  • There’s a bug in Gingerbread which sometimes triggers the draining up of battery to go berserk. More info (and fix) about it here. Though I never experienced it, a friend of mine told he did on another phone. I hope Google fixes it soon.
  • The default task manager is a very handy app. I didn’t feel any use of those so-called advanced task managers.

Check out: Some great tips on extending battery life by Kappy

Wrap Up

Overall, The Samsung Galaxy S II proves out to be the best Android smartphone the android-verse has ever seen till now. Though there are some flaws in it but hey, nothing’s perfect in this world right? The beautiful display, new Touchwiz interface, deadly specifications all balance up the flaws.

If you’re looking for a powerful smartphone, this phone should be your answer. If I had to give it a rating, I’ll give it 9.1/10.

Buy the Phone

Samsung i9100 Galaxy S II on Amazon (starting with $698.99)
on Ebay (starting with $731.99)

The Good
The Bad
  • Gorgeous AMOLED+ Display
  • Beastly Hardware Specs: 1.2Ghz Dual core processor and 1GB RAM.
  • Super Snappy performance.
  • Great Battery Life.
  • Not powerful enough speaker.
  • No dedicated camera button.

[credits for photos and benchmark scores: Al Sutton, WccfTech and SkatterTech]

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