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Review Summary:Samsung Galaxy S2 (II) 4.5

The Galaxy S2 is the sequel to the bestselling Android Galaxy S smartphone that has been the most popular touchscreen phone after the iPhone. It features more raw power, a larger and more vibrant screen and faster connections than its predecessor.

  • Positives
  • Super AMOLED Plus
  • Dual core processor
  • Video and Web features
  • Negatives
  • Screen faint in sunlight
  • Awkward proportions
  • Difficult battery cover
Review by on 27 Jan 2012.

Samsung Galaxy S2 (II) Deals

Samsung Galaxy S2 (II) Review

Introduction

The Samsung Galaxy S is the biggest selling Android smartphone of all time. A year after its release and with more than 10 million sales already, Samsung is picking up where it left off with a sequel that incorporates the latest technological developments in the industry.

Samsung Galaxy SII Angle View

The S2 was the first dual core phone from Samsung. At the time of writing it offers more raw processing and memory power than any other smartphone on the market. This includes a dual core 1.2GHz processor and 1GB RAM making it slightly more powerful than its leading competitor the HTC Sensation (768MB RAM), which was released shortly afterwards. The S2 is a fast device and handles all smartphone tasks with ease.

Apart from the increase in performance, the S2 also comes with an improved screen compared to the original. Not only does this feature the latest Super AMOLED Plus technology from Samsung but it has also been expanded to a larger 4.3" in size. This increased screen size makes the S2 even better for games and web browsing than the original Galaxy S. Yet the phone still retains the same overall physical proportions to its predecessor, whilst managing to fit it into a much slimmer body.

The S2 is available on most UK networks including Orange, O2, Vodafone, T-Mobile, 3 Mobile and Talkmobile. With such a high degree of hardware power and just about every feature imaginable, the S2 is ideal for most types of mobile phone users, particularly those big on various forms of entertainment and on heavy web browsing. Although the Galaxy S2 is not cheap, it is certainly good value for money. Within the first month of sales the Samsung Galaxy SII was the first smartphone to knock the iPhone 4 from its top spot as the best-selling phone in the UK since the Apple device was released in 2010. So let's have a look at what this phone has to offer.

Design

The Galaxy S2 features a larger screen than its predecessor with an extra 0.3 inches added to the diagonal measurement. Despite this it still retains the same height and width as the original Galaxy S and the only change in physical size has been with the thickness, which has been reduced to an extremely thin 8.49mm. This is thinner than the iPhone 4, which is pretty impressive, given that Apple touted this as being one of the iPhone 4’s USP’s. In fact at the time of review the S2 the slimmest smartphone available in the UK (although not in the world, as there are various paper-thin smartphones on offer in Japan).

Samsung Galaxy SII Side View

But is having such a slim phone a good thing? On first sight you get the impression that if the phone were any slimmer it would perhaps be a little too slim. When first holding the device the thinness compared to the larger height and width dimensions can feel a little strange and having a thicker body may have made the Galaxy S2 a more comfortable phone to hold in one hand, although after using the phone for a while you can adjust to this.

Overall the S2 has a similar physical design to the original Galaxy S albeit with more squared corners. Apart from this it features the same home, menu and back buttons and will have a familiar feel for anyone switching from the original Galaxy S. The back battery casing has changed from a smooth finish to a more textured design that grips into your hand more comfortably.

Not only is the phone itself extremely thin but the battery cover has paper like dimensions too, which caused some initial concern at the first attempt at removing it. The battery cover on the S2 can be a little tricky to remove compared to similar phones, as you are only given a little slit on the corner for prizing it off. If you don't have nails this can be a bit difficult , making it more tricky than it should be.

Samsung Galaxy SII Disassembled

Features

The S2 features Samsung's new Super AMOLED Plus screen technology that is a step up from the Super AMOLED found on the earlier Galaxy S. This is extremely vibrant and colourful and you can notice a clear difference in quality when compared to standard LCD touchscreens.

However, while the Super AMOLED Plus screen is very vibrant indoors, when taken outside in direct sunlight it perhaps does not perform as well as standard LCD screens and images can appear a bit too faint. Samsung have included an outdoor mode that you can quickly access through the settings menu. This reduces brightness and adjusts the contrast to make the phone more viewable in bright outdoor settings. Whilst the S2 screen may beat all competition for indoor use, there are other phones that perform more consistently both indoors and out.

The screen uses over 16 million colours to complement the vibrant technology developed by Samsung, and it operates on an 800 x 480 (WVGA) resolution. Although there are now smartphones featuring a sharper qHD resolution, like the HTC Sensation, most Android apps and games are tailored to the aspect ratio used by WVGA meaning that this lower resolution can, at times, produce a better quality image without a stretched and skewed look. The screen is very responsive and is capacitive so you are presented with the full array of multitouch gestures such as pinch to zoom for web browsing.

For photography the S2 comes with a high quality 8 megapixel camera that includes 1080p video recording. Video and photo quality are superb for a phone camera. Photo quality can be blurred in darkened environments, although the phone does come with an LED flash. The camera also includes touch focus but in most circumstances you won't even need to use this. You can also easily zoom with finger gestures when using the video recorder and this will also tell you how large (in kb) your recording video is.

Samsung Galaxy SII Photo Sample

The S2 has a microUSB port placed at the bottom of the phone. This can be used for charging and also to connect to your home computer. The positioning of this port is good as you can still use the phone with minimal interference when a cable is connected, as long as you don't try to move too far away. This is the only port on the outside of the casing aside from a 3.5mm headphone socket on the top. Unfortunately there is no HDMI output, although you can connect an AV link through the microUSB port.

If you remove the battery cover and the battery there is a microSD card slot for you to top up the phone's storage. The S2 comes in two versions with either a standard 16GB (the one I have on test) or a larger 32GB version. The microSD slot supports a further 32GB giving a potential maximum of 48GB or 64GB. Having the microSD slot inside means you are not going to want to swap SD cards all that often, although given the phone's standard in-built storage is pretty generous, I don’t envisage you needing to do this too frequently. Although I couldn't fit my entire music collection onto it, even with an SD card, what I have managed to put on would easily keep me entertained on a train ride, plane ride or even a two week holiday away.

The S2 also has a decent Wi-Fi connection that includes DLNA and Wi-Fi Direct support. Like the original Galaxy S the S2 comes with Kies and now features Kies Air support. This allows you to connect your phone via Wi-Fi to a home computer, where you can access and modify content such as photos and videos. You can also read and send messages on your home computer, a handy touch for those of you who are on the computer all day working, for example... This can also be a useful way of accessing content on the phone if you don't have your USB cable to hand. To enable this feature, your computer will need to have the Kies software installed.

The S2 has a gyro sensor which can be used with apps and games, although it cannot be used for all items available from Android Market, only those that have been built to use this feature. I am a little sceptical about the usefulness of gyro sensors. For example, if you are trying to play a game it‘s not too helpful to be turning the screen away from you so you can't see what you are doing. That said, this is one of the better and more responsive gyro sensors that I have encountered on a phone. It can also be a good feature to choose when using games where onscreen controls would obstruct your view.

The S2 is a top end smartphone and is a great device for web browsing and all-round entertainment. The large vibrant screen is great for watching videos and there is plenty of room for storing video content on the phone. With fast Wi-Fi and 3G connections you can also enjoy uninterrupted HD videos from YouTube and BBC iPlayer (both of which come pre-installed on the phone) or other similar services. With all of the latest hardware on board the S2 can also easily handle any sort of games that are on offer for Android smartphones with ease.

Performance

At the time of writing, the Galaxy S2 is the fastest and most powerful smartphone available. It has a 1.2GHz dual core processor and 1GB RAM giving it a slight edge over the HTC Sensation which features a similar speed processor. It comes with a MALI-400MP graphical processing unit as well to work in conjunction with the screen to provide some truly impressive graphics.

The S2 doesn't struggle with anything that you throw at it, whether it is intensive apps, games or high quality video content. The only time I experienced the phone slowing down was when trying to play Dungeon Keeper through DosBox, although this was probably down to the emulator rather than the phone.

Samsung Galaxy SII Top View

The S2 comes with a Lithium-Ion 1650 mAh battery. This lasts quite a long time if you are just making a few phone calls and sending some text messages here or there. Watching videos and playing music will drain the battery more quickly (as you would expect).Vibrating games and/or apps also seemed to affect things significantly, so it is best to leave these things to times when you are close to your charger. However, even with the latter scenario the battery will last you most of the day.

When you first get hold of the S2 you will probably run the battery down quite a bit trying out all the cool things you can do with it, but a couple of months down the line when you have become more familiar with your phone the battery should last you a decent amount of time and certainly no less than most other touchscreen phones.

Holding down the home button brings up the task manager. This can allow you to switch between open applications, close down apps that are no longer in use and also kill processes that are hogging system resources. You can also view storage information and easily uninstall apps from the phone. This task manager also provides you with information about how much RAM or CPU capacity any open app is using. It can also warn you with red text when apps are being too demanding, a rare event for a phone as powerful as the Galaxy S2.

The S2 came top of the class after running the Quadrant benchmark app, which tests the phone’s performance. The S2 beat the Optimus 2X and even the Motorola Xoom, which is one of the latest tablets. With a little knowhow you can even increase the phone’s performance, with some people having overclocked the processor to 1.5GHz and even 2GHz.

Samsung Galaxy SII Quadrant

Usability

The S2 is an extremely easy phone to use and get to grips with, even if you have not used a touchscreen phone before. The onscreen keyboard can perhaps be a little awkward in portrait mode, although practice makes perfect and you can always rotate it into a more comfortable landscape orientation when needed. The keyboard is perhaps one of my least favourite parts of the S2 as I am often typing the wrong letters and hitting backspace.

The S2 comes with Android Market so you can get hold of all the apps and games on offer there. As this phone is running Gingerbread it is able to run everything available through the Market at the time of its release. I didn’t find any Apps that it struggled to run, which was not really a surprise given the CPU speed and RAM that’s on board.

Samsung Galaxy SII Bottom Edge

The phone uses TouchWiz 4 on top of Gingerbread Android. This still gives you quick access to your phone and messaging while browsing through the applications menu. It is also a colourful interface that is pleasant to look at. TouchWiz comes with Samsung's Social Hub where you can get access to all of your messages, emails and social network updates all in one place. With this you can keep track of the activity in different mediums without the need to load separate apps. Aside from Social Hub the S2 does not come with Facebook or Twitter apps pre-installed, although these can be downloaded from Android Market within minutes of activating the phone.

Also included are the Music Hub, Game Hub and Readers Hub where you can get access to new music, games or eBooks. The Music Hub can allow you to listen to and buy from a selection of over 13 million tracks. It will recommend music to you based on your listening habits and also provide detailed information about artists. Likewise, Readers Hub provides you with access to over 2 million books including many classics, as well as over 2000 newspaper and magazine publications.

The newspapers and magazines are paid publications although you are provided with 7 free issues to trial. There is probably not much on offer in the newspaper section that you could not just read on that newspaper's website for free, and with the S2 this would probably be an easier option anyway.

The Game Hub provides you with access to a range of games that you will not find in the standard Android Market. Some are available for free and some will cost you money, but they will offer a little bit more than standard Android games. Included are games like Assassin's Creed Altair's Chronicles and Shrek Kart. These are only about £3 per title, are good value for money and a good way to put the phone's power to the test.

The S2 is a great phone for listening to music or watching videos. Obviously the large Super AMOLED Plus screen is ideal for videos and the phone also comes with support for a wide range of music and video formats, including FLAC. You can transfer media onto the phone with ease via USB or a number of other methods such as Kies or the AllShare app.

Like other smartphones, you can play music whilst doing other things on your phone. The music will continue to play in the background, which is something I enjoyed doing whilst surfing the web. Pulling down the notification tray from the top of the screen gives you quick access to the media player to pause or skip to the next song. The S2 also includes an FM radio for additional entertainment.

One slight problem I have encountered when playing music with the media player is the positioning of the loudspeaker. Because it is on the back of the phone, this can cause a reduction in music volume if you place the phone on a flat surface. Otherwise, if you are holding the phone in your hand for example, the speaker is of a decent volume (provided that you are not in a very noisy environment).

Obviously, as a phone running on Android the S2 comes with some handy Google features. These include Google Talk, Google Latitude, Google Places and YouTube as standard apps. The YouTube app also allows you to record videos with the excellent 1080p camera and then directly upload them to YouTube.

The S2 includes Polaris Office and comes with Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync. The S2 comes with great Gmail support and also allows you to link other email accounts to the phone. With Wi-Fi you can easily connect to a home network or Wi-Fi hotspot and 802.11n support provides a better wireless signal. The S2 features AllShare, through which you can easily connect to DLNA activated devices in your home (or elsewhere) like your TV or a home hub, PS3 or your home PC. This is a great way for transferring media to and from your phone.

The S2 benefits from the fastest 3G HSPA connections available on any smartphone, with 21Mbps HSDPA and 5.76Mbps HSUPA. Although real world speeds will probably not get this high, it does provide you with the fastest data connection speeds on offer at present.

Samsung Galaxy SII Browser and Dialer

At the end of the day the S2 is a phone, so what about the one feature that perhaps matters more than all others – call quality? When first using the Galaxy S2 I found the call quality to be a little muffled and 'digital', which was not really to my liking. There is an option to disable WCDMA for voice calls and this seemed to produce a more natural call quality. Some people will prefer WCDMA, but I found GSM calls did the trick just fine. So even with all the bells and whistles the S2 performs its original function very well.

It seems like at the moment the Galaxy S2 can do no wrong. Its larger screen is ideal for entertainment. It comes with fast connections for Wi-Fi and 3G for great web browsing and fast access to Android Market. There is plenty of room for personal content and transferring to and from the phone couldn't be simpler with services like AllShare and Kies Air. And of course, the dual core processor and 1GB RAM means that this phone can handle anything that you would expect a smartphone to be able to do.

Also Consider

HTC Sensation - Similar in virtually every specification, although with slightly less RAM and a different screen technology in use. The Sensation has a more curved physical body and HTC's Sense interface that some people may prefer.

Samsung Galaxy S - The older version of the S2, similar in physical design although a little bit chunkier and not quite as fast. Doesn't contain some of the newer features of the S2 like gyro sensor and comes with an older version of Android. By being a little bit older it is also a bit cheaper than the newer S2.

Samsung Galaxy Ace - The Galaxy Ace is a smaller sized mid-range version of the S2. The size will be more comfortable for many people while at the same time including some great entertainment and messaging features. Not as feature rich or high powered as the S2.

Preview

The Galaxy S was one of the most popular handsets of 2010 and so it is no surprise that Samsung would issue out a sequel. In fact, at the time of the Galaxy S II´s release the original Galaxy S still remains one of the most popular and best selling phones available in the UK. While a slightly modified version of the original was provided with the Samsung Galaxy SL the Galaxy S II is by no means a slightly polished rehash. The Galaxy S II follows on the same award winning design principles while undeniably pushing Samsung to the forefront of the next generation of mobile phones.

The original Galaxy S featured a 4" screen employing Samsung´s Super AMOLED technology, which at the time was the finest screen technology available on phones. This has since come into competition from the likes of Apple´s Retina Display and the LG Optimus Black´s IPS LCD screen but the developers at Samsung have also been hard at work improving their screen technology and Super AMOLED Plus is what they have come up with. This is even more impressive than the original Super AMOLED which still remains a highly desirable feature.

The screen on the Galaxy S II has been bumped up a notch to 4.3", which some might consider excessive in light of the fact that the Galaxy S was not exactly petite. This increase in screen size, which is perfectly suited for better web browsing and video entertainment, has been compensated for by a slimmed down body. At 8.5mm the Galaxy S II is one of the slimmest phones on the market and has already chipped away Apple´s smugly held claims of possessing the World´s Thinnest Smartphone.

The screen comes with Gorilla Glass, high WVGA resolution and colour depth, multitouch input and an accelerometer for interface auto-rotation. There is also a gyro sensor which affords the Galaxy S II fully 3 dimensional controls which are ideal for games and other apps. The Galaxy S II runs on dual core 1.2GHz processors with 1GB RAM, making it one of the speediest phones on the market and certainly worthy of its "S" epithet.

The Galaxy S II runs on Google Android 2.3 Gingerbread with optional Near Field Communications (NFC) which can allow your phone to be used like a credit card, amongst other things. The OS is combined with Samsung´s TouchWiz interface giving it a unique feel to other Android handsets. Due to its Android status the Galaxy S II comes with a large range of Google features supported out of the box, including Gmail, Google Talk, Picasa and YouTube. The latter app, along with Adobe Flash 10.1 allow you to stream videos from online for your own entertainment.

You can enjoy your own music and video content as well with the Galaxy S II come with a fantastic range of support for all the popular file formats, including Flac. The Galaxy S II comes with either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage which can be complemented with up to 32GB of microSD cards, providing a maximum potential of 64GB. This places the phones far ahead of the leading competition in terms of the volume of content it can store. Additionally there is an FM radio with RDS, and the MHL AV link, Wi-Fi DNLA and Wi-Fi Direct all allow you to hook the Galaxy S II up to a home TV to enjoy your videos.

These can be videos that you have copied onto the phone through microUSB, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, or perhaps videos you are streaming from online. It can also include videos you have captured yourself from the phone´s 8 megapixel camera as this comes with 1080p video recording at an unrivalled 30fps. The camera also includes an LED flash and features such as geo-tagging and face detection.

The Galaxy S II comes with integration for social networks like Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to more easily update your status or send out a tweet. Threaded SMS is available, as is MMS, email and instant messaging.

At the time of its release it really does seem like the Galaxy S II outperforms all of its competition in almost all aspects of its functionality. It has a very high quality screen with Super AMOLED Plus, excellent 1080p video recording, with DLNA and Wi-Fi Direct to perfectly compliment it. It also has more storage available than any other phone for media content and also comes with the latest dual core processing power. In terms of messaging, entertainment, photography and general web browsing the Galaxy S II ticks all the right boxes.

Latest Samsung Galaxy S2 (II) News

03 May 2012 by Simon
The most anticipated Android phone of the year is due to be unveiled in just three hours' time at Samsung Mobile Unpacked 2012. We have all been excited to find out more about the phone, including when it will be on sale here in the UK. Luckily, we have just heard from our source at one of t...
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02 May 2012 by Simon
After much rumour, gossip and ill-founded speculation, the world is on the verge of learning the official spec of the new Galaxy S3. Its particulars are to be unveiled at a conference in London on 3rd May – which leaves only one day for blogs such as this one to churn out yet more ill-founded spec...
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24 April 2012 by Simon
O2 and Vodafone have just confirmed that they will be offering Galaxy S3 contracts when the phone is launched at the start of next month. With a launch date fast approaching, more information is being leaked every day it seems. Recent leaked images and videos of the Samsung Galaxy S3 have ...
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19 April 2012 by Simon
Orange will roll out an update to Android Ice Cream Sandwich tomorrow for owners of the Samsung Galaxy S2. The update will be available via Samsung Kies although Orange has currently made no mention of whether the update will be available over-the-air or not. This leaves T-Mobile as the only ...
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18 April 2012 by Simon
Cnet recently received some information regarding the Galaxy S3 from what they claim is a reliable industry source. Some of the details they revealed could prove to be quite interesting if they turn out to be true – although we will have to wait until the phone's launch on May 3rd to find out for ...
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