Samsung Galaxy S II Review

Posted by: Brett

The Galaxy S line of smartphones by Samsung has been massively popular as of late. They’ve been pushing these devices a lot with their commercials where it rivals the iPhone. The Galaxy S II is the iPhone’s most serious competitor to date and it sure puts up one heck of a fight.

Unveiled a year ago at Mobile World congress, the device is still often discussed and envied, while still competing directly with most devices on the market today, especially the US models. With a better processor, larger screen, and largely improved camera, the Galaxy S II (in all it’s variants, which we’ll explore later) really gives the iPhone a run for it’s money. Keep reading to find out how this device continues to succeed a year after it’s initial release in Europe. (Please note this article will cover the US models, not the European model, even though it is similar.)

Device Specifications

Software: Android OS version 2.3.6 plus TouchWiz version 4.0

Processor: Samsung dual-core Exynos 4210 SoC (system on a chip) clocked at 1.2 GHz (T-Mobile variant uses a Qualcomm APQ8060 (S3) Snapdragon processor clocked at 1.5 GHz)

Display:

Sprint version: 4.52 inch Super AMOLED Plus display

AT&T version: 4.27 inch Super AMOLED Plus display

T-Mobile version:4.52 inch Super AMOLED Plus display

Sizes:

Sprint version: 2.74 inches x 5.11 inches x 0.38 inches

AT&T version: 2.60 inches x 4.96 inches x 0.35 inches

T-Mobile version: 2.71 inches x 5.11 inches x 0.37 inches

Weight

Sprint version: 4.59 ounces

AT&T version: 4.13 ounces

T-Mobile version: 4.77 ounces

Hardware

The hardware of the three device variants, one for Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile, are quite different, not only on the outside, but the insides too. Each device differs from a hardware design standpoint, while another device has a smaller screen than the other two, and one has a slightly faster processor than the other. At first glance, each look the same, but taking a closer look proves that to be wrong.

Starting with Sprints variant, it’s full name being the Sprint Samsung Galaxy S™ II Epic™ 4G Touch (yes, it’s pretty long), the device is fairly large. It’s screen is a Super AMOLED Plus display with a size of 4.52 inches and a resolution of 480 by 800. Under the screen are 4 touch sensitive capacitive buttons which light up for a few seconds and then turn off after a few seconds of idle time. Touching the screen or the buttons turns them back on.

Above the screen is the proximity sensor and ambient light sensor, as well as a 2 megapixel front facing camera. Good quality front facing cameras are rare so this is nice to see. Turn the phone over and you’ll see an 8 megapixel camera, Galaxy S II branding, as well as Sprint branding. Although the battery cover looks all nice and fancy, it’s really just a flimsy and thin piece of plastic, as is the rest of the phone. You got your volume buttons on the left and power button on the right (standard on almost all Samsung touch screen devices). The top bears the 3.5mm headphone jack and there is a speaker grill on the back. The back of the device does feature Samsung’s standard “bump” on the bottom. Again, most touch screen Samsung devices have a subtle bump on the back of the device. The very bottom features a micro USB port for charging and syncing capabilities.

Next is the AT&T version. Known simply as the Samsung Galaxy S II, the device features the same capacitive buttons, hardware buttons, and ports for headphones and charging. The design is slightly more squared off than the Epic 4G Touch, as well as featuring a smaller screen at 4.27 inches, while still retaining the Super AMOLED Plus with a resolution of 480 by 800. The same 8 megapixel camera can be found on the back, as well as brandings, and the bump.

Finally, the T-Mobile variant. This version is slightly different in terms of internals, but we’ll get to that after. This device is known as the Samsung Galaxy S II, also. Once again, the T-Mobile version has all the same hardware buttons, ports, and features as the previously mentioned devices. The screen size is 4.52 inches with the same screen type and resolution.

All three devices have the same 8 megapixel cameras which are capable of 1080p video recording and playback. The camera quality and video quality is exceptional and performs how you’d expect it to. Shooting in low-light situations isn’t all that great, but it will do. Samsung includes it’s custom video and picture editor as apart of the TouchWiz UI and it performs surprisingly well and it includes a bevy of options. In addition to great cameras, the AT&T model and the T-Mobile model have NFC (Near-Field-Communication) chips built in. These chips can communicate with other NFC chips to perform a variety of things such as transfer or share information like webpages or contacts, or also make item purchases. NFC isn’t used as widespread right now, but in the coming years, it’ll be a standard around the world.

Processors and Internals

The Epic 4G Touch and the AT&T Galaxy S II both contain Samsung’s custom Exynos 4210 dual-core processors clocked at 1.2 GHz. On the other hand, the T-Mobile variant has a dual-core 1.5 GHz processor manufactured by Qualcomm called the APQ8060 Snapdragon processor. The reason for this is the Exynos processor does not support T-Mobile’s 4G spectrum and speeds, requiring a different chip that does support it. All three devices also contain 1GB of RAM. In terms of batteries, the Epic 4G Touch contains an 1800 mAh battery, the AT&T model contains a 1650 mAh battery, and the T-mobile version has an 1850 mAh battery (the higher the better). Each model comes with 16GB of internal storage, as well as a microSD slot for expansion up to an addition 32GB.

Display

Almost all of Samsungs most recent devices, spanning back a few years, have touted the Super AMOLED, Super AMOLED HD, or the Super AMOLED Plus display. All of which have been praised for their clarity and amazing color production, with colors such as blacks appearing very deep and other colors not appearing washed out and faded. These displays also help with battery life, as blacks don’t use screen power. Samsung’s recent smartphones have also used rather large displays, and the Galaxy S II family is no exception. The large displays have been used as marketing tactics in Samsung commercials against other smartphones, specifically the iPhone 4S. The Galaxy S II uses the entire screen to display content and surfing the web and watching YouTube videos was pleasurable.

Software

All three US models of the Galaxy S II are running Android 2.3.x (depending on their carrier, it may be 2.3.6, 2.3.5, or 2.3.4) with a custom skin by Samsung called TouchWiz, version 4.0. There are no major changes and the differences are mainly visual. TouchWiz 4.0 features a more refined interface. Icons have been tweaked and are now no longer in a colored box and now just stand alone. The keyboard now contains a dedicated microphone button and the keyboard doesn’t fill the screen in Messages. Some gestures have been added, using sensors in the device to function properly. The gestures can be turned off in the settings and allow you to do things such as move an icon between screens without touching it, mute incoming calls and other sounds, zoom in and out of things, as well as tap the screen twice for voice control. The camera interface has been tweaked slightly and some media consumption stores have been added.

Connectivity

Each of the three devices is capable of 4G connectivity, giving it faster data speeds when doing things such as browsing the web, downloading apps, and more. 4G is not free so be sure it’s apart of your data plan or else it won’t work. As expected, each device includes a WiFi radio each with support for IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n and also the new Bluetooth, 3.0. Data speeds vary depending on your location and carrier.

Conclusion

The Galaxy S II series is a very solid device and definitely competes well in todays market. It’s one of Samsung’s most popular smartphones right now and has been receiving lots of coverage, especially due to it’s commercials which take a stab at the iPhone 4S. I’d definitely recommend this device if you’re looking for a new and capable Android device and you don’t want an iPhone.

Pricing

Sprint model: $499.99 off-contract, $199.99 with a new 2 year agreement or upgrade, comes in black and white

AT&T model: $449.99 off-contract, $99.99 with a new two year agreement or upgrade, comes in black only

T-Mobile model: $599.99 off-contract, $279.99 with a new two year agreement or upgrade, comes in black and white

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