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Samsung Galaxy S2 review

June 14, 2011 by Galvin Tan in Technology with 2 Comments


I’ve been following Samsung’s progress since the successful launch of the Galaxy S last June. Since then, the Korean powerhouse has put in more muscle and finesses into its next generation of smartphones especially the Galaxy S2.

The Galaxy S2 has definitely gone through some fine workout with all the trimmings, an enormous screen, 8-megapixel camera and 1.2 GHz processor empowered with Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread.

I’m lucky enough to be the first few Malaysians to get my hands on the Galaxy S2 and I shall be posting some reviews on this galactic smartphone.


The First Impression

At first glance, one could have easily mistaken the Galaxy S2 for an Apple iPhone. The rounded-rectangle look and chrome edges are distinctively similar to an iPhone. That one thing that will probably getting all the Apple fanboys jumping is the single central home button right at the bottom of the display. You can also spot a front-facing camera located on the left side of the earpiece just like the new iPhone 4.

Flip over the phone and you’ll find the 8-megapixel camera with LED flash. Samsung also designed a different back battery cover for the Galaxy S2. A piece of textured back plastic that pops open, you’ll have to get your finger into it to lift it up. The back cover is pretty thin and flimsy, not something that you want keep taking it out. Then again, it’s not very often we open up the back part. It’s definitely much nicer than the one of the previous Galaxy S.

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S2 is a beauty. That’s probably because it looks very much like the iPhone 4. The only difference is the Galaxy S2 has got a plastic look and the iPhone 4 has got a glassy and perhaps classy too.

Brain and Brawn

Running on Android OS 2.3.3 Gingerbread, the Galaxy S2 is definitely an impressive device. Working around the phone is just a great feeling. The apps run smoothly and really fast. The enormous 4.3 inches AMOLED screen is just mesmerizing. The crisp and colourful display is eye catching and the sensitivity of the touchscreen is amazing.

The Galaxy S2 is also equipped with not just one, but two cameras. The back 8-megapixel camera is equipped with single LED flash, good enough to capture high quality images and record 1080p HD movies. The front-facing camera is equipped with a generous 2-megapixel camera, definitely a better option to a VGA quality camera mounted on most smartphones in the market now.

Underneath the hood which powers all these great functions is a 1.2 GHz Dual-Core Cortex-A9 CPU. An upgrade to the 1Ghz processor which was previously announced during its launch back in February. This gives the Galaxy S2 a little bit more ooomph!


Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

With all the muscle packed into it, the Galaxy S2 still weighs not more than 116g, Even with a larger dimension as compared to an iPhone 4, the Galaxy S2 compensate it wider size for a slimmer form. Yes, the Galaxy S2 is slightly slimmer than its predecessor, exactly 8.5mm in thickness.

It’s so thin, it’s almost impossible to pick it up. With dimensions of 125.3 x 66.1 x 8.5mm mean it’s one of the thinnest smartphones on the market at the moment, rivalling the likes of the iPhone 4 and Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc for the title.

One will think that such a wide looking phone will be very heavy, but be ready to be baffled by its look, the Samsung Galaxy S2 is a lightweight reigning in the heavyweight category of smartphones.


“The Samsung Galaxy S2 is a lightweight reigning in the heavyweight category of smartphones.”

A Toast with Gingerbread Android OS

Memory management from Gingerbread is outstanding. I’ve been going for a few days now without actually rebooting the device and yet the Apps are running smoothly and no sign of slowing down. This is because the Galaxy S2 has got the 1GB of RAM and a 1.2GHz Dual-core processor to thank for.

I’m a heavy user of the Samsung Galaxy S2 especially the social media apps. I’ve also downloaded and played numerous games. Switching in between apps is such a breeze and fun thing to do now. Like other phone reviews, I also did a benchmark test using the popular Qaundrant Standard and the results were outstanding. It scores 3,488 topping many other Android devices including its predecessor, the Galaxy S by almost 5 folds. I’m not suggesting that the Galaxy S2 is way better than other phones, but I’m very sure that the Galaxy S2 is pretty darn fast.


Excellent Web Browsing Prowess

Browsing and surfing the internet with the Galaxy S2 is such a joy. With the extra muscle underneath and a new wide clear screen, many times I found myself browsing the internet with the Galaxy S2 when I have my laptop on right in front of me.

Loading a website is pretty snappy with the Galaxy S2’s integrated web browser. I’ve also tried browsing with a few other browsers available for the Android devices such as Firefox Beta, Dolphin HD and Opera Mini browser. Although these browsers come with different layout and support tabs, the bigger screen allows me to browse the internet with ease. Flash plays fairly without any problem with the Galaxy S2 although it doesn’t load automatically until you tell it to (I guess it’s a good way to conserve battery power). However, if you’re thinking of playing some Facebook flash games, think again. Although the screen is bigger but playing Facebook flash game on the Galaxy S2 is not that easy at all.


Great Camera

The Galaxy S2 is equipped with 8-Megapixel back camera and 2-Megapixel front camera. The back camera is also equipped with a single LED flash. Put together with a great camera app, you find yourself shooting like a pro. The camera app gets an upgrade on its interface with customisable shortcuts and settings. The touch-to-focus is definitely a nice touch. Quick review feature is also a great addition as you can now quickly playback your last shot taken. Switching from still photo to video mode is so much simpler now with the one-touch switch button.

The picture quality is pretty decent for an 8-Megapixel phone clicker. However shooting on a low-light condition may not be as pleasant. Noise level is visible on anything that is taken at ISO 200 and above (max 800). But to be fair, pictures taken with the Galaxy S2 looks pretty good on the computer screen, so you can edit (with Photo editor app) and upload pretty good pictures to Flickr and even Facebook (especially serial food killer like me who likes to shoot everything I eat).

If you’re an amateur video maker, you’ll love the Galaxy S2. The Galaxy S2 allows you to shoot 1080p HD quality video too. With selectable resolutions from 176×144-pixels to 1920 x 1080-pixeks (HD quality), you make shoot a short movie and then upload it to Youtube account even when you’re on the road. You can even edit the movie with Video Maker app that comes with the Galaxy S2.

Like the Galaxy S2 so far? Wait, there’s more.


Music and Video Playback

The Galaxy S2 shoot and playback in 1080p HD! Now that’s something to shout about. What I really love about the Galaxy S2 is it’s ability to record and playback high definition video without a problem. Watching HD movies on the Galaxy S2 is a totally different experience. The clarity and the vibrant colour of the screen just blows you away.

There’s nothing much I could say about the clarity of the loudspeaker for the Galaxy S2. What I can tell you is downloading and playing music on the Galaxy S2 is getting easier. Unfortunately, Music Hub is still not available for the Malaysian market. However, transferring your MP3 files to the Galaxy S2 is way much easier now with Kies Air.

Audio support: FLAC, WAV, Vorbis, MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, MID, AC3, XMF

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


Better Apps

With the AllShare app, you can now share all your multimedia contents with any DLNA compliant devices. You can playback movies on your home TV, play your favourite CD collection through your favourite home multimedia player and even view photos on your 21-inch LCD screen in your room. And all these are done wirelessly via AllShare app.

Kies Air allows PCs running Kies to access the Smartphone over Wi-Fi and view call logs, videos, photos, bookmarks, and IMs, as well as send SMS messages from the computer’s browser. So you don’t have to keep plugging in and unplugging all the time. Just run the Kies Air app whenever you’re within a Wi-Fi network, you can backup and transfer your files from your Galaxy S2 to your PC effortlessly.

Samsung’s Media Hub is a quartet of apps that comes pre-loaded with the Galaxy S2. It is created to give user a better experience on the new Samsung Galaxy S2 Smartphone. The Game Hub, Music Hub, Readers Hub and Social Hub will show up at the Home Screen of all the new Samsung Galaxy S2.

Game Hub is powered by Mobage is accessed via a dedicated app icon. Tapping this brings up a list of social and premium games you can download. Once the app loaded, 12 games were listed in the social tab including ngmoco favourites such as We Rule, We City and We Farm. Games from other developers included Qrank, Age of Legend, Touch Hockey, and Vegas Strip City. All of these are free or freemium titles. On the premium tab, 13 titles were listed, all from Gameloft.

Music Hub is a dedicated music service for Samsung Smartphones and tablets, allows the users to browse, listen, and purchase selected songs from a catalogue of over 10 million Mp3 songs. However, Music Hub is not available for Malaysian market at the moment.

Readers Hub is your one stop for books, magazines and subscription-based newspapers. The Readers Hub is much popular on the Galaxy Tab; however with the bigger screen on the Galaxy S2, reading can be as fun too.

Social Hub allows you to communicate with the world with a touch of a button. Well, more like tapping the app that will launch a platform that will host all your social network services. So now you can check your Twitter feed and reply email from one single app.


Battery Life

Like every other Smartphones I’ve used before, I just cannot get through one whole day without re-charging the Samsung Galaxy S2. I’m social media addict and I’m checking the phone almost every 10 minutes. Posting updates on Facebook, re-tweeting tweets on Twitter, replying SMS and emails. This does not include any phone calls being made, can only last me 6 hours. That’s because the Samsung Galaxy S2 is super fast, I ended up doing more things on it draining up battery power faster.

However, when I cut myself off all social media activities and use the Galaxy S2 purely on receiving calls and SMS, I managed to extend the battery life to almost 48 hours (that includes dimming the display light and turning off the GPS and Wi-Fi feature). But of course, there’s no fun to it anymore. So if you’re a social media addict like me, make sure you have a car/mobile charger with you all the time.

I did a quick check on the battery info on the Settings and found out a startling info that screen display drains up the most battery power. So I suggest to keep those vibrant screen brightness low.


Phone and Video Call function

The Samsung Galaxy S2 is actually very nice to use as a phone. The Touch Wiz 4.0 phone and contacts interface is only slightly different with just a few extra buttons and tabs. Another thing which I find it pretty useful is the call and messaging history log. You’ll have the option to change the view type with just a few tap on the menu option. The clarity of the internal and loud-speaker is satisfactory.

As for Voice call, the 2-Megapixel helps with the improvement on the video quality as compared to the Galaxy S. With just a tap on a button and you’re able to switch your camera view to the back camera, allowing you to show your caller the surrounding area without flipping the phone around. The only setback I can see are the video boxes on the screen. You can’t really adjust the size of the boxes if you fancy seeing your caller up closer. Overall, the phone function is pretty much the same, only better.


Conclusion: Samsung Galaxy S2 and me

After spending almost 2 weeks with the new Samsung Galaxy S2, I find myself being more active on my social media activities. I tweet more often and I reply emails faster. That’s because the Galaxy S2 is just so fast and easy to use. However, I also find myself being more paranoid whenever I’m out of home or office. I’m always worried about the phone running out of battery as the Galaxy S2 tends to drain battery pretty fast.

I also love to take photos with the Galaxy S2. Launching the camera and the fast focusing helps me take better pictures faster. I also love watching HD movies on the Galaxy S2. The 4.3-inch AMOLED screen flaunts it’s prowess with crystal clear display and watching movies even under bright daylight. The only thing holding me back from having a movie party with my friends is the battery life. I can’t really watch a full movie with worrying that my battery will run out of juice, so I had to constantly keep in plugged in to the power source.

Kies Air is superb. Wireless sync means I can actually have my phone charging in the other room and copying media contents into it from another room. Unfortunately, I do not any other DLNA devices which I can really try it out. Else I know very well that content sharing within our home network will be the way of living in near future.

Despite all the great things I can talk about the Galaxy S2, I do have a couple of issue which baffles me. Perhaps it’s just me being unlucky.  My review unit of Galaxy S2 is having its mood swings. Occasionally, my unit of Galaxy S will stop responding and eventually heats upMy Galaxy S stops responding even when I don’t do anything to it. Unlike the problems I read about on some Android forum, most of them had heating problem while playing games or while charging.

Notice that I only mentioned ‘my unit’ only? That’s because I’ve checked with a couple of friends who is also reviewing the Galaxy S2 and they never have such problem with their Galaxy S2. Now it could be just a case of bad luck picking up a unit which is faulty. I’m not suggesting that this is problem on the Galaxy S2, I’m just merely saying that this could happen to any other devices as well.

Another worthy thing to note about is, Samsung gotta really work on their standard Samsung keypad. Typing a text message with the Samsung keypad can be quite annoying as I keep tapping the wrong button. I opt for SWYPE which is much more accurate and responsive, and SWYPE-ing is way more fun.

Overall, I’m quite happy with the new Samsung Galaxy S2. It’s sleek, fast and powerful!

Pros: Adore the great new look. Love the lightning fast processor and addicted to the great responsive interface. The large AMOLED screen is something you cannot ignore. It’s just a superb feeling watching HD movies on it.

Cons: Battery life can be a drawback here. With the big display and powerful processor, something got to be done to keep the device running longer.

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About Galvin Tan

A creative professional and social media junkie, Galvin Tan has been blogging since 2005 and he writes about everything from food to gadget. An avid fan of football and loves playing foosball and basketball. For latest updates, follow him @galvintan on Twitter.

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