Samsung Galaxy S2 review

The Samsung Galaxy S II first went onsale in mid-2011 and quickly became a firm favourite with gadget fans. Six months later, it is still the standard bearer for Android smartphones. In this fast moving world, that’s quite an achievement. See also Samsung Galaxy Nexus review

There are several reasons for the Samsung Galaxy S II’s enduring popularity. It has superb design and build qualities, high end specifications that continue to impress more than six months after launch, and it benefits from the backstory of a popular predecessor in the original Samsung Galaxy S. Take a look at Samsung Galaxy S3 release date, specs and rumour round-up.

A key attraction of the Samsung Galaxy S II is its very impressive 4.3in SuperAMOLED Plus screen. With 640x960 pixels on offer it is sharper than many other smartphones, and the AMOLED technology means the screen is delivers very vivid colours. It comes into its own particularly for video viewing. Visit Group test: what's the best Android phone?
 
The presence of a 1.2GHz dual core ARM Cortex A9 processor is also a draw. The Samsung Galaxy S II was one of the first phones to have a dual-core processor, and it zips along very nicely. The advertised generous 16GB of built-in storageis reduced to 12GB actually accessible on the handset but a microSD card can accommodate more. If you’re likely to need to swap storage cards, note that Samsung places the bay for this out of easy reach under the backplate. See also Samsung Galaxy S3 review.

Samsung’s rather good Kies Air application is supported. This allows you to access the device over Wi-Fi through a web browser for file copying. Kies Air doesn’t look very pretty, but it works well. Go to Samsung Galaxy S3 specs and pictures.

HDMI is supported, though there’s no dedicated expansion slot. Instead HDMI is delivered via the microUSB slot, and you’ll need to invest in a cable. The presence of HSDPA goes without saying in any modern smartphone, but the Samsung Galaxy S II can handle downloads to an impressive maximum of 21Mbps. Visit Samsung Galaxy S3 launch: as it happened.

With attractive Android skinning and a good array of widgets, many of which are resizable, the Samsung Galaxy S II lends itself to plenty of user customisation too.

Six months might be a long time in smartphone development, but the Samsung Galaxy S II holds its own very well against recently launched competitors. While its price has fallen since launch it remains an expensive option, though.

Original review by By Spencer Dalziel and Rosemary Hattersley on next page >>

Review from 28/4/11

By Spencer Dalziel and Rosemary Hattersley

The Samsung Galaxy S II is the highly anticipated follow-up to last year's Samsung's Galaxy S Android smartphone. Updated, April 28 2011.

We awarded Samsung’s Galaxy S Android smartphone our Best Buy award when we reviewed it last year and it’s not hard to see why. A slim, lightweight and very nippy handset with an amazing superAMOLED screen, the distinctive-looking Galaxy S was one of the best Android mobiles of 2010 and one of the few serious rivals to the iPhone 4’s dominance.  

The Samsung Galaxy S II is set to be another market leader. As well as being one of the very first Gingerbread Android 2.3 smartphones, it has a great screen, excellent build quality and slick performance. 

For the S II, Samsung has completely redesigned the hardware, putting clear blue water between it and the original design (and subsequently adopted by Google for its own Nexus S Gingerbread 2.3 phone). The all-new Galaxy S II is quite angular. This enables it to accommodate a marginally larger 4.3in touchscreen (the original had a 4in display) but with no change to the 480x800-pixel resolution. The new model looks superficially similar to the HTC Incredible S, but is significantly lighter at a mere 116g.

The build quality, if anything, has been improved upon. It’s still a plastic chassis, but the handset now feels more rigid. Samsung has also upgraded the screen material to tough Gorilla Glass.

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Usability and navigation are as joyous an experience as on the first Galaxy S. The hyper-real brightness of the screen is still a real wow and though the overall handset design is not as strikingly different as its forerunner, the S II’s 4.3in display feels far more expansive. The internal memory now comes in a choice of 16GB or 32GB capacities and there’s a faster dual-core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor. The original Galaxy S’s 3Mp camera gets a mighty bump to 8Mp and there’s now support for 1080p video playback at 30 frames per second. It is quite simply a joy to use.

This already fast smartphone now feels even faster and we found it provided a near seamless navigation experience when flicking between apps, multi-tasking - even when we put it through data heavy tasks like streaming HD content. The phone is much more web savvy now it has Android 2.3 Gingerbread under the hood. This offers native Flash support and an updated version of Google Maps. As with all 2.x versions of Android, you can download and open from the Android Market. 

The display is bereft of hardware buttons except the mini USB, power button, headphone and volume, putting the microSD slot inside. That helps the Samsung Galaxy S II keep its svelte and sleek while Samsung relies on two touch buttons with one context sensitive big button in between.

The Galaxy S II uses the same TouchWiz interface which kicks in on the very speedy boot up. This retains the same colour-coded touch buttons at the  bottom with access to the most standard apps.

For navigating the web you can choose to the gyroscope sensor and accelerometer to enhance touch browsing. This felt a bit gimmicky. But we did love the excellent virtual qwerty keyboard, which is a easy to type on in landscape mode.

Next page: Our original preview of the Samsung Galaxy S II from February 2011, by PC World's Ginny Mies >>

This is our original preview of the Samsung Galaxy S II from February 2011, by PC World's Ginny Mies.

Mobile World Congress hasn't even started, but the next generation of super phones are already being unveiled. Samsung showed off its latest, the Samsung Galaxy S II, at its flashy Unpacked event in Barcelona. The Galaxy S II sports a 4.3in Super AMOLED Plus display, a dual-core processor, and a whole new user interface. We got our hands on the Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone for a first look review.

The first thing I noticed when I picked up the Samsung Galaxy S II is how thin and light it is. It feels pretty good in hand too; less plasticky that a few of the last-generation Galaxy S phones. The phone is pretty attractive too with a minimalist, slick design.

The Samsung Galaxy S II's display is absolutely gorgeous: colours look bright, details are crisp, and the viewing angles seem pretty good. It sports Samsung's Super AMOLED Plus display technology, which we first saw at CES. According to Samsung, Super AMOLED Plus displays have an increased number of sub-pixels by 50 percent and perform even better in bright light than the first-gen Super AMOLED displays. With a 4.3in display, the newest Galaxy is 0.3in larger in screen size than the older-gen Galaxy S phones.

At CES we saw an onslaught of 4G dual-processor phones so it is no surprise that the Samsung Galaxy S II has both. I'm also pleased it ships with the latest Google Android 2.3 operating system (also known as Gingerbread). The phone seemed pretty snappy in my brief hands-on tests and video ran flawlessly.

The Samsung Galaxy S II also sports an 8Mp camera as well as a front-facing camera for video calls. I tested the camera out on the floor and photos looked pretty good-at least on the phone's display. The shutter speed on the camera was fast too.

The Galaxy S II has a revamped user interface with an all new Game and Reading Hubs that will be joining the Social and Media Hubs. I really wanted to test out the Game Hub and was disappointed when I couldn't connect to it. I tried on a few demo phones, but no dice. Looks like it isn't ready for prime time yet.

Verdict:

The Samsung Galaxy s II costs £400 if purchased SIM-free. This puts the Galaxy S II firmly in the premium smartphone camp, but given the success of the first model and the impressive hardware and build quality, we expect it to find favour with plenty of Android aficionados. It's a popular phone, and justifiably so.

Samsung Galaxy S II: Specs

  • Smartphone
  • dual-core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor
  • 16GB/32GB RAM
  • Google Android 2.3 'Gingerbread'
  • 4.3in (480x800) capacitive touchscreen Super AMOLED Plus display
  • 8Mp camera plus front-facing camera for video
  • microSD card slot
  • 1-year warranty
  • 125x66x8.5mm
  • 116g
  • Smartphone
  • dual-core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor
  • 16GB/32GB RAM
  • Google Android 2.3 'Gingerbread'
  • 4.3in (480x800) capacitive touchscreen Super AMOLED Plus display
  • 8Mp camera plus front-facing camera for video
  • microSD card slot
  • 1-year warranty
  • 125x66x8.5mm
  • 116g

OUR VERDICT

Nine months might be an eternity in smartphone development, but the Galaxy S II still holds its own very well against more recently released devices. While its price has fallen since its launch, Samsung’s handset is still an expensive option.

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