Samsung Galaxy S II hands-on

Samsung Galaxy S II hands-on
Look, Ma, the phone with the largest Super AMOLED screen! We got to play around with the Samsung Galaxy S II, and we have to say that it looks a look like the Samsung Infuse 4G for AT&T, when comparing the back covers with their similar grip patterns, and the 8MP camera areas on the back, which captures Full HD 1080p video at 30fps. There is also a 2MP front cam for video chat.

No wonder, since both handsets are the first to sport the next generation of Samsung's acclaimed Super AMOLED screen technology (all about it in our display article here). Dubbed Super AMOLED Plus, it remedies the main drawbacks of the first generation, as found in the Galaxy S, namely low actual resolution, due to use of the PenTile matrix, and run-of-the-mill brightness. The 4.3" Super AMOLED Plus display on the Galaxy S II has a 50% higher sub-pixel count, which made text more clearly discernible than on the Galaxy S. The bump in brightness was also very visible, regardless of our indoors setting when we handled the phone.

To top it off, the Super AMOLED Plus package consumes much less juice from the 1630mAh battery, and is thinner than the first generation, which allowed for the slimmest smartphone on the market today - just 0.33" (8.49mm) at its thinnest part, which is almost all of the phone, save for the typical Samsung "chin" at the bottom of the back cover. Since the device is so thin, the 4.3" screen size is almost negligible when held, compared to, say, the HTC Desire HD, so thin handsets is definitely the way to go when you have a large screen.

The excellent screen is backed up by a dual-core 1GHz chipset of Samsung's own make, called Exynos, which has quad-core GPU, but we didn't have time to run the full suite of benchmarks, only Quadrant. Samsung specified that in "select markets" Tegra 2 will be the chipset powering this phone, instead of Exynos, for undisclosed reasons. Probably it is not yet ready for mass production, plus Sammy already bought a boatload of Tegra 2s.

Our prototype Samsung Galaxy S II unit  with Exynos scored 1950 on Quadrant, which is way less than the other dual-core chipsets we tested - the LG Optimus 3D with TI OMAP4 scored 2800, and even 2958 was shown, while the LG Optimus 2X with NVIDIA Tegra 2 scores up to 2700 and change.

We ran the test on the Samsung Galaxy S II, as Sammy has been totally hush-hush about the capabilities of its Exynos dual-core chipset with quad-core GPU, and it made us wonder if Samsung's Exynos actually is as powerful as we thought before. Or, alternatively, it could be the same issue with the file system that warranted the creation of the lagfix for the Galaxy S handsets to unleash their full potential.

Android 2.3 Gingerbread, though, is the first version to feature the new Ext4 file system, which format is what the lagfix recreated, so either Sammy has messed with that, or these might be the actual phone capabilities. Looking at the I/O part of Quadrant. it spent quite a time there, so maybe Sammy has kept the RFS file system, which hinders its Quadrant scores dramatically. We are more interested in what the Mali GPU can do, though, and the fps count in the graphics part of the test was crazy fast, even in Tegra 2 standards, so this result might very well be due to the file system again.

Not that it matters, though, it is still powerful enough for anything currently out there. Admittedly we tested a prototype, but the Optimus 3D wasn't final also. The Galaxy S II comes with 1GB of RAM, and your choice of 16 or 32GB of internal memory, in addition to the microSD card slot.

Nevertheless, performance in the new TouchWiz 4.0 overlay on top of Android 2.3 Gingerbread was very smooth, and the UI doesn't differ widely from TouchWiz 3.0. There are a couple of Hub icons at the top of the homescreens, which are centered around different topics - Music, Game, Social and Reader - where the Music Hub shows Top 40 charts, and the Reader Hub features Kobo Reader with millions of titles at your disposal. The phone also sports an embedded NFC chip for mobile payments, and does "4G" HSPA+ at up to 21Mbps download speeds, if your carrier can supply them.

The Samsung Galaxy S II left a positive impression with us, since it takes the already excellent predecessor, and adds the dual-core madness, an LED flash to the new 8MP camera, as well as an improved Super AMOLED Plus screen, which is brighter and, in reality, with a higher resolution than the original.

Moreover, Samsung has managed to cram these features in an absolutely svelte device, which can only be appreciated when held in person.

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