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.

Related phones

Galaxy S II
  • Display 4.3" 480 x 800 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 2 MP front
  • Processor Samsung Exynos 4 Dual, Dual-core, 1200 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDHC
  • Battery 1650 mAh(9.00h 3G talk time)



1. Moet007 unregistered

I dont get super excited about phones much, but since I have the Fascinate now and enjoy it alot. I'm definitely impressed with the improvements to the new Galaxy S lineup.

47. Tsais

Posts: 26; Member since: Jun 16, 2009

hehe you're gettin drawn in...

53. jogutier

Posts: 324; Member since: Feb 12, 2010

I don't know about getting anymore Samsung phones. I feel like a got screwed with froyo on Verizon's Fascinate. :( Even though Verizon is finally coming out with Froyo next month. It's a little to late to convince me. Sorry Samsung. Bye, bye , bye!

58. Tsais

Posts: 26; Member since: Jun 16, 2009

yeah, Samsung is shoddy with software, I hate them. i8910... updates took forever, just to bring it up to the capability advertised. PC Suite didn't work right with windows 7 a year after that was out. Then Symbian support got dropped a half a year after they released the phone. Talk about a short life. The hardware was good though. One could hope Android support won't be cut, and there will be custom roms, so you can just get a new Android version when you want to, and not when Samsung's software department finally figures out how to make software. But in general, their attitude after the sale would lead me to buy a different brand anytime there's a choice.

2. dieselxdan unregistered

what carrier?

7. oneilmccord

Posts: 16; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

I've read various rumors mentioning AT&T in the US and Vodafone in Europe, but I would imagine there will be variants available for all major carriers like with the original galaxy s.

3. Inolvidable unregistered

I am really disappointed with SGSII Quadrant score. I really hope the final version can improve performance.

48. Kennon unregistered

Quadrant benchmarks are such a bad measure of phone performance. I can get my Samsung Captivate up to 2500 with a couple of simple filesystem tweaks that do not improve perceivable performance in the least. I would like to see the openGL benchmarks on the new lineup of phones.

4. sergio1990 unregistered

Benchmark is way lower than Tegra 2(2700) and TI OMAP4(2958!!!) based phones... I hope Sammy has messed up with optimization or this phone is doomed to fail :-(

60. ItsMichaelNotMike

Posts: 8; Member since: Nov 21, 2010

LOL... are you kidding. You do realize that 99.9999% of the people who buy these phones don't know squat about benchmarks, much less how the words "Tegra" and "optimization" relate to handsets. Or do you mean this phone is doomed to fail like the Samsung Galaxy S did? ;) If you meant that, please define the word "fail" for us. Do you mean the one person in a bunker in Idaho who won't buy this phone because of benchmark tests? If so, that kind of failure Samsung can handle since no one else even knows how to conduct benchmark tests nor interpret the results. Then again, you could be right. Somewhere there is another person who uses a professional timer to calculate how fast his apps open, that is, compared to his rooted G1.

5. cristianer

Posts: 42; Member since: Aug 20, 2010

I don't know if buy this phone or wait the iPhone5.

8. oneilmccord

Posts: 16; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

I do like apple products, including the iphone. Apple products almost always work together in perfect harmony and the ease of use make them great for the not-so tech savvy of consumers, and yet still offer comprehensive features that will easily quench the thirst of the highest productive demands. Apple works great with Apple, but if you want out of the Apple cage you will have to use some work-arounds to break the shackles... My personal preferance, go with the Galaxy SII. Not necessarily for the hardware, but the OS. I find Google's Android OS to be much more productive, useful, entertaining, and has much more potential than Apples IOS.

18. cristianer

Posts: 42; Member since: Aug 20, 2010

You're right. But I don't know why the games in this phone runs more slowly than in others.

56. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

Wait for the iPhone 5. I'm sure the new iPhone will pack in a bunch of new features that compete with all these products. And if you still don't like the iPhone 5, just get this phone or the next Android phone that comes out. Cause if you buy this now and the iPhone is kick ass, you'll definitely regret it.

57. Tsais

Posts: 26; Member since: Jun 16, 2009

no matter what they put into the new iPhone 5, its still a matter of fighting Steve Jobs' nasty restrictions every inch of the way. Are these restrictions only relevant to geeks? I don't think so. Not if you got some relatives/friends/lovers in far away countries, you'd like to talk to while avoiding 2000 dollar monthly phone bills. Jobs thinks of us "mass consumers" as too stupid to manage even a couple of apps running in the background, with the result, that I cannot receive skype calls on my iPhone. Cause every time I want to take a picture, check the weather, write an sms, or just look up something in my contacts, the iPhone closes down Skype. And that's just one example of way too many, where you get stymied, just because Apple expects iPhone users to be inept morons. Would be nice if they'd expect only some moronic users and some normal ones, so they might offer an advanced mode you can switch to. But then, the moronic user is only part of Apple's reason, the other parts are control-freakishness and more greed than Gordon Gekko.

61. ItsMichaelNotMike

Posts: 8; Member since: Nov 21, 2010

Spot on comment. And the two main reasons why I will never buy an iPhone are: 1) a non-removable battery; and 2) no microSD slot. I guess there's a #3... that 1 & 2 above are by design, to sell iPhones to the same people every year, to those whose battery fails, and to people who simply want more storage (after they discover that in these days of movies, videos and music that 16 GB is not enough, nor even 32 GB nowadays). It really frosts me how people would buy the only cell phone on the planet that's so clearly limited simply so Apple can make money. I mean, come on, a cell phone with a battery that can't be user replaced; and without a microSD slot... that's criminal.

6. oneil unregistered

You can't always trust Quadrant, or any other benchmark for that matter. I got a score of just over 2500 on my captivate without overclocking and just using a lagfix.

10. giantgnome

Posts: 67; Member since: Feb 11, 2011

Yeah it's probably just a software thing. Don't get me wrong, Sammy makes great hardware but their track record with the software part isn't so fantastic *cough* Android 2.1 *cough*. Anyways, as long as this beast can play my 1080p movies without me needing to re-encode them this will be my next phone.

30. oneilmccord

Posts: 16; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

Indeed, you can't always count on Samsung for software updates. Personally however, with any phone I have and will ever have, Samsung or not, I will use custom roms for the firmware. So, lack of updates isn't a problem for me. I think I will make this my next phone.

9. lukasound unregistered

I don't think this score is correct... with such a processor it wouldn't be able to process 1080p 30fps recording. This is possible only if the gpu is so powerful that for video it takes the load off such a "slow" processor. In any way, this phone is capable of the highest resolution and fps video of any other phone on the market. That makes it the most powerful - not a benchmark number. 1080p could be the only reason for such powerful dualcores - everything else is already snappy enough on a single core 1Ghz processor (SE even made a whole gaming platform around one). It will be a different time when we will be able to transcode fullHD video or run Adobe Premiere or 3D Studio Max on our phones.

11. giantgnome

Posts: 67; Member since: Feb 11, 2011

The thing is, Samsung is using a Quadcore GPU so it's possible that a single core by itself is considerably slower when compared to the other phone's GPU. Being that Quadrant isn't updated for dual core CPUs and multi-core GPUs the benchmarks are gonna look funny no matter what you do. We need the final retail phones along with an updated quadrant program to know the actual benchmarks.

32. oneilmccord

Posts: 16; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

Too true.

12. danielsan unregistered

This is better than the LG Optimus 3D?

31. oneilmccord

Posts: 16; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

I think so. Sure the specs on the Optimus 3D are impressive (4GB of RAM), but I think the 3D capabilities are a waste of space. The slimmer design, the super AMOLED plus screen, and the superior SOC are the selling points of this phone.

39. oneilmccord

Posts: 16; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

Correction: not 4GB it's actually 4Gb = 512 MB

50. chinakidoliver.iab

Posts: 75; Member since: Dec 07, 2010

naw the lg optimus 3d scored higher and it is extremly fast tho it will be a bit bulky but who knows i could be wrong i dont have any of those phones so i cant tell u which 1 is better.

13. Vic D unregistered

A "No Hands" reference? Hilarious

14. hicky unregistered

please have good battery life! an this is mine! although lookin forward to desire hd2 and desire 2 :)

15. khaddem unregistered

what will you choose? Galaxy S2 or LG Optimus 2x if you were presented the phones and have 1 minute? The average users don't really follow the test on benchmark but want to know if the phone is fast enough for internet browsing, video and picture taking. Some of the most important questions are if the phone is user friendly, has enough memory, has good speakers and is compatible with "4G" network. So, can any of you geniouses help an average user like myself make a decision? Thank you for your feedback.

33. oneilmccord

Posts: 16; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

I would recomend, considering what you are looking for in a phone, the Galaxy S2. The specs are close enough that what you will be using it for you might not even notice a difference in performance. So, the reason I say get the Samsung is because of the slim design and the superior screen.

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