The Samsung Galaxy S II (SGSII) has been one of the most highly anticipated devices in recent memory - perhaps second only to the annual new iPhone. There are two very good reasons for this: first, the original Galaxy S devices were hailed as some of the best on the market. Second - and more importantly - from its start as an on-paper proof, to its run on the trade show circuit, through its international release, the Galaxy S II been hailed as one of (if not the) best phone on the market.
Unfortunately for those of us in the States, we've had to wait quite a bit longer than our European counterparts to get our mitts on the hottest piece of Android kit ever to hit the market. But the delay wasn't entirely for naught; before landing on our side of the pond, Samsung made a few tweaks. Verizon is notably left out from the SGSII party, while the Sprint and T-Mobile variants (dubbed the Epic 4G touch on Sprint) get a screen size bump to 4.52" (from 4.3"). The AT&T version remains 4.3", and all 3 feature slightly different physical styling. Further (perhaps because of a certain Apple law suit), gone is the lone home button below the screen, replaced by the ever-familiar four capacitive buttons. Also noteworthy: the AT&T and T-Mobile variants have NFC, while Sprint's doesn't. On the flip side, the Sprint version is the only one to have a notification LED.
All three pack the same internal specs, though - and they're certainly impressive, even amongst the existing flagship devices already for sale:
- Dual-core 1.2GHz Exynos CPU* (except the T-Mobile version, which has an alternate processor)
- 800 x 480 WVGA resolution (on both the 4.5" and 4.3" screens)
- 8MP rear-facing camera that supports 1080p video recording, 2MP front-facing
- 16GB memory on-board, plus microSD slot
- 802.11 b/g/n
- 1GB RAM
- Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)
- MHL support
Certainly very sleek devices on paper. Fortunately, I was the lucky recipient of an Epic 4G Touch review unit today, so over the next few days, I'll put it through its paces to see how it performs in practice. After spending a few hours with it, I've had the chance to come up with some initial impressions. Let's take a quick look... and don't worry, I know most of you are here for the phone porn as much as anything else. From here on out it's roughly 50/50 pictures and words.
I'm pretty sure that, with a phone as anticipated as this, not many people are interested in the actual unboxing, so I'll make it pretty quick. The box is small and simple - nothing extravagant here. Other than the phone, you'll find a stack of booklets, a microUSB cable, and an adapter to plug it into the wall. That's about it.
Build Quality/Pre-Boot Impressions
You'll notice two things right off the bat. The first is that the phone is incredibly light - I pulled the phone out and immediately started looking for the battery since the phone was too light to have it in. After scouring the box, I realized the battery was already in the phone - it's just that damn light. I said something pretty similar when I reviewed the Incredible 2. Despite being larger, the SGSII is about .23oz lighter. Impressive.
The second thing you'll notice is, unsurprisingly, the size. It's freaking big. Out of context, 4.52" sounds large, but compared to 4.3" (which both my EVO and Photon are), it's not much of a leap on paper. In practice it is and it isn't. At nearly 6' 1", I have decently large hands, and the E4GT is about the limits of what I can use with one hand. That said, it's not exactly ideal for one hand - it nearly straddles the "too big" line in terms of sheer comfort. Although it's not much larger than the Photon, it is much thinner, and that results in a less natural feel (as a metaphor, imagine two computer mice, one about 5% wider than the other, but the larger one is flat while the smaller one one slightly thicker, and thus rounder).
With all that said about the sheer size, it's also worth noting that the E4GT is damn thin. It's almost a bit freaky how thin it is.
Build quality is good, as is the case with nearly all flagship devices nowadays. The power button (on the top right) is flush with the side, while the volume rocker (top left) protrudes slightly. Other than that, the microUSB port and microphone are on the bottom, there's a 3.5mm headphone jack on top, and the speaker for the speakerphone is around back, near the bottom left.
Initial Use Impressions
In a word: wow. The screen is everything you've come to expect from AMOLED: crisp, vibrant, and viewable from nearly any angle (and, after disabling "automatic brightness," it's bright). The phone is speedy, smooth, and (mostly) responsive. Occasionally it seems that a button press doesn't quite register on the first time, but I have yet to determine if that's my fault or the phone's.
After a bit more use, you notice something a bit odd about the screen: the whites.... well, aren't quite. I run dual monitors (one a Dell, the other a Samsung) and a Photon, and on all three, colors are understandably a bit different. But on all three, white is white. On the GSII, the white looks a bit "dirty." It's tough to explain, and given that there are some options for tweaking the screen via the settings, I have to do a bit of digging before I can really complain about it [update: apparently this is a known issue with AMOLEDs]. If you really want to nitpick, you could hold the screen about 1" away from your eyes and you'll notice that it should have had a spec bump to qHD. Most people, however, don't hold their phone 1" away from their eyeball when using it, and so they'll find the resolution to be perfectly acceptable.
There's some Sprint bloatware installed out of the box, but it's nothing too severe, and happily, most of it can be uninstalled.
All in all: thus far, it's a brilliant device in nearly every way. Is it the best device on Sprint at the moment? Probably - but the EVO 3D and Photon are both serious contenders, and it's going to take me a few days to decide if the Epic 4G Touch really does stand head and shoulders above them.