13
Sep
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Last Updated: September 16th, 2011

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.

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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.

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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
  • 4G
  • 802.11 b/g/n
  • 1GB RAM
  • Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)
  • MHL support

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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.

Unboxing

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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

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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.

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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).

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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

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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.

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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.

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There's some Sprint bloatware installed out of the box, but it's nothing too severe, and happily, most of it can be uninstalled.

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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.

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Aaron Gingrich
Aaron is a geek who has always had a passion for technology. When not working or writing, he can be found spending time with his family, playing a game, or watching a movie.

  • Karthik Kumar

    "gone is the track pad below the screen"

    Um,, That's just the HOME button. Not a trackpad.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Whoops, thanks!

  • http://bionic.tavishandmolly.com Sheldon

    Doesn't seem the usb port at the bottom has a slide over cover like the original S. That's too bad, cause I liked that feature.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Unfortunately, it's pretty rare to find a phone that does have that cover nowadays =\

      • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

        Is that an MHL port?

        • Aaron Gingrich

          According to what I see, it technically is an MHL port, but it's listed as a microUSB port with MHL support. I've updated the post to add "MHL support."

        • Chris Bailey

          MHL port is a micro USB port that also supports micro HDMI. It's pretty much a hybrid between HDMI and USB so you don't need 2 different ports.

    • Alex

      The original s2 doesn't have it....

  • Nick

    Aaron- Will you be posting an "UPDATED" article in the next couple days? I'm definitely interested if you think this beats out the other phones already there, or if we should wait for iPhone 5. Appreciate the review!

    (Oh, and how is battery life!?)

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Yup, full review will go up on Friday, just in time for launch.

  • Carl

    I've noticed the "dirty" whites as mentioned on a few other Galaxy S devices, but not all, such as the Epic 4G

    • David Ruddock

      All AMOLED displays have had off-whites, even going back to the Nexus One. Known issue. The white gamma on these phones is tweaked for whatever reason, you end up with either a yellowish or a blueish tint on the white.

      • Chet Husk

        there was a looooong retrospective on anandtech recently that explained the differences in screen technologies and why the white balance on some screens is off. Long story short, the color temperature seems to vary with brightness on certain screen types.

  • guy

    when I had my droid charge, it had gray whites too. It's kinda disappointing but I think it's a limitation of amoled

    that or, it's samsungs way of saving power... since it cost the most battery to display whites on amoled

  • Tim H.

    "perhaps second only to the annual new iPhone"
    --------------------------------------

    When describing an event as annual it by definition occurs or returns once a year. Therefore, there should be no compulsion to use the word "new". Sometimes when a writer unnecessarily embellishes upon a subject the context can go astray.

    With that said, thanks for the read. Very informing!

    • David Ruddock

      If he were to merely say "annual iPhone," one could imply, based on the choice of words, that it would be the same iPhone every year, as there are plenty of products which come and go seasonally every year without changing at all.

      "annual new" then implies that a significant change has been made to the product and that this change comes on an annual basis. I think you're missing the point of the modifier "new," as "new" in no way implicates a period of time, thus requiring the use of "annual" as well. And last I checked, "annual" does not imply new, either.

      For practical purposes, we all know it's a "new" iPhone every year, but I believe that there is no logical issue in stating what is already known.

      • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

        For practical purposes, you're both douchebags!

        (I kid, I kid).

        • Tim H.

          lol Fair enough.

      • Tim H.

        I apologize, my intent wasn't to offend or diminish the article. From the readers' perspective, the selection of this specific modifier can be considered subversive to the intended subject matter.

        There are a multitude of other, beneficial, modifiers I (the reader) would of preferred; novel, afresh, or contemporary to name a few. The usage of the word "new" coerces the reader into lethargic comprehension, while hindering the flow the sentence.

        Once again, I meant no discourtesy to the staff. I enjoyed the article and consider myself a AP devotee.

  • mikeyd

    how is the battery life

  • JayMonster

    Is this when I can say, "too late to the party" and "if this had been released back in February when it launched at MWC, it would have been a game changer, but now it is just another phone and the whole world should wait for the Prime or the Vigor or the Tech Unicorn phone instead"

    or is that only supposed to be said about Motorola phones?

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Yup, and I'm very much inclined to agree.

      • Pro

        When the Galaxy S II launched in April I was drooling over it and would have purchased it immediately...

        But I find it quite disrespectful that carriers held back the best phone on the market from the American people for FIVE MONTHS just so that carriers can simply milk their inferior phones they had back in April.

        I simply refuse to purchase a 5 month old product that was intentionally held back from the American people just because the carriers wanted to take their sweet time with it and make Americans wait.

        5 MONTHS?! Seriously???

    • Stajdanley

      That is exactly what I've been thinking since the recent hype started over this thing... too little, too late. The dirty looking whites are also a deal breaker--The Nexus S just looks awful because of that... I can't imagine why anyone would pay for something that is essentially defective.

      • JayMonster

        I always assumed it was because the other colors are so blindingly oversaturated, that once your start using it, you can't tell, and instead rave about colors that "pop"

        • Aaron Gingrich

          I wish that was the case. Unfortunately it's not a matter of "by comparison"... it's just not right. I'll take pictures of it side-by-side to an EVO and Photon for the full review, hopefully that will show what I mean.

    • Tommy

      I don't agree. We haven't had a phone launch in the US with the Exynos or the new touchwiz. While the original GSII was announced awhile ago there still hasn't been anything that has performed better. And being on Sprint I haven't got to experience the Super Amoled + screen.

      • JayMonster

        First off, this was a bit tongue in cheek for those that seemed hell bent on calling the Bionic outdated, despite the fact that it is one of the best spec phones on the market right now.

        Now using their same logic:

        Why would you want a 1.2 Ghz chip when 1.5 and Quad Cores are "right around the corner"

        Why settle for a WVGA when 720 HD screens are coming next month?

        Why would you want TouchWiz (at all)? The main attraction to Samsung phones is that they gave a couple to XDA so the community could put a decent ROM on it rather than deal with that iOS wanna be interface.

        And on a more personal note, I don't know why everybody is so gaga over Super AMOLED plus. It doesn't look much better than a SLCD, but the colors are so over saturated they... well... they just aren't true.

        So, yes, even the mightly SGSII after a mere 7 months after it was announced is relegated to being not much more than "average" by those that think the next "major jump" is just around the corner.

        • reub

          Higher res = slow. this is why the *phone 3gs with 320 res outperforms the iphone 4 with 640 res even though the processor is almost twice as fast. i am happy with 480 - 540 on this size phone. i have a streak 5 with 480 and find it livable though i think 540 would be more suitable, but no more.

          anyone feel free to critique my point but i really dont care to hear anything about grammar. and im out

        • reub

          also a 1.5 qualcomm may not neccessarily beast a 1.2 samsung processor

          all clock speeds equal i personally rate TI and samsung top dogs, nvidia third, there is another i cant think of, while qualcomm is the slowest and least efficient. this is why htc phones blow sacks.

  • C Townsend

    Aaron can you tell us if the Google talk client has video? Thanks for sharing by the way.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Yup, it does, and works brilliantly. David and I just tested it.

  • Stocklone

    Thanks for pointing out the ridiculousness of people getting hung up on resolution of the phone screens. Once you start looking at the optics and apply the law of diminishing returns, it all seems so silly.

  • Chris Pagan

    How do you guys get your hands on these things so quick does Samsung or Sprint send these to you.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Shipments fall off trucks, you get the idea. ;-]

      • http://http Chris Pagan

        Well I was just wondering cause I want in I have a Tech Web site I would like to do the same thing on and I have fought hard to try but have not gotten so lucky.

      • http://www.tncnewscentral.com Chris Pagan

        Well I have been trying hard to get my hands on some of these devices to have originality on my site and I have not gotten lucky but I am a one man show.

  • Sync

    Can you talk about call quality receptoin and how loud the speaker can get?

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Do you mean the earpiece speaker or the speakerphone speaker?

      • http://denh.am DrMacinyasha

        Kinda on this subject, what's the speakerphone like? Good quality sound for music, and plenty loud? Or is it going to be a repeat of the EVO 3D's?

        • Aaron Gingrich

          It's fairly loud. Between the EVO, Photon, and E4GT, I'd rate them in that order in terms of sheer loudness. I think the Photon probably has the worst sound quality - the highs are a bit tinny. Still, as far as speakerphones go, all 3 are definitely good enough, and all 3 are loud enough.

  • tdavis42

    Did the phone come with the HDMI adapter? I saw another review where it was included in the box. What gives?

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Yes, it did, but it wasn't in the phone box. It was in a bag, stuck in the shipping box separately. Thus, I didn't mention it in the unboxing.

  • http://denh.am DrMacinyasha

    So something I've noticed nobody's asked:

    Is the bootloader unlocked? Is it like the international version in this sense? Or am I just going to pray that the next Nexus is separate from the Droid Prime, and comes to Sprint?

    • Tommy

      The Nexus Prime and the Droid Prime are two different devices.

    • Aaron Gingrich
      • DrMacinyasha

        brb, getting new pants... And camping in front of the Sprint store for the rest of the week.

      • jpmalinger

        im surprised that nobody has made a bigger deal about these pics. this is huge no?

        • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

          I think all Samsung devices have been like this so far, no?

  • pax

    I have had my unlocked European version that replaced my iPhone 4 for around 3 months now and love it. It runs on ATT HSPA and is terrific and whoever says that ATT is slow, should get one of these phones because my phone runs extremely fast on ATT's network.

  • Ocu Jos

    "I don't know why everybody is so gaga over Super AMOLED plus. It doesn't look much better than a SLCD"

    JayMonster,
    I have a color calibrated Nexus One. My friend's HTC Desire SLCD pales in comparison to my N1 which is only a first generation (Samsung) AMOLED panel. SGS2 has a 3rd generation Super AMOLED Plus panel and is way better than the screen on my N1.

    You can calibrate screens on rooted Android phones
    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=745248

  • steve

    thanks Aaron for the review, I love my evo but I am keen to jump to on Samsung epic if your update looks good

    this phone puts iPhone5 to shame no wonder apple is sueing

  • Phil

    Is it like other 4G phones in that it has the front faceing camera for video calls?

  • Naa Laa

    Where can I get the wallpaper (orange) in the picture?