16
Sep
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Here we are: the launch of the first Samsung Galaxy S II to hit a U.S. carrier, dubbed the Epic 4G Touch (E4GT) and landing on Sprint today. It certainly took long enough for the SGSII to hit U.S. shores - it was announced by Samsung in February during MWC, and launched as early as May in some markets. It was a huge success even before launch, with Samsung receiving millions of pre-orders, and for good reason - the SGSII was incredibly well rated, with reviewers universally praising it as one of (usually the) best Android device available. Consequently, for months after its international lanch, it was highly anticipated in the U.S. - but little was revealed by Samsung until their announcement conference on August 30. So again, here we are: the launch of the first US SGSII.

Three days ago, I posted my initial impressions. I've had an additional few days to really put the phone through its paces, and now it's time to delve in a bit deeper.

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At A Glance

One of the reasons that the SGSII has been so highly anticipated is thanks to its impressive spec sheet.

The Specs:

  • 1.2GHz dual-core Exynos processor
  • 4.52" 800 x 480 Super AMOLED Plus (SAMOLED+) display
  • 8MP rear camera (with 1080p video recording), 2MP front-facing camera
  • 16GB internal storage, microSD slot
  • HDMI out via MHL
  • Android 2.3.4
  • TouchWiz 4.0
  • 4G (WiMax)
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • 9.65mm thin (vs. the international SGSII's 8.49)
  • 4.55oz (vs. the international SGSII's 4.09oz)

The Good:

  • Truly stellar battery life. Despite the massive 4.52" display, you can expect to safely make it through a full day of even heavy use.
  • The SAMOLED+ display is absolutely stunning. Think blacks so deep that you can't always tell where the screen ends and the bevel begins, vibrant colors, and outstanding viewing angles.
  • Very, very thin and light. It almost feels like a cheap toy, not a cutting-edge electronic device.
  • Physically stunning, in part both because of and despite its size. It will draw attention, if you're into that sort of thing. (Also in part due to how thin it is and how beautiful the screen is).
  • Performance is always snappy. I have yet to encounter stuttering or slow loads.
  • An abundance of community support thanks to months of groundwork that's already been laid, easy hackability, and Samsung's semi-official endorsement.

  • It's huge. Obviously not in depth or weight, but in sheer width and height.
  • Build quality is good, but the materials make it feel cheap and like you could drop it at any moment (and I almost have, many times, though I'm no klutz).
  • A resolution of just 800 x 480 means everything is pretty damn huge on a 4.52" screen. It's like using an old person phone - the kind with the huge buttons so that you can hit them even if cataracts have made you half blind.
  • Lack of NFC may be an issue to some people. (Other people may see the addition of a notification LED a fair trade-off.)

In a sentence: Great hardware and software, but a few questionable decisions may mean it's not for perfect for everyone.

You should buy it if: well... frankly, if you're a Sprint customer and you don't mind the huge size, last gen screen resolution, and drop-inducing exterior, this is the best phone on Sprint right now. It's speedy, smooth, and packs enough power to get you through a 2-year contract.

Still with me? Good - let's take a deeper look.

Deep Dive

Build Quality

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Build quality is good, but thanks to the ultra-light weight, thin design, and super slick plastic used on the back and sides, the phone is likely to slip your grip once or twice regularly. And because of how thin, light, and large it is, you will probably panic if you drop it. I've managed to catch it all half-dozen times I've dropped it, and you will learn to grab and hold it a little differently so as to prevent drops - just know that no part of this phone is sticky or grippy, and the back is the slickest I've encountered on a modern smartphone by a wide margin.

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As a said above (and in my initial impressions), the Epic 4G Touch is very thin and very light. Even though it gained a bit of chunk and weight on its trip Sprint's line-up, it's still mind-bendingly impressive. It's also huge; 4.52" is nothing to scoff at. Though some reviewers find it the perfect fit for their palms, it just doesn't feel comfortable in my own. It remains usable with one hand at that size, but not comfortably so - I find myself using two hands with the E4GT because it's just more comfortable than using one hand.

Display

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The display is really the crux of the issue for the E4GT. With the trend towards ever-larger devices in mind, I ran two polls on the very issue: the first was to see what people's ideal screen size is, and the second, the maximum. Surprisingly, 34% of our voters find a 4.5"+ screen to be ideal, and 50% say 4.5"+ is the maximum size they'd purchase. Thus, many people may find the display on the Touch to be a perfectly reasonable (or just plain perfect) size. Hell, I myself voted for 4.5" maximum before receiving the Touch.

This is purely my opinion, obviously, but... I was wrong. 4.52" is just too big for my tastes. It feels huge in my hand, it feels huge in my pocket, it looks huge on a table. I'm as concerned with leaning up against something while the Touch is in my pocket as I am with dropping it.

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The sheer size of it isn't the sole issue I have with the display. The original (first generation) Galaxy S sported a 4" 480x800 screen, while the GSII has a 4.3" 480x800 screen - meaning, quite literally, the new generation of Galaxy S has a last-generation screen resolution. That's not really a problem though, as 4.3" 480x800 displays are more or less the de-facto standard of 2010 and half of 2011. It becomes a problem when qHD (540x960) is the new standard on high-end devices, and especially so when the display is upped further to 4.52". Put another way: the original Galaxy S packs 233.24 pixels per inch (PPI), the E4GT 206.41, and the Photon 256.15 - or about 24% more.

The issue isn't really pixel density; the screen still crisp enough, though if you're actively searching for rough edges, you'll find them.  Rather, it's the size of things - I've snapped a few comparison photos between my qHD 4.3" Photon and the WVGA 4.52" Touch to show you what I mean. Take, for example, Gmail: the Touch shows about 7.5 emails, while the smaller Photon shows 10.5. Then again, it becomes a perk when using the on-screen keyboard or browsing the web.

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With all that said, many of you won't find any of these things an issue for you, but they're still worth nothing, because they will matter to some. As for the display itself, I'm going to pull an about-face: it's absolutely stunning. Blacks are deep enough to meld with the bevel. Colors are incredibly vibrant. You can view the screen from nearly any angle. The sole exception is whites which seem "dirty" - they're really more of a shade of light gray than white. Not a big deal, and not really noticeable unless you happen to be around another screen with some white on it. Certainly a fair trade-off in my book.

Performance

I think this about sums up performance (both literally and metaphorically) on the Epic 4G Touch:

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'DAT BENCHMARK... will help you meet lonely girls.

Performance is pretty epic (see what I did there?) across the board, whether you're testing a synthetic benchmark, swiping between home screens, or playing a game. In real-world use, it's not really noticeably better or faster than similar high-end devices, but having a ton of horsepower under the hood means a relatively future-proof purchase.

The really amazing part of this performance is that it doesn't seem to come at a price. Battery life is absolutely phenomenal, easily making it through a day of heavy use, or two (!) of moderate use. It's better even than smaller, single core devices such as the (now outdated) Incredible 2. This is largely because of some of the optimizations Samsung has made with their Exynos processor, but the beefy 1800 mAh battery undoubtedly plays a part.

TouchWiz

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Bonus: built-in screenshot function! (Home + Power button)

The newest iteration of TouchWiz is, visually, quite attractive. What's more, it adds quite a few useful features, perhaps the most significant of which is a hardware accelerated browser that provides the best browsing experience I've ever seen on a phone. It also brings an improved (and much prettier) power control widget, an Active Applications/system monitor widget, and a better calendar widget, to highlight a few. And it's smooth and responsive, to boot.

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Perhaps the biggest (and arguably only) shortcoming of TouchWiz is that the transitions are "slow" (as in, gradual) and tend to put the focus on visual flair rather than efficiency - and that's certainly a pretty minor complaint, all things considered. (Some would argue that it's very "iPhone-y" and consider that a shortcoming... personally, I'm neutral on that point.)

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Connectivity

Another major positive mark for the E4GT: connectivity is, quite simply, excellent. I can't think of any other device that bests the strength and speed of the Touch's connection - and that's no mean feat. Browsing the web, pages always load quickly.  Streaming music, it never stops or stutters. Making phone calls, things are always loud and clear. Reception and data speed is, somehow, markedly better than that of the Photon or EVO 4G.

Camera

If you're expecting these pictures - from a 9.5mm, 4.5oz smartphone - to look like pictures taken by a DSLR, you're going to be sorely disappointed.

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If you expected them to look good for such a device, your expections should be met. The pictures are a lot like the screen: technically they're oversaturated, but it makes them pop without a doubt, and that's something people tend to like. David and Artem both argue that the photos are excellent, but I certainly see some flaws (a bit washed out, lack of detail, oversaturation), so let's just say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Regardless of your personal tastes, the E4GT does take some good photos - just don't expect them to rock your world.

The Verdict

The Epic 4G Touch is undoubtedly a great device. It's big, beautiful, sexy, fast, and excluding the screen resolution, as future-proof as you can get right now. But the sheer size (and the implications thereof) may be enough to sway some consumers towards a different device. And frankly, those pushed towards smaller devices won't be disappointed with their decision, either - both the Photon and EVO 3D offer nearly as compelling packages.

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Those who don't mind the size and resolution? Well - they've got themselves a hell of a phone.

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.

  • TOMMMMMM

    I dont' think a comparison to a qHD display that is of the Pentile Matrix is much of a comparison. If there is no Pentile, then I agree, WVGA is definitely worse off than qHD, but when you add Pentile, I think they are sort of comparable (save for the actual size of things, I'm talking about crispness).

    • Aaron Gingrich

      I didn't compare the quality, I compared the number of pixels.

      • TOMMMMMM

        So for your purposes, it was just how much could fit on the screen, and not if visible pixels were more evident? I see.

        • Aaron Gingrich

          I wouldn't word it that way, since you're intentionally using manipulative wording with a negative connotation.

          I was showing that thanks to the E4GT's generation-old resolution on a large screen, things accordingly look large.

          If you want to send me alternative qHD devices to use for comparison shots, I'd be more than happy to take and publish the pictures. Until that point, I'm going to use the only qHD device I have handy: the Photon, which, yes, uses a MotoPenTile display.

      • moodi

        I think there is font size difference b/w Photon and epic 4g Touch. that is causing the screen on E4gT to look the way it is looking

  • Kevin

    Part of why I am glad AT&T stuck with the smaller screen, I agree by thinking a 4.52" screen is too big... I will be picking up the AT&T version as soon as it is available, been saving my upgrade for it.

  • TOMMMMMM

    @Aaron, I wasn't trying to be manipulative, I meant "I see" literally, not sarcastically. Thanks for the comparison though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pac0naut Paco

    Good review....I'll be getting the AT&T version it looks like.

    Oh, shouts out to York, PA, my old stomping grounds.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Holla from the 'burbs!

  • RockingmyEvo3D

    Great choice for current epic 4g owners. There is no way you can allow this device to slip away if you need the next iteration here it is. We all love android and we should just choose one device and be happy.

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

    My first thoughts coming from the EVO.

    Good:
    - It's much lighter and thinner. The EVO feels kind of like a brick now.
    - It's insanely fast.
    - 1GB of RAM - hell yes. My EVO would always run out of memory and start getting slow while killing things left and right
    - I love that there's an LED notification (thank you for putting it back, Sprint/Sammy)
    - I love that you can insert the SD card (and that there's support for it in the first place, unlike the Nexus) without powering down the phone, like you had to with the EVO
    - I like the side power button more than the top one that was always hard to press
    - the 1800 mAh battery is beefier than the EVO's and beefier than other SGSII variants. It feels heavier, and I like that. The phone is still much lighter overall
    - the video and pictures are stunning. I've been waiting to buy a flip camera, and now I won't need to. HD is... wow.

    Not so good:
    - lots of crapware, including TouchWiz. I was able to get rid of 4-5 things, but not nearly everything I wanted. At least Nascar is gone, thank god.
    - I miss Cyanogenmod, especially swipe-away notifications I can swipe away one by one and the notification area toggles
    - the whites look dirty gray, as Aaron mentioned. I'm actually quite turned off by that, but apparently it's one of the trade-offs of using an AMOLED screen. Ugh, sometimes I want to crank the screen brightness higher, yet it's already all the way up.
    - it's slippery for sure - not sure I'll get a case, as I hate those, but it's going to slip out. I guarantee it.
    - I do miss the kick stand
    - no NFC, oh well
    - I have average sized hands, and reaching the menu button gets tiresome. Reaching the top left is impossible
    - I'm not really sure I like how the capacitive buttons "feel" - I prefer the EVO's feel more. It's not as abrupt and seems to react better.

    There is no root yet, but I bet that won't take long. I neeeeeed it.

    • fins1771

      Once you root, you never go back huh. The main reason I got the 3d was sense 3.0, and dev support on xda. Bought it off eBay, received it two Fridays ago, rooted within 36 hrs. I thought about waiting for this or the next Nexus, but I've only ever used HTC. I've never ever had a problem with my phones, and like the build/feel of them. Plenty of roms to choose from, plus my 32gb class 10 card should keep me happily flashing for quite awhile. Root will be on the way, but I know how you feel. Luckily I only waited 36hrs to root. Good write up as always, and thanks for your opinions Artem.

  • Andrew

    They should have done a commercial using 2001: A space Odyssey footage with this phone in place of the Monolith. On a separate note, I wonder how long until someone names their blog on this phone the Epic Touch 4G Spot.

  • Don

    the dock is customizable - when you are in the app drawer tap menu -> edit. you can then add/remove dock icons and also add folders/re-arrange the app drawer

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Well don't I feel silly. Thanks Don!

  • Mike

    Good review man, in-depth writing like this keeps me coming back to this site.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Thanks Mike, much appreciated :)

  • Abdi

    Seriously awesome review. To think to show the difference in text size due to screen resolution. I have the Photon and love the phone, but at the same time I am obsessed with the SAMOLED. (I had the nexus s 4g, amazing screen but got rid of it due to crappy reception) I was seriously considering the Epic touch, but now keep thinking about 'old people screen' and large fonts. Anyone think thee is a setting to reduce the size?

  • Vince

    "Lack of NFC may be an issue to some people".

    Hardly, a negative...

  • Sorin

    no 3d screen, no 3d camera, no wireless charging, no quad-core processor (coming in october), limited RAM, really small screen resolution (dpi) - smaller than my almost two years old htc nexus one, and ultimately you get stock with touchwiz which is ugh :/

  • Nick

    Aaron - awesome review! I have 1 question regarding the screen. I got the phone yesterday, but there's a terrible 1.5 second lag every time I wake up the phone when it's not plugged into a power source. You can press the button and count "1, 2" and right before you say "2" it comes on.
    I started a thread on this on XDA and people said this is a normal battery saving feature for a Galaxy S2 phone. I was wondering why it is not mentioned in any review when this lag is not present on any other device I've ever used (including the Evo3D). I mean, how can you be proud of having (arguably) the fastest phone on the market and have to experience lag every single time you wake the screen?
    Thanks!

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Thanks Nick. I can honestly say I haven't even noticed, I think perhaps because I'm used to it taking about a second or so for the screen to come on. My Photon and EVO both do (did) so as well, and I've never thought much of it.

      Even now, I don't really notice it - obviously I'm in no way disagreeing with you, but it's hardly noticeable to me... I have to actively look for it, and it only feels like it takes about half a second.

  • wraedeohed

    How come I see an email count of 8 on the GSII, and 9.5 on the Photon. Is 1.5 emails enough to really whine about?

    • Aaron Gingrich

      You're right. The larger screen on the E4GT shows more like 7.75 emails while the smaller Photon shows closer to 10.33. I rounded.

  • Nick

    Aaron - Wow, thanks for the reply! I had an Evo and and Evo 3D; both had no delays at all. Here's a video of the wake up lag time. Please watch it and confirm that it's normal because it's driving me nuts:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqJc_nYuwac

    Thanks again!

    • Aaron Gingrich

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gs3V7OmvFBg

      Yours is taking longer, it seems. Have you tried tweaking the settings?

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

      I noticed the same annoying problem with my E4GT, which was also brought up by David in his review of the Charge earlier. Seems like Samsung is doing something wrong here - compared to the EVO 3D, the E4GT is taking 100x longer to wake up (EVO 3D is instant).

  • greg.

    Lets hope it's still not running 2.3.4 in a year, like the OG epic is still running froyo. This is what's kept me from the galaxy tab. Currently using the EVO 3d; "Pixel density" will be the new "screen size" in 2012.

  • Andrew – Des Moines

    Sadly, the predicted September 18 release of the AT&T version has not materialized. Hopefully later this week...

  • RockingmyEvo3D

    I applaud samsung and openly appreciate the growth they have endured and the day to day competition they have with htc. Innovation is something that both HTC and SAMSUNG have always brought to the table and people have not seen anything yet. Bottomline this makes the lineup on sprint THE BEST smartphones on the market. Epic touch 4g, Evo 3d, Photon 4g, and now the upcoming iphone 5 definately makes the line up on sprint clearly the best on the market. Funny part is they haven't seen anything yet check out these specs for the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S3 for mobile world congress in 2012 and think exactly what the upcome evo brand will be in 2012. People can say whatever they want and I'm sure some real BOZO'S ie...@snowbdr89 and the other jerk squiddy20 all will respond to this post like the TROLLS they are talking up crappy verizon and there WEAK DUALCORE LINEUP which at best is clearly a joke today..http://www.phonedog.com/2011/09/16/samsung-nexus-prime-ice-cream-sandwich-and-galaxy-s-iii-details-emerge/. Take all these specs on upcoming devices and just ask yourself what will the next iteration of the evo brand of 2012 be like with the snapdragon s4 chip which will be announced at CTIA in May 2012...http://socialbarrel.com/qualcomm-reveals-plans-about-snapdragon-s4-2-5-ghz-chips-for-mobile-devices/20564/

  • steve

    Aaron now I am salivating

  • Nick

    Aaron - thanks for the video. The problem has been solved thanks to Nyckrs on the XDA thread I started. It turns out that my 32GB Class 4 SanDisk card is to blame. I removed the card and the wake is exactly like the video you posted. Apparently, it's related to the class of SD card because someone had the same problem with a 16GB card, so it's not the capacity. Thanks for all your assistance.

    • Nick

      Just checked - it's actually a Class 2 card (which may explain things). Regardless, does anyone know what Class I'll have to get to eliminate the wake lag?

      • Aaron Gingrich

        I'd imagine the faster the better - 10 is the fastest.

        • Nick

          Thanks again. I check androidpolice.com every day and it's great to know that you guys respond.

        • Aaron Gingrich

          No problem, Nick. Glad to help. Thank YOU for your support :)

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

        What the heck, I have a class 6 in mine, and it's still slow. Why in the world would it take longer to wake up every time? It's not like it's scanning the card for new files.

  • rico

    I find super amoled screens just look very nice I have epic 4g the original and looks better than my girls HTC evo 3d I do notice that the resolution on the evo is better but the super amoled screens r just vibrant and the blacks r dark the colors r great that any wallpaper to to just animations Judith look better but if u root ur phone r just at a replacement home launcher why dose qhd matter not really at all

  • http://www.dannypeters.org Dan

    Which phone do you like better? The Photon or Epic 4G Touch?
    I currently have the Touch and was thinking about switching--- well it crossed my mind.

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