To say the Galaxy S II has a lot to live up to would be a drastic understatement. Its predecessor, the Galaxy S, was one of the most popular Android phones of its day, though it certainly wasn't without its shortcomings (*cough* TouchWiz *cough*). But with an even better display, a slimmer profile, a better camera, and - gasp - a new version of Samsung's custom UI, the Galaxy S II aims to patch over its antecedent's few flaws in addition to mixing in some new magic. So how does it fare? Pretty well, the great tech-heads of Europe declare.
Engadget's Vlad Savov made his opinion of the Galaxy S II crystal clear: "It's the best Android smartphone yet." He loved its svelte profile, swish animations, and stunning 4.3-inch display. He also found its battery life to be "highly competitive," and its 8MP camera took some excellent shots. Enough summarization, though; let's let the review speak for itself:
For a handset with such a broad range of standout features and specs, the Galaxy S II is remarkably easy to summarize. It's the best Android smartphone yet, but more importantly, it might well be the best smartphone, period. Of course, a 4.3-inch screen size won't suit everyone, no matter how stupendously thin the device that carries it may be, and we also can't say for sure that the Galaxy S II would justify a long-term iOS user forsaking his investment into one ecosystem and making the leap to another. Nonetheless, if you're asking us what smartphone to buy today, unconstrained by such externalities, the Galaxy S II would be the clear choice. Sometimes it's just as simple as that.
Vlad Savov wasn't alone in his approbation of the Galaxy S II; SlashGear also found the smartphone praise-worthy. Specifically, its Super AMOLED Plus screen performed admirably even in direct sunlight, and its 1080p video recording was also quite impressive. Battery life, call quality, looks, and general performance were similar stories - in short, excellent. In fact, one of the phone's only downsides was, unsurprisingly, Samsung's TouchWiz UI. Quoth Chris Davies:
Is it [the GS II] perfect? No, of course not. While we like some of Samsung’s tweaks – the Kies air app is surprisingly useful, for instance – we’d prefer to see a clean Gingerbread install rather than TouchWiz. How much of a delay that UI modification will force on future Android OS updates remains to be seen, and some changes – such as the keyboard – are frankly backward steps. There are also some annoying teething pains, such as the Video Maker app being unable to handle the Galaxy S II’s 1080p footage.
They pale in comparison to the Samsung’s strengths, however. The display belies its WVGA resolution with Super AMOLED Plus technology that manages to be both frugal and visible outdoors, while the dual-core 1.2GHz processor does a similar balancing act with power use and performance. Together they add up to a smartphone with brilliant battery life and the most future-proof hardware we’ve seen to-date. Layer on top of that a great camera, fulsome multimedia support, broad connectivity and a wafer-thin design, and we’re running out of reasons not to buy the Galaxy S II. Samsung has upped not only its game but the benchmark for smartphones in general.
In addition to pounding out a thorough review that corroborated other journalists' findings, Daniel P. of PhoneArena filmed a benchmarking test between the Galaxy S II and LG's dual-core offering, the Optimus 2X:
Don't feel like watching the full 8-minute video? Here's the scoop: the Galaxy S II is faster. A lot faster. Of course, benchmarking apps like Quadrant don't take the second core into account, but the Samsung handset also took the lead in Smartbench 2011, which is optimized for dual-core processors. That should come as no surprise considering what Samsung has managed to pack into the Galaxy S II's 8.49mm body: 1 GB of RAM and a custom 1.2GHz Exynos dual-core CPU. Oh, and that chipset also makes for some of the finest battery life you'll find on any currently available smartphone. In Daniel's words:
Probably the most important take from this review of the Samsung Galaxy S II is that it is, once again, future-proof. It has those highly-regarded and distinguishing features that won't make it obsolete in just a few months' time. The dual-core Exynos chipset chirps along capturing excellent Full HD video clips, whereas the 4.3” Super AMOLED Plus screen offers one of the best video playback experiences we've seen on a phone to date, with hardwired DivX/Xvid, and .MKV video formats support.
For enterprise users it is the first Android device to ship with encrypted hardware (perhaps real-time NAND Flash encryption), according to Samsung, which reduces the reliance on security software. We are yet to see if this will help the enterprise adoption of Samsung's flagship Android device, for which the company has also partnered with Cisco, Microsoft and Sybase.
If we didn't have 3D-capable handsets to consider, like the HTC EVO 3D for Sprint, or the LG Optimus 3D, we'd say that the Samsung Galaxy S II will be the Android handset to get so far. It is much thinner than the 3D beasts, though, and the Super AMOLED Plus display alone is a unique enough feature. The Galaxy S II will appeal most to people who prefer their large handsets in a slim and light package, an antipode of HTC’s muscular builds, and much easier to handle and toss around.
It's official: the Galaxy S II is light. And thin. And durable (mostly due to the Gorilla Glass that covers its display - a feature to which the recently-reviewed DROID Charge can't lay claim). That does result in slightly plasticky ergonomics, as TechRadar's Gareth Beavis discovered, but ultimately, the device's overall slimness appears to be worth the trade-off.
Plus, TouchWiz 4.0 is said to be a major improvement over 3.0 (the version featured on the original Galaxy S), both in terms of performance and in terms of features. For example, Samsung's Android overlay now sports easily resizable widgets and nifty gesture controls. There's a whole lot more information in Gareth's full review, so be sure to read the quote below before heading on over to the exhaustive article at the link below.
But if you're after a one-word summary of the Samsung Galaxy S2: awesome. We've been waiting for a phone to set a benchmark among the dual-core breed, and we've found it in the Samsung Galaxy S2.
The General Consensus
Wow. Simply put, the Galaxy S II is an amazing feat - in a design thinner than Sony Ericsson's incredibly sleek Xperia arc, Samsung has packed some of the most powerful smartphone hardware we've seen yet. Combined with Gingerbread and TouchWiz 4.0, the Galaxy S II is certainly a tasty morsel. Of course, the GS II isn't the only dual-core handset out there; Motorola and LG already have impressive portfolios, and HTC isn't resting on its laurels either. Additionally, Samsung's shady track record with updates should be taken into account, though the phone does come with Android 2.3, the most recent version of Google's mobile OS (at least until I/O). Still, the Galaxy S II looks to be a serious contender in the dual-core smartphone wars sure to break out this summer.
So, Sammy, when can we in the US buy it?