Okay, so let’s officially start this blog off with a review of something I have grown rather fond of: My Samsung Galaxy S II Android device. I’m gonna post some quick points about the phone so that you can get a gist for the good and the bad, but for a more in-depth review, be sure to read after the break!
- absolutely stunning Super AMOLED Plus display with no PenTile matrix
- good whites and good blacks makes texts easy on the eyes for reading
- big 4.3” screen for those that like it
- screen protected with the super-tough Gorilla Glass
- despite its light weight, feels more sturdy and durable than previous Galaxy S
- a nice, simplistic body design that could be pleasing to the eye
- enough cannot be said about the Exynos system-on-chip
- very fast performance with little to no lag
- great for taking pictures; could maybe replace some point-and-shoots
- expandable memory up to 32GB
- solid battery life
- it runs Android, so there’s a lot of customization that can be done there
- Swype, for an alternative to typing, is now better
- Voice Talk powered by Vlingo good for use when wearing gloves
- is still one of the top Android devices despite being out for over half a year
- the resolution, and in turn the pixel density, is still too low for my liking
- big 4.3” screen for those that don’t like it
- plastic build quality may be off-putting for some
- earpiece quality could be better
- have to take out battery to access microSD
- stock headset/mic combo doesn’t allow for easy music control like iPhone’s
- no notification LED
- no dedicated camera button
- no ports for things such as HDMI
- leaving wifi on seems to drain battery quite quickly
- it runs Android, which may not be for everyone when it comes to a mobile OS
- some bloatware that the average user most likely will not use
In the end…
Despite some shortcomings, the Galaxy S II’s strengths far outshadow them and propelled the device to a status that is few matched and almost defied the logic of the hectic tech world. Almost nine months old and it’s still a top dog.
Read my full in-depth review of the Galaxy S II after the break!
But first, a little unrelated note. Because I am thinking that I will be posting a shit-ton of stuff about a variety of different things, I will be putting those…header…things— Whatever the damn things are called, at the beginning of most titles to at least let people know what category they’re in. TECH, GAMES, MOVIES, MISC, etc. etc.
Now, it should come as no surprise to people that know me that I like using Android devices. It’s a rather nifty operating system (OS) that I feel compliments me well, as it does, for the most part, things I want done on a touchscreen phone.
Initial thoughts before starting…
I’m going to take a small detour first and say that I ain’t saying iOS (Apple’s operating system for mobile devices) can’t do the same things as Android, it’s just I prefer how Android does most things more. To me, iOS still feels like it’s restricting or holding back its true potential. And yes, I am still talking about a jailbroken iOS device (an iDevice only becomes truly useful once you jailbreak it, in my opinion). Although there’s a plethora of different customizations that you can do to a jailbroken device that may not even be possible on Android (a good friend of mine could show you the absolute crazy amounts of customization that you can throw onto an iPhone 4 that are pretty damn cool), whenever I use an iDevice—and yes, I have used quite a few. Maybe not as much as I’ve used an Android to get a full-on opinion of it, but enough to at least base some opinions and know what I’m talking about—I still feel locked into Apple’s simplistic, minimalist user-interface design. Now, I am a firm believer that sometimes, simple is best as I use that in a lot of my stylings of things (just take a look at my homescreen on my Android compared to others lol), but when it comes to Apple’s iOS, it just never did it for me. When it comes to some tech, I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about a more frantic feel that I do enjoy in operating systems or even hardware in general. I like looking at something that would normally confuse a person, and then take a second to completely understand it and go, “Yes. I know what it does now.” It gives out a nice, small feeling of seeing a slight challenge and overcoming it, as opposed to seeing the same feature on another device and being hand-guided to what it does. Of course, that’s just my personal feeling on it and won’t reflect everyone else out there. I can’t fully explain what draws me to Android instead of iOS, but there is something. Maybe I just don’t like Apple lol Which I don’t. I actually don’t like the company all that much. I highly respect Steve Jobs (may he rest in peace) as he’s done a LOT for the tech world, but I’m sorry Mr. Jobs, I just don’t much like the way some of the people are running your company. Hell, I don’t even like how Apple kinda forces things onto their customers, kinda subtly saying that it’s not what you think you want, it’s what we want you to want. For Android devices, because it’s an operating system given out to other manufacturers, I’ve always liked that I had options for choosing a phone. I want a high screen resolution with a nice aluminum unibody design with screens ranging from 4” to 4.5”, I have HTC’s devices. For an amazing looking screen with usually top-of-the-line internal hardware, there’s Samsung devices. And then there’s Motorola, LG, and Sony rounding up the other major Android device makers. Although I admit to a bias against Apple, I am usually impartial to their products however. If I hate the company, I try not to let it affect the way I see their products for how it is, because a lot of people have put a tremendous amount of time and effort into design and developmnent, and hey, these people could be stand-up citizens that I could like. Just because a company might be run by a bunch of jerks, it doesn’t mean it translates into their products. Now, with that out of the way…
On to the review…
What can I say? I like Android. I’ve always liked Samsung (I got a bunch of their TVs, monitors, whatever lol). When the two came together to make the Galaxy S last year, it was a phenomenal device. I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about the device until a friend pointed it out to me, which is something he still brings up to this day, so if you are reading this Mak, this point is to you lol Anyway, what really drew me to the original Galaxy S was its screen, the Super AMOLED. It was a beautiful 4” screen with amazingly bright, vivid colours. I praised my old Galaxy S Captivate to no end. It was quick, it was functional, it was an overall solid device to use, and I felt that it was a better device to use even compared to Apple’s infamous iPhone 4. But now that I am using Samsung’s newest iteration of its flagship, the Galaxy S II, here’s what I have to say about the original Galaxy S: it sucks royally in comparison.
So yes. The Galaxy S II (model I9100) first released into this world around April or May 2011 in India or Singapore, but did not come to Canada until July 21, 2011 with Bell Mobility. I remember that date ‘cause the phone was supposed to release before I went to San Diego for Comic-Con, but it got delayed a week so I had to buy a European model (from Portugal, to be exact) from Pacific Mall so that I could take the phone with me to SDCC lol Yes, I got the phone in July. Yes, this review is in October. I didn’t have a blog at the time and Facebook had character limits, so I never put up my thoughts on the phone.
Anyway, the Galaxy S II is a fantastic handheld. It was the top-of-the-line when it released, and it’s still one of the top devices now. Is it the best mobile device out right now? That could be debated. In my opinion, is it? No. But even after all these months, and especially in this crazy tech world that advances from single-core phones to dual-core phones to the inevitable quad-core phones in the span of just over a year, the Galaxy S II line is still relevant and still arguably the best overall Android handset on the market. It’s a solid size for a phone. At 4.3”, I believe it’s not too large to be cumbersome in the hands of the average person. Although 4” would probably be ideal for most people, 4.3” should be more than fine. Although Apple likes to say that 3.5” is the sweet spot and should be the size for any phone (see how Apple forces their ideals onto their customers without giving some kind of choice, and kinda manipulating the customers into thinking that what they want is really what Apple throws out?), I personally can’t go back to using an iPhone 4. I’ve played around with an iPhone 4 many times and I find the screen far too small to use now. Yes, I could reach every corner of the screen with my thumb, but hey, I can do the same thing with my 4” Galaxy S and 4.3” Galaxy S II. Hell, I can’t even go back to using the Galaxy S Captivate with its 4” screen (which I believe is a more ideal screen size than 3.5”) after using the Galaxy S II with its 4.3” screen. I’ll get into the screen and everything later on.
I don’t have an iPhone 4 on me at the moment, so I took a picture with the iPhone 3GS (left) and the Galaxy S II (right)
The speed and the performance of the phone is still outstanding even compared to devices released right now. It’s quick to load, quick to process, and overall, speed is its bread and butter. I’ve barely managed to make the phone lag after all this time. Battery life? Surprisingly good for a dual-core, full-touchscreen phone. Its life will vary depending on user (I have friends that can attest to that), but overall, it should at least last you a full day unless you plan to run movies all day long. Let’s see, what else is there. The camera? Pretty good. Call quality? To me, a little sub-par. I’ll dive deeper into the details of the phone later.
Clarification on the Galaxy S II family…
Okay. This is something I should get out of the way first. There isn’t just one Galaxy S II. Samsung tried something different with the original Galaxy S in that they made more than one variant to kind of please different phone carriers. Samsung went with the Galaxy S Vibrant (the original), the Galaxy S Captivate (which I had), the Galaxy S Fascinate, and the Galaxy S Epic. I’m not entirely familiar with US carriers so I could be wrong with matching the carrier to the phone variant. Vibrant to T-Mobile, Captivate to AT&T, Fascinate to Verizon, and Epic to Sprint. In Canada, Bell got the Vibrant (the one Apple is going all crazy about saying that Samsung stole the iPhone’s design), Roger got the Captivate (a more bold design with a brushed metal, carbon fiber-esque back design), and Telus got the Fascinate. The Epic never came to Canada. They were all essentially the exact same device but with a different shell design and maybe a couple of minor hardware changes. Nothing else changed. Screen size was the same, processors were the same, nearly everything inside the phone stayed the same.
For the Galaxy S II, Samsung decided to try something even a little more different. There are currently going to be three known variants to the Galaxy S II in Canada. The original Galaxy S II is with Bell, to no one’s surprise. Bell ordered a 60-day exclusivity lock to the device. Because of this, Samsung had time to potentially advance the Galaxy S II for other carriers. They almost kind of did. Samsung made it so that different carriers could be getting a Galaxy S II that is almost custom-tailored to them and their perks and whatnot.
Bell wanted first dibs, so they got the original, baseline beast of a device. It sports the original 4.3” Super AMOLED Plus screen (again, more on the screen later), a 1.2GHz Exynos SoC (system-on-chip), 1GB RAM, an 8MP camera, 16GB internal storage with the option for up to 32GB expandable memory, and a 1650mAh battery.
The Galaxy S II, which debuted on Bell earlier this year in July.
For Telus, they will be getting the Samsung Galaxy S II X (formerly known as the Galaxy S II Hercules) possibly later this week or next week. A lot is the same, except for some key features: 4.5” Super AMOLED Plus, 1.5GHz Snapdragon SoC, 1850mAh battery, and the defining feature tailored for Telus, it is the first smartphone in Canada with the ability for dual-channel. What this means is that it could potentially go double the bandwidth and achieve speeds up to 42Mbps HSPA+ as opposed to if it ran the regular one bandwidth of speeds up to 21Mbps HSPA+. Some of you might see the 1.5GHz processor and say, “Oh, so it’s faster!” That’s not entirely true. Samsung designed that 1.2GHz Exynos chip, and it’s a complete beast of a chip. Without going into too much detail, it performs on-par, if not better, than the 1.5GHz Snapdragon found in the Galaxy S II X in some aspects. But then why not just use the 1.2GHz Exynos? Unfortunately, the Exynos doesn’t have the right kind of radio chipset to use and maintain dual-channels. The Snapdragon does, so it was used. I’m not gonna review the SIIX since I do not have one, so if you want to know more about it, I will redirect you to one of my favourite sites for mobile news in Canada for their review, MobileSyrup: http://mobilesyrup.com/2011/09/29/video-telus-samsung-galaxy-s-ii-x-review/
The Galaxy S II X, which will make its way to Telus at the end of October.
Lastly, Rogers will be getting the Galaxy S II LTE. Here, it’s nearly identical to the SIIX, but one major difference in that instead of the dual-channel, this one will have LTE enabled, as the name implies. The phone is rumoured to release sometime November and there aren’t too many details about it yet, so I’m not entirely sure what processor it will run. I know it will be 1.5GHz, but not sure if it will be Qualcomm’s Snapdragon or Texas Instruments’ OMAP. It will still run a 4.5” Super AMOLED Plus, though, which is cool. I believe the LTE will have a brushed metal battery cover backing similar to the Galaxy S Captivate. The original Galaxy S II has a plastic battery cover.
Update: According to some reports, Rogers’ LTE variant will be using the same 1.5GHz Snapdragon as Telus’ SIIX. That’s kind of a big hit to it.
The last Galaxy S II to release in Canada, the Galaxy S II LTE will go to Rogers.
So there it is. The gist of the three major Galaxy S II variants. Which is the best one? That’s kind of up in the air. 4.3” and 4.5” is surprisingly a rather big difference. I held my 4.3” Galaxy S II beside Rogers’ Galaxy S Infuse 4G (which is kind of a Galaxy S 1.5 lol), which sports a 4.5” screen, and the thing looked massive compared to my phone. Some of you could be wondering why the battery size is bigger for the Telus and Rogers variants (1850mAh) compared to the Bell variant (1650mAh). There are mainly two reasons for that. One is that the extra dual-channel and LTE capabilities will require a bit of extra juice, and the second is the screen size. Not the screen draining more, but that the screen makes the size of the phone bigger, which means there is more room for a slightly bigger physical battery. Bigger device usally = more space for a bigger battery. I’m still liking my Galaxy S II, but you can’t go wrong with Telus’ SIIX or Rogers’ LTE variants if you choose to go with ‘em.
Anyway. Finally to the actual review itself.
Hardware: External appearance…
One of the first things people notice about the Galaxy S II when I take it out is its size. They may not realize it until they actually look at it or take out their own phone to compare, but the Galaxy S II is pretty big. It doesn’t look or feel big once you hold it, which is important, but it is quite large compared to the likes of the iPhone 4, and now the iPhone 4S. Using my own ruler, the thing measures in at 12.5cm long and 6.5cm wide, while being a little over 8mm thick (8.5mm according to the pros). Now, there is a small lip at the bottom of the phone and the thickness including that is around 9mm or so.
See that really small lip that sticks out from the bottom at the end of the phone?
The iPhone 4 is 11.5cm long, 5.8cm wide, and 9.4mm thick (since a lot of people have the iPhone 4, I figured it’d be something good to compare with). As soon as someone holds the Galaxy S II, the next thing they notice is how light it is. It comes in at (I don’t have a scale, so I’m gonna have to use official numbers for this) 115g, a little lighter than the iPhone 4 at 140g. How light the phone is could be attributed to one thing: the build quality.
It is no surprise to most of the tech world that Samsung enjoys using plastic on their devices to make ‘em lighter. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Well, it depends on the person. I personally don’t mind the plastic build and it’s never bothered me until I noticed a lot of people actually complaining how “cheap” Samsung products feel because of the plastic, especially when compared to other Android device manufacturers, like HTC, which solely uses a unibody aluminum casing design. HTC does look and feel awesome, but not enough to fully draw me to them. For Samsung’s plastic devices, it feels fine. To me, it does not feel as “cheap” as some nitpickers may make it sound. If anything, although the Galaxy S II is lighter and thinner than the Captivate that I had, this one feels a lot more sturdy. It feels durable and nowhere near as fragile as the Captivate felt in my hands, which is kind of odd. I can toss the GS2 onto my bed without worry. I can let it down on my desk as normal as I let anything down. With the Captivate, I felt like it was going to break while in my hand. It has a rather fragile feel to it, and I had to be consciously aware of everything I did with the phone as I worried I would break it accidentally somehow. One of the major gripes people have of the Galaxy S II’s plastic body is its battery cover. Pull it off and it’s a thin piece of plastic. To them, it looks cheap and easy to break. The thing about that is, it’s far from the truth. Plastic has come a long way since we played with toys as kids. Samsung doesn’t just make phones and TVs. They have branches in nearly everything (I believe Samsung holds the most patents in the tech world right after IBM?), and I think one of ‘em is involved in development of materials; in this case, the plastic battery cover. I’ve heard countless stories of this “mutant plastic” that will not break or dent. Of course, when you hold it in your hand, you couldn’t possibly bend it all the way ‘cause it’s nearly counter-intuitive to what you grew up learning. Would I test out my battery cover? No. Although I have seen many accounts of people do whatever they could to the battery cover and it not breaking or even forming a crease, I could not bring myself to replicate those tests. So for your viewing pleasure, instead of me bending the battery cover, here’s someone else doing it:
Crazy, huh? I took a picture of me going back as far as I could before cringing at the notion of the cover snapping in two lol
The device doesn’t exactly have a lot of features to it appearance-wise aside from the essentials, meaning there is no dedicated port for mini- or micro-HDMI. To use HDMI, you need to buy some kind of MHL adapter or something. The touchscreen does take up a solid chunk of the space on the face (hah. Rhymes), but doesn’t completely go edge-to-edge. At the top of the phone is the “Samsung” insignia with the earpiece sitting above it. To the left of the earpiece are the proximity sensors (knowing to turn the screen back on when you take the phone away from your face), the light sensor (to know when to auto-dim the screen’s brightness for when you are indoor, outdoor, or in a room with a lot of light), and a 2MP front-facing camera.
At the bottom is a physical Home key, which could also be used to activate the Voice Talk feature powered by Vlingo by double-clicking. Now, it’s obviously no Siri, but hey, nothing short of DARPA’s CALO project is quite like Siri lol Voice Talk is good enough and gets the job done rather well at times. You could also activate it by just saying, “Hi Galaxy”. Here’s a rather cheesy commercial showing the thing:
Beside the Home button are two capacitive buttons, the Menu and Back key that non-iPhone users know so well (sorry, kinda had to throw a jab there lol). This Galaxy S II uses the three-button setup as opposed to what the other Galaxy S II variants will have, the four capacitive buttons of Menu, Home, Back, and Search.
The Power/Screen Lock button is located on the right side of the device (which some people actually have a hard time finding… You’ve no idea how many people I’ve seen look all around the Galaxy S Captivate and Galaxy S II looking for the lock button, only not being able to find it. They look at the top, on the left, and even at the bottom of the phone. For some reason, some people don’t bother to look at the right side of the phone… o_O).
And on the left side is a straight Volume rocker. The buttons are fairly easy to the touch, and the Volume doesn’t have that slight indent to ‘em to indicate Up and Down. If anything, I kinda like it. It’s a small detail that matches well with the phone’s overall look and aesthetic design it’s trying to pull off. Above the Volume rocker is a small hole for those little dangly string thing enthusiasts out there lol
At the top of the phone, on the right side, is the 3.5mm phone jack and a small hole that I am assuming is a mic to help with the outside noise cancelling for when in a phone call.
At the bottom, again sitting slightly to the right, is a small hole for the mic and dead centre of the buttom is the micro-USB port for charging or connecting the device to the computer. There’s also some kind of add-on or something that allows you to connect the phone to a TV via HDMI, but I didn’t look into purchasing one at all so I’ve no idea about it really.
On the back of the phone, about dead centre at the top, is the housing for the camera’s 8MP camera and dual-LED flash. The plastic battery cover has a textured, ridge feel to it. I can’t remember what people describe it as, so I’ll just show you a picture of it later lol
At the bottom of the battery cover is another “Samsung” insignia. Below the battery cover is the phone’s lip, a slight protrusion to the device. I am not entirely sure as to what the function of this lip is as I highly doubt it’s going to prevent accidental drops (‘cause it’s at the bottom of the bloody thing), but it’s there. On the lip, situated on the right, is the phone’s external speaker. Kind of an odd place to put it, but it’s there. It’s a little easy to block sometimes, but for the most part, it’s no biggie.
Under the battery cover, there ain’t much to see. The 1650mAh battery sits relatively in the lower-bottom part of the phone. At the top of the battery-holding alcove is the place for the expandable memory, up to 32GB. A problem with its placement is that you cannot take out the memory card without first removing the battery. An odd design choice by Samsung considering where they placed the SIM. The SIM card could be taken out and inserted without even removing the battery of the phone. It has its own little spot right under the 8MP camera. It’s not a huge issue for me, but I could see it being a problem.
Part of the reason for expandable memory is the ability for hotswapping cards. Let’s say you have a 4GB microSD and you put on your favourite season of ‘How I Met Your Mother’. Now, you feel like watching some ‘Big Bang Theory’ instead, so you go to grab that second 4GB card ‘cause you don’t want to delete ‘HIMYM’. Wanna swap it out while on the bus? Sure, go for it. Only problem is, you gotta pull out the battery. Same deal on if you run out of space on the phone and on the microSD for the camera. You want to quickly take another shot, so you whip out a spare microSD. Once again, you gotta yank the battery out. Luckily, the phone doesn’t take too long to boot up (*coughBlackBerrycough*), but I could still see it being a nuisance. Timing it, it took me about 20 seconds to boot up the phone and get into using it again. Speaking of the battery cover again, here’s another problem that some might groan about: “It’s so hard to put back on!!” To that I say: No. It is not. It’s a little odd at first, but after doing it once or twice, you completely get used to it. Wanna know what’s hard to put back on? Grab some HTC devices lol
I guess that’s all I can say about the outside appearance. It really is quite a nice phone to look at. It’s a pure solid black device, is unnervingly light and thin, but solid for something that appears so fragile and “cheaply built”. Wanna see a video of its drop test compared to an iPhone 4S? Sure you do lol
Oh, and they’re releasing a white variant of the phone, too:
Hardware: The screen…
Okay, now to the screen. I felt that this should have its own section. People that know me also know that I like looking at pretty things lol I can watch something on a standard television or shows still in standard, but I usually do not want to if given the choice lol For me to enjoy something, it’s pretty much gotta be at least 720p. To be happy, it’s gotta be 1080p with its super clarity to the image. I still want an all-out, beautifully built, intensely maxed out 1080p 240Hz LED TV. I love its picture quality compared to a traditional 1080p LCD. Going on a tangent there lol Anyway. The screen on the Galaxy S II is simply stunning and something to behold. It still runs the same cruddy 400x800 resolution as the original Galaxy S, but this time on a 4.3” screen instead, which means…the pixel density is lower at around 210ppi or pixels per inch. What is pixel density? I’m gonna go into a rather basic explanation for those not in the know. If you do know or don’t care to read this, then skip to the next part.
What is “pixel density” and “ppi” (A.K.A. “pixels per inch”)?
You know what pixels are, right? The super tiny little dots on your computer monitor or TV screen that, in a nutshell, emit lights of colour to produce that which you are staring at right now? “Pixel density” pretty much means—at least, in the mobile world—the amount of pixels that are crammed onto the screen of your phone. Wanna know why the iPhone 4 and its Retina Display looks so amazing? Pixel density. The iPhone 4’s pixel density is the highest of any smartphone out right now (there’s one Toshiba device that is higher, but I’m not sure if that’s even in development anymore?). When someone screams out “screen resolution!”, what that basically means is the number of pixels going across the length of the screen by the number of pixels going across the width. Let’s take what I just said earlier into account, the 800x400 screen resolution of the Galaxy S II. What that means is, along the length of the phone’s screen, there are 800 pixels and along the width of the screen are 400 pixels. Basic multiplication shows that on the screen of the Galaxy S II (length x width = 800 x 400), there are 320,000 pixels making up the screen to produce the images we see.
So what is pixel density? Pixel density is “pixels per inch”, which means how many pixels are lined up in one inch. Not one square-inch. Just a 1” line. The higher the number of the pixel density (pixels per inch), the sharper the image will be. The more pixels you have on a screen, the smaller the pixels are. The smaller the pixels are, the sharper the image will be. You know the term for when something “looks heavily pixelated”? That means there simply are not enough pixels to properly render the shot, making it look blurry and kinda block-ish. A pixel could really only emit one colour at a time, so it is best to have as many small pixels as possible as opposed to a lesser amount, which end up being huger block pixels that could ruin an image. So as to not ruin everything, the image shown on a lower resolution screen would be rendered bigger than something on a higher resolution screen.
The top-left of the image is pixelated, simulating less pixels used (you can see the pixel blocks lol) and the bottom-right half is simulating a look of an adequate amount of pixels used to render an image sharp to look at.
Want a more visual example? You’re on your computer right now, right? Minimize all windows and go to your main desktop, and then go to your screen settings for your monitor if you know how to (Ie. On your desktop, Right Click > Properties. If you’re on Windows 7, when you Right Click, there will already be an option for Screen Resolution). What’s your screen resolution at? Something like 1024x768, 1280x800, 1440x900, 1680x1050, 1920x1080, whatever? Doesn’t really matter. Take the slider and lower your screen resolution to something low, like 800x600, 1280x720, or whatever your monitor’s screen ratio is. Just click on Apply, but be sure not to confirm by saying Ok or Save. I just want you to see the preview of how your screen will look. Notice how everything has become enlarged, meaning you “see less” on your screen ‘cause everything else is taking up so much space? Do this test on a web browser if you’re able to. That’s what a screen resolution could do by having a much higher pixel count. You know of 720p vs 1080p? Look at it this way. A 720p display is 1280x720, which is 921,600 pixels on your screen. A 1080p display is 1920x1080, which is 2,073,600 pixels on your screen.
With a much higher pixel count (screen resolution), the image is a lot sharper, less “jaggy” around the edges, and you see a lot more, with the caveat that things like text appear a lot smaller. Anyway, I kinda went off-base a bit. When it comes to pixel density, the higher the number (iPhone 4 at approximately 330ppi) the better and sharper the image will be. It doesn’t have anything really to do with colour quality, it’s the quality and clarity of whatever is displayed. The iPhone 4 runs a 640x960 screen resolution on a 3.5” screen, which calculates its pixel density to be around 329-330ppi. This is why the Retina Display looks as awesome as it does. Wanna know how to calculate pixel density? It’s really quite easy lol It involves the Pythagoras Theorem since you need to know a screen’s diagonal resolution, and you need that Theorem since you are given two values from the start: the screen resolution’s length and width. Everyone remembers the Pythagoras Theorem, right? a² + b² = c². For the iPhone 4, it’s gonna be: Square Root of (640² + 960²), which gives you 1,153.bunchofcrap. You then divide that value by the screen size, which is 3.5” in this case, and voila. You should have the device’s pixel density. What’s the pixel density of the Galaxy S II’s 400x800 on a 4.3” screen? A rather low 208ppi. But that’s not the whole story for this screen…
Hardware: The screen (cont’d)…
Wow, that pixel density part was a lot longer than I intended it to be. I don’t even think I explained it properly. At all. Anyway, what was I saying before? Oh, right. The pixel density of the Galaxy S and Galaxy S II are low. The Galaxy S was around 220ppi or something due to its smaller 4” screen. A lower pixel density usually means a blurrier, not-as-pretty display on the screen; however, the Galaxy S II got a nice boost in help from one key difference between it and the first Galaxy S. The predecessor ran Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen. The screen was great. The colours vivid and vibrant, they just popped off the screen. But one big fundamental flaw to the Super AMOLED was the fact that everything looked blurry. Compare the Galaxy S with an iPhone 4 and the lack of sharpness to the display showed. This was due to the format in which the Super AMOLED had its subpixels going; it used a PenTile Matrix format. A traditional pixel has 3 colour subpixels of RGB, red, green, blue. For a PenTile Matrix, the pixel sports only 2 colour subpixels. One pixel will have something like red and green, then the next pixel will show blue and white. This way of doing things helps to extend the colour life of pixels by a smidge, but it heavily adds a blur effect to almost everything. For the Super AMOLED Plus screen that Samsung used for the Galaxy S II, they ditched PenTile and went back to a traditional format of RGB per pixel. In the end, for Super AMOLED Plus, each pixel held 12 subpixels as opposed to Super AMOLED’s single pixel holding only 8 subpixels. This made for a much better viewing experience on the Galaxy S II. A PenTile matrix will run at roughly 2/3 of what its inteded pixel count should be.
Not only was the display much sharper, it was easier on the eyes when reading text off the screen. It may not have been as easy on the eyes as, say, an actual book or even an e-book reader, but it’s still easier to read text off a Galaxy S II as opposed to any other mobile device, possibly including the iPhone 4. The viewing angle on this thing is pretty crazy. Short of being just 180 degrees to the device, you will still see what’s on the screen, which could be good and bad depending on the person. It’s bad in that people around you can probably see your screen no problem, so privacy takes a hit there lol The colours are much more vivid on the Super AMOLED Plus with richer whites and blacker blacks, and overall, the screen just looks phenomenal. I’ve convinced a few people to get the Galaxy S II just by showing them ‘Toy Story 3’ on the phone lol
The camera I am using doesn’t do the screen justice, but trust me, when I play ‘Toy Story 3’ on it, it looks very nice lol
There are even three settings for the display’s colour effect that a number of Galaxy S II owners actually overlook: Dynamic, Standard, and Movie. Standard is obviously the default setting most people will see the phone shown at. Dynamic pops the colour even more, making the colours more intense and bright, and Movie dims the colour down to make it look a tad more dull. One other very nifty thing I like about the Galaxy S II is its black levels. Instead of just having the pixels produce the colour black using its subpixels, they just turn off or dim when displaying back. Not only does this result in much blacker blacks, it really helps to be more power efficient. Maybe I’ll upload a video later showing what I mean about the blacks, or if you have my Facebook, take a look at my videos and watch the video running a trailer for ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Legend of Korra’ comparing it on four difference devices, the Galaxy S II, BlackBerry PlayBook, Asus Transformer, and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
Sorry for the poor quality. I took the video from my Facebook page lol The Galaxy S II is in the top-left corner (look for its blacker black at the end when the title of the show pops up), the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is in the top-right corner, the BlackBerry PlayBook is the bottom-left, and the Asus Transformer is the bottom-right. The timing is a little off, but hey, you try syncing the timing for four different devices lol But man, I love the music for this cartoon series. ‘Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender’. Watch it! It’s an amazing show! I can’t wait for this sequel, ‘The Last Airbender: The Legend of Korra’.
Despite running at a lower resolution compared to other Android devices that run the nigh-infamous qHD (it stands for “quarter-HD”) screens at a pretty 540x960 resolution, the colours don’t pop out as much and the sharpness of the images or text isn’t that siginificantly better than the Galaxy S II. The resolution is higher on devices like HTC’s Sensation or Motorola’s Droid Bionic, though, which means you can possibly see more on the page while web browsing. However, after comparing the Galaxy S II and Sensation quite a bit, I gotta say, I still prefer the screen of the Galaxy S II. It’s a pure preference thing and not everyone will feel the same way, but to me, the Super AMOLED Plus is too beautiful to ignore and wins out when compared to screens like iPhone’s Retina Display or HTC and Motorola’s qHD.
Oh, one extra tidbit I didn’t throw in. It’s using Gorilla Glass with an oleophobic surface. The glass is extremely tough and quite hard to shatter, and it’s hard to scratch as well. You can put a dent or a scratch it in if you really tried to, but for regular usage, you shouldn’t see any scratches on the screen at all.
Hardware: Internal components…
Let’s see, what can I really say about the internal components. Well, first thing I will mention is the hardware a lot of people talk about first or get shocked about first when I mention it: the 8MP camera. It’s a good camera, especially for a phone. There’s auto-focus and zoom. That’s what everyone wants, right? lol It won’t replace your camera outright if you have a good one (Rebel T3i?), but you can’t always have your camera with you, although some of you might lol If you don’t, the Galaxy S II’s camera is more than adequate enough to just replace a simple point-and-shoot in your day-to-day life. I didn’t use it too often, so I can’t fully elaborate it, and I ain’t no camera-holic so I don’t really know the full terminology for anything or even what to talk about. I just know that there are a bunch of little features to tweak around with to make the pictures come out nice and pretty, but the sensor for the camera ain’t exactly up to snuff compared to the sensor placed in the iPhone 4. The pictures look great on the Galaxy S II, but when compared to an iPhone 4, I think there was some contrast differences for sure, especially with indoor light. Oh, and the thing is able of recording at 1080p at 30 frames per second (fps). The front-facing camera is 2MP. Have I used it? Not really lol I’m not a selca (self camera) kind of person. For video chat it works quite well, I’m guessing lol And I think (don’t quote me on this) that this is the highest megapixel front-facing camera for mobile devices? The iPhone 4 uses VGA, I believe. The Galaxy S II has 1GB of RAM running with 16GB of internal storage with about 2GB of that allocated for apps, I believe. That should be more than enough storage space for most people, but if that’s not enough, there’s the expandable memory slot for microSD cards up to 32GB in size. But arguably the best part internal component of the Galaxy S II is what I am going to talk about next.
Hardware: The beast that is Exynos…
Samsung’s own developed Exynos is the Galaxy S II’s system-on-chip (SoC). What is a Soc? You know how a computer has a CPU (central processing unit) processor for all the “brain” work and the video card to help produce everything displayed on the screen? For mobile devices, the CPU and GPU (graphics processing unit) are combined into one small chip. Those aren’t the only things found in a typical SoC. They are also comprised of the RAM, the ROM, flash memory, memory managers, the component that helps maintain the radio frequency for your data service, and some other stuff that I won’t bore you with. What you need to know is that for the Galaxy S II, Samsung developed the Exynos chipset that is, put simply, a beast in the mobile world. Two of its main components to help come together to deliver its impressive performance are its processor, a 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 dual-core, and its Mali-400MP GPU.
Apple’s A5 chip (the one found in the iPad 2 and now the iPhone 4S) may run the same ARM Cortex-A9 dual-core inside, albeit at 1GHz, and have a slightly more powerful PowerVR SGX543MP2 GPU, but its performance is just barely on-par, or even slightly lower, than the Exynos due to other internal components in the SoC. “But Joe, the iPhone 4S has really high benchmark scores!” you may say. But that is due in part to the fact that Apple designed both the hardware and software themselves. The two were tweaked over a long period of time and optimized to work near-perfectly with each other, which is why the iPhone 4S could still be blazing fast with just an 800MHz dual-core (yes, the iPhone 4S really did drop the speed of the iPad 2’s A5 of 1GHz to 800MHz for each core) and 512MB RAM. For Android devices, Google makes the operating system template and issues it out to other manufacturers like Samsung, HTC, Motorola, LG, Sony, etc. to make their handsets. Because there’s not much of a collaboration between Google and the many manufacturers of Android handsets, it’s really quite hard to have the different hardware and the operating system software perfectly synced. Let Apple have the Exynos for a bit to put into their iPhone, and after they tweak out the kinks, it will sing. Put the PowerVR SGX543MP2 GPU into the Exynos, and it will fly. Funny thing is, that is what Samsung did for their newest iteration of the Exynos. They upped the ARM Cortex-A9 to 1.5GHz and swapped out the second-best Mali-400MP for the king GPU that is the PowerVR SGX543MP2. They changed some other components to help make the processor their most efficient yet, and this new beast could possibly be seen first in the upcoming Samsung Nexus Prime… But that’s whole ‘nother story. And one that I hope I can tell in a few months time if the Nexus Prime releases in Canada before 2012 rolls around lol…
Update: The new Exynos isn’t in the upcoming Galaxy Nexus/Nexus Prime (*sad face*). The Nexus will be using a 1.2GHz Texas Instruments OMAP 4460 chipset that runs an ARM Cortex-A9 and a PowerVR SGX540, not the same as the SGX543MP2 that’s in Apple’s A5.
Anyway, even though the Exynos runs at 1.2GHz, don’t let that number fool you. On more than one occasion, the Exynos could dance circles around other higher-clocked SoCs, like the 1.5GHz Snapdragon, when it comes to raw performance. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon is comprised of a Scorpion dual-core processor and Adreno GPU. In many, many benchmark tests designed for Android devices, the Galaxy S II, although several months older, still beat out devices that released recently. Motorola’s Droid Bionic has some impressive speed to it, especially when web browsing and opening apps, and performs almost lag-free quite, quite well. It runs a SoC that consists of a 1GHz Cortex-A9 dualcore and a ULP GeForce GPU, which is together known around these parts as Nvidia’s pretty Tegra 2 chipset. The Tegra 2 chipset runs games great. Hell, it has games designed just for it. However, when it comes to other tasks like processing and whatnot, it kinda runs a little short. As an overall package, the Exynos beats out the Tegra 2, and benchmarks will attest to that. Here are some pics of some benchmarks I ran on my phone:
Here’s a Quadrant benchmark test. Not sure if the number is visible, but I ran a 3693, which is really high. I haven’t seen any other Android device come even close to that number yet. The closest is maybe 3100.
Here’s a Neocore benchmark test. We’re looking at FPS, frames per second, to be as close to 60fps as possible.
This is a Linpack test. The higher the MFLOPS, the better. I believe that to be a rather good score.
I guess the point I am trying to get across here, if there is one, is that the Exynos is still one of the top dogs when it comes to mobile devices. It might not beat out everything in a components vs components match, but in an overall package fight, it would probably win out more often than it’d lose. And this is a very old chipset, mind you, that first launched in a device that came out nearly 9 months ago. That is a very, very long time in the tech world.
Software, eh? Well. It’s Google’s Android lol What much else can I say? The Galaxy S II will come with Android OS 2.3 Gingerbread right out of the box. 2.3.3 Gingerbread to be exact, I believe. I am still waiting on that official 2.3.4 release lol 2.3 Gingerbread is pretty solid compared to the older 2.2 Froyo. It’s faster, smoother, and much more efficient when it comes to processing and battery drain. I am actually not going to dive into too much detail into Gingerbread for this review, but I will still try to give you the gist of what it’s capable of. But before I do, there is a small little tidbit that I want to through out that I’ve always liked about Android.
Software: Android Operating System naming convention…
So there are a lot of people that are confused about Android’s cutesy little names for their operating systems, and more often than not, they will either laugh at the names or ask why they are the way they are. I am going to now explain this to all of you. It’s just a little fun that Google put into their naming convention, and I thought it was actually kind of clever when I heard about it. Anyway, Google names their operating systems based on desserts or sweets (I guess because the little Android likes to eat sweets? lol) and they do it in alphabetical order. I’m guessing that “A” is for “Android” or “Alpha” and “B” is for “Beta”, although this has never been confirmed. Anyway, here are the Android operating systems in order:
- 1.5 Cupcake
- 1.6 Donut
- 2.1 Eclair
- 2.2 Froyo (FROzen YOgurt)
- 2.3 Gingerbread
- 3.0 Honeycomb
- 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
- x.x Jelly Bean (recently announced to be the next OS name)
Another interesting thing that Google does with every new OS is that they place a rather big, and rather funny, statue on their front lawn representing the dessert.
Weird, ain’t it? Anyway, back we go to the review.
Google hands out vanilla Android to the many manufacturers of Android devices. Vanilla Android means the plain operating system. The OS itself, no extra tweaks, modifications, extra programs that weren’t initially integrated, etc.. The bare-bones template, I guess you can call it. What each manufacturer then does is take the vanilla OS and add their own sense of flavour to it, and one of the more annoying things they add are called “bloatware”, which are manufacturer-specific apps that may or may not be completely useless (it’s the former more often than not). Sure, sometimes they are kinda cool, but a lot of times they are just unnecessary. Samsung has a couple that are just pointless, like their Hubs that really just direct you to a different looking Android Market with the same apps. The Samsung Social Hub—which is something different—might not be too bad. It kinda tries to consolidate many different aspects of the phone to one central hub, like your Facebook, Twitter, etc. things. Although the individual apps are usually better, it’s still kinda cool that if you just look into the Social Hub, you can see all your e-mails, Facebook updates, Twitter updates, and some other things in one spot. On top of manufacturer bloatware, there is also carrier bloatware, like Bell’s services. I don’t use Bell for TV, so I really do not need the Bell PVR app or anything like that. But the main thing manufacturers add to the operating system that really stands out is the different user interface, or UI. The UI is pretty much what you see when you use the device. How the appearance of the main home screen looks, how the apps are organized in the app drawer, how the settings look like in the menu, basically the overall aesthetic look of the operating system. HTC has Sense UI, one that I think the majority of Android users like. Samsung’s UI is called TouchWiz, which only a handful like, and Motorola uses MotoBlur, which most people do not like lol
From left to right: HTC Sense UI, Motorola MotoBlur, Samsung TouchWiz
So the Galaxy S II uses TouchWiz 4.0. It may not be the most popular Android UI, but it definitely improved quite a bit from the TouchWiz 3.0 that was seen on the original Galaxy S lol It’s been cleaned up a bit, and has some rather odd gimmicky features that use its accelerometer. One is the alternate to the famous “pinch to zoom”. You hold the screen with two fingers depressed on the screen, and when you tilt the device forward or backward, the image zooms in or out accordingly. It’s kind of cool, but something I haven’t really found myself using. Another is some kind of panning feature. When you want to put a widget onto a page on the homescreen, hold the widget, and instead of dragging it to the end of the screen to change screens, just physically move the phone in that direction. Again, kinda cool, but I don’t think I’ve found myself using it yet since I don’t really use a lot of widgets.
Speaking of widgets, they’re these cool little things that Android uses quite a lot that I know some iPhone users would love to see on their device. I was never really good at explaining what widgets are to people that have never seen ‘em before, so I’m not gonna bother to try out lol Look ‘em up on Google or something lol In a nutshell, they’re kind of like mini apps that hover around on the homescreen. Let’s say you want to disable wifi on your phone. Instead of going all the way into the Settings to do that, you could just have a widget on the home screen that you can click on to do the same thing.
Here’s one of my Homescreen pages (it’s my far-left page). See those blocks that line up the left side and the bottom of the screen that say things like “Brightness”, “GPS”, “Bluetooth”, “WiFi”, etc.? Those are some examples of widgets.
Here’s my main Homescreen (the centre screen of three pages). At the top is a unique Clock widget I downloaded ‘cause I thought it looked nice and fit the style/theme of my main screen (notice how all the icons and whatnot are white? I intentionally wanted them like that lol). The icons that say, “Apps”, “Games”, “Tools”, and “Misc” are kinda like widgets, too. They’re mainly folders that have a bunch of specific apps I organized ‘em into.
Here’s another Homescreen page (it’s my far-right page). That battery indicator (it says 37%), the block with a lightbulb (it’s a flashlight), and that big block at the bottom (that’s an active Task Manager) are all widgets. The “Facebook” and “Market” icons are just shortcuts to the app themselves.
Sure, there’s the option to turn off wifi in the dropdown notification menu, but that’s beside the point lol And now speaking of the notification menu, that’s something a lot of iPhone users envied because they hated the iOS notification popup so much lol Well, they got their wish. Apple implemented a notification drop down to iOS5, so congratulations to you guys lol
See, I can drag the Notification Menu to get it to do this…
To the new iOS5 users that really believe that Apple did the Notification Menu first, they did not. It was used in Android since the beginning.
Although TouchWiz 4.0 is better than 3.0, I still don’t really use its basic, stock appearance. I prefer using other launchers, like Launcher Pro. What these “launchers” are are basically themes for the homescreen. Stuff like icons are located in different places, or there are different ways to opening apps. On the stock TouchWiz, there are four “main apps” at the bottom of the screen similar to how the iPhone has its springboard, I believe it’s called. For what I use, Launcher Pro, I could have five apps in its dock. However, I could have more docks by swiping to the left or right for a total of three docks, which means I could have a total of 15 apps assigned on the bottom dock when I am on the home screen. I chose just to have two dock “pages” since I don’t need more than that because of this following feature. On top of that first thing I mentioned, each app icon on the dock has two modes to them. When I tap them, they open the first initial app I assigned which could be, let’s say, to open up my Gmail. However, if I perform an upwards swipe gesture on the same icon, I could open a second app that I assigned to it, which could be to open up the Email app to access my Hotmail. One icon, essentially two apps allocated to it. So if you have three dock pages for a total of 15 apps, and the upwards gester swipe set to each, that’s 30 apps that are allocated to the dock lol This is with Launcher Pro (which you can download from the Android Market) and not with the stock TouchWiz. Sorry, Samsung lol Here’s a small look at the Launcher Pro docks I’m talking about. They’re the five small icons at the bottom of the screen:
That’s one “dock page”. Here’s the second dock if I swipe the dock to either direction:
Oh, the apps. Well, here’s where Android and iOS really differ. It’s no surprise the iOS community is massive and that the iPhone itself is a huge phenomenon, so its apps tend to be better in many ways. There are more apps on it, too lol The Android version of some apps are very similar now than they were maybe just a year or two ago, but it’s no secret that the iPhone versions are more well-maintained and fleshed out. But hey, Android has Angry Birds, too lol When it comes to getting…let’s say not-so-legal free apps, Android wins out in that you don’t need to jailbreak the device to install ‘em. Just get the file from Google and install it on the phone. I won’t go into much more detail than that. Other than that, there is another popular practice for Android devices and that is rooting the phone. What is rooting? Well, it’s when you have superuser access to the phone and do almost whatever you want with it. It’s a relatively easy process to do, and shouldn’t take longer than few minutes if you know what you’re doing. Does that sound like jailbreaking the phone? It is. “Jailbreaking” an iDevice is just a terminology used by the community. You’re really just doing the same thing as rooting; you are gaining “root access” to the device. Oh, and the last big thing about the joys of modifications to the Android OS is custom ROMs. Android users have the option of completely replacing the UI for another one that maybe another user designed. Android is completely open, and because of this, the modding community is huge. Maybe even bigger than the iOS modding community. Custom ROMs not only could change the look and feel of the device’s OS, it could drastically change the entire phone’s performance itself! Some ROMs could use custom kernels that tell the phone to behave in a slightly different way, ignoring what might be good for battery life and just going for all out speed and power in its operation. A very popular ROM that some of you might have heard of is CyanogenMod. The developers for it are very skilled and have been approached many times by many manufacturers to support them. Samsung even sent the lead developer two Galaxy S IIs a long time ago to support them, and possibly in helping them release an officially endorsed CyanogenMod ROM.
Software: The keyboard…
So for people that know me well, they know that I love a physical keyboard over a touchscreen one. I still type way faster on a BlackBerry than I ever hope to achieve on my Galaxy S II, even with its Swype. What’s Swype? It’s a rather different way of typing on an Android device, and I believe the creator of Swype is the one that came up with the idea of the T9 typing system? Anyway, so instead of pecking away on the screen to hit the letters you want to type out, for Swype all you do is take your finger and glide it around the keyboard, landing on the letter you want before gliding to the next letter. Considering how awkward it may appear, it is suprisingly accurate. Sure, there may be some mistakes here and there if you Swype very quickly, but if you take your time and get used to it, you will get the word you are aiming for 9 out of 10 times. If Swype isn’t entirely sure of what word you wanted, or even if it is, it will still have a little pop-up of word choices for you to choose from in case it chose the word you weren’t looking for. What if there’s a special word that you want to Swype but it’s not part of its dictionary? Simple. Type the word out like you normally would on a regular keyboard, and as soon as you hit Space, it will add the word to Swype’s dictionary automatically and be “Swype-able” the next time you attempt it. This was on the older version of Swype. I believe on the newer version—especially the version that comes with the Galaxy S II on Bell—when you press Space, it won’t automatically add the word. There will be a little unobtrusive notice asking if you want to add the word to the dictionary in which you can either click the notice to add it or continue Swyping on the keyboard to ignore it, like this:
“Sojoph” was never in my Swype dictionary before. I just typed the word out like on a normal virtual keyboard, and when I went to press Space, that little box asked if I wanted to add the word. That box is always there. It’s either blank or it displays a whole mess of options for words that you can select from after you Swype, in case your motion could’ve had a bunch of other words that would be spelt out in its trail.
This is the Galaxy S Vibrant with an older version of Swype.
That blue line spelt out “quick”. See how it did it? There are some nice shortcuts to Swype that I won’t go into detail here, but if you want some pointers just ask me and I will be glad to help.
Software: What’s the best Operating System…?
It is a very different experience to Apple’s iOS, I will tell you that. I will be using an iPhone 4 and poking away thinking I am doing what I want it to do and then realize I haven’t done a single damn thing other than open a fart app. I give a long time iPhone user my Galaxy, and they’ll be asking me how to do this, how to do that. I’ve used Android extensively and iOS more than enough to get a feel for it and a good understanding of it. So let’s get this settled once and for all: What is better? Android or iOS? The answer is neither. They’re their own damn thing. It’s all about preference and what you, as the user, prefer to use. Not all of you are Android users. Not all of your are iOS users. Hell, not all of you are BlackBerry OS or Windows Mobile 7 users. Every OS is designed to be rather easy to use for its users, albeit with slightly shorter or longer learning curves depending on the OS. Bring a brand new person that has never touched a single smartphone and give them the BlackBerry Bold 9900, iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy S II, or LG Optimus 7 and the person will not find it too difficult to get used to it sooner or later. It might be hard going from one OS that you are so used to to another one, but it just takes time to adjust. Sure, going from iOS to Windows Mobile 7.5 “Mango” could be an easier transition than from iOS to Android, but it’s not impossible. None are significantly better than the other. Each have their own pros, cons, strengths, weaknesses, apple properties, orange properties, whatever you wanna call ‘em. So really, don’t bash an OS until you really try it and understand it, ‘cause when you do, you will realize this “superiority” nonsense that so many are spewing about their preferred OS is just that. Nonsense. I can hold out two idential shirts in front of you, one will be blue, the other will be red. You, as a unique person, will most likely prefer one colour over the other. Another person might choose the colour you didn’t. Preference. Boat-floating. Y’all need to learn and understand it. In my humble opinion, I prefer Android over iOS. iOS does some things I like better, Android does more I like better. Hell, BlackBerry OS does so many things better than both iOS and Android that I like. It falls short in a lot of other things, but hey. No OS could be perfect.
Okay, now we’re at the performance of the device, an area vastly improved upon from its predecessor. The Galaxy S operated okay, but I never realized how slow and clunky it was until I used the Galaxy S II. It was just night and day. I honestly couldn’t go back to using the old Captivate afterwards. The Galaxy S II runs very smooth for an Android device. Hell, it could run just as smooth as the iPhone 4, which is saying something considering it’s running Android lol I’ve actually tried to make it lag, and it was hard to do. With a bunch of things running, I was barely able to make it slow down any. It opens and loads app quickly, and it opens up the camera in almost no time at all. Sure, it might not open up or get shots out as fast as the new iPhone 4S can, but Apple prides itself in their camera, so Samsung has no choice but to give that to them. For an Android device, it’s probably the fastest camera out there, and one of the best with its 8MP camera. Web browsing on the stock browser is a treat. Opens pages rather quickly, even non-mobile pages. And the added ability of running Flash is always welcome. However, there are quite a few issues with the stock browser that I have. I can’t close the damn thing without having to back up through alllll the pages I viewed. Annoying, right? It is. Sure, you could always press the Home button to whisk away to the home screen no problem, but I was never comfortable with leaving random apps or programs open when I don’t need them, even if it’s not an issue with Android OSes. Oh. I guess that’s one more point I gotta make about the operating system software, and it’d be better to do it now since it had a nice segway from the stock browser dealie, so let’s just change this up a bit…
Performance and Software…
Okay. Now, about what I said earlier. The Android operating systems always had a rather interesting way of handling things running in the background, especially the new Gingerbread OS. You see, for Android, it could have a shit-ton of things running in the background and unless the app actually has a kind of “continue running in background” feature (ie. Score Mobile refreshing the scores for games), it could be left open in the background and it shouldn’t affect a thing. When another app takes focus away, then the old app could get pushed into the back and put into a kind of frozen state. It won’t move, it won’t take away too much processing power or memory resources, and most importantly, it shouldn’t affect the battery life too much. It just sits there waiting to be opened again before resuming. It is because of that reason that the stock browser not really having a way to exit isn’t such a huge deal. However, it bothers me lol And the way the browser is, I much prefer to use an oldie but a goodie web browser that could be downloaded from the Android Market, the Dolphin Browser.
A quick shot of Dolphin Browser opening ArsTechnica, a site I like to frequent for tech stuff.
It reminds me of the Chrome browser at times. And for iPhone users, I believe Dolphin just released for iOS kind of recently? I just like Dolphin Browser a lot better. It has a bunch of nifty add-ons, and the way it handles bookmarks is better (pull from the left side of the screen to bring up a window with your bookmarks for easy access).
See the Bookmarks for Dolphin Browser? lol
Oh, and when I hold Back, a little pop-up comes up asking if I want to close the browser. Now that’s what I’m looking for.
Anyway, back to performance. What you need to take away from what I’m saying is that the Galaxy S II is super fast. The Exynos, I can’t say enough, is fantastic and it really shows in how superior the Galaxy S II is to its predecessor, the Galaxy S. Even just opening up the Gallery to look at pictures took rather long on the Galaxy S. It’s all like, “What the hell?” Doing the same task on the Galaxy S II is almost instantaneous. I won’t lie, I froze and crashed the phone a few times to the point where it had to reboot. I think that is mainly due to some specific apps being all screwy or because I rooted the phone and have some rather sensitive apps on.
What about stuff like playing music? Well. It plays music fine lol That’s all there is to say about that, really. The video player is nice and dandy, though. The video player is one of the major selling points of the Galaxy S II mainly because of that Super AMOLED Plus screen. The device could play a number of different video formats as long as they are encoded properly. Some .avi files will work, some won’t. Some .mkv files will work, some won’t. Etc. etc. However, if you convert the files to .mp4 (which isn’t all that hard with something like Handbrake Encoder), then the Galaxy S II will play whatever the hell you want it to, and trust me, it plays ‘em quite well.
Call Quality/Earpiece Quality/Speaker Quality/Overall Audio Quality…
Okay. I do not make calls. I don’t call people and when people call me, I might not even pick up. I instant message or text message people lol That being said, I still used the Galaxy S II as a phone sometimes and here is where it starts to falter. People seem to hear me quite clearly, but I have a hard time hearing them. The earpiece isn’t very loud. I can kinda hear ‘em with some clarity, but it’s just not loud enough. If you are outside with a lot of street noise, be prepared to not hear what the other person is saying without asking them to shout. Maybe it’s just my device ‘cause I’m hearing others having a decent earpience experience. Maybe I’m just spoiled by BlackBerry phones since they still have very excellent earpieces for calls. Maybe I will review my BlackBerry 9900 one day since I feel it’s getting an undeserved bad rap.
The external loud speaker isn’t too bad; it’s pretty loud lol One caveat, though. Remember where I said the speaker was located? On the lip on the back of the phone? Yeah, if you set that phone down, the sound will start to get muffled lol That might not be a great thing either since that’s where the sounds of your notifications and ringtones come from.
How’s it sound with earphones or headphones plugged in? Pretty damn good. I have no problem using my phone as an MP3 player while I’m wearing my Beats headphones. The settings, like for the equalizer, are pretty all right. There’s one Sound Effect that I think is kinda cool, and that’s the Concert Hall lol I don’t listen to music with it on, but I like showing it off if only because it really does sound like they are playing in an empty concert hall rehearsing or something.
Here we go, the battery life. Unfortunately this is something hard to really talk about ‘cause the experience users have on the battery life differ heavily on the person. A lot of what could affect the battery life is what apps the person has on the phone, how often and how heavily they use the phone, and the widgets. I’ve seen a lot of new Android users that are fascinated about the widgets go overboard with ‘em and wonder why they have poor battery life. Well, let’s think about it. Widgets are apps in a smaller accessible form that are placed on your homescreen. The homescreen is always there. You can’t exit out of a widget like how you would on a regular app. If you have a widget like WeatherEye or Score Mobile set to refresh the information displayed in short intervals, expect a short battery life ‘cause you are essentially asking your phone to access your 3G or HSPA+ (the Galaxy S II is capable of HSPA+ or “4G”) data speeds all the time, all day. Having less widgets that rely on data connection on the homescreen, and having less items on the homescreen in general, could extend battery life. Longer intervals = longer battery life. Makes sense, right?
I generally have a good experience when it comes to the battery life of mobile devices, and for the Galaxy S II, it’s not much different. After a work day, which could be me unplugging the phone at 5:00AM, going to work for 12 hours and using the phone quite often throughout the shift to either browse the web, message with friends, or listen to music, my Galaxy S II usually ends up being around 70% before I decide to recharge it around 11:00PM. I can usually attribute my phone’s good battery life to some very helpful apps like JuiceDefender. It’s no surprise that data is a huge battery drainer for smartphones, especially if it’s connected to 3G or 4G/HSPA+ throughout the day, so while I’m at work, I don’t need my phone connected to data for every minute. Hell, sometimes I won’t even be able to take out my phone for a couple of hours, so I have JuiceDefender set to disable data while the phone’s screen is off and only reconnect for 30 seconds or so once every hour to get any messages, e-mails, notifications, etc. When I turn the screen on, data automatically reconnects within seconds and turns back off when I lock the screen again. It’s nifty little apps like these that really help to extend the battery life of the phone if you really are having trouble keeping it alive for a whole day. On a work day, if I don’t have JuiceDefender doing its thing, I usually end up around 40% or so.
And here is one more issue with the Galaxy S II that relates to battery life I find to be rather annoying: its wifi. So for most devices, when you’re at home and leave wifi on, generally your phone lasts a little longer than if you had it off and ran 3G the whole time. For the Galaxy S Captivate, this was true. Leaving wifi on instead of being off drained far less battery. For the Galaxy S II, however, this is not the case. I’m still not 100% sure as to why this is, but if the wifi is left on to idle with the phone, it will drain the battery at a rather alarming rate. It’s gotten to the point where I have it set up so that wifi is disabled when the screen is off and left to stay connected to data until I unlock the screen, where it will then reconnect to my wifi router. It’s an inconvenience to be sure, but one I’ve decided to look past.
Wow, this was a long one, wasn’t it? If you’re still reading this, then thanks lol If you just skipped to the bottom just to see what my final thoughts are, then booo to you lol
Once again, I like Android. And I like Samsung. Together, they created a brilliant device in the Galaxy S II. It might not be the best handset out there for everyone, but it sure as hell tried its best and delivered quite an experience. There could be improvements made to the device for sure, but to me, I am finding it hard to really dwell on any shortcomings ‘cause the device has way too much going for it to really fault it for some of its issues. Its performance and speed is amazing and still blows past some recent devices even to this day. The Super AMOLED Plus screen is simply to die for, and the picture quality taken by its camera is pretty damn good. TouchWiz could use a little work, but it’s nothing a new launcher won’t fix. The earpiece could definitely use some work as I would like to hear the person I’m talking to when I am taking a walk down busy downtown Toronto. And although the battery life of the phone is debatable and different from user to user, I still find it superb compared to other devices out there. For a dual-core Android device, it ranks up there with the newest devices and beats out some of ‘em in battery life. It might not match the iPhone 4, but not much can. It was designed with battery life as one of its major areas to focus on. Last but not least, the Exynos chipset it uses is quite old in relation to the tech world but is still very relevant to this day.
If you have or are going to get a Galaxy S II with the Exynos, know that your phone almost defied the logic of the tech world. Almost nine months old and it’s still a top dog.
I give Samsung’s Galaxy S II my Thumbs Up Seal of Approval! (T.U.S.A…?)
(o.O)-b <— (that’s something giving a thumbs up lol)
P.S. My camera’s battery is dead so I couldn’t take too many photos while writing this. I plan to get those pictures taken and posted up into this review within the next day or two, so stay tuned! This review was kinda rushed as it is my first with this blog, so I might have left a lot out. If I remember anything else to add in, I will. I know this was excruciatingly long, but again, this is my first review and I just kept going on and on without worrying about pacing or cohesion. In future reviews, I will do better. If you read through this whole review, thanks a lot and I hope it was informative for you and helped out with anything. Be sure to leave a comment letting me know what you thought and where I could improve!