redmotion: Samsung Galaxy S II (S2) Review

07 May 2011

Samsung Galaxy S II (S2) Review

It came out in the UK on Monday (2nd May 2011).

I was going to wait for all the remaining dual core phones to arrive in June/July but after seeing some benchmarks I decided to make the bold (rash) assumption that it would be the fastest Android phone on the market this year. (Plus 200,000 korean's can't be wrong!)

Hardware
Looks gorgeous, however, like most phones it's going to get scratched and worn without protection. Something the designers of smartphones have yet to resolve. I don't think it would fair too well from a drop onto a hard surface either.

SDcard slot is under the battery which isn't the best place to have it. And playing demanding games (like PES2011) on it will noticeably heat the back and screen. Like to a level that makes you worry about playing much longer.)

Performance
It's a belter of a phone. I did sunspider java test and got a final score of 3417.1 ( +/- 1.5%). This is significant because when you compare it to all the initial benchmarks released by Anandtech for most of the new dual core phones it comes out on top. Anandtech's results still show the original scores for the 1ghz version of the Exynos and you can see how much of a difference the CPU's 0.2 ghz extra (and upgrade to Android 2.3.3) has made: a 25% increase in performance. Although the heat issue makes me wonder if they haven't just over-clocked the original chip.

Quadrant came in at 3174 today. Anandtech also benchmarked a Qualcomm 1.5ghz development phone (MDP) and it came in at 2851. So I tentatively suggest that the Exynos 1.2ghz may be faster than the Qualcomm dual 1.5ghz which doesn't bode to well for the HTC Sensation, which is approaching its release date in the UK.(May 16th). Also you can compare further results here.


Rightware BrowserMark came in at 53938, just passing the Atrix in Browser performance. Ipad2 scored 69,032 here.



UI
Touchwiz 4 is an excellent UI. It is fast, responsive and very customisable. Only thing I found so far needing work is the widget selector. It's better on stock android where the list is categorised. If you don't like it for whatever reason, LauncherPro will work perfectly well in its place.

A decent, fully featured power control widget is missing so getting something like Extended Controls can really help with extending the battery life as this isn't amazing. But what do you expect? The screen is 4.3 inches.

Software
I never had a Galaxy S, so much of the software that puts a big wide grin on my face may not be breaking news.

What I disliked about the HTC Hero was the lack of office suite. Polaris Office comes with the S2. It's fast, very well featured and saves MS Word compatible files, reads PDFs. I've yet to delve in very deeply, but it looks like my game design docs could be fully created on my mobile.

iPlayer runs very well too (over Wifi at least), a tiny bit jumpy but otherwise excellent. Also, as far as I could tell, you don't get access to everything available on the desktop version.

The S2 to has several built in apps that are pretty much impossible to live without on any android phone:
Task Manager (task killer), My Files (explorer-type app), Swype (alternative keyboard), various voice based applications, Video and Photo editors, decent music player that'll happily play away lag-free while you play a game or surf the web.

Games
A downside that some people will find off-putting is that many 3d games available now either don't run at all or have major problems graphically which render them unplayable. Several threads on forums have popped up listing which games work and which don't.

I can confirm PES 2011 does work; very well. But I'm not sure of the quality of game itself just yet (although the pad and one-touch passing is the least frustrating, but why they couldn't have copied the directional passing from the Wii version of PES is beyond me it would have worked well with the touchscreen). And a word of advice (at the time of writing this), don't waste your time downloading the 650mb behemoth that is Dungeon Defenders, you won't be able to play it because the menus are missing.

Run's my own game (developing with ShiVa3d) pretty well too.

Apps
AutoCAD WS, Autodesk Sketchbook and the Caustic music sequencer demo (best music making app on the market right now?) all run very smoothly.

Connectivity
Wifi access to internet is lightning fast. Apps less than 10mb will download and install in seconds and the more you download the more pages appear in the Apps tray ready to be filled up into the sizeable RAM. I've yet to try the plethora of other wireless connection options and will update this as and when I do.

Summary of Cons
- The home button should double as a slider for moving text cursor back and forth
- Apps screen can't be resorted into alphabetical order
- microSD card location
- not easy to hold without a cover (very little grip)
- many games do not work at time of writing this
- battery life is poor but is slowly being improved by regular system updates
- need to install Samsung Kies (for drivers) to install compiled apps directly to phone with ShiVa 3D Authoring Tool.

Summary
Only scratched the surface but so far.. me like ..a lot.

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