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Samsung Galaxy S II review

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The release of the Samsung Galaxy S II has been met with huge anticipation and for good reason.

Following the success of the original Galaxy S there were high hopes for Samsung’s follow-up device. And those hopes have not only been met, they have been easily exceeded.

With a svelte design, razor sharp display, fast processor and impressive features, the Samsung Galaxy S II has set a new standard for Android smartphones. 


The Galaxy S II even challenges the iPhone 4 in a number of areas and, in some areas, exceeds it.

The device is available now through Optus, on Telstra in July along with the 3 and Vodafone networks.

DESIGN

The Samsung Galaxy S II impresses the instant you hold it. The device is just 8.49mm thick and is also remarkably light at just 116g.

A few seconds later users will be impressed again when they see the 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display come to life. It has a resolution of 480 x 800 and looks so sharp it should come with a Band Aid.

Onscreen colours are bright and vibrant with the display showing the type of contrast and black levels would put many flatscreen TVs to shame.

It was also easy to read the screen outdoors in bright sunlight.

Covering the screen is a thin and lightweight sheet of Corning Gorilla Glass which offers a scratch resistant surface.

The Samsung Galaxy S II is just 8.49mm thick and weighs just 116g

The only button on the front of the device is the home key while the on/off/lock  button sits on the thin right edge.

On the top is a 3.5mm headphone jack while a volume rocker button, which also doubles as a zoom control in camera mode, is on the left edge of the Galaxy S II.

The rear panel is where users will find the 8 megapixel camera with LED flash which can also capture full high definition 1920 x 1080 video at 30fps (frames per second). There’s also a 2 megapixel front-facing camera.

Pictures taken with the device were excellent in good lighting conditions and average in low light with the flash unable to illuminate the scene as well as a dedicated digital camera.

The auto focus camera also has several shooting modes including Beauty Shot, Panorama Shot, Smile Shot and Action Shot.

On the video side the Galaxy S II delivers. Users can set the resolution they want for the video depending on the amount of space they have on the device or on the microSD card.

Full high definition videos were sharp and clear even when displayed on a 50-inch television. We had to remind ourselves the video was shot with a smartphone.

FEATURES

The number of features shoehorned into this supermodel thin device is incredible.

Being an Android device there is, of course, the App Market’s most popular mini programs at your disposal.

But it’s Samsung’s extras which really stands the Galaxy S II out from the crowd.

There is even a Samsung Apps link which offers apps made just for Samsung Android devices.

The Samsung Galaxy S II has an impressive 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screenThere are also four hubs created for the user – Social, Reader, Music and Games.

Social hub puts all of your social networking, messaging and email into one place so it’s easy to see at a glance what’s going on in your world.

The other hubs for reader and games are portals to access content and the same goes for music which will go live later this year.

Speaking of content the Samsung Galaxy S II makes it easy to get your own content onto the device thanks to Kies Air.

Kies Air connects wirelessly on the same network as your computer through a web browser which means it will work regardless of whether you use a PC or a Mac.

When the app is activated the device displays a URL which is the address of the Galaxy S II.

Once this is typed into a browser users can not only view the existing content on aboard the device but also easily upload wirelessly even more content – pictures, music and videos.

One of our favourite features is Second TV – an app which can be utilised by Samsung Smart TV owners.

The Samsung Galaxy S II can stream the signal from the TV to enable the user to watch TV on the smartphone.

This is particularly handy if someone else is watching TV and you’d rather watch something else. It is now possible for the Galaxy S II to connect to the TV to watch different content to whatever is currently displayed on the TV screen.

The Samsung Galaxy S II can also act as a remote control for the Samsung Smart TV.

Users will find the device is also a fully-fledged GPS device thanks to the included Navigon app which can provide free turn by turn directions, parking options, alerts for safety cameras and live traffic reports.

And users in Australia and New Zealand will receive free map updates every three months.

It would have been nice to have HDMI Out on the Samsung Galaxy S II to share the full HD content it can so easily create on a high definition TV.

Content can be shared wirelessly right off the device using AllShare – Samsung’s name for DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) – with other compatible devices including TVs on your home network.

PERFORMANCE

There’s no point having all of these features on board without a good engine to drive it.

That engine comes in the shape of a 1.2Ghz dual core processor. It is easily up to the task and makes the Galaxy S II feel even sleeker.

The speed is impressive and most noticeable when opening and closing apps and switching from one of the seven home screens to the next.

Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system is on board and underneath the Samsung Live Panel user interface layer.

Live Panel deserves most of the credit for adding real polish to this Android device.

Customising the device to suit the user is made a lot easier with Live Panel and allows users to assign the size and position of their favourite apps, shortcuts and widgets.

The Samsung Galaxy S II is powered by a 1.2Ghz dual core processorThese widgets include a news apps to have the latest headlines at your fingertips,  a buddy space to access your most often used contacts, an email summary to view your most recent messages and a list of your day’s activities.

A device with the capabilities of the Samsung Galaxy S II means it can easily be integrated into an enterprise situation.

Samsung’s Galaxy S II can be deployed among users in a large company and features Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync and the all new Samsung Dive – a free remote find, lock and wipe service for added peace of mind if the device is ever lost or stolen.

The device’s virtual keyboard is a little fiddly and we found the predictive text was not as forgiving as we’d hoped and it couldn’t quite make out what we were trying to say even if we got just one letter wrong.

What comes to the rescue here is the included Swype typing which allowed us to simply link the letters we’d usually type without lifting our finger off the screen. This feature helped us zip through our messages and emails.

The browser aboard the Galaxy S II is also quite capable and the 4.3-inch screen and Flash compatibility allows websites to breathe so they can be read easily.

A feature we liked when browsing was the ability to hold two fingers on the screen to enable to screen to zoom in and out to simply by tilting the device up or down.

There is 16GB of memory on board the Galaxy S II and a memory slot to expand that by up to 32GB with a microSD card.

The battery got us through a complete day from early morning to late at night before we were asked to reconnect the charger.

Despite this we still managed to get a few hours out of the device the next morning before the battery was virtually as zero charge and we had to charge it again. This was impressive considering it has to power a 4.3-inch screen.

CONCLUSION

The Samsung Galaxy S II is an excellent smartphone – the best Android device we’ve seen and on par with the iPhone 4 in terms of design, style and breadth of features.

The size of the device, despite being so thin, may put some users off but that’s the by-product of having that large 4.3-inch screen. We didn’t find this a burden at all.

Samsung’s Galaxy S II has not only created a new benchmark for Android handsets – it has shown the amazing possibilities for all smartphones.

Samsung Galaxy S II

Price: $899 or on a 24-month plan.

Four and half stars (out of five)

www.samsung.com.au