Wednesday, June 8, 2011

[Review] Samsung Galaxy S II

What Samsung have managed to package together is a dual core processor, and a lot of other goodies in an unbelievably slim and light form factor. While the plasticky feel is a bit of a disappaointment, the performance on offer will simply blow you away. For anyone who does a lot of gaming on the smartphone, or want a powerful phone, the S II may just be phone for you. If you have Rs 32,890 to spend at this moment, we suggest you order it right away. This is slightly on the expensive side at the moment, and you may choose to wait and watch what happens with the prices in the next month or so. Alternatively, the LG Optimus 2X is also worth checking out, if you want a dual core powered phone which costs a bit less.

  • Excellent display, with vivid colours
  • Very slim design, and amazingly lightweight
  • Android never felt faster!
  • Good camera
  • Excellent battery life

  • Plasticky build is a huge disappointment
  • TouchWiz 4.0 UI isn’t feature rich or polished like the HTC Sense
  • Dependence on Kies desktop software is a painful iTunes-esque experience

After the superb Galaxy S, Samsung has their job pretty much cut out, as far as making the successor is concerned. After having warmed up with the Nexus S smartphone (Read review here), Samsung were in form when it came to putting together the Samsung Galaxy S II. And no doubt they needed to be in top form, since the Galaxy S II is one of the very first dual core processor powered smartphones, and needs to compete with the dual core phone from the Korean rivals, LG the Optimus 2X. We were impressed with the performance offered by the Optimus 2X (Read review here), but felt that it was a little understated in terms of the punch offered by the dual core processor, and it felt big and heavy to hold, use and carry. While we know it’s a dual core, but it feels like an HTC Incredible S (Read review here) or the Samsung Nexus S (Read review here), in most usage scenarios.

The LG Optimus 2X offered a lot of power, but it seemed hidden most of the time! Which is why we were looking forward to seeing how the slightly more power will respond on the Galaxy S II


Display- brilliance personified.
The 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display (480x800 resolution) is an absolute delight. Switch it on, and the first thing to grab your attention will be the vivid colours jumping out at you. Colours are not affected by gradation and the black colours feel actually black, and not like dark grays, as on certain displays. Good brightness levels offered by this Super AMOLED Plus. We feel that in most cases, setting the brightness at about 30% to 40% is more than enough, both indoor as well as in sunlight. Indoors, we felt that even the display set at 0% brightness offers excellent visibility!

In the settings menu is the option to set the colour vibrancy levels of the background- Dynamic, Standard and Movie. While the best colours are offered by Standard setting, the Dynamic setting, in our opinion, made the colours too bright. The Movie setting makes the colours warm, and the whites become pale. This one is, however, the easiest on the eyes, since the colours aren’t very sharp in this setting.


Dual Core goodness- experiencing the difference
While you may not cry yourself to sleep over the disappointing UI, the dual core goodness does make it all worthwhile. The ARM Cortex A9 is the 1.2GHz dual core processor and is paired with the Mali 400MP GPU. The performance on offer is absolutely stunning. The interface is silky smooth, applications open up in a flash and even with multiple apps open in the background, the phone wouldn’t feel slow or laggy.

To see how good the gaming performance is, we downloaded GTRacing HD from the Game Hub app. Once the download was done, it was a delight to play this game. Loading times were much less than what we have seen in other devices, the graphics were very good, and the game-play was silky smooth. The frames did not stutter, even after half an hour of continuous racing!

Just to be sure, we ran the Quadrant benchmark on the Galaxy S II, and the results surprised us quite a bit. While we knew that this phone had a considerable advantage over the rivals, the sheer humiliation unleashed on the rivals was just bewildering. Check out the attached image to see what we are talking about. And all this was on the stock Android 2.3.3 ROM installed by Samsung, with the usual TouchWiz UI etc.

Our take: Have money? Will buy.
The Samsung Galaxy S II is truly one of its kind smartphone. There really isn’t too much we dislike about the phone. The performance on offer is pretty much unmatched by the current generation of phones. And the S II is on a diet, or so it seems since it is so light. Combined with a very slim form factor. What really left us surprised is the excellent battery life. Despite the amount of power on tap, the battery life is actually better, rather than taking a hit for the worse. Okay, there are some annoyances like a plasticky body, the TouchWiz UI feels dull and that it is tied to the Kies desktop software quite tightly. But these will fade into the background very quickly.

The LG Optimus 2X (Read review here), now seems like a poor man’s dual core phone, at about Rs 26k. If there is a budget you wish to stick to, and only the 2X falls within that, buy it. It may not be as brutally powerful as the Galaxy S II, but is very powerful in its own right.

If however, you have the money, or are willing to stretch that budget to fit in the Galaxy S II, we sure hope you succeed. There really isn’t an alternative for the sheer brute power on offer here. Essentially, if you have got about Rs 33k in your wallet (beg, borrow or steal), then this is the phone to buy, period. You wont regret buying this one.

Just as an advice to the ones who aren’t impatient, or haven’t rushed off to buy/ pre-order the S II already, the HTC Sensation is heading our way very soon. It also has the goodness of dual core power and a 4.3-inch S-LCD display, but with a much higher 540 x 960 pixel resolution. However, it only has 1GB internal storage, unlike the 16GB available on the S II. You may just want to wait and see how that one compares to the S II, and which one is a better deal.

Price: Rs 27,890

Network: Quad Band GSM+ 3G; Processor: ARM Cortex A9 1.2GHz with Orion chipset and Mali 400MP GPU; Display: 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus with 480 x 800 resolution; Memory: 16GB internal+ up to 32GB microSD card; Camera: 8MP with 1080p (30fps) video; OS: Android 2.3.3 with TouchWiz 4.0 UI; Battery: 1650 mAh

Features: 8.5
Performance: 8.5
Build: 6
Value: 7.25
Overall: 8

Galaxy S II i9100
Street Prices (Rs)
Price (MRP, Rs)
Physical Specs
Form Factor
2G Network Bands
GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network Bands
HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
Screen Resolution
480 x 800 pixels
Screen Size (inches)
4.3 inches
Maximum Screen colours
Touchscreen / Dual Screen (Y/N)
Battery Rating
1650 mAh
Dimensions (L x W x H)
125.3 x 66.1 x 8.5 mm
116 grams
Expandable Memory Type
RAM (in MB)
1024 MB
Dual-core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 proccessor, Mali-400MP GPU, Orion chipset
CPU Clock speed
1.2 GHz
No. of CPU cores
Hot Swappable (Y/N)
Available Colours
Other Features
Operating System (Tested with)
Android 2.3.3
Charging via USB (Y/N)
Hardware Keypad (Regular/QWERTY)
Accelerometer (For auto rotate)
Address Book Capacity
No of calls in register
Talk Time / Standby Time (3G) *
9 hrs / 640 hrs
No of Profiles # / Customisable
NA / Y
Offline Opearability (Y/N)
Inbuilt GPS / A-GPS support (Y / N)
Y / Y
Browsing (GPRS/EDGE/3G)
Y / Y / Y
EDGE max speed (in kbps)
237 kbps
3G max speed (in mbps)
21 mbps
Connectivity (WiFi/Bluetooth/IR/USB)
Y / Y / N / Y
Bluetooth Version/A2DP support
3 / Y
Camera Specs
Camera Resolution (Mega Pixels)
Video Capture Resolution
1920 x 1080
Auto focus / flash
Y / Y
Type of flash
single LED
Secondary camera for video chat
Mirror for self portrait (Y / N)
Camera Settings (So 10)
Zoom (Optical/Digital)
Music Formats supported
Video formats supported
FM Radio / RDS (Y/N)
Y / Y
Bundled Accessories
Wall charger, data cable, memory card, travel pouch
Size of memory card provided
8 GB
Build and Ergonomics (So 10)
Surface materials used
Overall build and in-hand feel
Quality of moving parts
Design and ergonomics
Keypad design (on-screen or hardware)
Menu and interface
Settings and ease of navigating menus
Camera menu options
Signal Reception and Voice Clarity (So 10)
Zone 1
Zone 2
Zone 3
Handsfree Clarity
Loudspeaker Clarity
Earpiece Clarity
Handsfree Volume
Loudspeaker Volume
Earpiece Volume
Bluetooth Transfer Speed (in KBps)
Imaging and multimedia tests
Captured Photo Colour
Captured Photo Crispness
Captuted Photo Detail
Captured Video Quality
Effectiveness of integrated flash
Music Quality (loudspeaker)
Music Quality (handsfree)
Volume levels (loudspeaker)
Volume levels (handsfree)
Display (So 10)
Font rendition
Legibility in bright sunlight
Video playback


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