Samsung Galaxy S II

Blog post   •   Nov 26, 2011 00:20 GMT

As a staunch iPhone user over the last few years, but having become a little jaded with their lack of pushing boundaries (as opposed to playing catchup spec wise), and my eternal frustration with iTunes, I was extremely keen to see what the Samsung Galaxy S2 had to offer, especially to see how Android differed from iOS too. The first thing that was hugely noticeable was the weight of the Samsung given its bigger 4.3 inch screen. You may be expecting me to say it weighed a lot, but it was so much lighter than my iPhone 4 that for a second I thought I may have a dummy display model. But no, it sprang into life and we were away.

One thing that iPhone does well is usability and despite being almost overly familiar now, the bold icons of iOS and responsive screen are still a match made in heaven but I have to say version 2.3 of Android on the S2, Gingerbread, was impressive. What iOS lacks is any form of detail over updates or live information, other than numeric notifications in most cases. However Android feels much more like a web page and it's customisation options make it a powerful platform. Samsung add their own interface finesse with their TouchWiz technology which appears to complement Gingerbread nicely. As a new user to both, I found the platform instantly intuitive and interactive.

Back to the phone itself though, and weight aside (for the record is 116g) it packs a big punch under the bonnet with a dual-core 1.2GHz processor that helps drive the Super AMOLED Plus, which is protected by something called Gorilla Glass. The screen is easily a match for iPhone's Retina and it is sumptuous. It's worth a special mention at this point to the media playback. As you'd expect with that sexy screen, HD content looks glorious (it can also play back DivX and Xvid) but I was genuinely surprised by how good the sound playback was too. iPhone does sound fine, but I really noticed how effective the EQ options were on the S2, and music sounded rich and well defined. The video playback also features a virtual 5.1 surround environment which, again, sounded superb. The standard 3.5mm headphone socket allows your own headphones to be connected, and you can also hook the phone to a Full HD TV via DLNA to share content on the big screen. Samsung also add in an FM radio which, whilst not exactly groundbreaking, is something that has always annoyed me that the iPhone lacks.

The 8 megapixel with LED flash camera is one of the S2's standout features. I tested it on my walk home from work and found the camera to start promptly when needed, be responsive to option changes and take some pretty exceptional snaps, even whilst moving. There are some examples attached to the review including the awesome panorama mode as standard. You can replicate this on iPhone with an app, but the Galaxy version works incredibly well and stitches up to 8 shots into a continuous shot. The video mode can shoot 1080p, in other words full HD video and the results were impressive for such a small device.

One thing I've seen the phone marked down for in several places is the plastic back which, admittedly, does seems slightly budget compared to the front. However, it makes access to the battery, sim card and micro SD card so easy, and as someone who finds iPhone's back scratches from breathing on it too hard, it was almost reassuring that I wouldn't be that bothered if the back took a few knocks. I suspect most people will purchase some sort of case anyways so this really wasn't an issue for me.

Connectivity wise, the S2 supports an uprated implementation of HSPA enabling downloads of up to 21 Mbps where a network supports it. Three have just started to roll this out and in the future others will support it giving the user faster than a lot of home broadband speeds. Viewing the net is easy - all the familiar pinch and zoom options work flawlessly and it's simple to get around.

I don't claim to be a techno-freak, so my review is written purely from the point of view of someone who judges the product based on their user experience, but I have to say the Samsung Galaxy S2 is massively impressive and will not disappoint.