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Samsung Galaxy S II Review

In some ways we have been privileged enough to have had use of the Samsung Galaxy S II for the past few months and this has given us enough experience to categorically say from the off that this is the best Android Smartphone we have ever used. A bold statement we know, but the phone is so good at most tasks that as an all-rounder it excels.

Design

Firstly the design is sleek, stylish (with a lovely Black Finish) and weighs only 116g making it extremely light to hold.

With a 4.3" Super AMOLED Plus capacitive display the width does make it more challenging for those blessed with smaller hands, but Samsung have done a great job of seamlessly integrating the display with the Android buttons. Two of which are touch sensitive and light up only when pressed or then you have the Home button which is recessed into the casing and has a physical feel when pressed.

The only downside is that the back cover is a little flimsy when removed and this doesn't suite the premium feel, nor does the lack of a dedicated camera button.

However the phone does provide a 3.5mm headphone port at the top and for those who need to output the phone to a TV you can do this by purchasing an optional MHL A/V link cable.

Screen Grabs

For us though one of the key features of the device is the ability to take screen grabs by pressing the power/home button - similar to the iPhone in this respect. However the position of the volume keys to the opposite side does make things more of a challenge, but after a period of use this does get easier and the fact that you don't have to root your device in order to take screen grabs is a nice touch!

Interface

Samsung have used their TouchWiz 4 UI which is the best one they have created yet. The icons have been customised to a certain degree but there is much more of a balance, so you don't feel like the UI is bloating the rest of the phone.

Additionally you have 7 home screens which can be customised with widgets, shortcuts and the like. By long pressing on the page 1 marker you can smoothly scroll quickly between the various screens or you can press the menu button/edit to view all the screens as thumbnails in one page

Folders

With Samsung's interface you even have the ability to create folders on the phone, not only on the home screen but also in the main application menu. All you do is press the menu button, select edit and then drag the Add folder icon onto the page. Then all you need to do is rename the folder and add your various apps.

At the last count we managed to get 19 apps into one folder, but you could easily squeeze more in. What's useful is that when you select one of your folders and then launch the home screen, when you return to the application menu the folder will still be open for you to browse.

The only niggle is that sometimes when you create a shortcut to the folder on your home screen we noticed that this can break the folder and as a result all your icons get dumped back onto the application screen - hopefully a fix will be in the pipeline.

Apps

Despite this the Android 2.3.3 OS is backed up by a large collection of useful Apps. Several of which are Samsungs own propriety apps….

Kies Air: is brilliant in that it allows you to connect to your device to transfer files - over a Wi-Fi/desktop web browser interface.

Video/Image Editing software is also onboard. The video editor provides you with split and trim functions or you can add images/music to enhance the video further (including the option to choose various templates).

Polaris Office: is a handy app that provides full Microsoft Office viewing and editing for Microsoft Word. PowerPoint and Excel files.

Music

The music and video-player both benefit from a 5.1 surround option (with the headphones plugged in, which are a pretty good set of in-the ear headphones we must add).

Album art, set as ringtone are all on-board too. The audio performance is also respectable and the volume is capable at outputting enough power without distortion.

Additional Equaliser and visual effects provide a decent music player for an out-the-box experience.

Camera

In use the interface was intuitive and the option to customise the left side bar with camera modes of your choice is a great touch. Speaking of which the camera modes provide ISO, White Balance adjustment, various shooting modes (i.e. Panorama) and the option to adjust Exposure value, image quality and focus modes (auto, macro etc).

To enhance your images further you can also enable an Anti-shake system or turn on the Outdoor Visibility option which is a great feature when using the camera in brighter outdoor conditions, as it really does make the screen easier to view.

You'll also find the standard GPS tagging options are onboard too.

Image Quality

Image quality - from its 8MP camera - in bright conditions was great and shot times were fast, though it's macro shoots required more intervention. However colour matching was accurate and more importantly it captured detail well.

Switching to overcast weather conditions the camera was not so effective as it lost a touch of focus in places, yet it still managed to capture the colours to reasonable effect.

Video quality benefited from 1080P support and a brilliant auto focus option that was able to subtly adjust itself when panning in closer to objects. The audio capturing could be louder, but the phone was surrounded by a case which may have impacted this slightly.

Performance

Performance overall was fantastic, which is what you would expect with 16GB of internal storage (expandable via a microSD card to 48GB), 1GB RAM and a 1.2Ghz dual-core processor. Games, video playback and web browsing all ran without a glitch and the screen looked fantastic!

In terms of the web browsing the device supports Adobe Flash, multi-touch and its own motion control system which simply works by holding the screen with your thumbs and then tilting the phone backwards and forwards to zoom in/out.

Calling

Both in-the ear and external call quality was good, with our conversations being audible and loud enough for both parties to hear.

GPS

To test the GPS performance we used Co-Pilot Live Premium, Google Maps, ViewRanger and Family Tracker. Without going into too much detail we have to admit to being impressed with the GPS receiver on this device. Accuracy was spot-on when using all the above packages. With Co-Pilot Live especially, we have never seen a device re-calculate roots as fast as this device and we have tested hundreds of GPS products in our time.

Battery Life

With a 4.3" screen and a dual-core processor you would expect the battery life to be terrible. Surprisingly though it’s not and is miles better than the HTC devices that we have used recently (including the HTC Sensation). Granted heavy use of Wi-Fi and GPS does have a greater impact on the 1650mAh battery, but with use of auto-back light adjustment you should be able to squeeze a day's heavy use out of the phone with the above.

Video wise though we ran a 2 hour film (leaving the phone's backlight on full and the antenna switched on) and from a full charge we still had 73% remaining.

Additionally its standby life is excellent, having turned on the phone with a full charge and then leaving it for an hour or so (with the backlight off), it was still registering 100%.