^ Picture updated August 2011, this is how I have my handset configured. You won't see another Droid with the same look at this point in time
I've had the GSII not even two days so far and this review will compare it directly to the HTC Desire which it is replacing. I have had the Desire for a year now and it has been rooted since day one, just like this GSII, although no custom ROMs exist for it yet. Root access alone is good enough for now though because out of the box this phone is very good.
Out of the box the phone looks posh and minimalist, and most of all VERY lightweight, far lighter than it looks. There are no two tone colours other than the polished thin bezel and home button surround. Everything else is thin and flat.
^ The battery cover is very slim and very flexible but once attached to the phone it hugs the back of the battery and feels more like a unibody device than you'd imagine.
^ I am using WidgetLocker to customise the lock screen.
Compared to the Desire it's a welcome difference. The Desire's rubberised matte body would show up marks and greasy marks far too easily and the screen smudged quickly as well. not so on the SGSII, the screen seems to be less prone to fingerprints and smudges but when they happen it's easier to wipe with less effort required. The back is textured so doesn't require any cleaning from smudges or whatever else.
The camera lens seems exposed too much for my liking, it might scratch easy down the line.
Some review sites said the bundled headphones were quite good. They are not, they are rubbish but the output from the phone is good and was able to satisfy my musical listening needs via my Sennheiser HD595 and Ultimate Ears 100 series.
The built in speaker is also of a higher quality than the Desire and any other Android phone I have seen. It is not as high quality as higher end Nokia phones or the iPhone 4 though.
The Samsung customisations try to stick to the look and feel of AOSP Gingerbread as much as possible but Samsung has still managed to put in their own apps such as the social/gaming/media hubs. I care not for these so didn't check these out, in fact I removed them from the phone via Titanium Backup.
The Touchwhiz launcher that Samsung use is better than the stock Android launcher but it's still not as customisable compared to others on the Market. I have LauncherPro Plus and GoLauncher EX and have ADW EX in the past. Go Launcher is what I use day in day out.
Samsung's lock screen is possibly the worst lock screen I have ever seen. It's ugly and has a delayed response. This is the reason I paid the £1.20 odd for WidgetLocker shown above, I would highly recommend this as you can do a lot of stuff with your lock screens and it's relatively cheap as well.
I was quite pleased to see Samsung patched in notification bar widgets for core functions but it would have been nice to customise what widgets are there like in Cyanogen ROMs but I am not complaining here because the phone is already rooted and only a matter of time before custom ROMs start cooking via the good folks at XDA.
As of now the latest version of Android for non tablet devices is 2.3.4 and the GSII ships with 2.3.3
2.3.4 brings video calling via Google Talk and integrates it with the contacts app. It also fixes bugs for the Nexus S that users have reported. The GS II already has video chat integrated so thumbs up to Samsung for having this feature in already.
That's the overview out of the way, let's discuss speed and differences to virtually all other phones out right now.
This phone beats them and beats them hard. It's so fast at almost everything. You click the camera and in less than 1 second it's loaded and ready to take a picture or record video. Those 1.2GHz cores are being utilised throughout the phone very effectively. The browser has been modified by Samsung and is hardware accelerated too, you can see this acceleration in action in pinch zooming, scrolling and navigating tabs (windows). It also accelerates page rendering by the looks of it. Pages load faster and even with active media running pages still scroll and zoom as fast as ever.
The multitouch capabilities are up there with the Atrix and 2X, I was able to register all 10 fingers but sadly I don't have more to spare and there's very little room for more fingers to touch the screen Maybe a test with my nephews and nieces one day though haha!
Once you've used a 4.3" phone as slim and as fast as this, everything else just feels old fashioned. It really does spoil you. I feel it's on a level above the iPhone 4 in all aspects bar very fine text reading but the pixel rendering of the Retina display lends itself well there although at less than 4" screen size it it dwarfed. The GSII's Super AMOLED+ display is magnificent as well and will wow anyone who uses it.
Over all I think it's a big step up from the HTC Desire. I use my smartphone quite a lot, it is my navigator, appointment keeper, social networker, communicator and my portable imager and speaking of imager, the camera is very good too, probably inline with what I've shot with the iPhone 4 really (maybe better in many areas). The camcorder auto focuses while it's recording too which is nice but it focus hunts in low light, maybe a software bug, I don't know. There are many settings within the camera software. ISO ranges from 100 to 800 and metering can be spot, centre weighted or matrix. You can even control the exposure compensation and apply basic filters and effects. Video settings include resolutions in standard form from mobile video to 480P, 720P and 1080P.
Here's a picture I shot at night at iso400, 1/40sec using the stock camera app.
More samples with and without flash can be seen in an update here and daylight samples here
The battery life seems to be better than the Desire although heavy usage of media apps does drain the battery (expected) although I haven't run the usual charge cycles fully yet so I will give it a week before putting a final thought to battery life.
Can't wait until the MHL cables are out so I can plug it in to a HDTV and play NES/MEGADRIVE and also wathc HD movies. A sidenote on gaming, you can't pair a Wiimote etc with this over bluetooth like you can on AOSP ROMs, the same goes for HTC phones running Sense. Need a custom ROM...
Speaking of movies, this will play 1080p videos no problems and hardware acceleration works in both Flash and local media too and I found no problems playing media but do note that if you intend to watch BluRay rips on this then filesizes should be split into 5GB chunks as the storage is FAT32 formatted and then just playlist the chunks in the media player. I use Mobo Player for video playback as it has an excellent UI and folder watcher system.
What about using the phone in sunlight?
My Desire was just about readable in sunlight but I tried to use it in the shade as much as possible. It had an AMOLED display so was easier to read than LCD phones but still sometimes you'd struggle and have to squint.
The Galaxy S II is excellent in sunlight as you can see from this picture:
VIEW HIGH RES
I had no trouble reading text but I do note that the screen is glass fronted so you probably want to avoid glare from the sun (as with all glass fronted phones).
The microphone on this phone is very good too, the voice recorder app Samsung include is quite flash as well with a very smooth equaliser graph that loioks very cool.
Here's an audio recording I did with the app: http://robbiekhan.co...roid/Rec001.3ga (play on your smartphone or use VLC)
Missing bits and stuff "I" don't like (but ultimately should be sorted in custom ROMs):
1: No silent state in the volume up/down, only volume + vibrate.
2: No option to adjust lock screen timeout.
3: Screen cannot be left awake while plugged in, the option has been removed by Samsung.
4: Cannot enable private browsing in the default browser.
6: Camera zooms in a bit when set to 1080p, this seems to be the norm for many phones though.
7: Cannot customise notification bar widgets.
8: Cannot turn off camera sounds. I deleted them using root explorer instead, requires root.
9: Cannot manually focus when recording a video, would have been nice to manually fix the focus to a subject! You also cannot zoom when recording in 1080p, only 720p or below. The focus hunt when recording can be annoying at times but I'm sure this is more a software thing. Video sample at the end of this post.
11: Samsung's T9 dialler is very nice but when using the search function it only lists the first number for a contact if they have more than 1 applied to their card, this is an issue because you can't click them in the search result and view other numbers, it immediately starts dialling that one number instead. In this regard I highly recommend Dialer One using the dark theme. It's very good and also supports landscape orientation (Samsung one does too) unlike other diallers (HTC etc). ***UPDATE*** I found a solution to this although a secondary issue still remains. See my update in this post.
12: There are many areas that trap dust in the casing, I guess this is a problem for a lot of devices these days but it's nothing major for a device that's got grilles and filters protecting the internals. Below are a set of macro photographs showing where the dust gets trapped:
And to finish, few more photos and a video sample:
Vs iPhone 4
The stuff I'm using:
- GoLauncher EX
- Custom dock icons
- Minimalist Text
- Snowstorm (weather)
- Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread (modded version from Cyanogen 7 nightly)
- @ XDA Devs, www.goo.gl/3MY0x
Until next time, thanks for reading!
Cases info in my update post here.