Samsung’s Galaxy S II just can’t stand out


A good effort, but this anonymous smartphone sequel misses the x-factor of the original version

From zero to four in a matter of months, there are already very tough choices to be made when choosing which of the new dual-core smartphones to invest your hard-earned in.

Everything needs an edge, and just as Samsung was about to ship the Galaxy S II, news surfaced of HTC’s Sensation with a 1.2GHz dual-core processor – outdoing the Samsung by 0.2GHz.

With Samsung’s ability to get products to market quickly, the manufacturer seemed unfazed by this news and simply decided to boost the Galaxy S II processor to match the HTC’s. Job done.

However, the models destined for the UK then lost NFC – although not necessarily because of the speed boost. We’re told there’s no NFC hardware inside the phone at all, so don’t expect a software update to magically enable it later on.

Given Samsung has launched an NFC-enabled handset for the new Orange ‘Quick Tap’ service, run in conjunction with Barclaycard, this does seem like a rather odd move, and also means we can probably expect an updated model later in the year that restores this feature.

If you’re keen to be ready for mobile payments, you may have to hold on (or opt for the Samsung-built Google Nexus S) but we’re not sure if NFC is going to be big enough in 2011 to warrant waiting for.

Of the current dual-core smartphones, many have unique stand-out features, like the Motorola ATRIX’s biometric fingerprint reader, or the qHD-resolution display present on both the Motorola and HTC’s Sensation – the latter also having the excellent HTC Sense enhancements.

The Galaxy S II, especially without NFC, only wins out by being the slimmest dual-core model. The other feature is the incredibly bright AMOLED screen, which Samsung calls ‘Super AMOLED Plus’.

The phone isn’t heavy, either, at just 116g, although this is as a result of being constructed from fairly cheap materials.

Missing the grade
While the Galaxy S II may be Samsung’s fl agship smartphone, it just doesn’t come close to the premium feel of the HTC Sensation. However, anyone that liked the original Galaxy S and is ready to upgrade, will feel comfortable that the next model hasn’t made any radical changes.

There’s still the centre ‘home’ key that probably helped attract all that unwanted attention from Apple, and two hidden touch-sensitive keys for menu and back.

These can be illuminated if you want, either permanently or for a limited time, but once you know which is which, it looks quite slick having the lighting disabled completely.

On the back of the phone, you have an eight-megapixel camera that can also record HD video at both 720 and 1080P resolutions. With the incredibly bright and somewhat over-saturated OLED display, your pictures and videos will look really vivid when viewed back, but this will probably lead to some disappointment when viewed on a normal monitor or TV, via HDMI, where the colours are far more neutral.

The Samsung is the only dual-core phone to use an OLED screen, and while it is absolutely gorgeous to look at (and so bright that it can still be clearly viewed in the midday sun), it’s somewhat unnatural. If you’ve used a TV that has a range of picture presets, how often do you select ‘vivid’? Probably not that often, unless you want everything you see and do to look like you’re watching a Pixar movie.

But what of the phone’s performance? This is where the Samsung shows o its power, as it is highly responsive.

Navigating around the homescreen and menus is instantaneous, and it’s only when scrolling quickly up and down through lists that you can spot some jerkiness in the scrolling, but that’s probably only down to bad graphic drivers.

Samsung also has its own front-end UI set-up that is similar to HTC Sense, but not quite as advanced, even in its V4.0 incarnation. There are no fancy 3D transition e ects or downloadable themes and skins. You can, however, change the typeface, which is, to date, a feature only available on LG and Samsung handsets.

There are also a number of power saving options, along with the ability to remotely lock, track and wipe the device if gets lost or stolen, which is where it shares some functionality with the HTC, or a Motorola running Motoblur.

Full article in Mobile News issue 494 (July 18, 2011).

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  1. This has got to be the only review I've seen of the Galaxy SII that doesn't give it virtually full marks – very strange.

    • Fortunately Mobile News doesn't base its reviews and ratings given by other publications and websites. Four out of five is hardly a damning review

  2. working in the industry this couldnt been further from the truth so far this month ive sold over 40 s2's and is by far outselling the iphone or the sensation customers love it!

  3. The Samsung Galaxy S2 is much slimmer and lighter than the HTC sensation, giving it a clear edge over the competition that helps it 'stand out'.