SGS2 Intro

The road to our Galaxy S2 review has been a long one. The first time we saw the device was at Mobile World Congress, where it was initially announced. There, Anand and myself played with and hurriedly benchmarked one and came away more than a bit disappointed with performance. I set my expectations based on our initial experience and came away from the conference prepared to be underwhelmed when the device launched internationally and stateside. There was never any doubt in my mind that the device would be a runaway success just like the first one, but I still came away disappointed.

Boy was I wrong. The device that launched internationally is completely different, in the positive sense.

It took a long time for us to get an international Galaxy S 2 in our hands, but we finally got one, and for the past few weeks I’ve been using it as my primary device here in the US on AT&T. It’s not an exaggeration at all to say that we’ve received more requests for a Samsung Galaxy S 2 (henceforth SGS2) review than any other smartphone, by at least an order of magnitude. The tomes of information already written about this phone has made it all the more daunting to dive head-first into a comprehensive exploration of the device, and we’ve tried to do our best.

Physical Impressions

First things first, how does the phone feel? I keep going back to MWC because that’s when first impressions were made, and thankfully in-hand feel didn’t change at all since then. The SGS2’s back eschews the plasticky smooth back of the previous SGS, and instead includes a textured battery door which snaps on. The new battery cover doesn’t wrap around to the front, instead only snapping into the back. There’s a notch in the top right which you can get a thumbnail into and pry the battery cover off with.

Moving to a textured surface instead of the SGS’ oft-derided slick plastic back gives the device a much needed boost of in-hand-feel. When I first encountered the phone at MWC I was shocked how much of a difference this simple change made. The edges are still lipped in smooth glossy plastic, but on the whole the device feels much more competent than SGS1. It appears to be the same material, but now there’s much less of a propensity for scratching or slipping around. I feel like the design language of the original SGS is still here, but it’s all grown up.

It’s impossible to go any further without noting just how thin the SGS2 is. Samsung has taken something of an obsession with holding the thickness crowns for its products, something the SGS2 did indeed hold for some time, at 8.49 mm at its thinnest point. Like the other SGS phones, there’s a bulge at the very bottom which throws a bit of a wrench into the device being completely uniform in profile. It is here that Samsung also locates antennas and the loudspeaker, though the real purpose for this bulge seems to be at least somewhat ergonomic. This bulge is around 10.1 mm thick, which is 1.61 mm thicker than the rest of the phone. For comparison, the old SGS was around 10.0 mm thick all over. As a result, the SGS2 is on the whole noticeably thinner, all while dramatically increasing power and features which we’ll get to in a moment.

Next up is the relocation of the microUSB port. The original SGS’ microUSB port placement drew a lot of discussion, as it’s at top left and behind a small door on the international variant and most regional variants. The SGS2 however relocates the microUSB port to dead center of the bottom face of the device, and just right of it is the primary microphone port. I got used to seeing the microUSB port up top and understood that choice, but having things at the bottom just feels more natural.

The volume rocker and power button are placed basically in the same position on SGS2 as the previous generation. Power is on the right about three quarters of the way up the right side of the device, and volume on the left side positioned with the top of the volume rocker in-line with the top of the power button. Thankfully these buttons are communicative and clicky as ever, I can’t find any fault with them.

There’s a notch which looks like the slot for a hand strap just above the volume rocker. There’s no microphone attached on the inside to this area, so it’s a bit unclear to me what this is for if it isn’t for a hand strap.

At top is another microphone port for both noise cancellation during calls using a discrete solution by Audience. Right next to it is the standard 3.5mm headphone jack.

The front of SGS2 is one unbroken glass surface, just like you’d expect for a top-tier smartphone launching this generation. Starting at the top is the 2 MP front facing camera, and right next to it is the proximity sensor and ambient light sensor. Of course, the real centerpiece is the 4.3" WVGA Super AMOLED+ display (henceforth SAMOLED+) which we’ll talk more about in a moment.

Physical Impressions and Comparison Table
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  • Mugur - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    Well, for most Android devices I've tried (I currently own 3), if you just leave them doing nothing overnight (even with wifi on on some of them, but no 3G/HSDPA, no GPS etc.) the battery drain is like 2-3%. Of course, if some app or push email or an updating widget wakes them, the drain could reach 20-25%.

    You just have to play a bit with the phone and find out what is mostly consuming your battery, even get one of the "green" apps on the Market. Through experimentation, I'm sure most people (excluding the really heavy users) will get 50% more time of the battery.
    Reply
  • wuyuanyi - Monday, September 12, 2011 - link

    It must be the final answer for my pending problem.my GS II has this problem and I has been very annoyed.the CPU current produce a EMI on the output circuit ,for the BT earphone DOESN'T play such hiss and noisy.apprecite it to solve my problem rather than suspect whether it is my own case. but the next question is how to solve it ? can we manual fix the shield or , generate a noisy that is against the noisy --with reverse wave?
    hehe

    sorry for my poor ENGLISH
    Reply
  • awesomedeleted - Monday, September 12, 2011 - link

    This is a fresh copy of my current phone...Samsung Infuse 4G...which came out in May. I hate the newer Galaxy S round home button thingy too. What's so special, the name? Reply
  • awesomedeleted - Monday, September 12, 2011 - link

    Although I now notice a few small differences in hardware, such as 1.2Ghz Dual-core A9 vs. my Infuse's 1.2Ghz Single-core A8, and the 1GB RAM. Reply
  • supercurio - Monday, September 12, 2011 - link

    Infuse 4G is a Galaxy S "repackaged" with a Galaxy S II look, screen and probably camera sensor for AT&T. Reply
  • bmgoodman - Monday, September 12, 2011 - link

    So I understand that the audio quality of this phone is a step down from the original galaxy. My question is how big a step down? For a non-"audiophile" who just wants to connect the headphone jack into the AUX port on his OEM car stereo to listen to his variable bit rate MP3 (~128 bps IIRC) music collection, is this something that's likely to disappoint? Is it a notable shortcoming for a more typical music fan? Reply
  • supercurio - Monday, September 12, 2011 - link

    No doubt cars are in general a noisy environment.
    Furthermore its very rare to find cars benefiting from good speakers and implementation, resulting in far from linear frequency response, left/right imbalance, resonance in other materials etc :P

    Trained ears or sensible people are capable of detecting subtle difference in sound like nobody can imagine ^^ but I don't think it will Galaxy S II DAC issues described will make a noticeable difference when listening to music while driving a car for most people.

    Note: I have no idea how was the original Samsung Galaxy phone on this regard, but its a regression over Galaxy S.

    Headphones.. that's something else because even cheap ones (price doesn't matter) can provide some low distortion levels and let your perceive fine details.
    Reply
  • Deusfaux - Monday, September 12, 2011 - link

    It is there and does work, speaking from experience with a Nexus S. Reply
  • Deusfaux - Monday, September 12, 2011 - link

    An HTC I used did it best though, with integrating the feature right into the browser settings. No special URL strings needed to access functionality. Reply
  • aNYthing24 - Monday, September 12, 2011 - link

    But isn't there a version of the Tegra 2 that is clocked at 1.2 GHz? It's going to be at that clock speed in the Fusion Grid table.t Reply

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