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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  • ph0tek - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    First of all Android is better than iOS in so many ways that i'd be here all day listing them..... and the same goes for this phones hardware compared to the iPhone so i wont even bother!

    Secondly the S2 might have a slightly lower display res but it has better response times, infinitely better contrast, vastly better blacks, more vibrant colours, plus superior viewing angles. And all this on a screen that isn't stupidly tiny. It's clearly better overall.
    Everyone who i've shown to this phone to instantly says the screen is the best they've seen, even iPhone users.

    With the battery theres not much difference, it has longer battery life for talk time than iPhone, and also longer battery when using hotspots, while displaying Flash content too! Yes you can view the WHOLE web on this.

    I find it very amusing that you even try to compare the iPhone to this. Theres simply no comparison. Like comparing a ferrari to a skoda. Just makes you look stupid.
    Reply
  • niva - Monday, September 12, 2011 - link

    Why are you arguing with an iFanboy? Reply
  • LostViking - Saturday, September 17, 2011 - link

    You could argue that the SGS 2 is better (for me it wins hands down), and you could argue that the iPhone 4 is better.

    Some people get sever rashes all over their body by using products not made by Apple ;)
    For those people the original iPhone beats the SGS 2 and all future Android devices easily :)
    Reply
  • jjj - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    hard to like any new phone now when Krait and A15 are around the corner. Reply
  • killerroach - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    Remember... there's ALWAYS something around the corner. Reply
  • jjj - Monday, September 12, 2011 - link

    Actually there is rarely something like this around the corner.This time we got both new cores and a new node (and the jump from 40/45 nm to 28 nm is pretty big). Reply
  • 3lackdeath - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    Nice phone but WP7 is faster and smoother. Reply
  • OBLAMA2009 - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    400x800? no thx Reply
  • MacTheSpoon - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    What a staggeringly awesome review. I am really impressed. The audio section--wow.

    I sure wish the screen were brighter and the audio better on this phone, but I have to put it on my short list.
    Reply
  • Piyono - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    "There, Anand and *I* played with..." Reply

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