Samsung Galaxy S II review

9 May 2011

A superlative smartphone from Samsung, with a fabulous screen, oodles of power and a cracking camera to match

Price when reviewed 
498
Buy it now for 
5

There’s been such hype surrounding the Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone since we first spied it earlier this year, we were worried we might have expected too much of it. The specifications were tantalising, our first hands-on was all-too brief; would it be all we were hoping it to be, or a huge letdown?

In the end, we needn’t have worried. The Samsung Galaxy S II is a stonking smartphone, and it all starts with its most obvious asset: that huge 4.3in Super AMOLED Plus screen.

We loved the 4in screen on the original Galaxy S but this truly takes it to the next level. It’s bright – we measured a full white screen at 300cd/m[sup]2[/sup] at maximum brightness, and as OLED has no pervasive backlight (each pixel has its own light source), contrast is nigh-on perfect. A black screen registered as 0cd/m[sup]2[/sup] on our colorimeter, which means it’s pure, deep, unsullied jet.

Samsung Galaxy S II

Photos and videos look incredible. Colours leap from the screen with such fury that you almost have to look away. Even the traditional complaint over OLED screens, that they’re “grainier” than their TFT equivalents, can’t be levelled at the S II’s display and the reason for this is its red, green and blue subpixels are arranged in the traditional RGB grid, as they are in standard TFT displays.

Previous smartphone OLED panels have used what’s known as the PenTile grid, which gives you two green pixels for every blue and red pair and a rather grainy effect as a result. Look closely at a PenTile AMOLED display, such as the one found on the original HTC Desire, and you’ll find you can see the individual pixels; you can’t with the Galaxy S II.

Samsung Galaxy S II - a comparison of screen resolutions

The only significant complaint we’d have is over the pixel count. It’s still “only” 480 x 800, which means small text on zoomed-out web pages is more difficult to make out than it is on the iPhone 4’s 3.5in 960 x 640 display.

If we were being really picky we’d also highlight the fact that the brightness of the S II’s display can’t match that of the iPhone 4, which tops out at a ludicrous 475cd/m[sup]2[/sup].

We didn’t like the fact that the S II comes with its dynamic brightness setting turned on either. This dims the brightness depending on what’s onscreen, and when mostly white web pages load up, the brightness halves. Taken as a whole, however, these are relatively small considerations; the screen is at least as good as the iPhone’s, but in different ways.

Samsung Galaxy SII

Physical design

If the screen is impressive, the physical make-up of the Galaxy S II is almost as noteworthy. At its thinnest point, it claims to be the slimmest smartphone yet, and we were able to confirm this: using a set of vernier calipers, we measured it at 8.7mm. A bulge at the bottom and around the camera means it isn’t this slim along its entire length, but it’s nonetheless a mighty feat of engineering, and coupled with its light weight of 116g, the Galaxy S II is as pocket-friendly as any 4.3in-screened smartphone has any right to be.

Samsung has retained its iPhone-alike front-panel design, so the single physical button is retained below the screen (flanked by a touch-sensitive menu and back controls), as is the all Gorilla Glass front. The latter is finished with an oleophobic coating and resists smudges from greasy digits remarkably well.

What Samsung hasn’t done is improve the build quality much, or at least the impression of it. The previous Galaxy S felt a little too cheap for a flagship phone, and our opinion hasn’t changed this time around. The Galaxy S II’s textured rear panel is made of wafer thin, flimsy plastic and the chassis, aside from the glass front, is plastic too. If you want a phone that feels a million dollars, as well as looking it, the Galaxy S II isn’t for you.

Details

Price ex VAT £415
Price inc VAT £498
Cheapest price on contract Free
Contract monthly charge £29.00
Contract period 24 months
Contract provider O2
Overall rating 6
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 5

Physical

Dimensions 67.2 x 8.7 x 125.2mm (WDH)
Weight 116g
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard On-screen

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 1,000MB
Camera megapixel rating 8.0mp
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 4.3in
Resolution 480 x 800

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes

Software

OS family Android

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