We had our reservations about the original Samsung Galaxy S but its talents were still many and accordingly it sold like hot cakes. Now Samsung is back with its follow up, the Galaxy S II. Can it possibly achieve the same success?
First impressions are extremely positive, the enormous 4.3in screen looks great with its very thin bezel, and the trio of controls on the front does little to break up the minimalist lines. The 8.9mm thinness is also immediately apparent, along with the phone's impressively light weight. Probably the single most positive thing to note, however, is the new textured back. Not only does it look great, it's also a much more practical finish that the glossy plastic of the original. It doesn't actually provide any more traction in the hand but it should be less likely to slide off soft furnishings.
The juxtaposition of the massive screen (which is possibly erring on the side of too big) and incredibly thin body does feel a little peculiar and the plastic construction does lend it a slightly, well, plasticky feel compared to the likes of the Sony Ericsson arc and iPhone 4, but it doesn't actually feel flimsy. Handling is also helped by the simple layout of physical features with the power button on the right edge, volume rocker on the left, headphone up top and microUSB on the bottom, with Menu, Home and Back buttons on the front. We're still a little unsure of the mixture of physical a touch buttons, on principle, but in terms of feel and responsiveness, they're fine. What is missing, however, is a button for the camera - this really shouldn't be omitted in this day and age, especially when you've an 8-megapixel camera on the back.
Primary among our concerns with the original Galaxy S was its screen, which used Samsung's Super AMOLED technology. Thanks to its Pentile arrangement of sub-pixels (sorry, getting technical here) it had a slightly grainy quality to it that some people found distracting. With its new Super AMOLED plus screen, Samsung has now fixed this issue by reverting to a conventional sub-pixel arrangement. The result is that despite having the same outward 480 x 800 pixel resolution, it actually uses 30 percent more sub-pixels and looks significantly sharper. The slightly blue tint that plagued the original has also gone. So, with AMOLED's usual plus points of amazingly bright and vivid colours, deep black levels, and infinite viewing angles, this is one top notch display.
It's also a responsive display, which is largely down to the super fast hardware running in the background. There's a dual-core Samsung chip at the heart of the operation, which runs at 1GHz and packs in quad GPUs theoretically delivering five times the performance of the Galaxy S' Hummingbird processor.
As with other dual-core smartphones we've seen, the performance benefit isn't immediately obvious as little of the interface and few of the apps actually benefit from the second core or extra graphics power. Where it should come into its own is multi-tasking - and future apps and games - but this is something that needs longer testing to really become apparent. Frankly, we're at a point where mobile hardware has outstripped software so it will be a while before these dual-core phones really benefit day to day use but obviously it will be a nice thing to have.