The Samsung Galaxy S WiFi 4.2 has – as its title suggests – a 4.2in screen. A good compromise between size and ultimate portability, it makes the iPod touch feel dinky and yet still fits comfortably into pockets. It can be argued that a media-centric device like this needs as big a screen as possible, but we’d feel happier carrying this around every day than its 5in brother.
Screen quality is middling by top-end smartphone standards. The Galaxy S WiFi 4.2 uses an IPS TFT screen with 480 x 800 pixel resolution, where phones this size now sport up to 720 x 1280 pixels. However, text is not noticeably blocky unless you look close – where the pixel structure is pretty obvious with the naked eye.
Colour reproduction isn’t hugely impressive, looking a little lifeless next to more expensive devices, but isn’t too much worse than the iPod touch, itself not a patch on the iPhone 4S. Viewing angles are much improved over the previous model, letting people crowd around the screen to watch a movie. Would you want to though? Probably not.
Workman-like rather than wonderful – it’s not bad but this is no “Retina Display”
The device’s problem is that some phones available for less – such as the Orange Monte Carlo – offer similar image quality or less money. Along with the ability to phone people, of course.
At present, the Samsung Galaxy S WiFi 4.2 runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread. This is not the latest version of Google’s OS – version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is out on the town right now – and although Samsung promises an update, it’s disappointing to see it left out.
However, Android 2.3 is still a good fit for this kind of device. Just like an Android smartphone, you’re given a brace of home screens you can litter with widgets – seven as standard – and access to more apps than you could ever hope to use.
Unlike some non-phone Android devices, the Galaxy S WiFi 4.2 has full access to the Google Play app store and must-have Google apps like Mail, Maps and Navigation. Using it feels just like a phone – it even indexes your contacts in standard phone-like manner, although tap on a phone number and the WiFi 4.2 does… precisely nothing.
It’s not entirely without calling abilities, though. There’s a microphone built-in and a user-facing camera, letting you chat over Wi-Fi using VoIP apps.
Like virtually all Samsung Android phones, the Galaxy S WiFi 4.2 uses the TouchWiz interface. This offers a few extra widgets, with which you can customise your home screens, an icon dock at the bottom of these screens and a tweaked apps menu. You can view your installed apps as either a standard four icon-wide grid or a long list.
The player is also graced with an array of Samsung-made apps. They are – take a deep breath – Smart View, AllShare, Kies Air, Social Hub, Samsung Apps and ChatON.
The only one we’re not too keen on is Samsung Apps. This is Samsung’s own app store, which is a bit redundant when you have Google Play to play with.
Smart View is a DLNA-based app that lets you pipe over what’s on your phone screen to a compatible Samsung TV. The AllShare app is similar, but a bit more involved. Plenty of connected Samsung devices support AllShare, and the app lets you stream videos, photos or music over to them using Wi-Fi. Again, it’s all performed using the DLNA standard. DLNA is notoriously tricky to set up correctly, and these apps make the procedure that bit easier. They are also important because there’s no dedicated physical video output.
Social Hub is probably the most-used of the Samsung apps. This lets you login to social networks Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, and acts as a – you guessed it – hub for all your social networking updates. However, it’s pretty basic and with no social widget available, you’re generally better off with a third-party (or an official) app.
Kies Air is wireless sync device that lets you copy files over from your computer over Wi-Fi and ChatON is a chat interface. You need a phone to register for it over SMS – a bit of a blunder in a non-phone – but it’s inoffensive stuff.
Samsung also pre-installs eleven games, including favourites like Angry Birds and Plants Vs. Zombies. All apart from Rovio’s casual smash are trials, though, little more than a taster of what’s out there. With a single-core 1GHz processor, there is some lag in more intense 3D games, and some are not supported by the device. There’s no Galaxy on Fire 2 at present, for example.
If your main concern is gaming, you’re much better of with an iPod touch. It costs roughly the same amount, and while the extra 0.7in of screen comes in handy here, it’s outweighed by the superior game selection of iOS.