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Samsung Galaxy S2 review

Dual-core power, beautiful screen - the Galaxy S II is the kind of sequel we like

Our Verdict

We have to drop the score of this phone as it's simply ageing now and is bettered by the S3 - but rest assured, with ICS it's still a stunning phone.

Product features

  • Built-in Memory : 16 GB
  • Rear Camera Resolution : 8 Megapixel
  • Battery Talk Time : 18.30 Hour
  • Screen Resolution : 800 x 480

View full specification

For

  • Super-fast reaction times
  • Slim design
  • Ridiculously clear screen
  • Clear call quality
  • 1080p video recording

Against

  • Flimsy back cover
  • Poor keyboard layout
  • Samsung Apps portal

The Samsung Galaxy S2 may be the most well-connected phone we've ever seen – there's pretty much nothing we can think of that's available on a smartphone that isn't somehow crammed in here. Well, maybe infrared, but that's possibly pushing it a little bit.

But the more important question is: does all that connecting and suchlike affect the performance of the battery? It's all very well being light and thin, but if it won't work, it's pretty pointless.

Samsung galaxy s2 review

Battery life

It's usually pretty easy to state battery life on a smartphone – 90% of them will last a day, perhaps a day and bit. Either way, it's a nightly charge if you don't want to end up with a dead device.

With the Galaxy S2, it's a little more difficult to state the battery life, as we were so busy playing with it all the time we never could get an accurate read out. However, we eventually stood firm in the face of temptation, and it's good (ish) news.

Samsung Galaxy S2 review

The not-so-good news is that if you're playing with the Samsung Galaxy S2 all the time as we were (and we mean listening to Spotify, browsing the web via 3G, watching videos frequently, whacking out some maps here and there with GPS, reading books, using Push email and playing games) then you'll be lucky to get 10 hours of battery out of it – and that's with the enhanced 1650mAh battery wedged on board.

Then again, the fact that using a device a lot makes the battery run down quickly shouldn't be a shock to any human being – it just seems that a lot of people expect a phone to be able to do it all and then fight a Duracell bunny at midnight too.

In real terms (ie four months in when you're used to having all the functions and don't feel the need to play with the S2 every seven seconds) you'll be laughing, as we actually managed to eke out nearly two days' use, even with accounts syncing in the background.

Either it's the dual cores or Android 4.0 making things more efficient, but if you're away for the weekend and forget your charger, you can definitely use the Galaxy S2 as a calling and texting tool the entire time you're away without worry.

However, we'd estimate that you'll probably still be charging every day under normal conditions. We just had to say it – a review doesn't feel right without it. But at least the Samsung Galaxy S2 won't run down in six hours regularly.

Connectivity

Here's where it gets tricky – Samsung has decided to throw in so much new tech that we may have to spend some time explaining it.

The main connections are already present and correct: Wi-Fi to b/g/n standard (although it's not the strongest – even next to the router it will only display two bars of signal, but it holds connection fine enough) Bluetooth

Wi-Fi Direct

Samsung Galaxy S2 review

This is a relatively new one to us, but thankfully it's not too hard to explain – think Bluetooth but using Wi-Fi, and running faster.

It's set up in the same way as Bluetooth – search for devices transmitting, link up with a confirmation box, and away you go. We could only test this on our PC, but the setup was simply one click, and exchanging large files was much faster than over Bluetooth.

You're also able to do the same with printers, but currently only Samsung ones. This will likely change in the future though.

Kies

Kies is Samsung's proprietary PC software, and it's pretty comprehensive. From media management to application adding, it's the best way to interact with your phone.

It does take a while to load though – and be prepared for it to be a bit unstable on start-up at times. However, after that it's one of the better platforms for getting media onto a phone, with simple dragging and dropping with search thrown in making it easy to find what you want.

And if the heady list of media playback options isn't good enough for your video collection, the Kies software will re-encode them for you too.

Samsung galaxy s2 review

Backing up the phone is also possible here, making it a good idea to plug in and save your files once in a while, given that it's a relatively painless experience to do so.

The only downside is that it will install apps for you, but only the Samsung ones, which we're still perplexed about. Why have them at all? Is Samsung paying an engineer to come up with these? More on that later.

Kies Air

You might think, like we did, that this is the wireless version of Kies. It's not... it's much better than that.

Simply type the IP address of the phone into any internet-connected browser (although it has to be on the same network) and the phone will start a potted down version of Kies in the window.

Samsung galaxy s2 review

Using this interface you can add bookmarks, browse messages and contacts, download media – it basically cranks open your phone and lets you delve inside from the comfort of an internet browser.

You can upload new content from your PC here, although it's a little slow and if you've not got the correct Java platform enabled, you won't be able to upload multiple files.

AllShare

Samsung Galaxy S2 review

We've already covered this to some degree in the media section, but it's worth running through the highlights again.

AllShare is the DLNA client that enables you to connect to a PS3, internet-enabled TV, smartphone or PC wirelessly.

Its main functions in normal use are to enable you to browse the content of your Windows 7 PC's shared folders and download music and video (and this time it works – none of the terrible performance of the Samsung Wave here) and to send content to your TV.

We found the latter to be a little quicker than usual – even the 1080p video we'd recorded that day came out OK and needed minimal buffering, although it often needed to pause in the middle of playback at Full HD level.

USB on the go, NFC and HDMI mirroring

The finaly connectivity elements on the S2 are impressive: NFC on certain models, USB On The Go to allow the phone to connect to hard drives or USB keys and HDMI-mirroring if you own a MHL lead.

That's the issue: making sure you own cables for the latter two. They don't come in the box, and you'll have to scrounge around on eBay to find them.

Samsung galaxy s2 review

The NFC capability is one we are looking forward to testing out (despite there not being much infrastructure in the UK, yet) but there has yet to be a model that's capable of being used as a payment machine in the UK.

HDMI mirroring is also available through the micro USB port – some TVs are also able to support charging using this method, and you can see exactly what's happening on the phone's screen on a big TV. It's a great way to play some gyroscope-enabled games – less fun to just see a pixellated version of Angry Birds.

Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
TouchscreenYes
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
USBYes
Contract TypeSIM-free
Maximum Memory Card Size Supported32 GB
Built-in Memory16 GB
Built-in FlashYes
Memory Card SlotYes
Cellular Data Connectivity TechnologyHSPA+, EDGE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSUPA
SAR Value0.34 W/kg
GPS ReceiverYes
Multi-SIM SupportedNo
Near Field CommunicationNo
Integrated TV TunerNo
Product FamilyGalaxy
Cellular Generation3.5G
Cellular Network SupportedWCDMA 850, WCDMA 900, WCDMA 1900, WCDMA 2100, GSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900
Rear Camera Resolution8 Megapixel
Number of SIM Card Supported1
Front CameraYes
Memory Card SupportedmicroSD
Phone StyleBar
ColourBlack
Operating SystemAndroid
Brand NameSamsung
Battery Talk Time18.30 Hour
Product ModelS II
Screen Size10.8 cm (4.3")
Screen Resolution800 x 480
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)116 g
Green CompliantYes
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityRoHS, WEEE
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Processor ManufacturerARM
Operating System VersionAndroid 2.3 Gingerbread
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), Email, Instant Messaging
RealtoneYes
Radio Tuner TypeFM
Call FeaturesCaller ID
Height125.3 mm
Width66.1 mm
Depth8.5 mm
Radio TunerYes
ManufacturerSamsung
Product NameGalaxy S II Smartphone
Package TypeRetail
Processor Speed1.20 GHz
Processor TypeCortex
Product LineGalaxy
Screen TypeOLED
Sensor TypeAccelerometer, Proximity Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Digital Compass
Manufacturer Part NumberGT-I9100LKAXEU
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.samsung.com/uk/
Marketing Information

Prepare yourself for Samsung's Galaxy S II, the world's thinnest smartphone. Using the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system, the Galaxy S II brings together the 1.2GHz Dual Core Application Processor for unmatched performance and a brilliant 4.3" Super AMOLED Plus display. Featuring a lightweight and beautifully thin design (8.49mm), and advanced HSPA + connectivity, it represents the next generation in smartphone technology.

Package Contents
  • Galaxy S II Smartphone
  • Battery
  • Travel adapter (charger)
  • Quick start guide
Limited Warranty2 Year