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April 22, 2011

Samsung Galaxy S2 i9100 Review

Having owned over half a dozen Android smartphones in the past year, I thought I’ve seem them all. The Samsung Galaxy S II (S2 i9100) brings it up a notch — a powerful and sexy Android superphone that comes with all the bells and whistles.

The very thin frame of the Galaxy S II gives it that sexy appeal. Just like its predecessor, its mostly made out of polymer making it very light and almost unnoticeable in the pocket.

Yes, it sometimes looks like an iPhone, both in design and UI (though I’d wish the iPhone 5 would very much have an exact form factor) prompting Apple to file a lawsuit against Samsung. Still, it’s admirable that Samsung is able to pull it off and somehow retain a little bit of design signature.

The large 4.3-inch display is surrounded by a thin, dark bezel with a front-facing camera on top, a couple of sensors and earpiece beside it. At the bottom end, the usual physical home button is sandwiched by a touch panel button for Menu and Back.

On the left side is the volume rocker while the power/sleep button is on the right side. On the top end is the 3.5″ audio jack while the micro-USB port for data and power is situated at the bottom. The absence of a dedicated camera button is a little disappointing.

The bright and crisp display of the Galaxy S II is one of its best feature. Just like the first-gen Galaxy S, the AMOLED Plus display is among the best screens we’ve seen on a phone — deep contrast, vivid colors and smooth display quality. I’m not able to discern the difference between AMOLED and AMOLED Plus but I guess the benefits are all behind the scenes (like low-power consumption).

At the back panel is the huge 8MP camera and there’s a little protrusion at the bottom end (perhaps to give it a good grip) is where the audio speakers are placed. The entire back cover (for the battery compartment) has a rough mesh-type finish.

Contrary to what we’ve posted before here and the specs that we’ve gotten earlier, the Galaxy S II unit that we’re using has a slightly lower specifications. It still even has the dual-core 1.0GHz processor instead of the recent announcement that it’s going to be 1.2GHz. That’s probably due to the fact that it’s just an engineering unit and not the final release.

The battery is also rated at 6.11Wh (and a voltage rating of 3.7V), which translates to roughly 1651mAh. That gives us about a full 2 days with mostly calls and SMS with light WiFi browsing. We’re not able to test out 3G usage since I could not figure out the settings (copied the one from the old Galaxy S but that didn’t work either).

Based on the System Info App, here’s the partial internal specs of the unit we got:

CPU Frequency Range: 200MHz – 1,000MHz
SD Card Storage: 11.5 GB
Internal Storage: 1.97 GB
System Storage: 504 MB
Memory: 833 MB
System Cache: 92 MB
Sensors: 9
OS Release: 2.3.3
Resolution: 480×800 pixels
Density: 240 dpi
Refresh Rate: 60Hz

That does not include the external SD card (A2SD) slot found at the back, behind the battery, which can accommodate an additional 32GB of storage.

The Galaxy S2’s camera is among the best ones we’ve used and is at par with the likes of Nokia N8 and the iPhone 4. The camera takes great photos — images are crisp and well saturated. There’s far less blurry images since the shutter speed is quite fast. Oh, and it’s got an LED flash now, too! Would have been nice if they added a dedicated camera button. See sample shots taken below (or see full album here in raw).

What makes it better than all the other cameraphones out there is that the Galaxy S II can record up to 1080p videos (full HD!) without even breaking a sweat. It can also play the 1080p videos effortlessly, something my 11″ Macbook Air is having a hard time to do.

See sample video footages take using the Galaxy S2 (select 1080p on the dropdown menu).

The handset performs really well, thanks to the improved CPU, more generous RAM and graphics chip. Apps load faster, games run more smoothly and even web browsing is much more efficient and pleasant.

The Galaxy S II uses Samsung’s TouchWiz UI on top of Android Gingerbread. It comes with 7 panels or home screens and navigates just like the old Galaxy S. There are a number of very noticeable improvements, especially with the additional of more functional and eye-candy widgets (reminds me of HTC Sense). See video demo below:

Samsung i9100 Galaxy S II specs:
4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus @ 480×800 pixels
Gorilla Glass display
Dual-core 1.0GHz ARM Cortex-A9 proccessor
Mali-400MP GPU, Orion chipset
833MB RAM
2GB + 12GB internal storage
up to 32GB via microSD
HSDPA 21 Mbps, HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, DLNA, WiFi Direct, WiFi hotspot
8MP autofocus camera w/ LED Flash
Stereo FM radio with RDS
GPS with aGPS support
Bluetooth 3.0 + HS
1080p video recording
2MP front-facing camera for video calls
Li-Ion 1650mAh battery
Android 2.3 Gingerbread

I was not able to test out other integrated features such as 3G/HSDPA and WiFi-Direct due to compatibility in the settings. Samsung PR stressed that this is not the final unit which is the reason why we’ve encountered numerous system and app errors.

The Samsung Galaxy S II definitely brings new excitement to the Android smartphone line-up. The souped-up specs, dual-core processor, sexy form factor and large AMOLED screen certainly elevated the Galaxy S2 i9100 to the top of the heap.

It’s probably going to be the first dual-core Android smartphone to hit the Philippines this May (unless of course LG will beat it to the punch). Samsung is yet to release this handset in the Philippines (although I hear it’s definitely going to be this May) and we’re still guessing what the suggested price will be.

If it’s going to be anywhere near the price of the first Galaxy S (~Php32k), then it’s going to be another hot item once again. See our closer comparison between the SGS2 and the SGS here.

Update: The Samsung Galaxy S2 will have a retail price of Php29,990.

Samsung i9000 Galaxy S announced
Cherry Superion vs. Archos 70 vs. Galaxy Tab
Samsung Galaxy S2 vs. HTC Sensation

216 Responses to “Samsung Galaxy S2 i9100 Review”

  1. iamsirhc says:

    11 days and I’m still loving it!
    iPhone 4 loses this fight. Let’s wait ’til autumn!

    • seanie says:

      Did you buy the unit locally? Where and how much please :)

    • mikey says:

      iphone 4 still has the better display. the super amoled+ is amazing and really bright, but the retina display still has the better resolution. it only becomes noticeable when watching videos or viewing pics. for movies and youtube i use the ip4, but for everything else i use the s2.

  2. Rodel
    Twitter: dropbucks
    says:

    currently waiting for this beauty to hit the stores.. tagal! :) when is the exact date..

    • Zo says:

      i know, is there really still no word on its official release date?? :p

    • mikey says:

      don’t know about you guys but we got ours a couple weeks ago, and i just love this! being new to android i am very impressed by the os, especially widgets, but most especially because of how much power this phone has. 1.2 (can be oc’d to 1.5) ghz, 1650 amh battery, and such a bright screen (even at lowest brightness the screen is b-e-a-utiful). my ONLY issue is that my iphone 4 has the better display, but that’s only noticeable when watching videos. other than that, this is the BEST phone to date!

    • seanie says:

      Mikey, where’d you get yours? Greenhills? How much? :D

    • mikey says:

      no sir, i got mine online for just below $800 CAD

    • seanie says:

      oh. That’s expensive. Fine.. I’ll wait for globe to bring it out.

  3. winzy says:

    @mikey- could you please tell me where did you order yours online? please send the link? how many days for the phone to arrive here? thanks!

    • mikey says:

      i got it from expansys. shipment is blazing fast but this is just for international buyers afaik. unfortunately this is the only way to get it this early, so otherwise might be best if you wait for a local supplier to release it with cheaper tags.

    • imitator101 says:

      I ordered mine through expansys as well. Ordered it May 9 and still waiting to this day, and their website says I have to wait 8 more days. Sounds like you’re lucky it was blazing fast for you haha

    • mikey says:

      it depends, i ordered mine early but i did have to wait 1 week before it became available. shipped on friday got it on monday. they get thousands of orders so im guessing they ship on a first come first serve basis. plus, the s2 supplies are limited. i19100 units werent mass produced by samsung, so once stock is out ppl will get i19103 units, almost the same thing but without super amoled+ :)

    • boy2 says:

      Hi mikey, magkano yung binayaran mo na Duty Free tax pagkadating ng package? Bale magkano lahat-lahat, Thanks.

    • mikey says:

      sorry i forgot to mention i live in canada, they shipped through fedex and i did not have to pay any taxes so the total cost was just the s2+shipping ~ $794 CAD. i have to mention that this unit does not have NFC yet though, apparently samsung would delay the NFC units til later this year or early next.

  4. int19h says:

    Good things:

    – Awesome screen – all the greatness of OLED (perfect blacks, high contrast, looks good in direct sunlight) without the ugliness that was PenTile. Here you just get the bright, popping colors. Oh, and at 4.3″, it’s a pleasure to look at from any distance. The resolution is still 800×480, though. Wish they’d up it to match iPhone.

    – Very light. I mean, VERY light. Samsung wasn’t kidding when they stressed that point. Considering the size of this thing, it’s very hard to believe. When you put the phone into someone else’s hand for the first time, they usually are confused because they expect it to feel more “solid”, and not so featherweight.

    – Fairly thin. Good if you wear your phone in the pocket of your pants.

    – The UI is buttery smooth, with no hiccups that are common on all other Android phones I’ve seen. Not sure if it’s Samsung’s new powerful GPU (Exynos), software optimizations that they did, or a combination of both, but overall this thing is just as slick as iPhone 4.

    – It can be rooted, and custom ROMs already exist. No signed bootloaders or other similar malarkey.

    – It comes with Android 2.3. That means better perf, WiFi tethering/hotspot out of the box, and the ability to tilt and rotate the map in Google Maps – among other things.

    – It comes with Polaris Office. It is a very nice Android office suite – from what I’ve seen so far, more full-featured than Docs to Go, QuickOffice etc – especially when it comes to supporting advanced MS Office features such as charts. It cannot be purchased from the market, and only comes bundled with select devices, such as this one or Asus Transformer.

    – MicroSD card slot, for all those gigabytes of music.

    Bad things:

    – Battery life doesn’t seem to be so good. It gets through the day, but if you forget to charge it in the evening it won’t last you a second day (except if only on standby).

    – It heats up quite a bit when in active use. More so than any other phone I’ve used. It’s not exactly a surprise considering 1.2GHz dual-core CPU and a powerful GPU, and I suspect that ultra-thin form factor makes cooling less efficient than it could have been otherwise. Overall it’s tolerable, but very noticeable.

    – Some applications seem to be showing images in 16-bit color rather than 32-bit (particularly the browser). This leads to nasty dithering artifacts, especially on bands of clear colors and gradients. Head to XDA-developers forum for Galaxy S II for more details on this. It seems to be a software issue, so future updates may solve it.

    Things to be aware of:

    – Front is full glass, back is textured plastic. I love the back for the texture, which looks pretty nice and gives a good grip when held, but it’s not as “oh, shiny” as iPhone 4. Lack of metal seems to be what makes it so light, among other things. On the other hand, I didn’t notice any creaking, so assembly is high-quality.

    – It runs Android 2.3.3, not any later version (as of this writing). This means no voice/video chat in Google Talk. Google Voice can be installed (in US) and works fine. There’s no clear schedule on official updates so far.

    – Android is not stock, but Samsung’s TouchWiz. This is much less invasive than what you typically see on HTC Android phones, and some changes are fairly nice. But many people prefer stock.

    – No CyanogenMod (as of this writing). There is a thread on XDA forums where you can pledge $$$ for the first person to make CM run on this if you care.

    • mikey says:

      i’d like to add to the battery life comment. for 1650 mAh it drains really fast. sometimes faster than it charges. and yes it does have an overheating problem. my only fix is turning off wifi and 3G when not in use, which makes it really weird that samsung didn’t look into better power saving methods other than turning off all connections. at least it has a task manager and free memory button. but still..

  5. Bryan says:

    Thats IT!! ill have this one.. hahaha.. its an all in one phone. I dont have to buy an Itouch with this. Kelan ba labas nito? cant wait!

  6. dubya says:

    ive been waiting for htc sensation but now im not so sure after reading about galaxy 2. has anyone compared the two phones?

  7. razorous
    Twitter: razorous
    says:

    @dubya: I’m going crazy about these two phones!!!

    ===========

    YouTube – HTC Sensation – A Closer Look | http://bit.ly/kcSefG

    Clash of the titans – HTC Sensation vs. Samsung Galaxy S II | http://bit.ly/h6odz1

    ===========

  8. razorous
    Twitter: razorous
    says:

    @dubya: I’m going crazy about these two phones!!!

  9. eererqwr says:

    wala bang promo?

  10. gilbert says:

    may NFC ba yung ire release na SGS2 dito sa pilipinas?

    • mikey says:

      NFC units are only available in South Korea, and that’s only because a LOT of their stores use NFC as a payment method anyway. for the rest of the world the NFC chips won’t be added til later in the future and they’ll probably come up with a newer better phone by then.

      PS: South Korean SGS2s are not unlocked

  11. Name: Einji says:

    anung variant kaya ng sgs2 irerelease dito sa pinas sir yuga? ung 1.2 ghz exynos proc ba with super amoled plus?

  12. mike says:

    no way will I buy a 30k+ phone. This is ridiculous. A 20k phone will do just fine and perfect. This is a waste of money. Unless you are are really a freak and show-off

    • mikey says:

      i beg to differ. this is not a waste of money and you don’t have to be a freak to buy one of these superphones. 1) the price justifies the product (you get what you’re paying for) and 2) some of us are willing to spend the extra cash for the extra features.

  13. Mark
    Twitter: markaznar
    says:

    I’m a gadget enthusiast and neither a freak nor a show off. If everyone was like you, who the hell would be buying BMWs, Cartier products, etc etc???
    If you can’t afford it, shut up and suck it =)

  14. jaiconruedas
    Twitter: jaiconruedas
    says:

    wow, why some people say “oh, it’s plasticky gadget”

    let’s throw both iphone and SGS II,

    What happened to SGSII? hmmm,,,nothing

    OMG! iphone breaks into pieces,,,sorry mah bahd :(

    • mikey says:

      ive dropped my iphone several (SEVERAL) times and it’s still good as new :) 0 screen/back scratches bc of protectors, and minor scratches on the metal sides (you’ll need a microscope to see them though). but yeah, not broken in the slightest.

    • jaiconruedas
      Twitter: jaiconruedas
      says:

      I’m just joking around, dude. Lol
      I’m having daydreams about it (iphone)….to become android hahaha!

    • creative says:

      i think there is. just heard it from friend she got her iphone for jailbreak at her friends house and she noticed here friend ip4 has “live wallpapers” like the once in android devices, then she asked her friend where he got the app. her friend replied and said he got his iphone flashed to android 2.2 froyo and that its now an android os not iOS anymore.

    • jaiconruedas
      Twitter: jaiconruedas
      says:

      i heard 3gs has the only iphone that can flash to android, not available for ip4

  15. Dinesh K says:

    Hi,

    I am keen to know if the S2 will last even one day with talk and internet browsing. Most of the 4.3 inch displays like the Desire HD seem to have bettery problems. Also does an overheating phone cause any health issues? My current phone does and I want to change to S2 only because it seems to have a stronger battery. Does anyone know if this is a better choice than an iPhone 4? Am not an iPhone fan and hope the S2 is better. I was going to buy it like right now, online, but am holding off until I am sure. I have suffered with a Sony Xperia X2 mishap and don’t want to repeat that.

    Thanks,

    Dinesh

    • mikey says:

      if 24 hours is good enough for you then this is your phone. the s2 does have more battery than the ip4 but it has power-hungry android. overnight my s2 can go down by 60% with all connections running, so including my calls and text messages i could get a good 20 hours before i have to charge it again, which is pretty good considering 1.2ghz cpu and 4.3 super amoled+, but comparing it to the iphone 4, the s2 doesn’t have the best power saving features (it takes 3 days before i have to visit my charger).

      btw, charging the s2 takes forever so i have to close all connections (airplane mode) if i want it to charge fastest.

  16. creative says:

    there are rumors of quad core cpu’s in the making and rumors of apple submitting patents and for iPad3 :) by the time u got this phone samsung and apple will release their latest toys.

    • mikey says:

      those aren’t rumors, the ipad 3 will be running on the quad core a6 processor, so 4core phones should be following soon. also you forgot to mention 3d phones. technology is moving way too fast now that people arent given time to breath in between :)

  17. I really want this phone…

  18. rex says:

    hello sir yuga,
    i’m a newby to androids but on reading the reviews about the sgs2 i’d like to have 1. can i buy an original sgs2 i9100 here in shanghai?

  19. th3 says:

    Bad display, they are all defective. Look for yellow tint on one side, its very annoying. AMOLED is an immature technology when in mass production, the original Galaxy S was totally blue where it should be white, and most Nokia N8 had purple screens. So out of 3 famous AMOLED fones, 3 are delivered with defective displays, for the two Samsungs the failure rate is 100%, right out of the box from day 1. Get other brands with SLCD displays instead, they cost less and have correct colors with no tint, and while the contrast is not as good as AMOLED its still very acceptable and a big step forward from older TFT displays.

  20. ed says:

    So how much is the price of Samsung SII in the Philippines?

  21. yum says:

    Does anyone know where we can buy cases for the s2? Good quality ones, not like the fake ones

  22. all about android
    Twitter: mykillross
    says:

    This will be my next phone

  23. rouie says:

    i bought my galaxy s2 here in korea but it doesnt have a simcard slot…can i still use it in the philippines? or make it a postpaid phone perhaps?

    • imitator101 says:

      If you’re absolutely sure that there’s no sim card slot, then I think you may have bought a CDMA version.

      There’s no way you can use that here in the Philippines. CDMA is a type of network that doesn’t use sim cards. All our networks here are GSM. Sorry dude.

      If you’re still in Korea, maybe you can still exchange it for a GSM version or sell it second hand.

  24. Chai
    Twitter: chenmeicai
    says:

    One problem I had since I opened the box is … familiarization with its features. I’ve been a long-time Nokia user and its interface is really confusing for me. LOL. I’m not a geek in techie items hehe.

    I looked for a manual. Sad to say, there’s none. I have to self-study. I got my package thru Globe’s new postpaid line subscription by the way. So now, I just research online for reviews and other user feedback.

    The first thing I worried about was its initial charging time. Some folks say 16hrs. Some folks say 8 hrs. Some folks say it should be unplugged the moment the phone says so, when battery is completely charged. Care to shed light, anyone? I did the latest step – but it extended a bit longer coz I fell asleep. Now, I dunno which one is true.

    I also couldn’t find any Samsung Contact #s in the pamphlet included, at least to validate the initial charging. Tsk tsk! Only the website is there. Globe couldn’t answer my concern. The website Contact Us shows 1800 #s I couldn’t even reach (though it’s already in Samsung Philippines’ page).

    I’m yet to discover what this phone has to offer for me. I was looking forward to having more free apps / games already though. Sad to say, there’s none. LOL. :p

  25. mambo says:

    i recently bought an S2 and so far, the only problem i have with it is the battery life. i can’t seem to make it last through a whole day. I read somewhere that a system update is available to somehow make the phone more efficient but whenever i’d update my software, it says there aren’t any available. Is it possible that the software update is not available in the country yet?

    • imitator101 says:

      I’m not sure about the system update, but your problem may be with an application called “Wifi Sharing”. It randomly turns on by itself and eats up a lot of battery.

      Whenever your battery starts dropping rapidly, go to Settings -> About Phone -> Battery Usage. If you see something running called “Wifi Sharing”,click on it and then click the “Force Stop” button. That should keep it from draining your batt.

      This is only a temporary solution though, but at least it’ll work until you get the proper update.

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