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July 21, 2010

Samsung Galaxy S i9000 Review

The Samsung Galaxy S is among the most anticipated Android phones to date. So after using the handset for over a week, I’m handing down my verdict. Check out the full review of the Samsung Galaxy S GT-i9000 after the jump.

At first sight, the Samsung Galaxy S would not really catch a lot of attention except for that large 4-inch display. The dark, glossy body makes it look plain and simple.

The handset actually reminds me of the iPod Touch due to those curved edges and the silver lining on the front panel. However, the back side offers a little more design touches with a polished honeycomb print on a flat surface with a bit of stubby bottom end. That little protrusion allows for better grip especially that the handset is very slim.

Aside from the Samsung logo, the back cover has a large “with Google” print. The 5-megapixel camera is situated on the top end with the speakers beside it.

The power button is on the upper right side, the volume rocker is on the left side while the 3.5mm audio jack is found on top along with the micro-USB port hidden by a sliding cover.

The large 4-inch screen looks great with that Super AMOLED display — it’s bright, crisp and offers better image clarity compared to other displays I’ve tried and used in the past (I did a quick comparison between Retina Display, AMOLED and Super AMOLED here).

At full brightness, the difference is huge compared to regular LED displays. Couple that with a smooth multi-touch feature and tasks like internet browsing, navigating in Google maps as well as viewing photos are all a nice experience.

The navigation controls are few and simple which are found at the bottom end of the front panel — a curved, rectangular Home button at the center and 2 touch panels on each side for Back and Menu (similar to the XPeria X10 in orientation only without the physical buttons ). The touch panels are very close to the edge of the handset so it tends to be accidentally activated once in a while.

The Samsung Galaxy S provides a different and customized TouchWiz 3.0 UI that’s layered on top of the Android 2.1 OS. Some of the more noticeable UI implementations include:

  • A total of 7 Home screen panels (5 from Android 2.1 + 2 more from TouchWiz UI).
  • The Home screen scrolls from the 1st panel to the 7th starting at the far left to right, unlike the default ‘centered’ position in other UIs.
  • There’s no sliding window for the app launcher. Instead, there’s a fixed/dedicated icon (represented by 4 concentric smaller squares) on the bottom right corner of the screen.
  • While most other app launcher scrolls from top to bottom, it’s left to right in the TouchWiz 3.0 UI.

Of course, you also get that obligatory Live Wallpaper for some added eyecandy. See the short video below showing how the TouchWiz 3.0 UI works.

The handset is powered by an ARM Cortex A8 1.0GHz processor and as such, the unit performs really well. Applications are very snappy and there are no significant lags or wait time even when running multiple functions or apps. I’ll be doing a separate post to compare benchmarks between this system and the SnapDragon of Qualcomm in other smartphones.

The one other feature that I think the Galaxy S excelled very well is in the camera feature. It’s only rated 5MP but capture quality is very impressive. The lens does auto-focus on its own but you can also manually focus it by touching the subject in the view screen.

Captured images are sharp, clean and well saturated. It can do ISO 50 and reach a shutter speed of up to 1/383 secs based on sample shots I took. Even night shots and in low-light environments, the photo quality is still very good. It’s also great that the minimum focusing distance is just 3 or 4 inches away so you can do macro shots. See more of my sample shots in the gallery here.

Likewise, the camera can take hi-def videos up to 720p at 30 frames per second and actively re-focuses as objects move along the view. See sample footages below and watch them in full screen to appreciate the HD quality.

Images and videos default in the 4:3 aspect ratio but you can switch to the wide screen 16:9 aspect ratio in the settings (so some of the photos here were cropped).

The solitary audio speakers are the back might seem small but it does a pretty good job with good volume range and decent mix of treble and bass. As expected, the sound is reduced by around 50% when you put it down in a flat surface on its back while playing music or video.

The review unit I used also has a 16GB internal storage so I didn’t need an extra microSD card to save all the photos and videos (you can bump the storage to 48GB if you add an external 32GB microSD though).

As an added bonus, Samsung included their own App Store on top of the Android Market. While there are very few apps in there, it’s nice to know we can expect Samsung handset-specific apps in the future (for example, the Road SMS app was a huge hit that it got hundreds of links from big sites including The Daily Wh.at and Engadget).

Battery life varies and really depends on usage patterns. It’s able to last more than a day (or closer to 2 days) on a full single charge but easily drains when you use 3G/WiFi and the camera a lot. It’s not an uncommon battery performance among Android smartphones these days.

It’s pretty hard to ignore all the features the Samsung Galaxy S and not admit that it will undoubtedly be a huge favorite among Android fans. It may lack the necessary eye-candy in the design department with a plain and simple built but what it lacks in form, it makes it up in function.

The large Super AMOLED display, the lean and mean form factor, the raw processing power and superb camera are top of mind when considering this unit. And with a price point that rivals all other Android smartphones in its category, the Samsung Galaxy S i9000 hits that nice sweet spot. It certainly is the among the Android phones to beat this year.

Disclosure: The Samsung Galaxy S was provided to me for free by Globe Telecom. They are also a year-long sponsor of our YugaTech Giveaways so allow me to plug them a little bit — you can get the Samsung Galaxy S with Globe for free under Plan 2499 until July 31. After that, it’s free on Plan 3799.

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Samsung i9100 Galaxy S II in the flesh!
Galaxy S5 tested in water and sand, no WFT present

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