Samsung Galaxy S II: big screen, blazing speeds

Considering the massive screen, the crazy-powerful processor,and the NFC and 4G support, it’s hard not to fall in love with theSamsung Galaxy S II on Bell Mobility. Available for $149 with a newthree-year contract, the Galaxy S II is a great phone. It has just afew minor flaws that keep it from being truly amazing.

A Tablet-Size Phone
The Galaxy S II boasts a 4.3-inchscreen. Colors on the Super AMOLED Plus display appear bright andvibrant, if a little oversaturated. The phone is extremely lightweight,thanks largely in part to its plastic casing. I was never really a fanof the plasticky body of the original Galaxy S, but the Galaxy S IIfeels solid enough that I can overlook it here.

At 125.3 mm by 66.1 mm by 8.49 mm, the Galaxy S II isslightly taller and thicker than the version made for AT&T.When comparing the two phones side by side, I found that I preferredthe AT&T Galaxy S II over the Bell one simply because it wasmuch more comfortable to hold. Although larger screens are great foractivities such as watching movies or browsing the Web, I thought thatthe screen size of the Galaxy S II seemed like a bit of overkill onSamsung’s part.

The biggest problem I have with the Bell Galaxy S II is hownarrow the bezel is at the sides of the screen. When I navigated thelarge screen, the bottom part of my hand would constantly hit one ofthe capacitive buttons under the screen, or brush against the bottomquarter of the touchscreen. Whenever I went to check a notification orenter a URL in the browser, I also ended up opening amenu or launching the dialer. In one instance, I was in the middle ofcomposing a text message, and I wound up closing out of it severaltimes before I could send it.

Specs and Performance
With a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the Bell GalaxyS II is the most powerful one of the bunch. Everything from basic phonefunctions to intense 3D games run as smooth as silk. The only time thephone ever slowed down or got stuck was when I tried unlocking it: Thelock screen hung for about 3 seconds before responding. To be fair, atthe time I was downloading and installing 15 apps at once, so thatcould explain the minor hiccup I experienced. The phone comes with aTask Manager; since the handset has 1GB of RAM, however, you shouldn’tever need to use it.

To–ahem–better test how well the Galaxy S II handled games, Idownloaded and played Minecraft:Pocket Edition on the device. The game ran well and lookedgreat on that massive display–the Galaxy S II makes for anabove-average mobile gaming device. After a good hour of play, Inoticed the phone getting really warm, but it wasn’t hot enough to beuncomfortable to hold. I also noticed that my hour of gameplay hadlittle effect on the battery–I probably could have squeezed another 2to 3 hours of Minecraft in if I were so inclined. 

After about 4 hours of heavy use over 4G, I managed to drainthe phone’s battery completely. Samsung has rated the phone as lasting167 hours on standby, but we’ll have to wait for the PCWorld Labs totest the phone officially to see if that claim holds up.

Call quality on the Bell Galaxy S II was nice and even in SanFrancisco, but the people I called said that I sounded slightlydistorted. The occasional hiss and warping cropped up on my end, but itwas hardly noticeable. Overall I can say that making calls using theGalaxy S II was an excellent experience.
Using the Speed Test app as an informal network test, I managed to get3 megabits per second down and 0.44 mbps up in San Francisco. Thosespeeds are typical of what we have seen with past 4G T-Mobile devices.

Software and Extras
The Samsung Galaxy S II runs Android2.3 and has a few preloaded apps. Being a Samsung phone, the Galaxy SII also sports the latest version of TouchWiz. Personally, I prefervanilla Android or the HTC Sense overlay, but TouchWiz has a few thingsthat I really enjoy. Aside from the bright and colorful icon set, thisiteration of TouchWiz employs motion controls for basic actions. Tozoom in on a Web page, for instance, you simply place both thumbs onthe screen and tilt the phone forward or backward. I found this motionfar more intuitive than pinch-to-zoom, and far more accurate.

In addition, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the BellGalaxy S II comes with a Near Field Communication chip. With such achip, the Galaxy S II can read NFC-compatible tags. We haven’t seenmany phones that support NFC, and it’s a neat technology that I wishmore phone manufacturers would include in their devices.

Considering the phone’s giant screen, you’ll likely want to watchmovies on this handset. Although I’m not normally a fan of using aphone as a media player, I can see the appeal of doing so with adisplay of this size. If you are adamantly against watching videos onyour phone, you can easily share them with your DLNA-enabled devicesusing AllShare.

The phone has 16GB of internal storage, butunfortunately it doesn’t come with a MicroSD card. The Galaxy S II is astellar music player, though, and could easily replace your stand-aloneMP3 player. Should you decide to make the Galaxy S II your primaryaudio device, the phone comes with a pair of (mediocre) headphones thatyou can use.

Photos that I took with the phone’s 8-megapixel camera turned out sharpand clear. Colors seemed a little off, but still looked good overall.The 2-megapixel front-facing camera also did a good job of capturingstill images, though it works better for video chat. The Galaxy S IIrecords video at 1080p, and holds its own as a video camera; it picksup voices nicely, but the footage suffers from a jelly effect when youmove the phone around.

Bottom Line
The Samsung Galaxy S II is the best phone you can buy right now on Bellwireless. This is a top-of-the-line phone, and it’s perfect for peoplewho love larger screens. Though some people may find the handset alittle too big, the inclusion of 4G and NFC means that this devicewon’t feel dated down the line. If you crave true power from yoursmartphone, and if you want the best that your carrier has to offer,the Galaxy S II is the phone to get.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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