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Hands-on: Samsung Galaxy S II

updated 04:50 pm EST, Sun February 13, 2011

Smartphone combines best of Samsung's mobile tech

Samsung organized one of the largest events this week at Mobile World Congress to showcase its latest smartphone, the Galaxy S II. Electronista stayed around the venue after the formal unveiling to take a closer look at the new device, which could prove to be one of the most attractive Android offerings to launch this year.

The company took time to highlight the Galaxy S II's 4.3-inch touchscreen, dual-core processor, HSPA+ and TouchWiz 4.0 interface as several of the most significant features. All of the new hardware is packed into a smaller and lighter package, measuring less than 8.5mm thick.

We like the revamped form, though the device is so light that it easily can be perceived as feeble compared to a heftier competitor such as the iPhone 4. Considering the much larger screen, however, the lightness and thinness help make the new Galaxy S more pocketable than many of the other big-screen Android devices.

The Super AMOLED Plus display is one of our favorite features, even though it is not a completely new technology for the company. One of our primary complaints regarding typical AMOLED displays is the pixel appearance, which makes edges appear fuzzy compared to standard LCDs. The Super AMOLED Plus panel overcomes this limitation, with "Real-Stripe" pixel technology that appears to match the quality of a typical LCD. Users no longer have to sacrifice sharpness to take advantage of the vibrant colors and extreme contrast ratio of AMOLED.

The Galaxy S II is now part of a small group of handsets that utilizes a dual-core processor. We were surprised that Samsung has remained quiet regarding the brand or type of processor, as most other companies boast of the chipset specifics. Nonetheless, the hardware seemed to show a noticeable improvement when playing games with complex graphics. The CPU/GPU pairing makes for extremely fast frame rates. When attempting to load games and switch between tasks, however, the Galaxy S II did not appear to be much faster than other smartphones with single-core 1GHz processors.

We took a bit of time to navigate through Samsung's latest TouchWiz overlay. Aesthetically, it seems like an improvement over the earlier versions. The UI will probably receive praise from users who appreciate a unified approach to social networking, while Android purists and those who focus on absolute simplicity may be turned off by the custom interface.

Most of the Galaxy S II shipments are likely to arrive for consumers, but Samsung has also made an effort to make the device much more attractive to enterprise users. The company has collaborated with Sybase to bring support for Afaria, enabling businesses to manage the camera, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, or configure encryption for data protection. The Sybase capabilities, along with other features borne of collaboration with Cisco, may make the handset much easier to deploy in enterprise environments.

We were impressed with another security feature that can be helpful to consumers or business users who lose their phone or become victims of thieves. Many handsets can be set up to lock or erase data when taken, but the new Galaxy S can quietly send an SMS message after a thief swaps the SIM cards. The information could be useful when attempting to actually recover the phone, rather than simply protect stored information.

As the smartphone market continues to expand with a deluge of new devices, many new products are quickly lost in a crowd of devices with similar processors, screens and external forms. That said, Samsung's latest AMOLED tech gives the company an edge that may prove difficult for competitors to beat. For potential customers looking for one of the most vibrant and large displays on a smartphone, the Galaxy S II fits the bill.

by MacNN Staff



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