Samsung I9000 Galaxy S review: From outer space

GSMArena team, 22 May 2010.
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Samsung I9000 Galaxy S 360-degree spin

With a surface measuring 122.4 x 64.2mm the Galaxy S is no small piece, but the 4” screen says it all. What’s more, the Super AMOLED technology has let Samsung bring the waistline down to the svelte 9.9mm.

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The Samsung I9000 Galaxy S compared with the iPhone and the LG BL40 Chocolate

That means the Galaxy S isn’t much trouble to fit in most pockets and it weighs the perfectly acceptable 118 g. Long story short, with this kind of specs you cannot expect anything smaller.

Design and construction

The Samsung I9000 Galaxy S will be pitched against the likes of the HTC Desire and the Nexus One. Simplicity was obviously the Google and HTC game. Samsung could’ve easily said “It’s the screen, stupid!” and stopped bothering. But they didn’t – and in the end – the styling is perhaps one of the few questionable decisions in the Galaxy S.

The Galaxy S is all made of plastic and there’s nothing wrong with that. It wasn’t a problem for the Omnia, the Omnia II or the Omnia HD. The thing is the blue-dotted back of the phone, while definitely an attention-grabber, is just not everyone’s cup of tea.

But however eccentric, the Samsung I9000 Galaxy S back is nowhere near where most people will look. The magnificent 4” Super AMOLED display of WVGA resolution is as close to perfection as we have seen on a mobile phone and you just can’t help but admire it.

In case you have missed the preview, let us remind you what the Super AMOLED technology is all about. It retains the amazingly deep blacks that characterize the other AMOLED displays but gets the covering glass out of the way to vastly improve viewing angles and sunlight legibility.

Here's a look a the display test for the I9000 Galaxy S:

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
LG Optimus Black P970 0.27 332 1228 0.65 749 1161
LG Optimus 2X 0.23 228 982 0.35 347 1001
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc 0.03 34 1078 0.33 394 1207
Samsung I9000 Galaxy S 0 263 0 395
Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II 0 231 0 362
HTC Incredible S 0.18 162 908 0.31 275 880
Apple iPhone 4 0.14 189 1341 0.39 483 1242
Motorola Atrix 4G 0.48 314 652 0.60 598 991

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The Super AMOLED display is impressive indeed

Indeed, the most beautiful display to look at indoors doesn’t lose its charm in the open and the bright of day. The Galaxy S display viewing angles are bordering on perfection, onscreen content looking as if printed on paper.

The sensitivity is as good as is to be expected in a capacitive touchscreen unit. The gentlest of touches will do, but gloves and styluses are a no-go.

In a nutshell, the Samsung I9000 Galaxy S display is the key feature that will probably sell this phone to loads of users. So far, the choice of the best display was a matter of compromise for either resolution contrast or sunlight legibility. Super AMOLED units are in no mood to choose. They just let you have it all in one unit.

Below the display there are three keys only – it’s the typically minimalist new Android wave. The touch-sensitive menu and back buttons are on either side of a hardware home key.

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The three large keys below the display

A long press on the menu key launches the search field, so in effect users have a dedicated search key. As usual, pressing and holding the home key activates the task switcher.

The transition between the touch-sensitive screen and the touch-sensitive keys is seamless. The home key on the other hand, is well sized and solid to press, so no worries here either.

The power and screen lock key on the Samsung I9000 Galaxy S is placed high up on the right side of the handset. It is a bit hard to reach but Samsung have used this spot on many of their handsets, so it shouldn’t be much trouble for those who come from another Samsung smartphone.

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There’s only one key at the right

Unfortunately, there's no dedicated camera key on the Galaxy S, which is a pity given the camera specs. 5 megapixel might not sound like much but HD video is a crowd pleaser. However, some customers may be disappointed with the lack of a shutter key.

On the left, we find the volume rocker, which provides enough pressing area and good enough feedback to make usage trouble-free.

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The volume rocker is high-up on the left

The bottom of the I9000 Galaxy S has nothing but the mouthpiece.

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The Galaxy S mouthpiece

On the top of the phone is the tiny plastic lid that covers the microUSB port and the unprotected 3.5mm standard audio jack.

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There are a couple of jacks on top

We complete our trip at the blue-dotted back of the phone. This is where the 5 megapixel camera lens and the loudspeaker grill are located. There is no flash of any kind so low-light photography or video capturing is basically out of the question with the Galaxy S.

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The 5 megapixel camera has no flash

The microSD card slot is under the battery cover but luckily is hot-swappable. It handled a 16GB card trouble-free and support for 32GB is promised too.

The other element of interest under the Galaxy S back panel is the 1500 mAh Li-Ion battery. It has enough power to get the smartphone through more than three days of some rather heavy usage. You can find more info about its performance in the dedicated battery test that we conducted in our blog.

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The battery does a very decent job

The Samsung I9000 Galaxy S looks and feels quite sturdy. The general ergonomics are perfectly fine. Some users might find it awkward to handle a screen this size, but you know what you are signing up for right from the start. And the screen quality is worth all the fuss, take our word.

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The Samsung I9000 Galaxy S held in hand

We aren’t particularly impressed by the fingerprint-prone plastics used on the I9000 Galaxy S. This top-notch device certainly deserves better. Some metal would’ve made the phone too heavy to handle comfortably. But we’ve certainly seen better choice of finish from Samsung: the Galaxy Spica is a good example. Let’s say it again though, the Galaxy S has a screen to make all the rest irrelevant.

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