Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II review: Brightest star
Connectivity chock-full of new technologies
The Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II starts off with the basics – quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and quad-band 3G (AWS is missing though). There’s HSPA+ with 21Mbps downlink and 5.76Mbps uplink too, which some carriers brand as “4G” even though it’s not.
Moving on, there’s Bluetooth 3.0 with High Speed, which promises transfer speeds up to 21Mbps. Wi-Fi Direct is a similar technology, which offers simple pairing of two devices but blazing speed.
The Wi-Fi support includes a/b/g/n versions, with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz band compatibility.
There’s optional NFC support too – the first Galaxy S II phones that have it should launch this summer.
The AllShare app allows you to stream content to and from different kind of devices (TV or computer). We didn’t give it a proper run for its money, but we guess it works over DLNA.
And finally, for wired connectivity we have the MHL port. By all appearances it is a normal microUSB port and works as one (a charger port as well). But the MHL port enables video output by using a MHL-to-HDMI dongle. There isn't one included in the retail box and those are quite hard to get by, which is pretty disappointing.Once you plug the dongle into the phone you also need to plug a charger into the additional microUSB port on the dongle and the Galaxy S II screen will be mirrored on the TV. You can check out this post to see MHL on video.
The MHL port has yet another feature – it enables USB On-The-Go. You’ll need an adapter for that too (there isn't one in the box) but this one is fairly straight forward – you plug it into the Galaxy S II and plug a standard USB cable on the other end.
USB thumb drives and card readers mostly worked (though some didn’t) and reading all sorts of cards was problem-free – it even worked with a big CF card. Connecting phones mostly didn’t work – only one connected properly and that was an old Nokia that doesn’t charge over the USB port. USB keyboards don’t work either. You can check out this post to find out more about the USB OTG support in the Galaxy S II, there’s a video demo too.
A great web browser
While the interface of the Android web browser hardly has changed, the hardware specs of the Samsung Galaxy S II propel it to great heights of user experience. The large, sharp display with great colors makes reading a joy.
The browser supports both double tap and pinch zooming along with the new two-finger tilt zoom. There are niceties such as multiple tabs, text reflow, find on page and so on. A neat trick is to pinch zoom out beyond the minimum – that opens up the tabs view.
The powerful dual-core CPU (and probably some GPU acceleration) enables the Galaxy S II browser to play 1080p Flash video. That was truly impressive stuff – a lot of netbooks would choke on something like that. You can play touch-optimized Flash games without a hitch too.
Android has grown Hubs too
Hubs are not just for Windows Phone 7 – Samsung, at least, seems to think so. They’ve added a total of 4 Hubs to their new Android super phone.
The Social hub we’ve seen before – it combines you email accounts with social networking (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn) and IM accounts (Gtalk, MSN and Yahoo! Messenger) and shows all incoming messages as one list with handy shortcuts to reply, mark as favorite and so on. There’s filtering by message source too, to help manage the inflow of incoming updates.
The Music Hub lets you browse music online (with search tools, charts, lists of new releases and so on). You can preview songs (30 seconds each) and buy tracks or whole albums.
Next up is the Readers Hub. You can subscribe to Internet newspapers, magazines or buy e-books. You can download free book previews. Extensive genre listings will help you discover new books to read.
Finally, there’s the Game Hub, which will quickly become your go to place for finding new games. The titles are separated into Social and Premium games and there’s a news section too. There’s a try-before-you-buy option, so you can check out a game before committing your cash. The nice thing about that Hub is it includes the titles by Gameloft, which are otherwise not available on the Android Market.