Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II review: Brightest star

GSMArena team, 13 May 2011.

Controls and handling

We’ll have to take our eyes off that beauty though so we can check out the rest of the Galaxy S II hardware. Below the display you get the same three keys as on the international version of the first Galaxy S – capacitive Menu and Back buttons and a regular press Home key.

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The three keys under the screen

The usual extra functionality upon a long press is enabled – the Menu key handles Google search on the device, while the Home key brings up the task switcher. This time. And if you click the home key twice the voice control gets activated.

Above the display we have the earpiece, as well as ambient light and proximity sensors. The front-facing camera for video-calls and video-chat has had its resolution bumped up to 2 megapixels.

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There’s the video-call camera, the ambient-light sensor and the earpiece on top of the display

The left side of the Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II features the volume rocker and the lanyard eyelet. The volume keys double as zoom lever in camera mode.

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The volume rocker and the lanyard eyelet are on the left

Unfortunately, all there is on the right is the power key. A dedicated camera key would’ve been much appreciated. We find virtual shutter keys to be less than ideal.

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Once again we don’t get a camera key on the Samsung flagship

One minor but particularly annoying design flaw of the original Galaxy S has been addressed. The power/lock button no longer falls on a sloped edge and is a lot easier to press without risking the phone slipping off your grip.

The top of the Galaxy S II hosts the unprotected 3.5mm audio jack.

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The 3.5mm audio jack is all you’ll find on the top

The microUSB port at the bottom is used for both data connections and charging. Not only does it support USB host but it also comes with MHL enabling HD TV-out connectivity.

MHL is a way of using both microUSB and HDMI through the same port. It makes sense, especially provided an HDMI port could’ve been near impossible to put in a phone this slim. The downside is you need an adapter to use a regular HDMI cable with this one.

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The microUSB port looks as usual, but the MHL support adds a whole new dimension to it

The other thing to note at the bottom is the mouthpiece.

The back of the Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II is where the 8 megapixel FullHD-capable camera lens is located. Right next to it is the LED flash, which will probably see more use a flashlight and video-light than a still-camera assist.

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The camera got a serious upgrade

The loudspeaker grill is at the back too – right on the slightly elevated chin at the base of the device.

Removing the paper thin battery cover reveals the SIM compartment, the 1650 mAh battery and the microSD card slot. The card slot can take microSD cards of up to 32GB, which can give you a maximum total storage of 64GB if you go for the 32GB version of the Galaxy S II. The bad news is the memory card isn’t hot-swappable.

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The microSD card is not hot-swappable, but strangely, the SIM card is

Much to our surprise the SIM card was hot-swappable. Sure, the Galaxy S II will politely ask you to restart when you take out the active SIM, but if you ignore that, insert another card and then restart the radio by turning airplane mode on and back off you will still have fully functional telephony with the new card. Different carriers are no problem either.

The 1650 mAh battery is quoted at 18 hours and 20 minutes of talk time and up to 710 hours of stand-by in 2G networks. In 3G, it’s 8 hours 40 minutes of calls and 610 hours of standby. Of course numbers so high can only be achieved in a lab environment. They have little to tell us except that Samsung has probably tweaked the power consumption of the cellular radio. Unfortunately that is by far not the most power-hungry part of the device.

In a real life scenario, it gave us over two days of moderate to heavy use (about an hour of browsing, some photos, several calls and half an hour of using the other phone features daily).

We've also done a dedicated video playback test for the Galaxy S II - the smartphone survived through 8 hours and 5 minutes of continuous SD video playback before its battery level reached 10% at which point the video player shut down. You can find more about our test in our blog.

The second battery test was about the Galaxy S II endurance while browsing the web. The dual-core smartphone lasted for 4 hours and 22 minutes, while loading a page every 10 seconds, which is 16 minutes longer than its predecessor managed. What's more when we switched to a third-party browser (Opera Mobile) that doesn't use GPU acceleration the battery life increased to 4 hours and 59 minutes. You can see how the Galaxy compares to the other handsets we tested here.

The overall handling of the Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II is pretty good for a device this size. The grippy back is nice and the slim body certainly helps single-handed use. Anyone happy with the original Galaxy S handling will be delighted with this one. Of course, a screen this size has its implications on the actual handling. We do think though, they did the best they could in terms of ergonomics with a phone this big and this slim.

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The Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II handles better than its predecessor despite the larger screen

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