Samsung Galaxy S II review

Price when reviewed

Performance and battery life

That may soon be forgotten once you start using the S II, however, because this is one powerhouse of a smartphone. Under its gossamer-thin shell, the new Galaxy sports a dual-core processor, based on the ARM Cortex A9 design. Most dual-core smartphones and tablets are doing the same, but the difference with the S II is the speed is up from 1GHz to 1.2GHz.

In terms of benchmark tests, the S II blows the competition out of the water. It loaded the full BBC homepage in four seconds dead, completed the SunSpider test in three seconds, and most impressive of all, gained a score of 3,460 points in the Android-specific Quadrant test. To put that last test into context, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc scored 1,378 (one of the fastest Android smartphones we’ve tested), a full 2,182 points behind.

Samsung Galaxy SII - power save options

It couples the processor with a staggering 1GB of RAM, and nothing that we could throw at the Mali-400MP graphics chip caused it to come close to breaking sweat. Everything from Angry Birds to Reckless Racing Play was dispatched with a slippery smooth frame rate that makes this as good a phone for gaming as any on the market.

As ever, there’s a caveat, and that concerns battery life. In our standard tests over 24 hours the Galaxy S II chewed up around 50% of its capacity – about the same result achieved by the Galaxy S, and a notch behind the iPhone 4. That’s despite having a bigger 1,650mAh battery.

The battery management options in the settings ameliorate this somewhat, however: switch on the dynamic-brightness tool and the ambient light monitor, and two days of moderate use is easily within reach. Just don’t expect Nokia-beating levels of stamina.

GPS, cameras and other hardware

A critical failing of the first Galaxy was appalling GPS performance, and we’re happy to report that this has been addressed in the S II. Google Maps Navigation had no problem at all getting a quick satellite lock, and throughout our driving and walking tests it maintained a rock-steady position.

More notable is the huge improvement in the camera over the iffy effort of its predecessor. It’s absolutely stuffed with features, with image stabilisation, blink detection, ISO and metering adjustments, a macro mode and more. And it shoots at a decent resolution too: 8-megapixel stills and 1080p video at 30fps.

Quality is great. We took a series of shots with the iPhone 4’s camera and the Samsung Galaxy S II – indoors with a flash and without, outdoors in good light, scenes with high contrast and close-ups – and in every shot the S II’s camera won.

Samsung Galaxy S II - camera sample shot

The automatic white balance worked flawlessly throughout our tests; where the iPhone tended to give shots under fluorescent light a slightly blue tinge, the S II’s shots looked natural. The macro mode is seriously impressive too.

Samsung Galaxy S II

Even 1080p footage in low light wasn’t dreadful. Noise was obvious, but footage didn’t look quite as muddy as the iPhone 4 in the same test, although we did notice one flaw. In low light, autofocus in video tended to hunt around, with our test footage swinging gently in and out of focus; annoying, but hardly a disaster.

Finally, it’s also worth pointing out that call quality is excellent, with conversations coming through loud and clear on the earpiece, and even sounding pretty good on the single speaker at the rear.


Cheapest price on contractFree
Contract monthly charge£29.00
Contract period24 months
Contract providerO2


Dimensions67.2 x 8.7 x 125.2mm (WDH)
Primary keyboardOn-screen

Core Specifications

RAM capacity1,000MB
Camera megapixel rating8.0mp
Front-facing camera?yes
Video capture?yes


Screen size4.3in
Resolution480 x 800

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth supportyes


OS familyAndroid

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