Samsung Galaxy S review: Samsung Galaxy S

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent

Average User Rating

4 stars 40 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Huge Super AMOLED screen; powerful Android operating system; speedy Swype keyboard; thin; good pre-installed apps; not too expensive; responsive touchscreen with multi-touch support; FM radio; vastly customisable and extendable with apps from the Android Market.

The Bad Plasticky case; Samsung's own widgets are weak; some apps load slowly; poor battery life; no camera light; iPhone-wannabe menu style; software is flaky in places.

The Bottom Line The Samsung Galaxy S is a feature-packed smart phone with a huge, gorgeous screen. Samsung's own software falls flat, but its hardware ticks every box, and, with Android providing the brains and usability, the result is an excellent phone

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The Samsung Galaxy S may look like an iPhone 3GS wannabe, but its huge, vibrant screen and heaps of smart-phone features make it more than just another touchscreen also-ran. Samsung has played to its strengths by delivering great hardware and mostly leaving the software side of things to Google's Android operating system.

Best of all, the Galaxy S isn't insanely expensive. You can pick it up for free on a £30 per month contract. It's also available for around £400 on a pay as you go deal, and £450 SIM-free.

Design and build quality

The Galaxy S looks very similar to the iPhone 3GS, with a black plastic case and a gunmetal-grey trim. On the front there are two touch-sensitive, flat buttons and a single mechanical home-screen button, lending the whole phone a sleek and pared-down look that sets it apart from other button-laden phones that run Android, such as the HTC Desire .

The Galaxy S' screen is a 102mm (4-inch) behemoth, and yet the handset manages to feel shockingly light, at only 119g. Some people will miss the heft of a giant, heavy smart phone, but we love the Galaxy S's lightness. We expect that the glossy black case will gather scratches after you've used the phone for a while, though.

The huge screen is the supernova of this particular galaxy -- it's the Super AMOLED kind, which you can only get on Samsung phones. The name's hyperbolic, but Super AMOLED screens are a big improvement on the normal AMOLED screens that we loved on phones such as the HTC Legend .

In the past, we've admired the insanely bright colours and high saturation of Super AMOLED screens, but lamented the fact that they are so reflective that they can be invisible in bright sunlight. The Galaxy S has overcome this problem though. We were able to use the phone even in the brightest sunlight that Wimbledon week could bestow upon us. The display even looks good compared to an LCD screen like the iPhone's. At 233 pixels per inch. the 480x800-pixel resolution isn't quite as impressive as the razor-sharp 330ppi, 640x960-pixel display on the iPhone 4 , but it more than bears comparison with the rest of the touchscreen posse.

Performance

The rest of the Galaxy S' hardware lives up to the promise of the screen. HSUPA connectivity ensures fast Web surfing over 3G, while Wi-Fi works when you have large files to swap. You can even wirelessly share your phone's 3G connection with your other Wi-Fi devices, such as your laptop, thanks to the tethering feature.

The Galaxy S offers 8GB or 16GB of internal memory, plus the ability to add up to 32GB more with a microSD card. That makes the Galaxy S a massive memory monster, which is handy, since you'll want to slap plenty of video and images on this phone to take advantage of its big screen.

You'll also need plenty of room to store the photos from the Galaxy S' 5-megapixel camera. It took decent photos in good light in our tests. They were slightly noisy, but the camera was very quick to respond, which makes it perfect for taking spontaneous snapshots. Without a flash or LED photo light, however, you won't capture much detail in low light.

With speedy surfing capability and a 1GHz processor, the Galaxy S is generally fast. Menu transitions are smooth and responsive, and using a quick pinch of the fingers to zoom into the Web browser, maps and gallery applications is pain-free. The Android Market, however, didn't even work when we first started the Galaxy S up, and it always seemed to run at half the speed of the other apps on the phone.

There's also an FM radio on-board, and, if you have a Samsung TV, you can use the phone as a remote control.

Android app action

Samsung has mostly let Android handle the software features, which we think is very wise -- we usually don't find Samsung's own attempts as user-friendly. Android is Google's software for powering smart phones, and it includes innumerable treats, especially if you use Google products like Gmail. For example, Google Maps is available on plenty of phones, but, on Android phones, including the Galaxy S, it comes with a free turn-by-turn navigation feature.

You'll also get access to the Android Market, which is packed with apps that you can easily download and add to your phone, increasing its capabilities and features to an almost infinite extent.

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Where to Buy

Samsung Galaxy S

Part Number: CNETSamsung Galaxy S

Typical Price: £450.00

See manufacturer website for availability.