Samsung Galaxy S II (AT&T) review: Samsung Galaxy S II (AT&T)

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MSRP: $549.99

The Good The Samsung Galaxy S II boasts a beautiful display and a thin design. With a dual-core processor, the Gingerbread device delivers fast performance, as well as good battery life. Camera quality is excellent.

The Bad Some parts of the phone feel flimsy.

The Bottom Line With its dual-core processor, vibrant display, and great performance, the sleek and powerful Samsung Galaxy S II rises as AT&T's top Android smartphone.

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8.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 9

Editors' note: Portions of this review were taken from our evaluation of the unlocked Samsung Galaxy S II and the Samsung Epic 4G Touch, since the devices share a number of similarities.

The Samsung Galaxy S II is making the carrier rounds, and its next stop is AT&T. Available on October 2 for $199.99 with a two-year contract, the Samsung Captivate successor boasts a faster dual-core processor, sharper display, and better cameras. It more closely resembles the unlocked Galaxy S II than the T-Mobile and Sprint versions, since it features a smaller 4.3-inch touch screen (versus 4.5 inches), but we actually think that's a good thing since it offers a more appealing design. More importantly, the Android Gingerbread device delivers great performance in almost all aspects and earns itself our Editors' Choice Award. If you're an AT&T customer looking for an Android smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S II would certainly be our top choice.

The Samsung Galaxy S II joins AT&T's lineup as the carrier's thinnest (oh, if only we got a dollar for every time we heard that superlative) 4G smartphone. The handset measures 4.96 inches tall by 2.6 inches wide by 0.35 inch thick--a whole 0.1mm thinner than the Infuse 4G, if you're counting. The difference in thickness is negligible, but still, the Galaxy S II is much easier to hold and pocket since it's not as wide or as tall as the Infuse or the Sprint and T-Mobile versions of the phone.

This is because the AT&T Galaxy S II has a smaller 4.3-inch (versus 4.5 inches) touch screen. Screen size is certainly a personal thing, but we found 4.3 inches to be enough to comfortably view Web pages, video, and messages. Plus, the AMOLED Plus, 800x480-pixel display shows off deep colors and sharp images and text.

With a smaller screen, the AT&T Galaxy S II sports a more manageable size and is easier to hold.

The touch screen is responsive. The smartphone offers several virtual keyboards, including Android, Samsung, and Swype. It registered all our taps, and we were able to easily navigate through the menus. In addition to using the standard touch interface, you can also use motion gestures. With the settings turned on, you can flip the phone to mute it. With two fingers on the screen, you can tilt to zoom in and out in the photo gallery and browser. Flicking your wrist left or right (panning) can move a home screen icon when you're holding it. However, panning and zooming weren't as responsive as we'd like. While most of the motion controls may not figure into your daily use, this type of gesture functionality adds welcome options in general. You can also perform certain tasks, such as composing and sending a message, calling a contact, and launching the music player, using voice commands with the Vlingo-powered Voice Talk app.

Below the screen, you'll find the menu, home, back, and search buttons. On the left side, there's a volume rocker and a power/lock button on the right. The top of the device houses a 3.5mm headphone jack, and the bottom features a Micro-USB port.

The Galaxy S II is AT&T's thinnest 4G smartphone.

Just above the screen in the left-hand corner is a 2-megapixel camera for video calls; the main 8-megapixel camera and flash sit on back. The microSD expansion slot is located behind the very flimsy plastic battery door. The latter aside, the Galaxy S II feels nice in the hand, and because of its more manageable size, we think it will be an attractive option for a wider audience than the Infuse 4G or other Galaxy S II models.

AT&T packages the Samsung Galaxy S II with just the basics: an AC adapter, a USB cable, and reference material.

User interface
The Samsung Galaxy S II runs Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread along with Samsung's latest TouchWiz 4.0 user interface. We're often less enthusiastic about custom interfaces; they sometimes add unwanted complexity and unremovable apps, and are usually slower to update to new OS versions. However, TouchWiz 4.0 has a few things going for it: some carryovers from previous versions of TouchWiz. There are seven home screens, for example, and the notification pull-down menu has icons for easily turning on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, flight mode, and screen rotation.

Customizing the home screens is made easier with a carousel-like setup that lets you move through the various panels to add and remove shortcuts and widgets at the same time. Previously, you had to do a long-press on one screen to change it and then repeat the process if you wanted to change another page. You can also now resize Samsung Live Panel widgets, and there's a more fluid motion when scrolling through widget lists and home pages.

Some of the changes are purely cosmetic, but they certainly add some polish to the UI. There are also some useful additions as well, such as an integrated task manager that displays all your active applications, downloaded apps with the option to uninstall, RAM status, and system storage. Also great: the ability to now capture screenshots by simply pressing the power button and home key simultaneously.

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