Sunday, July 24, 2011

Samsung Galaxy S Review

In a nutshell: One year after its launch, the Samsung Galaxy S is still one of the very best phones on the market. It's an Android smartphone and has a host of world-beating features including a 4" Super AMOLED screen, HD video recording and playback, a superfast 1GHz processor, surround sound, GPS with Google Maps, a monster 8GB or 16GB of memory and good battery life. Available in Black or White.
Samsung Galaxy S
The Samsung Galaxy S is Samsung's answer to the HTC Desire. Like the Desire, the Galaxy S runs Android, the bad boy operating system for 2010, and we're delighted (and a little relieved) to find that it's version 2.1 (Eclair) - the same as on the Desire. The Desire is by far the biggest selling contract phone of the moment, so to beat it Samsung had better deliver the goods, and it seems that with the Galaxy S they really have.

At Mobile Phones UK, the first thing we always do when we get a new phone is to pick it up and paw it a little. Try this with us at home if you like. Pick up the Galaxy S in one hand and the HTC Desire in the other. You'll notice that the Galaxy S is a couple of millimetres wider than the Desire, but several millimetres thinner, making it quite astonishingly thin and significantly lighter too. You'll notice the two touch-sensitive buttons and one physical button below the screen, and then you'll notice the screen itself. It's enormous! At 4 inches from corner to corner, the display completely fills the device, leaving you wondering why HTC couldn't have done the same with the Desire. It's 30% bigger than the display on the iPhone 4 by the way. But turn the phone on and the screen reveals its true power, because it's a Super AMOLED display, like the one on the Samsung Wave. With a Super AMOLED display, the screen itself is touch sensitive, instead of a touch sensitive layer being placed on top. The result is a brighter display and up to 80% less reflected light, so when outdoors the display is much sharper and brighter than an ordinary TFT display. We don't have a photo of how the Galaxy S compares with the Desire, but the difference is quite noticeable. Being a capacitive touchscreen it responds effortlessly to the touch too.

We've said that the Galaxy S runs Android 2.1, so you'll have access to thousands of apps, many of which are free and rival the apps for the iPhone. Pre-installed apps include the Layar Reality Browser (an augmented reality app that overlays digital content about your surroundings as viewed through the phone's camera), a document editor, the Aldiko ebook reader and the new Social Hub which has been designed from the ground up to seamlessly integrate all major email providers, IM and social networking services such as Yahoo, MSN, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. Android is a powerful and intuitive operating system, and Samsung's implementation works very well. Android is overlayed with Samsung's TouchWiz 3.0 interface, which resembles the HTC Sense interface and gives you customisation options and plenty of icons and widgets to play with. We understand that TouchWiz can be disabled if you're an Android purist.

To turn up the heat on rival HTC, Samsung have packed the very best hardware into the Galaxy S. The processor runs at a super-fast 1GHz and has a dedicated GPU to assist it, so any interaction with the user interface takes place at lightning speed, and video playback is flicker-free even in high definition. The device has a built-in memory of either 8GB or 16GB and can also accept memory cards up to 32GB, so storage isn't going to be a problem.

The Galaxy S has a 5 megapixel camera with touch autofocus (but no flash) and can also record HD video at 720p resolution.

The music player is outstanding too. As well as the benefits of the enormous onboard memory and the 3.5mm audio jack, the audio quality is fantastic, with support for full surround sound. Video playback on the Super AMOLED screen is also outstanding and the Galaxy S has multi-codec support including DivX support.

Connectivity ticks all known boxes: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, USB 2.0, a 3.5mm audio jack, DLNA support and TV-Out. DLNA lets you wirelessly connect and share videos, photos and music between your phone, your TV and PC. A Wireless Tethering app lets you use your phone as a broadband modem for your laptop or other device. The 3G connection on the galaxy S supports download speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps and uploads of 5.76 Mbps using HSPA.

The phone comes with built-in AGPS with Google Maps pre-installed and providing three different views - real street view, traffic view and satellite view.

As you'd expect from an Android phone, accessing the web is a delight on the Galaxy S. With the Chrome-lite web browser, the huge pin-sharp capacitive display and fast data access via HSPA, there's really nothing to beat it.

Finally, as if this weren't enough, there's one final reason to choose the Galaxy S over the HTC Desire: battery life. Not only does it have a larger 1500 mAh battery, but the Super AMOLED screen is considerably more energy efficient than a conventional display. The result is a quoted talktime of double that of the HTC Desire. In practice, we seriously doubt you'll get the quoted 13.5 hours of talktime, but it should easily be enough to see you through even a heavy day's use.

The Galaxy S is quite possibly Samsung's best phone ever, and that's saying a lot. They've taken the latest version of the best operating system and thrown to-die-for hardware at it. In our opinion this outperforms even the HTC Desire in a number of key areas: battery life, HD video recording, the Super AMOLED display, built-in memory. And it's cheaper than the iPhone too! If only the camera had a flash it would be perfect.

Update: now upgraded to the Samsung Galaxy S2.


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