Hereís my review of the Galaxy S II LTE. Over the past couple of months, Samsung has been filling out their Galaxy S II line. First we had an HSPA+ only version, then we got one that supports all North American HSPA+ frequencies and now we have an LTE version.
Like the rest of the Galaxy II line, the body of the Galaxy LTE appears to be made out of plastic. While I didnít mind the dimpled plastic cover on the Galaxy S II (the Ďoriginal one), the Galaxy LTEís plastic cover has a faux metal finish that looks really cheesy. It isnít flimsy, but the look leaves much to be desired. It doesnít affect the performance of the phone but it does make it feel a little less special to use.
On the right side is the power/lock button
3.5mm headphone jack
You get a 4.5Ē Super AMOLED plus display which has a resolution of 800x480. These days similarly sized displays can have resolutions of 960x540 or even 1280x720. I used the Galaxy LTE and the Galaxy Nexus (1280x720) side-by-side and to be honest, while there is definitely a difference in screen sharpness itís not as much as youíd think. Weíve kind of reached a point where increases in resolution are having diminishing returns.
Resolution aside the screen looks fantastic. the black levels are so deep that sometimes I wonder if the screen is actually on. The viewing angles are amazing and the screen works well in direct sunlight. Itís so good that sometimes I forget itís a real screen and not a dummy phone.
The camera has an 8mp imaging sensor which can also record video at 1920x1080. It has auto-focus along with an LED flash. Auto-focus speeds arenít slow but theyíre not as fast as the Motorola RAZR, HTC Raider or Galaxy Nexus. While focus speeds were a little slower than Iíd like to see itís generally quite accurate. Iíve noticed that cameras with faster focuses tend to trade speed for accuracy. Personally Iíd like to have an option to choose between the two.
Image quality is great outdoors. Indoors the LTE tends to use slower shutter speeds, so some pictures turned out blurry. The camera can actually use up to ISO 800 but it doesnít like to go that high. Iíd trade slightly grainy pictures for a more usable camera any day of the week. Still, you can set the ISO manually but Iíd like to see the default settings use them more often.
After youíve snapped your photos thereís an included picture editor which I found useful. Besides being able to rotate and crop the image you can also create masks (it sort of works), change the colour (Saturation, Contrast, Brightness, Greyscale), and add effects (Blue, Lens, blur, Linear blur, Radial blur, Ghost effect, Speed lines effect). Itís not Photoshop but it seems appropriate for a smartphone.
I was annoyed that the camcorder records videos using only the pixels in the center of the sensor. This means videos are always Ďzoomed iní which means that theyíre more susceptible to vibration (like my shaky hands). It also means you have to stand further back from your subject than when youíre just taking pictures. The HTC Raider and Motorola RAZR both use all the pixels on their sensors when they record video, so they donít have these problems. Video is captured at 1080p and is decent outdoors and average indoors provided you have enough light.
The front facing camera can not record video using the built in camera app.
Software-wise, the Galaxy has Android 2.3.5 aka Gingerbread, with Samsungís Touchwiz user interface on top.
If youíve never used Touchwiz before, the main menu resembles the iPhone in that the program list is split into separate screens. It also has four programs which persist across all main menu and home screens.
I wish Touchwizís lock screen had more functionality. Out of the box all you can do is swipe it to unlock the screen. You canít use it to mute the phone, launch the camera, etc. Another extremely minor problem I have is that you have to give it a long swipe to unlock the device. If you just swipe it a little, it wonít unlock. I find that to be unintuitive.
Itís a simple feature but my favourite thing about Touchwiz, is that thereís an orientation lock when you pull the notification area down.
There are two English keyboards: One is from Samsung and the other is SWYPE. While a lot of people prefer SWYPE these days, I liked the Samsung one a lot. To get the most out of it I changed a few of the default settings (like turning on text predicition), but after that I find it works really well.
The email client (not the Gmail one) has a cool split screen feature in landscape mode. Iím a little disappointed that you canít select text from an email unless you hit reply first.
Allshare is Samsungís DLNA program. Itís useful for sending pictures and videos to your DLNA connected devices. It also has the ability to playback media stored on DLNA servers - I couldnít get it to view any of the videos stored on my network.
One really cool feature is Kies Air. With it you can access the Galaxy LTE from a computer located on the same network. While it is activated, you can manage your photos, video, contacts, browser bookmarks, text messages, files, set your ringtones and browse your call log.
Kies Air is pretty comprehensive. It will let you upload files to the Galaxy LTE including videos, pictures and music. You can actually view/listen to photos, music and video stored on the phone FROM your computer browser. You can send SMS, save numbers to your phonebook, etc. - very cool!
Thereís an IM program which supports Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger. I like how it has a split screen option.
You also get a version of Quickoffice that can view as well as edit and create new files. It includes support for cloud based services like Box.net, Google Docs, Dropbox, huddle, SugarSync and mobileme. The Galaxy S II I tested a while back came with Polaris Office which only came with Box.net support.
I was impressed with the videos application. Besides allowing you to view videos youíve taken with the Galaxy LTE, it does a surprisingly good job when it comes to viewing 720p mkvís and 480p avi (divx) files. I like how pressing the power/lock button locks the hardware buttons when youíre viewing a video. Itís very handy since itís easy to accidentally press the menu buttons.
There is NFC support which I tested with the Galaxy Nexus. What you can do is create a tag that you want to send. The tag can contain a url (like www.howardforums.com
), text (Motel 8, room 7, what do you think?) or a contact from your phonebook. Presumably you can also use it with a payment service like Google Wallet, though I couldnít test it myself.
The Galaxy supports LTE. I installed speedtest applications and saw speeds of up to 50mbps. Iím sure given the right circumstances it can reach 75mbps (Rogerís LTEís maximum speed). Youíre probably wondering why you actually need a phone that can download at 50mbps. First off, LTE doesnít usually run this fast. Since LTE is still new and there arenít a lot of customers on it, itís blazing fast. It remains to be seen if a) Rogers will oversell the LTE network and b) Rogersí will
upgrade their network to keep pace with demand.
One potential benefit for LTE is that for a given signal strength, it should be faster than an HSPA network. Indeed Iíve seen speeds of over 20mbps even with only 1 Ďbarí of signal. The problem with this is that Rogersí LTE runs on a different frequency from their HSPA. So, if youíre getting a slow connection due to weak HSPA signal thereís no guarantee that LTE will fix your situation. In fact, since LTE is still new on the network itís probable that the LTE coverage in your area isnít as dense.
Letís not forget that carriers plans come with very little bandwidth. For example you could blow through 6GB of data in under 20mins at around 40mbs if you downloaded continuously. I like to think of it as having a car with a ridiculous amount of horsepower but only one gallon of gas. The information superhighway is vast but youíre not going to get very far with such a low limit.
To me LTEís biggest problem is that I get excellent speeds with DC-HSPA+. Itís not usual for me to get 10mbps+. At that speed, itís difficult to notice the difference between that and LTE for many applications.
So, while itís nice to have LTE right now itís not yet a must have feature.
Thereís 16GB of built in storage of which only 11.2GB is available. I clocked the storageís write speed at a blazing 10.8MB/s while the read was an equally impressive 17.7MB/s. I stuck a class 10 microSDHC in and observed similar results: 12.1MB/s write, 16.7MB/s read
Like most Samsung phones the Galaxyís RF performance was average. I compared it with the Motorola RAZR (Which is outstanding) and the Galaxy dropped the call where the RAZR was still solid.
Incoming sound quality is good. Outgoing is average. Maximum earpiece volume is adequate.
Included is a 1850mAh battery which is almost as big as it gets - if I remember correctly on the ATRIX with itís 1950mAh battery is larger. Iím not sure whether itís because I donít have LTE where I live, but the Galaxy LTEís battery seems a little better than what Iím used to seeing from a high-end Android phone. That said youíll still be charging it every night.
Motorola RAZR, Samsung Galaxy S II LTE, Galaxy Nexus, HTC Raider, Apple iPhone 4s
In a way the Galaxy S II LTE should be called the Galaxy S II.5 LTE because its got a few extra tricks that the regular Galaxy S II doesnít have. Beside the LTE support it also has a bigger battery, NFC and WiFi direct.
Apple iPhone 4s, HTC Raider, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S II LTE, Motorola RAZR
The past year has seen Android hardware improve at an unprecedented pace. Weíve gone dual core, 1GB RAM, HD displays, 8MP cameras and LTE. While I really enjoyed the Galaxy S II LTE, I also find the S II line getting a little long in the tooth. The display looks fantastic but at the same time it needs more resolution. Itís true weíre getting diminishing returns when it comes to screen resolution, but this is the Galaxy S line which has become the poster boy for high end Android devices. The camera which used to be about as good as it got on Android, has been surpassed by the ones in the HTC Raider and Motorola RAZR. I do like that it comes with LTE, NFC and WiFi drect. While theyíre not yet critical features to have, they do future-proof the LTE to degree. I also think Touchwiz is due for an update. Besides the camera software the lock screen needs more functionality, but more importantly much of Touchwizís usability enhancements are now found in Ice Cream Sandwich.
Really, it feels like the Galaxy S II LTE is a tweener phone. A phone thatís kind of launched in between generations. It was launched a month or so too late. While I feel kind of silly saying that because one month isnít a lot of time, Android hardware is currently moving that quickly. The Galaxy Nexus and a bunch of other 720p enabled phones, some of which run Ice Cream Sandwich... are just around the corner.
very fast storage/microSDHC slot
plastic back cover looks and feels cheesy
WVGA on a 4.5Ē display is sharper than youíd think