Display and Audio Quality, Call Quality, Camera Quality

Display quality

After booting up the Galaxy S II for the first time, I immediately noticed how bright and sharp the 4.52-inch, AMOLED display is on this unit. The photo above really doesn’t do the display justice, but the other photos should give our readers a better perspective of this display’s clarity and range of colors.The native resolution is 800 x 480, which is a bit low in my opinion for a 4.52-inch display. Something closer to 1024 or 1280 pixels would have been more preferrable, but I’m sure Samsung wanted to save users precious battery life and know the AMOLED display would be able to show off 800 x 480 pixels  just as well as other phones do at 1024 pixels.


One of the first things I did after going through the initial configuation steps on this smartphone was to access the web browser to see how it handled web pages. As most Android phone users know, thei bundled web browser with this OS support Adobe Flash, which is still very prominent on many web pages on the Internet today. I went over to the front page of PC Perspective to see how it looked and functioned, and the Galaxy S II didn’t disappoint me one bit. It was easy to scroll up and down through the news section and zoom in on photos and text. The flash elements on the web site seemed to be a bit choppy on this phone, but overall the experience was what I would expect from a mobile device like this.


After surfing around PC Perspective for a bit to catch up on the latest technology news, I opened the YouTube app and took a look at this phone’s video capabilities. I opened one of our recent PC Perspective podcasts on YouTube to see what type of video quality I would see at HD and non-HD resolutions. After watching the first 15 minutes, I noticed intermittent quality issues that was most likely due to my wifi connectivity and not YouTube or the phone itself. Once I got my wifi issues straightened out, the podcast looked as clear as if i was watching it live on my PC. The 4.52-inch display gave me a pretty balanced viewing experience with dark blacks and sharp colors and even small words were easy to read throughout the podcast. The AMOLED display really gave me a great video experience that isn’t matched by many other smartphones (including the iPhone 4S).



Audio/Call Quality

Since the Galaxy S II is first and foremost a phone, I began to evaluate how it handled basic phone calls as well as listening to MP3s via the Media Hub app. The contact list has more color than my previous T-Mobile G2 phone and Samsung added a few more tweaks as well with their TouchWiz UI. I absolutely love all the tutorials like the one above that outline how to use some of the new features on the Galaxy S II. This will help reduce the learning curve for new smartphone users.


The key pad has been redesigned and even uses Samsung’s custom font that comes with TouchWiz. The top navigation buttons haven’t changed from the standard keypad, logs, contacts, and favorites. The "add to contacts" button under the phone number is a handy feature as well for people to quickly add new people at the same time they are trying to call them. I made a quick call to my wife from work where I have 4G connectivity. I talked on the phone for about 10 minutes switching between normal and speakerphone modes. The audio quality was very strong and there wasn’t any lag on either end of the conversation. The speakerphone was very loud so I had to turn it down a bit because I work in close proximity to my co-workers. I also attached my Plantronics bluetooth and it connected fast and didn’t diminish the audio in any way.


Before I left the audio and call quality section, I wanted to try out the texting features on the Galaxy S II. The texting options were pretty standard for an Android-based phone and it doesn’t look like Samsung made many optimizations past the OS’s reference design. The keys are pretty basic and the chat window it easy to navigate and use. After you send a text, balloons pop up with different colors for each person in the text thread. I prefer the "old school" text window that just lists the person’s name and then the message. Overall, I don’t have any true beef with texting on the Galaxy S2, especially since it comes bundled with my favorite Android phone feature of all time – Swype!



Camera quality

Another key feature on the Galaxy S II is the smartphone’s embedded 8 MP back camera that includes a super bright LED flash. The camera app interface has not changed at all from what Android typically includes with their OS. 


The camera app itself can be customized in a variety of ways like changing the photo resolution, shooting mode, ISO, effects, and focus mode. I was really impressed to see options for ISO and focus mode because manual photographers will get a kick out of having these features on hand right from their smartphone.


To evaluate the camera’s zoom and flash capabilities, I took a couple photos of my wife’s hand-painted castles we got from Germany. The photo above was taken with standard settings with the flash on and no zoom applied. The clarity of the photo is evident and the flash was extremely bright to help get the proper exposure on the subject. (Note: All of the photos I’m using in the camera testing portion of this review were not photoshop’ed in any way to give our readers a true depiction of this smartphone’s photo capabilities.


I stood the same distance away from the castles and took another photo with 4x zoom applied. As you can see in the photo above, the zoom and flash worked perfectly and took a crisp and sharp image of the castle windows. You can even see all the details in the castle and I was extremely impressed by how well the LED flash and zoom worked together to produce this image.


For my final camera test, I took a quick pic with the front-facing camera to see how good 2 megapixels looks. Since the front camera doesn’t include an LED flash, I had to add a little light on my face to help show all the details in the photo. Overall, I’m quite pleased with the quality I received from the front-facing camera, and it should work well for video chatting too.


Lastly, I took a couple short video clips of the Galaxy S II’s 1080p video capabilities. I used the same subject for both video clips at the same distance to ensure our results were accurate. I recorded the first clip with no flash to see how it handled low to medium light conditions. Overall, I was impressed with the camera’s ability to keep a sharp focus on the castles, but their were some minor contrast issues as you’ll see in the video clip. When I shot the second video clip with the LED flash on, I noticed a major improvement in the contrast and clarity of the video footage. The bundled LED flash is extremely bright and works well when you are about 2 to 5 feet from your subject. Anything farther than that and the LED flash is pretty much useless.

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