Samsung Galaxy S in-depth review -

Look and feel

Sporting a huge vibrant four-inch display, the Galaxy S is one good looking phone. It’s surprisingly light, so you may want to invest in a protective case to avoid any mishaps.

Ease of use

Despite its impressive features list, the Galaxy S’s menu systems are a cinch to work your way around, while setting up your email is a simple case of typing in your address and password.

Features

A feature set to make any smartphone envious, the Galaxy S includes a powerful processor, gorgeous Super AMOLED display, Wi-Fi, HSDPA, A-GPS, a five-megapixel camera and access to the Android Market.

Performance

The Samsung Galaxy S delivers on all fronts, though it did take longer than we had hoped to gain an A-GPS fix.

Battery life

An average battery life of 390 minutes talktime (3G) and 576 hours (3G) standby time.

 Samsung Galaxy S Review -
5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,6/7/2010 6:41:33 PM

8

out of 10

Performance

8

out of 5

Look and feel

10

out of 5

Ease of use

10

out of 5

Features

6

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

The Super AMOLED display is one of the most vibrant we?ve ever seen and enhances every aspect of the Samsung Galaxy S.

Cons:

Achieving a GPS fix took longer than we would have liked.

The Samsung Galaxy S boasts a huge Super AMOLED display, powerful processor, excellent multimedia functions and runs on Android 2.1. What’s not to like?

Say what you will about Apple, but with each new iPhone incarnation a ripple effect is sent through the entire mobile industry. It’s a kick up the proverbial, with all the manufacturers having to raise their game or be left in the scrapheap. We’ve felt for a while now that Samsung has been resting on its laurels, producing good, but not excellent handsets. We had reservations about their Wave, but they’re now championing a new flagship device and, do you know what, we’re not ashamed to admit we love it. Behold the Samsung Galaxy S.

Look and feel

Before we get to the nitty gritty, let’s break the Samsung Galaxy S down to basics. It’s a capacitive touch-screen device with a humungous four-inch display. It’s also Android 2.1, aka Eclair, a jump up from 1.6 which the majority of Google phones operate on. We’ve been critical of the design of Samsung touch-screens recently, with little to pick and choose between them. The Jet blends into the Blade, which blends into the Monte, etc etc. The Samsung Galaxy S on the other hand, is its own beast. Well almost. Whisper it very quietly, but it’s a near dead ringer for the iPhone. We should clarify that’s an iPhone 3GS, rather than the iPhone 4. While Samsung may wince at such comparisons, the original iPhone’s remain eye-catching devices. The back of the handset has a tempered glass feel, with a very slight chin at the bottom of the device. We presume this helps protect the camera lens by discreetly elevating it when lying on a flat surface. It feels impressively light, so much so that you may want to invest in some kind of protective casing, as we would feel anxious should it fall on the floor.

Your user experience will largely be down to the touch-screen, which we’re happy to report is one of the most responsive and fluid we’ve ever encountered. The only front facing keys are a touch-responsive menu key, a sunken and ever so slightly creaky D-Pad and a back button. When a touch-screen is as good as this we love a minimalist approach to actual hard keys. However, we do bemoan the fact that Samsung hasn’t included a dedicated camera key on the side of the device. We’ll discuss the camera in more detail later, but we feel camera phones are not yet at a point when they can replace DSLR snappers; rather they serve a purpose for capturing those spontaneous shots when out and about. The fact that you need to access the Galaxy S’s camera via the main menu is not only long winded but may also mean you end up missing out on said spontaneous photograph.

Super AMOLED display

One of the many killer features of the Samsung Galaxy S is the vibrancy of the screen. The Super AMOLED screen simply sparkles, and don’t be embarrassed if you find yourself unlocking it just for the sake of marvelling at its beauty. Icons are so crisp that they look as though you could actually reach in and take them out of the screen. There’s an array of different wallpapers and “live” backgrounds (as well as your own photos) that you can pimp the seven home screens up with. However, for some reason you can’t customise each home screen with a different background. Of course once you start to place different widgets and shortcuts on each page, you’ll be able to decipher between them easily enough, but it does seem a strange omission.

Being an Android device, you of course have access to an ever increasing number of apps from the Android Market. The same can’t be said for Samsung’s own app store, with a rather pitiful number on offer. As it’s early days we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, but we can’t fathom consumers knocking on the door of the Samsung Store when the Android market is just as accessible. Something else we thought was rather cool is the fact that you can assign specific folders to your home screens much in the same way you would on a PC or Mac. For example, create a folder of contacts for all your football team, or another for any specific emails. To add a folder, widget or shortcut, simply hold your finger down on a home screen until a menu option appears.

Swype

Not only is the touch-screen a whizz when swiping between screens, it also has one of the most finger-friendly virtual QWERTY keyboards we’ve encountered. Turning the phone horizontally will of course provide a more roomy keyboard, but even when held vertically we were able to rapidly fire out texts and emails with very few if any typos. We also like the fact that Samsung automatically adds a “@” and “.com” keys to the keyboard when you’re in an email address field and a “www.” when entering a web address. However, Samsung has raised the ante with a new approach to banging out words. It’s called ‘Swype’ and despite our initial skepticism, we’re converts. Basically it works by dragging your finger from one letter to another. Once you’ve spelled out your word lift up your finger and voila, you’re word is spelled out right before your eyes. English teachers may frown upon it as adding punctuation is tedious and most likely overlooked, but Swype is not only innovative, it also works superbly. Our only issue with it being that sometimes your finger can block where the next letter you want to slide to is. A minor gripe.

Setting up emails was as easy as entering our email address and password. You can set how often your mail is delivered to your device, from one hour to every five minutes, or alternatively you can choose to manually ‘pull’ messages as and when you need them. The Galaxy S supports multiple accounts, while the pre-embedded ThinkFree Write app enables you to read any Word documents attached to incoming emails. As is the norm with Android devices, you will be alerted to any emails or messages via the notifications bar at the top of the screen. Samsung has tweaked this though to also include one button access to switching both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on, as well as a Silent and Vibration mode.

Android 2.1

Be it on Wi-Fi or via HSDPA, browsing the internet with the Galaxy S would give any handset a run for its money in terms of speed, thanks in large part to the ARM Cortex A8 1GHz processor. Obviously a screen of this magnitude greatly enhances your web experience, while the fact you can open multiple pages, and search for specific words, are welcome features. However, being an Android 2.1 device also means you can enjoy the same pinch and pull multi-touch facility as seen in the iPhone. It works a treat, enabling you to zoom in and out of a webpage in a fluid motion. Another addition is the fact you can click on the microphone next to the web address bar and activate a Google search via your voice. You may look a bit daft on the bus shouting “football” at your phone, but it works a treat. Sadly Android 2.1 is still unable to play Flash video. You’ll have to wait for the 2.2 upgrade for that.

Multimedia capabilities

Flash video may be lacking, but there is a dedicated YouTube app, and my how we swooned. Videos streamed immediately and when using the high quality setting you will be amazed at the clarity. We’re not sure why you would use the “normal quality” option, perhaps only to emphasis the difference. Supporting all the major video formats, the Samsung Galaxy S is a true multimedia giant and with the inclusion of a 3.5mm headset jack you’ll be able to plug in your own set of cans, though to be fair the boxed in set aren’t too shabby. The Galaxy S is also DLNA compatible, which means you’ll be able to play (remotely) any movies or music and slideshow any pictures you have saved on your device on a big screen, so long as it is also DLNA certified.

Recording your own video is equally impressive, with the ability to shoot in HD 720p@30fps, which to the layman is DVD quality. The five-megapixel camera also captured some impressive shots with an array of features to help improve your snaps. We particularly liked the touch focus, which enables you to press on the area of the picture you wanted most sharp, though the face and smile detection worked just as well. It’s a shame there’s no flash of any description, but Android phones have never been known for their camera prowess and this is certainly one of, if not the best offering.

The most disappointing aspect of the Samsung Galaxy S is with its sat nav capabilities. Despite being fitted with assisted-GPS, it took an age for us to get a fix, surprising considering the aforementioned ARM Cortex A8 1GHz processor. However, once achieved it remained consistent and with the huge screen and the variety of navigational apps available from the Android market, it could arguably replace your dedicated sat nav device.

Conclusion

Make no mistake, the Samsung Galaxy S is one of the phones of the year. It’s one of the most powerful devices we have seen and the screen simply sparkles. The design may not be revolutionary but it is smart enough to warrant admiring looks, while browsing the internet, with the added bonus of multi-touch thanks to Android 2.1, is a top notch experience. However, it’s the multimedia capabilities that really impressed us. Videos, whether watching movies you’ve side-loaded onto your device, streamed via YouTube or even those you’ve recorded yourself, look exceptional on the large Super AMOLED screen and the fact that you can view them on a compatible computer or TV via DLNA is an added bonus. Put it this way, if you’re after an all seeing all doing handset without a fruit in its name, then you can’t go far wrong with the Samsung Galaxy S.

Danny Brogan