Samsung Galaxy S II for AT&T review: A legend reborn

Stefan Vazharov, 2 October 2011.

The retail package has a notable omission

The Galaxy S II comes in the standard orange-colored AT&T box, which is quite compact. Inside, along with the phone, you will find a wall charger, a USB cable, and AT&T booklets. An MHL adapter is also to be found in the package. Oddly enough however, headphones and microSD card are notably missing.

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The retail package of the Galaxy S II for AT&T

While a lot of people these days are opting for aftermarket headphones to go with their smartphones, we believe that, for a premium smartphone and its retail package, they are a must have. Same goes for the microSD card.

Design and construction

In terms of measures, the Galaxy S II for AT&T mirrors the I9100 with 126 x 66 x 8.9mm. Compared to the I9100, the U.S version has put on 5 grams of weight. At 122 grams however, it would still qualify as light, given the set of features which it offers you.

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The AT&T Galaxy S II sized up against the Epic 4G Touch and the T-Mobile G2X (LG Optimus 2)

Compared to its sibling for Sprint Wireless – the Epic 4G Touch, the Galaxy S II for AT&T is a lot more pocket friendly. You should keep in mind though, that the CDMA Galaxy S II has a bigger 4.5” screen, along with a battery, rocking the impressive 1800 mAh.

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The AT&T Galaxy S II is considerably more elegant than its Sprint Wireless relative

Plastic is the dominant material in the construction of the droid, but this is not a bad thing. Similarly sized, metal clad droids tend to be much heavier, so we are willing to compromise in this department. Besides, there is just enough metal in the device to give it a premium look along with its entire front being adorned by Corning Gorilla Glass.

The 4.3” Super AMOLED Plus of the smartphone is nothing short than a thing of beauty. Since its launch in the I9100, the unit has become the one to beat in the industry. Interestingly enough however, we are yet to see a better one on the market. You can find more about its performance here.

Below the screen, much like with all the U.S. bound Samsung droids, you will find four touch-sensitive buttons. Gone is the hardware button of the original Galaxy S II.

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The touch-sensitive keys under the screen

The earpiece, ambient light and proximity sensors, as well as the 2MP front-facing camera unit are located in the area above the screen.

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There’s the video-call camera, the ambient-light and proximity sensors, and the earpiece on top of the display

The left side of the Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II features the volume rocker. The volume keys double as zoom lever in camera mode.

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The volume rocker on the left

Unfortunately, all there is on the right is the power key. A dedicated camera key would have been a welcome addition. We find virtual shutter keys to be less than ideal.

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Once again we don’t get a camera key on the Samsung flagship

The 3.5mm audio jack is located on the top of the smartphone.

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The 3.5mm audio jack is all you’ll find on the top

The microUSB port at the bottom is used for both data connections and charging. Not only does it support USB host but it also comes with MHL enabling HDTV-out connectivity with the proper adapter.

MHL is a way of using both microUSB and HDMI through the same port. It makes sense, especially provided an HDMI port could’ve been near impossible to put in a phone this slim. The downside is you need an adapter to use a regular HDMI cable with this one.

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The microUSB port looks as usual, but the MHL support adds a whole new dimension to it

The mouthpiece completes the bottom of the droid.

The back of the AT&T Galaxy S II is where the 8 megapixel Full HD-capable camera lens is located. Right next to it is the LED flash, which will probably see more use a flashlight and video-light than a still-camera assist.

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The back of the Galaxy S II for AT&T

The loudspeaker grille is also on the back of the device. It is located on the slightly elevated chin at the bottom.

Removing the paper thin battery cover reveals the SIM compartment, the 1650 mAh battery and the microSD card slot. The card slot can take microSD cards of up to 32GB, which can give you a maximum total storage of 48GB. The bad news is the memory card isn’t hot-swappable.

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The microSD card is not hot-swappable

The 1650 mAh battery made it easily through a day of heavy usage. In case you are not a smartphone junkie, you might be able to squeeze out an extra day out of your Galaxy S II. Such performance is in line with the current offerings on the market.

Handling the Galaxy S II for AT&T is a pleasure. The textured plastic prevents accidental drops, while the slim body allows you single-handed use despite the relatively large size of the body.

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The phone handles well for its size