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Reader-Submitted Reviews Purchased a stellar or lackluster product? Let your fellow community members in on your thoughts!

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Old 12-15-2011, 11:50 AM   #1
RainMotorsports
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Default My first day with the Galaxy SII, Living with Android.

Alright my usual attempt at semi pro product shots has been hampered by lack of sleep, being in a hurry and poor choice of lens selection. Shot this with my 35mm Prime but being this close makes focus an issue. Didn't want to stop down and have to increase ISO... full of disappointment. Next time ill break out the zoom.

The screen protector was installed already so don't mind its extra reflection.

Why I chose this phone.
Step back some time ago and I probably would have jumped straight into an iPhone. I have some hatred for windows mobile/phone and with classic palm out the window and current palm too I myself settled on Android. I am too much of a tinkerer to settle for Apple's policies and getting around them. Not that providers with android phones or even the phones themselves are completely void of this because they are not. I was looking to grab the original Galaxy S despite its little GPS issue and this was announced. Finally got around to picking it up.

Feature phone to Android... Oh boy.
I am used to walking up to any platform and jumping straight into it without too much effort. I had gone straight into the store and laid it out for the sales lady. When she was done her job my only question was where do i sign in my Google account. So I left the store completely void of any training.

I got in my car and couldn't even find the device's power button. Once sorting this out it didn't take a genius to start using it. But it is an adjustment coming from a non touch screen phone as well as never having used this particular OS. I probably wandered a bit through using the phone and applications before realizing one of the touch keys acted as a system menu. The OS is probably skinned and changed a bit but some of the basics seemed to be holding on an application from the app menu lets me drag it to the main screens and doing the same lets me drag it back off. Sliding from the top of the screen lets me turn things on and off quickly which is a relief. As well as see the status of applications, downloads, installs.

Battery Life
Well 1 day is no way to measure battery life for a device. I abuse power by turning up the timeouts and increasing the screen brightness. After getting used to the phone I charged it all the way up. I used it for 10 hours before going to sleep for about 4. When I woke up the phone was at 12%. This goes inline with the 9 to 12 hours I had read about for heavy use. Some users might be able to stretch out a 16 hour day. For the rest of us it will make it through an 8 hour work day and need to be charged twice a day.

Sprint's 4G... when available.
Alright so my feature phone had 3G and i barely used it for that. The 3G on this tests out to DSL like speeds. The 4G seems to be rock bottom average of 2 Mbps with my usual runs around 9 Mbps. Peak hit 15 Mbps and the upload is a slow but steady 1.5 Mbps average anywhere I have been so far.

Maximum throughput even sustained won't always matter. The source of a download does. Grabbing Grand Theft Auto III from the marketplace netted just under 1 Mbps making the 452 MB download take 10 minutes. Not bad but obviously could be better.

Screen, Speakers, Playback
So you know I got tired of youtube on my old phone right? Oh what a dream on this. The screen is bright as can be but the auto brightness not so much. If your walking into the sun the sensor is on the wrong side now isn't it? In the dark the phone likes to go to "0%" but honestly if it started at the "25%" mark the auto setting would be alot better.

I have yet to play music but you tube on the speaker is plenty loud even in the noisy parts of my work. As long as I am on 4G the player automatically goes into HQ mode and all is well. Kinda disappointing I have to force HQ on 3G which is still fast enough considering that on a bad day the 4G is only a few times faster.

Camera
Alright well I bought this hoping to replace my point and shoot which I have not carried since I bought the dSLR. I also hoped to avoid buying a cheap pocket camcorder after getting this. You can't expect much when you cram 8 million pixels into a sensor this size and throw a little lens over it. The flash has 5 led's in it and is brilliant but outside of a group photo in a bar I am not impressed. I shot 2 quick pics inside a taco bell on my way home and the non flash shot armed with a steady hand came out better:

I have yet to get outside in the daylight and hope to do that today. I tested some indoor 1080P video using 200 watt replacement CFL's. The video mode does go into its daylight 30 FPS under this much light just as i had hoped. When focus takes hold the video is sharp and what I expect from something like a pocket camcorder. I have yet to shoot test footage id be willing to show (IE not my messy desk). As with these things left to right movement isnt any fun. The rolling shutter effect isnt bad but the focus tracking is slow as well.

Protection
I had Best Buy install the invisible shield for me. I have done them before but didn't mind paying someone to do a better job and buying it in store instead of online meant day 1 protection. I bought a minimalistic soft rubber case at a Sprint kiosk at the mall. It is of generic branding and the only comment is some PC Micro USB cables might not like the charger hole. Being soft rubber makes this a non issue most of the time, but look forward to damaging the rubber eventually.


Apps upon Apps
You know the first thing i downloaded was Firefox? Main thing was being able to sync bookmark's and tab's since I am a desktop user of the application. Skype and all the essentials filter down the list. Teamspeak was a must to try out for me and controlling my PC via Team viewer. I have a bit of complaint about not being able to readily see my battery percentage exact. So grabbing these sort of widgets are a must for me. Everyone will make their own choices on apps but grabbing an LED widget and brightness widget were things I wanted. I bought Camera ZOOM FX from the sale just while writing this.

I was very unsure what I wanted for games. A touch screen phone doesn't seem ideal. I like to avoid silly stuff and was going to avoid Angry Birds. But its free how can I not play it! I also bought Grand Theft Auto III and while its awkward its not bad at all.

So how locked down?
I was originally going to root the thing straight away. I have some interest in developing for the platform. Being naughty with hotspot aside I cant see a reason to root this for the moment. Sprint allows side loading it seems and has a couple of dev options like usb debugging. The Galaxy series being among those that can screen shot without rooting makes it even better for me.

The whole android experience.
It's hard not to like it coming up from complete crap. Using it so far has almost changed my mind on the concept of tablet computing. Being able to control my PC from work. Show people stuff on you tube without bringing the laptop with me. The lack of physical controls changes gaming but the utility of the device goes beyond that. Browsing the web versus my older phones is phenomenal but this and other experiences should be the same across the board for iOS and Windows Phone devices.

A little look at size.

Here are my last 3 phones, all Samsungs with the last being an old Verizon flip the a930. The Galaxy S2 is not as thin as the new Droid RAZR but the 1.8mm difference hardly bothers me. I wanted a huge screen and I got it. I am happy with the thickness compared to some friends phones. Glancing at a couple of iPhone's I don't mind the larger less dense display but it does leave something to be desired? Its thinner but looking overall at the phones available I know what Steve Jobs was talking about when he called them Hummer phones.

In closing, this is all pretty generic information. But just felt like sharing my day 1 experience.

Last edited by RainMotorsports; 12-15-2011 at 12:21 PM.
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Old 12-15-2011, 11:54 AM   #2
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Awesome review. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on a beast of a phone.
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Old 12-15-2011, 12:23 PM   #3
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Shoot forgot to add the 452 MB download of GTA III from the market place came in at well under my average test speeds. Which obviously the source matters. Speed tests are one thing real life can be another. 452 MB in 10 minutes is fine by me but it could have been better.
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Old 12-15-2011, 01:55 PM   #4
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I'll be going for the Droid RAZR!
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Old 12-15-2011, 02:29 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doomsday View Post
I'll be going for the Droid RAZR!
If I was on Verizon it probably would be my choice as well. The screen is a bit of a back and forth for me. The pixel structure is a bit subpar but the increase in resolution also helps. The HDMI port on the RAZR is of some interest compared to the MHL on the Galaxy SII.

My main thought on a thinner phone is make the components smaller and give me a bigger battery. The international Galaxy S2 has a smaller battery than the RAZR but the Sprint Epic 4G Touch version is the same/slightly larger as the RAZR. All else fails if efficiency is better than it might not matter.
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Old 12-15-2011, 04:24 PM   #6
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Your pics put mine to shame, that's for sure. I'd never be able to get a shot of the screen turned on like that. What did you do to make it come out so clear?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RainMotorsports
The OS is probably skinned and changed a bit but some of the basics seemed to be holding on an application from the app menu lets me drag it to the main screens and doing the same lets me drag it back off. Sliding from the top of the screen lets me turn things on and off quickly which is a relief. As well as see the status of applications, downloads, installs.
That's the advantage to the Android platform. Each vendor can create its own front-end and bundle in its own apps. The problem with this is that some vendor's efforts might be better than another's, although more often than not, I've found solutions on the marketplace that have beaten them all. Like this). I'd recommend giving GO Launcher EX a go at some point if you really, really love to customize - at least until the ICS update arrives because that looks to be even better.

The thing to bear in mind with Android is that it's modular, so basically anything on your screen that you don't like, you can remove or change. That goes for the clock, the power widget and of course the icons. If you were to move to something like GO Launcher EX, you'd have to use another program (it tells you which, but I can't recall it atm) that copies over the settings, so that you'd have the same layout under the new launcher.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RainMotorsports
I shot 2 quick pics inside a taco bell on my way home and the non flash shot armed with a steady hand came out better:
That looks quite nice to be honest. It might not be able to touch the iPhone 4S' camera but it seems nothing can at the moment. I'd be interested to see footage taken with the phone!

Quote:
Originally Posted by RainMotorsports
I had Best Buy install the invisible shield for me. I have done them before but didn't mind paying someone to do a better job and buying it in store instead of online meant day 1 protection.
I'd have taken the same route. I must have horrible coordination or something because I once bought one of those for a portable game system and managed to botch the install job so well that I ended up just throwing it out (the shield, not the device!).

I've reviewed a couple Android apps so far that might be worth checking out:

Adding Artistic Value to Your Smartphone Snapshots with Paper Camera
http://techgage.com/news/adding_arti..._paper_camera/

Improving Wireless Performance on Android with Wifi Analyzer
http://techgage.com/news/improving_w...wifi_analyzer/

Giving Photos Instant Flair with Autodesk's Pixlr-o-matic
http://techgage.com/news/giving_phot...pixlr-o-matic/

Managing Your Files on Android with ES File Explorer
http://techgage.com/news/managing_yo...file_explorer/

Keeping Track of Your Tasks in a Simple Way with Wunderlist
http://techgage.com/news/keeping_tra...th_wunderlist/

Perform an Extreme Makeover on Your Android Device with GO Launcher EX
http://techgage.com/news/perform_an_...o_launcher_ex/

An app I am likely to review soon is this one:

https://market.android.com/details?i...processmanager

Others I use that are fun or useful that I'd recommend checking out are:

Barcode Scanner
https://market.android.com/details?i...client.android

Dolphin HD
https://market.android.com/details?i...k.TunnyBrowser

Doodle Jump
https://market.android.com/details?i...realarcade.DOJ

ESPN Sports Center
https://market.android.com/details?i...n.score_center

Evernote
https://market.android.com/details?id=com.evernote

Fruit Slice
https://market.android.com/details?i...droidhen.fruit

Juice Defender
https://market.android.com/details?i....juicedefender (I haven't actually used this, it just looks like it could be useful for you)

Last.fm
https://market.android.com/details?id=fm.last.android

Quote:
Originally Posted by RainMotorsports
I was originally going to root the thing straight away. I have some interest in developing for the platform. Being naughty with hotspot aside I cant see a reason to root this for the moment
I am of the same mind. I have never rooted the phone because I've never needed to. There's a developer mode that can be enabled that will open up a bit more access that might be needed.

Thanks a lot for the review, man! Would be interested to learn your experiences and opinions on the phone a month or so from now to see if you've fallen even more in love with it or ran into some roadblock you're not happy with.

Lastly, 5:05AM??
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Old 12-16-2011, 05:43 AM   #7
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Quote:
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Your pics put mine to shame, that's for sure. I'd never be able to get a shot of the screen turned on like that. What did you do to make it come out so clear?
That particular shot is just ambient light hand held. In shooting i played between iso 100-200 with center weighted metering putting the shutter speed in a usable 1/50 to 1/80. The other way to do a better shot might be to front curtain sync the flash and do a timed exposure to expose the screen after the flash. Problems here might be the screen is the light source and its what we want to white balance sample from so it probably wont fix the surrounding area just end up brighter. The other problem is we already know at iso 100 a long exposure is going to blow the screen. Stopping down the aperture or an ND filter will allow for the longer exposure.

Normally I end up full manual on a shot like that but as i said Center Weighted metering is probably the way to go. Spot will under expose and Multizone could go either way. If you have a reflection on the screen the camera might focus on the image in the reflection rather than the screen. Depending on the light source a circular polarizer might help.

This is my little shooter. Nikon D60 with a Sigma 530 DG Super and my favorite prime as well as my kit lens. I never have good pictures of it since i would need it to shoot it!


Your shots look fine to me? But looking at say Ryan Perry's case shots I can tell he very carefully direct flash his subjects. Bounce is where its at and a proper diffuser if you must direct flash. Looking at the ASUS laptop shots seems like a lot of noise as well as not much depth of field. Seems like you don't have much light to work with? If you have a hot shoe on the camera and have yet to use it then I would look into a flash. Quantaray has something that will do for 100 bucks and something like the Sigma i run pushes 220-250. I went with the Sigma over the Nikon SB-800 because it had the same features and more power. The SB-900 now has a nice feature set but the price is still insane. Bouncing off a ceiling or a white foam board produces a ton of natural looking light for my shots.

I don't remember if I posted a build thread at all but if i did you might have seen some of my work there. This was a shot to recreate the P8P67/P8Z68 clubs image on another site. They had the P67 and i figured id give my Z68 a shot at a similar image:



Quick how to i drew up on product photography using bounce flash.


Psst I am always available Horrible writer though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Williams View Post
That looks quite nice to be honest. It might not be able to touch the iPhone 4S' camera but it seems nothing can at the moment. I'd be interested to see footage taken with the phone!
Yeah the success of the iPhone 4S camera made me hope that maybe this would make a decent little shooter as well. While I have yet to really test it I can already say its nothing extraordinary and its what I come to expect of an 8MP cell phone camera.

I have a tripod bracket in the mail - http://www.amazon.com/F-S-Smartphone.../ref=pd_cp_e_4 Once it arrives ill throw up my lighting and do some quick test footage for you as far as the indoor you tube type stuff will work out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Williams View Post
Thanks a lot for the review, man! Would be interested to learn your experiences and opinions on the phone a month or so from now to see if you've fallen even more in love with it or ran into some roadblock you're not happy with.
Oh definitely. I will update this thread when I get some pictures and footage and what not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Williams View Post
Lastly, 5:05AM??
I could make up all kinda of excuses. I just got back from Hawaii, I am a California drunk on the east coast. How about I was just up okay lmao. Nah day started at 3 PM est for the phone and effectively ended there as well the next day. Some more early morning blazing for you:

10 to 14 Mbps and once again that pretty consistent upload speed. Though my friend in cali is teasing me with his Verizon LTE speeds.

Last edited by RainMotorsports; 12-16-2011 at 06:10 AM.
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