Mobile Phones Guide

Samsung Galaxy S review

Samsung Galaxy S i9000 - Take Me To Your Leader

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Launch SRP S$1098

Overall rating 8.5/10
Slim and tasteful (if plasticky) design
Beautiful, large 4-inch Super AMOLED display
1GHz Hummingbird processor has power to spare
Extremely responsive UI and great battery life
Built-in social networking support is too basic
Samsung UI features that cannot be disabled mar the Android experience
Lack of physical search button


Putting the "POW!" in "Powerful"

Let's hold off on the software for a moment and move on to something the geek set will love reading about: the awesome power of the Galaxy S i9000. Buried somewhere within its slim frame beats a 1 GHz applications processor, codenamed Hummingbird and properly called the S5PC110. It is based on the well-known ARM Cortex-A8 architecture and while doubtless the Qualcomm Snapdragon-based Nexus One, Desire and XPERIA X10 pack the same sort of power, things begin to get interesting with the Hummingbird's design.

Firstly, Samsung teamed up with an Apple-owned company called Intrinsity, whose claim to fame is optimizing the placement of the components within a processor, enabling better performance to be achieved for a given clock speed. Secondly, the Hummingbird was designed and manufactured on a 45nm process technology, which reduces the size of the transistors and electrical leakage between them, resulting in improved power efficiency. And not least, the 3D GPU contained in the Hummingbird can process some 90 million triangles per second. Let's put this figure into perspective: an early NVIDIA GeForce4 MX 420 does 31 million; the Sony PlayStation 3, 250 million. Whatever it is, that makes for some pretty fast mobile gaming.

What does this do for the real-world Android experience? Quite simply, we found that the Galaxy S i9000 delivers a speedy knockout punch to others of its ilk. There are almost no delays throughout the system (except when installing apps, as on other Android phones); programs open and close almost instantly, something we believe can also be credited to the 512MB onboard RAM which the processor has to work with. Speaking of memory, the Galaxy S i9000 also packs about 1.8GB of available ROM space for apps. which is more than any Android phone we've seen recently. You're not going to run out of space for apps quickly on this one, not at least until Android Froyo 2.2 shows up with the ability to install apps on to SD cards.

Text messaging, always something up for scrutiny on full-touchscreen phones, worked as well with Samsung's own XT9 keyboard as we've come to expect from other Android phones. But for an extra boost, Samsung has also packed in the Swype keyboard, and this could become a staple once you get used to it. Basically, you draw a single unbroken line between the letters of the word you want to spell, and Swype predicts the word you're trying to enter. It is fast and impressively accurate, though you need to draw a continuous, unbroken line between letters, which could be tricky when driving with your phone in a windshield mount. For those who need Chinese input, DioPen IME, which supports both Pinyin and finger-writing input, is also packed in.

And now, for the moment you've all been waiting for: the Super AMOLED display. One point bears mentioning first: no images, whether on the web or in print, can do complete justice to the beauty of this display - it's like talking about fine wine without tasting a drop. You simply have to view it in the flesh. This much we will say: it has an excellent viewing angle both when tilted horizontally and vertically, and it boasts brilliant colors (especially greens and blues) and excellent contrast between dark and light areas. Where it really scores versus older generation AMOLED displays such as the Nexus One and the Desire is that in all but direct sunlight, it remains quite readable, coming very close to LCD displays.

Not surprisingly, the Galaxy S i9000 had no lags or stuttering in video playback. Audio quality for this phone was excellent throughout the frequency range on our test tracks, as befits a flagship multimedia phone.

Samsung is no slouch when it comes to mobile photography, as we have seen from the likes of its Pixon models. The Galaxy S i9000's 5-megapixel shooter won't win any awards for innovation, but it does serve up better than average image quality, delivering pleasing images under most conditions and scoring an impressive 1050 LPH on our resolution test charts. Video records at 720p resolution, but this Android phone is bereft of any sort of flash. Whether it's a glaring omission or something you won't miss depends very much on what you shoot, but hey, at least the camera is pretty good. Oh, and one other annoying Samsung quirk: the camera app won't start when the battery indicator falls into the red zone (about 15 or so percent remaining.)

In our customary battery life test, we play back in a continuous loop a test video encoded at 240 x 320 resolution under the following conditions: 100% screen brightness and volume and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth active, with push email or data being pulled from the network at regular intervals. The Samsung Galaxy S i9000 goes up against the HTC Desire, Google Nexus One, Motorola Milestone and Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10.

Specifications/Device Samsung Galaxy S HTC Desire Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Google Nexus One
  • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 3.0 + A2DP
  • GPS with A-GPS
  • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + A2DP
  • GPS with A-GPS
  • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + A2DP
  • GPS with A-GPS
  • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + A2DP
  • GPS with A-GPS
  • 122.4 X 64.2 X 9.9mm
  • 119.8 x 60 x 11.9 mm
  • 119 x 63 x 13mm
  • 119 x 59.8 x 11.5 mm
  • 118g
  • 135g
  • 135g
  • 130g
Screen size
  • 4.0-inch, 800 x 480 pixels
  • 3.7-inch, 800 x 480 pixels
  • 4.0-inch, 854 x 480 pixels
  • 3.7-inch, 800 x 480 pixels
  • 1500 mAh
  • 1400 mAh
  • 1500 mAh
  • 1400 mAh

And... we have a new champion! The Galaxy S i9000 notched up a massive 418 minutes up-time on our test, besting all the other 1GHz Android devices. But beyond just sheer battery life and power efficiency, our portability test (which measures battery life divided by the weight and volume multiplied) was just as impressive. Given that it weighs only 118g even with a large 1500mAh battery, Samsung's use of plastic in the body has obviously played a part in attaining this astounding figure.