Review: T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S II

The T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S II is the latest variant of one the best-selling Android devices in history. It was released back in October 12 along with the HTC Amaze 4G. While we thought that it will go under the name of Hercules, Samsung decided to keep the original name. The Canadian version will be released by TELUS on October 28 and will be called Galaxy S II X.

Unlike its other siblings, this Galaxy S II will not sport the famous Exynos chip. It will, on the other hand, have a 1.5GHz Qualcomm dual-core processor which is supposed to work best with W-Mobile’s 42Mbps network.

T-Mobile’s Galaxy S II will set you back $229.99 when signing a two-year contract and if you buy it straight from the carrier. If you’re having doubts or just curious about how this phone performs compared to the other variants, you’ll want to read this review.

Hardware

The T-Mobile Galaxy S II comes with a big 4.52-inch 800 x 480 Super AMOLED Plus display which is, just like the other variants of the phone, pretty bright and clear. However, after playing with its two other brothers, its screen seemed a bit darker than I expected. The phone feels just a tiny bit heavier, thicker than the original Galaxy S II. It also has the most rounded corners and the softest battery cover of all the three Samsung models. Let’s not forget to mention that Samsung used the Gorilla glass for the display.

This SGS2 sports a 1.5GHz Qualcomm dual-core S3 processor, Android 2.3.5, 8-megapixel rear camera with 1080p recording, 2-megapixel front camera, 16GB of built-in memory, 1GB of RAM, MicroSD expansion to 32GB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, GPS and NFC capabilities.

The phone feels really smooth when held mostly because of its subtle cross-hatched back cover. On the top of the phone, you’ll find a 3.5mm audio jack and noise-cancelling microphone. On the right side, you have the power/sleep button. Going down, you have the microUSB port and the primary microphone. The volume rocker is situated on the left side of the Galaxy S II.

On the front of the phone, the 2-megapixel camera (for video chat and self-portraits) can be found on the top left side of the display along with a proximity sensor. The four capacitive buttons can be found in the bottom. The 8-megapixel camera is placed in the center of the back of the device with the LED flash. Once you remove the flimsy back cover, you’ll find the 1850 mAh battery which is pretty easy to remove. The SIM and microSD card slots are right on top of it allowing you to remove them with taking out the battery.

This SGS II is about 2.1mm thicker than the original Galaxy S II and sits on 11.5mm or 0.45-inches of goodness. It measures 130mm x 69mm and weighs 4.77 ounces or 135g. While it may sound that it is chubbier than the Sprint variant, you wouldn’t notice a lot of difference though.

Display

The little issue that everyone is talking about is that the resolution on this Galaxy S II display which is 800 x 480 may be a bit low for the 4.52-inch Super AMOLED display. I have read many reviews on other sites boasting about how great the screen is on this T-Mobile version of the SGS 2. And I would have to disagree with most of them because I think the display lacks brightness and I found it hard to read while I was outdoors. However, once you turn the brightness all the way up, you will definitely appreciate the Super AMOLED technology and how it brings your display to life but at the expense of battery life.

Software

As noted, the SGH-T989 runs on Android 2.3.5 which is absent from the other Galaxy S II variants. This phone wouldn’t be a Samsung device if it didn’t have TouchWiz. Just like its siblings, it comes with the newly added Motion controls where you can “turn over, tilt, pan and double tap.”

Add to that, notification bar toggles which allow you to turn on or off your Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. It also allows you to adjust your brightness, settings and screen timeout. A “Tips” icon is also there to help you understand how to use some of the phone’s features. Also offered, are the resizable widgets which just like their name states, allow you to increase or decrease the size of a widget to your liking.

Unfortunately, with the unsubsidized price of $229, you will get a slew of unwanted apps which are also known as bloatware including the 411, Blio, Lookout, More for Me, T-Mobile ID, T-Mobile TV and T-Mobile Mall apps. I am still unsure about why t-Mobile has taken the liberty of not allowing video chat through the Google Talk app, which may explain the presence of the Qik app.

Camera

Nothing new here guys, the camera on this beast is very similar to the other variants. It is simply one the best cameras in the market. You’ll find an 8-megapixel rear camera which is capable of 1080p recording and a 2-megapixel front camera which will mainly be used for video chat (no GoogleTalk Video) and taking self-portraits.

I have taken many shots with it and was very pleased with the quality of the pictures. Some weren’t as good as others but overall, Samsung has really outdone themselves with this cool camera. Check out the gallery and the 1080p video below. Call me crazy, but I prefer the Infuse 4G camera to the one here.

T-Mobile Galaxy S II 1080p Video Sample

Performance

As you probably know, the T-Mobile Galaxy S II doesn’t sport Samsung’s own chip. It instead carries the 1.5GHz Qualcomm dual-core S3 processor which is supposedly compatible with Big Magenta’s 42Mbps network. However, I am giving the Exynos the edge on this one because I felt that the other variants were a bit smoother. The phone showed some lag here and there and I am not sure if it has to do with TouchWiz or the chip itself.

Speed Test

With T-Mobile launching its 42Mbps in the Lehigh Valley area in Pennsylvania, I was able to get data speeds comparable and sometimes faster than Verizon’s 4G LTE network. Say what you want to say about T-mobile, but they really stepped it up.

The phone averaged speeds as high as 15.5Mbps down and 1.7Mbps up. Data speeds will vary depending on your location, which means that you may get higher or lower speeds than the ones I am showing you guys.

Call Quality

After all this Galaxy S II is still a phone and is needed to make calls. I must say that I was not disappointed about the call quality and most of the calls I made or received were great. However, T-Mobile service in my area was spotty at times and I found myself dialing a number a couple of times before getting connected.

Battery Life

Inside the T-mobile Galaxy S II, you’ll find a 1850 mAh battery which I thought was big enough to offer a decent amount of usage. After using it as my main phone for about two weeks, I found out that the battery life wasn’t so great and I would be lucky if I have gotten a a good 8 hours on the device with moderate use (email, twitter, Google+..). I found myself charging the phone once every four to six hours. Overall, I would say that the battery life was just average.

Benchmarks

While benchmark scores may not mean much when it comes to measuring the performance of a phone, I know that I a lot of you like to see them and also base your buying decision on them. A phone is just like a car, you could buy the top of the line vehicle but without driving it, you will not know if you’ll like it or not. This Galaxy S II averaged scores of 2700 to 3600 in Quadrant benchmarks. It also scored around 5650 in AnTuTu.

Conclusion

Overall, I was very pleased with T-Mobile’s Galaxy S II after having it for about a month. The battery life is for sure not so great and I found myself recharging it at least once a day. I also noticed reception problems whenever I go indoors which wasn’t a big drawback.

With all that said, if you are a T-Mobile customer and are looking for a top of the line Android device, the Galaxy S II is the phone to get. It is available in two colors, black and white, for $229.99 with a two year contract.

Don’t forget to check out our reviews of AT&T‘s and Sprint‘s Galaxy S II phones.

Zack has always been a fan of anything with the tag "Gadget" on it, he has had used almost every phone brand except for the Palm and owns a Pixel XL as his daily driver. His favorite camera is the Olympus EM-1 Mark II. He is a full-time father of two great boys and happily married to his wife. Did we mention the Zack loves Video games? Add him to you circles: Google+

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