Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch Review – Sprint

The original Samsung Galaxy S II was announced back at Mobile World Congress in February, 2011. Since then, the phone has been released in many countries around the world and has been enjoyed by millions of people. As a matter of fact, as of September 25 Samsung has sold over 10 million Galaxy S II handsets since its launch.

After waiting for months, the phone finally made its way to the United States when Samsung announced that 3 variants would be landing our way. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile each received their special version of the Samsung Galaxy S II.

The Sprint model of the Samsung Galaxy S II, called the Epic 4G Touch, was the first to be released. It was released on September 16 and sells for $199 when purchased with a two-year contract. After waiting for so many months, was it worth the wait? Does the Epic 4G Touch have what it takes to continue being one of the best phones on the planet?

Find out in my review of the Sprint Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch.

The Good

There are a lot of good things about this phone. I’m pretty sure that you will discover your own once you get yourself one. Here is what I thought was good about the Sprint Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch.

  • Hardware: The hardware on the Epic 4G Touch is what makes the phone what it is. The fast dual-core 1.2GHz Exynos processor, the rear and front-facing cameras, the 1GB of RAM, the large, bright, 4.52-inch Super AMOLED Plus display, all combine to create Samsung’s best-selling phone.
  • Screen Size: At first I thought that I wouldn’t like the larger 4.5-inch display, but after playing with the phone for a while, the big display works pretty well.
  • Super AMOLED Plus display: If you know Samsung, then you know that their Super AMOLED Plus displays are clear, bright, and probably the best in the industry at the moment.
  • Thinness: Although it’s not as thin as other versions of the Galaxy S II, the Epic 4G Touch is still pretty thin compared to other phones, such as the Droid Bionic.
  • Weight: This phone is simply light. It took a while to get used to the lightness of the phone, simply because I’ve been accustomed to heavier phones. It’s not as light as the original Galaxy S II or the AT&T variant, but it’s still pretty light, and you will notice it.
  • Camera: The 8-megapixel camera takes both beautiful pictures and great high definition 1080P videos. I haven’t experienced any shutter-lag frustration with the SGSII like I did with the Droid Bionic
  • TouchWiz UI: Although I prefer stock Android over any manufacturer UI, I have to admit that Touchwiz is one of the better UIs out there.
  • Built-in screen capture: More manufactures need to incorporate built-in screen capturing into their devices. With the Epic 4G Touch, there’s no need to root or install the Android SDK to take screen shots; simply hit the home and power button to take screen shots.
  • Notification LED: I don’t know why Samsung keeps neglecting this small-but-useful feature. It wasn’t present in the original Galaxy S, and out of all the other Galaxy S II variants; only the Epic 4G Touch has it present.

The Bad

Samsung really did a good job with the Epic 4G Touch, but there are also a couple of things that could have been better implemented with the phone. These things aren’t deal breakers, but it sure would have been great if the phone didn’t have these negative things.

  • No built-in HDMI port: While the Epic 4G Touch can output HDMI, it isn’t built into the phone. In order to play your wonderful videos on a big screen, you will have to purchase an adapter that will set you back $39.99
  • No NFC: The Epic 4G Touch is the only Galaxy S II variant in the U.S. that does not include NFC. Both the T-Mobile and AT&T models include NFC, which means that at one point, they will be supported by Google Wallet and future NFC applications.

Epic 4G Touch Hardware

Samsung decided to change things up a little bit with the release of the Epic 4G Touch. Instead of making it completely identical to the original Galaxy S II that’s been enjoyed by many people overseas since its release in May, Samsung decided to change things up a little with the Epic 4G Touch.

Just like the other Samsung Galaxy S II’s (except the T-Mobile variant), the Epic 4G Touch features a powerful 1.2GHz dual-core Samsung Equynox processor, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. For pictures and videos, the Epic 4G Touch is equipped with an 8-megapixel camera with LED flash in the back that is capable of recording HD video at 1080P. In the front, a 2-megapixel camera is available for taking self-portraits and for video chatting.

Samsug decided to do it big with the Epic 4G Touch. Instead of giving it the usual 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display that is found in all the other Galaxy S II phones, the Epic 4G Touch contains a massive 4.52-inch Super AMOLED plus display. This might seem weird at first, especially if you have smaller hands, but after having the device for a few days, you will find that it bigger is not bad, and that a 4.5-inch display doesn’t equate to a monstrous phone.

To power up the bigger display and keep you going longer without needing to plug in every so often to recharge, Samsung included a powerful 1800mAh battery in the Epic 4G Touch. I immediately felt the benefits of the bigger battery. On average, I went about 15 hours before requiring a recharge, which is pretty good, in my opinion.

Samsung was able to squeeze all the hardware that make the Epic 4G Touch into a device that measures 5.11″ x 2.74″ x 0.38″ (or 130mm x 70mm x 9.90mm) and weighs just 130 grams (4.60oz). Yes, it may not be as thin and as light as the other Galaxy S II variants, but for all that it packs, the added thickness and weight are barely noticeable.

On the front of the Epic 4G Touch, you have the big 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus display. If you’ve experienced Super AMOLED Plus in the past, then you already know what’s up. If you haven’t experienced it before, you’re in for a great surprise. The Super AMOLED Plus delivers bright colors with the most contrast, two combinations that make a great viewing experience.

Also on the front, you will find your 2-megapixel front facing camera on the top left corner, along with ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, and notification LED.

One thing that Samsung didn’t include in the original Galaxy S or the other variants of the Galaxy S II is the notification LED. Why would they leave such a small, but very important feature out of the other Galaxy S II variants? I don’t know.

The Epic 4G Touch has a notification LED, which means that you will be notified of messages, missed calls, emails, with the little blinking LED. There will be no need to constantly turn on your phone to see if you received anything new.

Towards the bottom of the phone’s front, you have your standard capacitive touch buttons: menu, home, back, and search.

Samsung didn’t bother to put many things on the sides of the Epic 4G Touch. On the left side, you have a lanyard loop up at the top (for those of you who really want to attach a strap to your phone) and the volume rockers. The right side features the power button towards the top.

The power button on the side of the phone was a little weird at first, but after having it for a few days, it feels ok. I did, on a couple occasions, accidentally turn off the display when I was trying to either increase or decrease the volume because of the locations of the buttons.


     

The top and bottom of the phone is pretty minimalist, too. On the top, you have nothing but your 35mm headphone jack and a small notch that enables you to remove the back cover. The bottom of the phone is graced with nothing but the microUSB port and small microphone.

The back of the Epic 4G Touch is made out of textured plastic that actually feels good to touch when it’s on the phone. Once you take it off, you realize how light and flimsy it actually is. On the back, you have the 8-megapixel camera that is capable of taking beautiful stills and also capable of recording great video at 1080P HD resolution. Also available on the back of the Epic 4G Touch is the LED flash used in low light conditions and the speaker, which is towards the bottom.

If you take off the plastic back cover, you have access to the 1800mAh battery and also direct access to the microSD card slot. It’s always a good thing when manufacturers put the microSD card slot in a place where a battery pull isn’t required to access the card, so that’s a good thing in this case.

Build

Just like the other Galaxy S line of phones from Samsung, the Epic 4G Touch has that plastic feel to it. No, it’s not bad to the point where when you hold the phone, you think that it’s a piece of junk because it’s made out of cheap plastic; that is not the case.

Although it does have that plastic feel to it, it still feels like the plastic parts that are used to make the phone is good quality. I totally understand the need to use plastic on this and other Galaxy S II’s; we can’t have both heavy duty metal and light-weight at the same time.

I especially like the back cover. If they didn’t make that back cover textured the way they did, I could see myself dropping the phone many times (i don’t like cases on my phones). The textured back cover gives you a good grip on the phone when using it.

Display

The large 4.52-inch Super AMOLED Plus display on the Epic 4G Touch is simply great. Yes, the resolution on the display (800×400) might be lower than the resolution that is offered on qHD displays at the moment (960×540), but it’s really not that big of a deal, unless that type of stuff really means a lot to you.

The Super AMOLED Plus display makes up for the lower resolution. Everything simply looks very vivid. The colors are nice and bright and you don’t have the pixilation problem that’s clearly visible in the Droid Bionic’s Pentile display.

I definitely didn’t have any problems viewing the screen while indoors, even with the screen brightness set to the lowest level. Outside, it was a slightly different story. Screen brightness needed to be increased slightly to see things, which is quite normal.

Software

The Epic 4G Touch is powered by Android 2.3.4, which means you get all the good stuff associated with Gingerbread, including Google Talk with video.

On top of Gingerbread, Samsung is running their custom user interface called TouchWiz 4.0. Out of all the UIs available from the different manufacturers, TouchWiz 4.0 is actually one of the ones that I enjoy using.

TouchWiz 4.0 UI


          
TouchWiz is one of the better UIs, in my opinion

TouchWiz 4.0 features lots of bright colors, and a number of features and enhancements here and there that make for an overall better user experience. Some of these features include the following:

Notification bar toggles: No need to use the power control widget anymore (well, you might still have to) because Touchwiz has easy access toggles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Sound, and 4G, right in the notification bar. Simply pull it down and turn on or off.

Resizable widgets: Some of the custom Samsung widgets are resizable, which is great because you can select how much screen real estate they take up. Don’t want your agenda widget to take up the entire screen? No problem, simply resize it to your liking.

Swype Keyboard: I used to not be a fan of Swype. If you don’t know what Swype is, it’s an alternative keyboard that allows you to type on the on-screen keyboard by simply swiping from letter to letter.

One day I decided to give it another shot, and this time around, i finally saw its usefulness. The Swype keyboard is very accurate and allows you to communicate quickly once you get the hang of it. If you’re worried about making mistakes like I was, you will be amazed at how accurate this keyboard is.


     
Notification bar an Swype keyboard on the Epic 4G Touch

Gestures

The motion sensors inside the Epic 4G Touch allows you to do some cool things with simple gestures. The four gestures include Panning, Turn over, Tilt, and Double Tap.

Panning allows you to move widgets or app icons from on your home screens by simply tilting the phone left and right.

Turn over allows you to flip over your phone to mute incoming calls or any other sound coming from your speakers.

Tilt allows you to zoom in and out of your pictures and websites by placing two fingers on the screen and tilting the phone up and down.

Last but not least, Double Tap prepares your phone for voice commands while using the Voice Talk app. I didn’t see much use for this one because I always just used the native Android voice search feature.


      
The motion sensor inside the Epic 4G Touch allows you to do cool things with gestures

Sprint Apps

Just like every other non-nexus Android device launched on any network, there are a number of bloatware applications that come pre-installed on Epic 4G Touch. Unlike many other devices, a lot of the pre-installed applications on the Epic 4G Touch can actually be uninstalled, so you’re not forced to clutter your app drawer with applications that you never intend to use.

This, in my opinion, is a great move by Sprint. If you’re going to force these applications on our phones, at least give us the ability to easily remove them if we don’t intend on using them.

Preloaded apps from Sprint on the Epic 4G Touch that can be uninstalled include:

  • Nascar
  • N.O.V.A. 2 HD
  • Sprint Music Plus
  • Sprint Radio
  • Sprint TV & Movies
  • TeleNav GPS Navigator

There are some other Sprint applications that come pre-installed and can’t be uninstalled, such as Sprint Hotspot, Sprint ID, Sprint Mobile, and Sprint Zone.

Samsung Apps

Samsung also bundles some apps with the Epic 4G Touch. Unlike the Sprint apps, you don’t have much of a choice when it comes to removing them. The only way to uninstall these apps is to root your Epic 4G Touch. Here is a list of pre-loaded Samsung applications that comes on your Epic 4G Touch:

AllShare: AllShare allows you to stream content from your phone to your DLNA capable devices. In addition to streaming from your phone, you can also stream content from other DLNA-capable devices directly on your phone.

MediaHub: Media Hub is Samsung’s video store. From Media Hub, you can rent or buy the latest movies or TV Shows.


     
Samsung’s AllShare and Media Hub apps

Photo Editor: Photo Editor does exactly what’s its name implies, edit photos.

Polaris Office: Polaris Office is a document editing app. It allows you to create and edit a number of office document formats. Unlike Quickoffice, you don’t have many options when it comes to working with your data from the cloud. At the moment, Polaris Office only supports documents stored on Box.net. If you’re using Google Docs, or some other cloud storage service such as Dropbox, you’re out of luck.

Social Hub: Social Hub lets you access many of your social networking sites in one place. Connect to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and view all of your news feeds, status updates, and more.

Kies Air: Kies Air allows you to access the contents of your phone from a computer. In order for this to work, the phone and computer must be connected on the same network. With Kies Air, you are able to access your phone’s photos, videos, music, ringtones, bookmarks, messages, call log, contacts, and more, directly from your web browser, without any wires.

Access the contents of your phone via a web browser on your PC, thanks to Kies Air

Camera

The Epic 4G Touch comes with an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera that’s capable of recording 1080P HD videos. In the front, you have a 2-megapixel front-facing camera that’s great for taking self-portraits and for video chatting.

Unlike my experience with the Motorola Droid Bionic’s camera, the camera on the Epic 4G Touch adds to the phone’s awesomeness. The quality of the pictures and video that this phone produces is very good. You won’t find yourself impatiently waiting for the camera to auto focus and take pictures; everything happens very fast, and the results are always good. Take a look at some of the sample pictures and videos below to see what I’m talking about.

8-Megapixel rear camera samples


      

   

1080P HD video sample



Mobile viewing link

Performance

There is a reason that the Galaxy S II has sold over 10 million units worldwide; the phone is simply powerful. The Epic 4G Touch performs pretty well at almost any task you throw at it. You can really feel the powerful 1.2GHz dual-core processor when opening applications and using the phone in general; things are just fast.

Speed Tests

Although this phone is a Wimax-enabled 4G phone, I didn’t get a chance to test out Sprint’s version of 4G. Unfortunately, in my area, Wimax service isn’t a reality, yet. When it comes to 3G, the speeds are pretty depressing in my area, too. Things could be different where you stay, though. This isn’t something that’s bad with the phone, more of something that’s bad with the network that the phone is on.

In my house, 3G speeds were practically a joke. On average, I was able to get download and upload speeds of about .02 to .04Mps. Needless to say, if I wanted to use any type of data while at home, I had to hop on my WiFi network, which wasn’t really a big deal for me.

In other areas around town, I was able to get 3G download speeds ranging from .35Mps to 1.1Mbps.

Although I didn’t get a chance to test out the Epic 4G Touch’s WiMAX data speeds, I can tell you that if you’re in an area that has WiMAX, you will be happy to know that your Epic 4G Touch will get speeds ranging from 3Mbps to 13Mbps download, and 1Mbps to 3Mbps upload, depending on where you live, of course.


      

3G data speeds in my area were a joke on Sprint’s network (No 4G either)

Call Quality

One thing that’s overlooked in smartphones nowadays is call quality. Yes, the phone can do many different things, but sometimes, the thing that matters the most is call quality.

The call quality on the Epic 4G Touch was great. During my testing, I made and received many calls, and I didn’t experience many issues. For the most part, the call quality was great. There were a few times when I experienced difficulties hearing the person on the other end, but I’m pretty sure that those issues were caused by the other person’s connection.

Battery life

Samsung packed a 1800mAh battery into the Epic 4G Touch for a good reason. After all, the large 4.52-inch display, WiMAX radio, powerful 1.2GHz dual-core processor aren’t there to give your phone’s battery a break; they’re taxing.

The battery life on the Epic 4G Touch is great in my opinion. I use my phone a lot and during my testing, I was able to go, on average, 14 hours before needing a recharge. I don’t consider myself a light user either. I’m constantly on my phone, have multiple email accounts that sync (1 exchange, 3 Gmail), Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and more. I am constantly using my phone for email, web surviving, entertainment, and more.

On light-moderate usage, I was able to get over 18 hours of usage, which is pretty impressive.


     
Battery life on the Epic 4G Touch was pretty good

Quadrant benchmarks

I include Quadrant benchmarks in my reviews because it’s something that so many people rely on to determine whether or not they will like a particular phone. I believe that one should make their decision on a phone after playing with it for a while. Quadrant scores, in my opinion, does not mean anything.

The two test results that you see below are from tests that were performed only 11 minutes apart. As you can see, the score jumped almost 400 points. On average the Epic 4G Touch scored anywhere between 3200 and 3400.


     

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch is an excellent phone. I was fortunate enough to test the phone out for over 2 weeks, and during my testing, I honestly enjoyed every minute of it. The phone is fast, the camera is excellent, and it looks great, too.

Although it took a while for the Galaxy S II to finally make it to the United States, I think that the wait was well worth it. If you are a Sprint customer and are looking for an upgrade, the Epic 4G Touch is the best phone on Sprint’s network at the moment, hands down.

If you’re on AT&T or T-Mobile, you might want to take a look at those carriers variants of the Galaxy S II. The AT&T model features a smaller 4.3-inch display while the T-Mobile variant features a faster 1.5GHz processor.

The Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch is currently available at Sprint.com for $199 when sign up for a new 2-year contract. If you don’t mind buying elsewhere, you can get the same phone from Amazon Wireless for only $99 when you sign a new 2-year contract or for $150 when you upgrade your current account.

Jonathan converted to the Android platform from Blackberry with the original Motorola Droid. He currently has a Samsung Galaxy Nexus complete with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean on Verizon Wireless, a Motorola Xoom, and a Kindle Fire. Besides keeping up with Android news, he enjoys spending time with his family, gaming, reading, and computers. Google+

  • Curt

    I also have the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch, and I’m getting about 6-7 hrs before I’m having to charge it. I was wondering if you had any pointers to help with my battery life.

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