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On the heels of CRN's 10 Coolest Smartphones of 2011 slide show this week, Samsung sent the CRN Test Center a sample of its model SGH-T989, the Galaxy S2 for T-Mobile networks that's even more powerful than the Exynos-based Galaxy S2 featured in the story.
Samsung's Galaxy S2, available in white starting today (black units have been shipping since October), embodies the state of the art in smartphone hardware and software. The T989 is built around a 1.5-GHz dual-core Scorpion processor, Adreno 220 GPU and Snapdragon APQ8060 chipset from Qualcomm. Collectively, these circuits are known as the Snapdragon SoC, made by Qualcomm.
At 5.1 x 2.7 inches, Galaxy S2 is about a third of an inch longer and a quarter-inch wider than the Galaxy S, and the S2's screen delivers a full half-inch more screen real estate. Amazingly, it's also two-tenths of an inch thinner (at 0.37 inches) than the Galaxy S, yet delivers 50 percent more computing power than its smaller cousin's 1 GHz dual-core CPU and double the internal RAM capacity (up to 32GB).
Even more impressive is the upgrade to TouchWiz 4.0, the latest version of Samsung's UI overlay. We're not generally fans of the vendor-specific user interface, but TouchWiz does add some great functionality and usability features.
For example, while the seven-panel desktop can be paged with finger swipes as usual, it also can be perused using a scroll bar that appears when long-touching the page indicator, or tiled as seven mini-panels (a la Mac OS X's "All Windows" function) that can be dragged around and touched for direct access. This latter function is activated with a two-finger twist on any panel. We discovered most of these new features by accident, further evidence of Samsung's intuitiveness of design.
Long-touching a blank portion of any panel shrinks the still-scrollable panels and brings up shortcuts to controls for adding Widgets, shortcuts, folders and for changing wallpapers. When deciding where to place objects on a panel, dragging the object near the edge of a panel brings up the next panel, as does moving the phone itself. In other words, to navigate between panels while dragging an object, one has only to change the Galaxy's direction; the panels move accordingly.
Also new in TouchWiz 4.0 is tilt-to-zoom. Place two thumbs on the screen and tilt the phone toward you to zoom in, and away to zoom out. Pretty nifty. Prompts appear occasionally with reminders about this and other features new in TouchWiz 4.0, which also includes an improved widget drawer, resizeable icons and access to the gyro.
When dragging down the notifications panel, the new on/off buttons for the oft-toggled WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, sound and auto-rotation are a welcomed convenience. Enhancements to the phone dialer include larger in-call controls and a contact listing as phone numbers are entered into the keypad.
A Task Manager lists all open apps, each with a kill button, plus a control to purge the RAM. For Android users, this is an extremely handy alternative to restarting every few days to quit performance-sapping apps and refresh the RAM. The environment also provides direct access to files and folders.