Review by Dan Seifert on Wednesday October 12, 2011.
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If you have read our review of the global version of the Samsung Galaxy S II from May, then you should know what to expect here. The AT&T version is exactly the same as that model, save for one glaring difference. The two soft key and single home button layout of the original model has been swapped out for a more traditional menu, home, back, and search capacitive button layout. Personal preference will determine which layout you prefer, but I myself like the easy access to the search key that the AT&T version offers. Ignore the four capacitive buttons and the silk-screened AT&T logo above the display, and you have nearly the exact same phone as the original Galaxy S II.
The AT&T version measures 126mm x 66mm x 8.9mm (4.96in x 2.60in x .35in) and weighs 122g (4.3oz), which is slightly more than the global model thanks to a slightly thicker battery (the battery is the same capacity, but it features support for NFC, which is surmised as the reason for the thicker dimensions). Unlike the Epic 4G Touch for Sprint, which had rounded corners, AT&T's Galaxy S II preserves the square corners as seen on the original.
As we saw with the other models, the Super AMOLED Plus display on the Galaxy S II for AT&T is a stunner, with vibrant colors, inky blacks, and infinite viewing angles. The screen measures 4.27-inches across on AT&T's model, and sports the same WVGA (480 x 800 pixel) resolution as the others. I found it to be just as bright as the other phones, and had no trouble viewing it outdoors in direct sunlight.
The power/sleep/unlock key can be found along the right side of the phone, as is customary with Samsung Galaxy S phones. The position of the key is bit lower along the edge than seen on Sprint's version, and I found it to be easier to reach with my thumb. The volume rocker is on the left side of the phone, and it is a single bar, with no indentation. I didn't have any trouble using it, but it would have been nice to have a notch indicating volume-up and volume-down.
We didn't find much to complain about with the global Galaxy S II's hardware, and I am pressed to find something other than the plastic construction as a negative with the American edition. If there is one thing that I could ask for, it would be a notification light near the earpiece, which the Epic 4G Touch happens to sport.
Like the other versions of the Galaxy S II, AT&T's model features Samsung's TouchWiz 4.0 interface on top of Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread. I found it to be just as easy to use and enjoyable as before, and performance was smooth and effortless thanks to the 1.2GHz, dual-core Samsung Exynos processor and 1GB of RAM stuffed inside the phone. Of all the third-party interfaces that Android phones have featured, I would have to say that this latest version of TouchWiz is my favorite.
The Galaxy S II sports some cool, gesture-activated functions that allow you to zoom in on web pages and images in unique ways. Two fingers on the screen and a tilt of the device will bring an image or web page in closer or out further. You can also silence the ringer of the phone by flipping the Galaxy S II on its face while ringing, something we have seen before on HTC smartphones. Activating the built-in Voice Talk function powered by Vlingo can be done by double-tapping the top of the phone. The voice control system works well, and allows you to control a number of phone functions without having to look at the device itself.
Samsung's custom lock screen that offers quick shortcuts to missed calls and new text messages is present here as well. For AT&T's model, Samsung offers its own custom on-screen keyboard, the stock Android Gingerbread keyboard, or the Swype keyboard. All of them worked well, but I ended up using Samsung's keyboard most often.
The previous versions of the Galaxy S II never failed to impress when it came down to outright performance and speed of operations, and thankfully the AT&T model continues this trend. Apps open very quickly, home screens pan with absolutely no stuttering, and lists scrolled with a fluidity that is not matched elsewhere in the Android ecosystem. Samsung has managed to get the animations in TouchWiz 4.0 down to a point where they rival iOS, and make other Android interfaces look clunky in comparison.
Dan is MobileBurn.com's Editor-in-Chief. Based in Poughkeepsie in New York, Dan can be found on Twitter as @DCSeifert.