Samsung Galaxy S2 Skyrocket Review: Supersonic 4G Speeds
Do you the Galaxy S2 but wish it was bigger? With LTE? If you said yes, you'll love the Skyrocket. It's basically the S2 with a larger display and AT&T's 4G service. In some parts of the world, it's called the Galaxy S2 LTE -- that's how similar it is.
The Skyrocket has a bigger display and a bigger body, measuring 5.1-by-2.7-by-0.4 inches, so if you thought the S2 was hefty, you'll have a handful -- literally and figuratively. It's not thick, but it's tall and wide. I found it hard to use with one hand, especially when I needed to reach to the other side of the screen. You'll need stretchy fingers. It says "Galaxy S2" on the back, with no mention of "Skyrocket," showing you how interlinked the two models are. They both sport the same gently rounded corners and bottom buttons, but the Skyrocket's glossy back panel much smoother, and more slippery, even more reason not to try to use it with one hand.
If you manage to keep ahold, you'll be rewarded for lugging around a large phone: a big and lovely 4.5-inch display. The clarity surprised me. It was easy to read on, even outdoors in direct sunlight. Super AMOLED doesn't disappoint, colors are bright and blacks are deep and true. The 800-by-400 pixel resolution isn't quite as crisp as rival top-tier devices like the iPhone, but it's still reasonably defined. You just won't get the same detail, but it's still good for movies or browsing the Web.
The 8-megapixel camera, meanwhile, is excellent, bolstered by Samsung's choice to use its own software tools. The photo editing options are nothing short of spectacular -- it blew me away. Not only can you find the perfect ISO and exposure options, among others, but also create a custom setting to find the balance easily for future photos. The LED flash lights up the room, but it occasionally washes out the color. I recorded some 1080p video clips. The picture is smooth and the noise canceling function gives you crystal-clear audio. The 2-megapixel front-facing camera is great for video chat, and a bit better quality than others. But as expected, it's limited for anything else. Overall, it's a great camera package.
If you love music, the Skyrocket is a great choice. You can control the music player with a notification bar, so you don't have to open and close it every time you want to skip or pause a song. Samsung also throws in a great pair of headphones. And if you don't mind using data, Mog Streaming Radio can spice up your day with fresh tracks. The streaming is easy to navigate, and you won't even notice the difference in MP3 quality.
The Skyrocket ships with Gingerbread, which is a bit outdated, but AT&T pinkie-promised to update it to ICS in the future. But the bigger problem is how Samsung bastardized Android with its TouchWiz interface and the large amounts of bloatware.
Okay, "bastardized" is a little strong -- TouchWiz does have some nice ways to organize apps. It's also responsible for the music-friendly notification bar. But I would have much preferred vanilla Android. TouchWiz doesn't have overly obnoxious animations or any deal-breaker flaws, but the bloatware is actually a bigger problem. Samsung and AT&T piled on a lot of stuff you'll never use, like "City ID," which will annoy you with frequent pop-up messages after the 15-day trial expires. You can tuck most of them out of sight, and download useful apps from Google.
The Skyrocket comes with 16-gigabytes of memory, and you can add a 32-gigabyte microSD card if you need more -- and you will. I recommend at least another 16-gigabytes. A speedy 1.5-gigahertz dual-core chip runs smoothly, so you won't experience lag or hiccups.
NFC is still very new, but you find it on the Skyrocket. It lets you transfer data from one device to another, but only if your friends have NFC-enabled devices as well. It's also a crucial part in mobile payment systems, so you'll be able to leave your wallet at home. But don't expect it within the next few years -- it hasn't picked up traction yet.
The Skyrocket connects to AT&T's network at breakneck LTE speeds. But surprisingly, you can't turn off LTE, so it'll drain the 1,850 mAh battery in no time. Bring a charger, you'll need it. Seen those Energizer Bunny commercials? Yeah, this is the opposite. It doesn't keep going and going. It dies mid-day.
Overall, the Skyrocket is a good choice if you love the Galaxy S2 but want 4G. But the battery drains fairly quickly. The big screen and generous storage means it's a great choice if you love to watch a movie on a long commute or pop in headphones and listen to music. But if you want cutting-edge software or top-tier display definition, look elsewhere. ♦
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