Out of this world? The Samsung Galaxy S II

The very slimline (8.49mm and the slimmest in the world according to Samsung) Android handset features Android 2.3 Gingerbread as well as a speedy dual-core 1GHz Samsung chip along with a generous 1Gb of AM.

While reviewers loved the original Galaxy S, some were not so keen on its design, which made it look like an iPhone wannabe. This time round, Samsung has gone for a case with square corners, but now it looks rather like an iPhone 4.

Samsung-Galaxy-S-II

That aside, one of its standout features is its new screen – a Super AMOLED Plus, which we’re assuming will be even better than the original Super AMOLED display – it’s supposed to be both less reflective and more sharp than its predecessor.

The screen is a good size – 4.3 inches – which should make for a decent web surfing experience – and with that Android 2.3 OS, things are looking up for the online browser. One of the good things about Gingerbread is its ability to support Flash, which widens the web experience further.

That big screen should also make it a top device for viewing movies, which can be played back at 1080p high definition. For still shots the Galaxy Samsung S II also has an 8-megapixel snapper with LED flash. (It’s a shame there’s no dedicated camera button, though.) You’ll be able to share all your media using DNLA and Wi-Fi.

Android 2.3 has plenty to recommend it, as you’ll have seen from previous reviews – not least the excellent App Market, and Google maps, for a great navigation experience. And with that powerful processor on board, the Samsung Galaxy S II should be well up to powering all these advanced features.

The phone also features the 3D TouchWiz UI, which adds 3D transition effects and is touted as the next step in the development of the UI. It also features the latest incarnation of
Samsung Kies 2.0 & Kies air, which allows the handset to sync with a computer over a Wi-Fi network. The other new technology that features is NFC (Near Field Comminication), which when it is available more widely will allow you to use your phone for contactless credit card payments and travel (rather like an Oyster card).

On the apps front there are a few new treats – most notably the Music Hub, which allows you to access the 7digital music store,  which lets you redownload purchased MP3s to your phone should you ever lose it – and there are some free games on offer from the Game Hub.

The Samsung Galaxy S was enormously popular, and with its powerful processor and advanced features, it looks like its successor should be just as high on consumers’ wishlists. We’ll have to wait until May to see it on the shop shelves, when it looks like it will be on sale for a few quid more than £500.

For a full list of specs for the Galaxy S II head here:

Samsung Omnia 7 review

The Samsung Omnia 7 is one of many Windows Phone 7 smartphones to hit the market in the last few months. Does the handset beat off the competitors for your Windows 7 needs? What makes it stand out, especially considering that the original Samsung Omnia was a terrible, terrible phone? Having trialled it over Christmas (courtesy of Three Mobile) we’ve worked out the killer feature: the display.

Omnia 7

The Super AMOLED screen is super impressive. The colour reproduction is extremely vivid – as it is on all AMOLED phones. The quality takes on a whole new life on the Omnia, however, by using the excellent contrast ratio to provide blacks that seemlessly blend with the handset’s design.

To the touch, it feels like you’re physically interacting with the display, rather than just using an everyday touchscreen.

Unfortunately, the 480 x 800 resolution of the 4-inch screen means that the display doesn’t quite live up to the smoothness of the iPhone. If you read a lot, the iPhone will provide a more pleasurable experience. Watch a lot of videos? Then the Omnia is definitely for you.

Aside from the display, the phone is pretty attractive coppery-granite colour with a great feel. The metal case feels solid to the touch, as if not a millimetre of space has been wasted. Buttons feel tactile and responsive. There’s definitely a level of Apple-quality here.

In fact, the whole experience is very Apple-esque. Windows Phone 7 really flies, there’s not a touch of lag to be found. Whatever magic Samsung has done with the Qualcomm 1GHz Snapdragon processor and 512MB RAM, it shows.

Unfortunately, despite Samsung delivery a smooth experience elsewhere, the Internet Explorer browser is still not as good as Safari mobile. Expect slightly slower loading times and more blank spaces as you navigate pages. And unlike Android, there’s no Flash support.

The camera’s also pretty average. It’s not bad at taking pictures; it just does nothing ground breaking. The five megapixel sensor takes good daylight photos, but the LED flash doesn’t match a proper Xenon offering, while non-flash low-light photos are dark and noisy.

The dedicated camera button is great though, especially as it controls the autofocus like a typical compact camera. By holding it down when the phone is locked, it’ll jump straight into the camera option, so you’ll never miss the moment. We’d have loved the option to touch-to-focus, but it’s a minor complaint.

So far, it’s our favourite Windows 7 Phone. For consuming video media, it pips even the mighty iPhone 4. As an overall phone, however, it’s just a little behind. The camera isn’t as good as top quality Android and Apple offerings, while the incredible AMOLED can be found on numerous Android handsets. If you’re looking for a solid, media-heavy Windows phone, however, then you’ve certainly found it.

Acer liquidmini: DLNA magic in the palm of your hand

You probably know Acer for their desktops and laptops. Last year they ventured into phones and introduced the liquid range. Now they are follow up the powerful Acer liquidmetal with Acer liquidmini. It is the smallest phone in the liquid range with a 3.2” screen but it certainly packs a lot in it.

Liquidmini

One of the standout features is it is DLNA certified so you can wirelessly view files from your computer on the phone. A lot of TVs are now DLNA enabled so you can stream music and video from the liquidmini to your DLNA enabled TV. The liquidmini also comes preloaded with the Acer Social Jogger App which aggregates all the updates from Facebook and Twitter into one feed for you read. Acer liquidmini comes with Android 2.2, also known as Froyo, providing fast access to internet. It has all the usual specs you can expect including 5MP camera and 512 MB RAM. You can expand the memory as it has a Micro SD slot, perhaps store a movie and stream it to your TV?

One thing it does lack is the screen resolution. It has 3.2” HVGA (320×480) screen resolution. When so many smartphones have AMOLED screens and offer HD resolution, this is disappointing. However, Acer has made this with the user in mind as it has a unique user interface installed by Acer over Android. This allows for you to see information even when the screen is locked and quickly start up most used applications. If you are bored with the boring silver and black look of phones, the liquidmini comes in various colours, including blue, lime green and pink. Acer liquidmini is a mid-range with some good features. It beats the HTC Wildfire but not quite up to the iPhone 4.

Available from 11 April. Unfortunately no price has been announced.

Samsung WB2000 review: On my Christmas wishlist

The Samsung WB2000 is the second compact camera I’ve reviewed from Samsung this week, and like the waterproof WP10, the build quality is admirable.

Out of the box, it impresses with its matte black surround, which makes it easy to hold (along with a raised textured panel on the right) and its fantastic AMOLED screen. ‘Real’ photographers will appreciate its RAW file support, and from an aesthetic point of view I loved the retro dials on its top edges, which indicate memory and battery status. The power button (also on the top edge) features a glowing blue surround when it’s turned on – handy in the dark. While the power button is recessed, it’s easy to turn on with the flat of a finger (or gloves if you’re outside in this weather).

Samsung-wb2000

The menu is very intuitive – finding everything from modes to your choice of image size is really simple, using the jog wheel that has been placed for easy thumb operation.

Along with all the auto modes, which I’ll get to in a second, there is plenty of real control to be had. You’ll find program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual settings. It also offers dual image stabilisation to prevent blur from camera shake if you zoom in or are shooting in low light.

You can also shoot video in scene and 1080p modes. A one-touch button on the back is useful to start video shooting, although it takes a couple of seconds to get going, so be prepared.

The flash offers options such as auto, fill-in, slow-sync and red-eye correction, you can shoot images at up to 10fps and choose manual focus – great for taking pictures at the zoo through cages! It offers similar modes to those on the WP10 – beauty, portrait, beach/snow, backlit, sunset, dawn and many more. The panorama mode makes it easy to take shots of a wide area – just hold down the shutter and pan slowly – there’s also a mode for taking panorama action shots. Styles for having a bit of fun include sketch and retro – which makes images look a bit like those slightly washed-out affairs we called colour back in the 70s (for those of you old enough to remember).

Like the WP10, the only disappointment is the battery life – you’ll get around 140 images from a fully charged battery.

I often regret taking out my compact in favour of my DSLR, but in the WB2000, I think I may have found a really viable backup camera. At a smidge under £300, it’s not cheap, but you are still getting quite a lot for your
money.