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By Michael Oryl

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Samsung's first generation Galaxy S flagship smartphone, and the myriad variants it spawned, helped drive Samsung to the top of the heap in the Android world. It was fast, had a great display, and offered a solid user experience in general.

Samsung's second time at bat, however, promises bigger and better things. The new Samsung Galaxy S II is even larger, yet much thinner, and features a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display and well over twice the processing power of the original.

With HSPA+ data support, slick new user interface features, and Google's Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS, the Galaxy S II establishes a new high-water mark that will force all other devices to scramble to stay afloat. For now, at least.


Hardware

Samsung's Galaxy S II is a large device, thanks to its 4.3-inch WVGA (800 x 480 pixel) touchscreen display. But the fact that it measures only 8.5mm in thickness makes it much easier to palm than competing devices with similarly large displays.

The display itself is a brilliant Super AMOLED Plus model that improves upon an already good series of Samsung displays. It is very readable in direct sunlight, offers improved sharpness over older Super AMOLED displays, and puts out colors that pack plenty of visual punch.

The rest of the phone, which measures 125.5mm x 66mm x 8.5mm (4.9in x 2.6in x .3in) in size and weighs 116.3g (4.1oz), is also good looking. The front features a hardware home button that is flanked by touch sensitive menu and back keys below the display and a forward facing camera sitting above it. The rear cover wraps around the 8 megapixel camera and LED flash of the Galaxy S II. It is nicely textured and can be removed to reveal the 1650mAh battery, the SIM card slot, and the microSD memory card slot. The phone features 16GB of internal storage, and no microSD card is supplied in the box.

The edges of the device are home to the volume control, power/standby button, 3.5mm headphone jack, and the uncovered micro-USB port. The design is simple, and somewhat Apple inspired, perhaps, but it is very workable and practical. And I just love the touchscreen.