Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket Review

November 7, 2011
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Dying to get on the AT&T LTE bandwagon, but prefer your phone to have some Samsung wizardry instead of HTC sensibility? Then take a look at the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket. This offshoot of the Galaxy S II is one of only two AT&T phones to take advantage of the new speeds, along with its launch partner the HTC Vivid. How does it stack up to the competition?

Hardware

The Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket (hereafter referred to as the "Skyrocket", because I've got other stories to write this week) is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: an update to the already solid AT&T version of the SGSII. Notable improvements include a slightly bigger 4.5-inch screen, a bigger 1850 mAh battery, a bump up to a 1.5Ghz dual-core processor, and of course an LTE radio. Otherwise, the Skyrocket looks and feels exactly like its forebear. The construction is quite light (for such a large phone) at 4.65 ounces, though the plastic components feel a little on the cheap side, especially the flimsy battery cover.

Like all Samsung phones as of late, the power button resides on the right side. Check out the left-side volume rocker, a MicroUSB port on the bottom and the headphone port on the top. Lever the battery cover open and you get access to the LTE mini-SIM and the empty MicroSD card slot, which is - yes! - accessible without removing the battery. For those who were wondering, yes, the Skyrocket does have NFC capabilities. Internal storage is a generous 16GB. In the packaging you get your basic wall adapter and microUSB cord, plus a free pair of headphones with an in-line microphone. Thanks, Sammy!

The screen is the Super AMOLED panel we've come to respect, but unfortunately Samsung's gone with the same 800 x 480 resolution as the Galaxy S and S II. Don't get me wrong, it's still a great-looking screen, with the expected vibrant colors and awesome viewing angles. But with high-end phones reaching towards five-inch screens, I'd like to see at least a qHD panel (like the Vivid, which unfortunately has a lowly LCD) to take advantage of the real estate. You can definitely notice the lower resolution on a jumbo-sized panel.

Software

TouchWiz phones: if you've seen one, you've seen 'em all. Samsung's custom UI is here once again, and if you're a fan, there's nothing to dissuade you - except for some strange slowdown on the homescreen and app launcher. It's really odd: I've seen phones with much lower specs handle TouchWiz without complaint, but on the Skyrocket slight jumps and jitters are clearly visible, even with a minimal RAM load. It doesn't take away from the experience or the generally pretty iPhone-esque interface, it's just annoying to see this little flaw on a phone with so much horsepower.

And on just about everything else, the Skyrocket, well, flies. The customized browser scrolls without any issue, switching between apps is fast, even opening up traditionally slow stuff like the camera app or a full software list blazes. And it should: the Skyrocket's 1.5Ghz processor scored nearly 2500 on the Quadrant benchmark, obliterating the HTC Vivid's score of 1680. Some quick tests with Wind-Up Knight and Reckless Racing bore it out: this phone is fast. Gamers, if you're looking for something that will stand up to the latest 3D releases, this is it.

There's a pretty significant load of AT&T bloatware on the phone, but at least some of it is user-removable. Some of the apps that insist on cluttering up the launcher are AT&T's QR code reader, AP Mobile, and AT&T Navigator (seriously, why?). None of them seem to be hampering the considerable performance, however. Gingerbread is the main course here, but AT&T has already promised to upgrade the Skyrocket to Ice Cream Sandwich.

Phone, Data and Battery

After testing a not-so-nearby AT&T LTE coverage area, the Skyrocket averaged 16-17 megabits down. That's not as high as we'd like to see for an almost unused network, but it's more than enough to handle whatever a basic user can throw at it, including high-quality music and video. In those places where LTE is not available, HSPA+ will have to do.

Phone calls were clear and without interruption as long as the bars were full. When I went into my home I'd get between one and three bars, and as usual, I could hear people on the other end of the line, but they often couldn't hear me. That's not a dig at the Skyrocket, that's just AT&T's coverage in my area - though that being the case, I'm always on the lookout for phones with excellent reception.

The battery is larger than the one on the SGSII by a good margin, the better to supply that power-hungry LTE radio. Though most of the time I was on HSPA+, the phone lasted all day and through an idle night with 30% battery remaining, a solid showing.

Media

The 8-megapixel camera on the Skyrocket is the same as on the SGSII, a respectable performer in high and medium light situations. Though you'll definitely get some grain in poorly-lit rooms, it's a better at stills and video than the one found on the HTC Vivid in every respect.

Thanks to that monster processor, video playback was smooth, and Samsung's TouchWiz editions make audio easy to manage no matter what you're doing at the time. The rear speaker isn't the loudest I've heard, but it's far from the softest either, and unless you're in the habit of listening to music in a loud environment, it'll serve.

Wrap Up

The Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket is a worthy successor to the SGSII, and since it's actually cheaper (for the moment) at $149.99, there's no reason not to go for it if you're an AT&T LTE customer. While the screen resolution is a little disappointing and the build quality could be better, it should please just about everyone - except for those who want to save a little dough by going with the HTC Vivid.

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  • Anonymous

    I bought a Galaxy SII last friday. Returned it yesterday and got the vivid. I played with the skyrocket and its a great phone. Im just not a fan of samsung plastic phones. Feels like a toy. So far im loving the Vivid. 

    I have no complaints. Seeing as how I liked the GSII, except for the build materials, Im sure people will not be disappointed with this phone. The screen looks amazing in person.

    • cdb707@gmail.com

      Just picked up my skyrocket and got trade in money for my captivate. Can’t beat that! The skyrocket is awesome
      Super snappy and Att is great in my area. Very happy.

  • edgar1013

    great write up! hoping to get the sr tomorrow for 150, otherwise get the regular gs2 for free on contract

  • Trinibagous

    Just bought 2 Skyrockets, yesterday 11-19-11, still getting used to it.  Had a problem setting up my optonline email account, found out how to set it up (had to do with the port, change from 110 to 587) which I read on FAQ here. Hope I will still like it a week from now.

  • touchWizard!

    I got the gs2 the week it came out and when the skyrocket came out, I went and got it. Gave my s2. To my girlfriend and sold her iPhone 4. I love the skyrocket! Its exactly like the s2 but with a bigger screen, bigger battery, processor is on par with the exynos but the only thing that sucks for me is I don’t get to try out the 4G LTE because its not supported in my area. Overall, you can’t go wrong with this phone. The screen is a bit pixelated but its not really that bad. This phone gets a lot of attention.

  • Damon Aldora

    I
    ordered my Galaxy SII Skyrocket not too long ago, and now the waiting begins! I’ve
    been keeping up on the specs of this phone, like the dual-core processor and
    4G. Those are the things I am most excited for. I’ve noticed on many different
    Android phones that the provider always manages to stuff some of their
    bloatware apps in the phone. Of course, the same will apply to this. It’s
    mainly TV apps like the U-Verse app that I find most useless. I can’t get
    U-Verse in my area in the first place, and secondly, I have a better app that I
    will be using and it is the DISH Remote Access app from my employer DISH Network.
    It lets me view live TV and recorded shows from my DVR anywhere I am. Having 4G
    on this phone (luckily I am in a supported area) should make streaming that
    much faster than my old 3G phone! I hope so anyways.

  • http://twitter.com/Undriee Onemondband

    this blog have rich great information about hi-tech , tks

  • http://www.trafficbuilder.biz/ seo service provider

    Just bought 2 Skyrockets,

  • Donny

    LOL my Xperia PLay overclocked @ 2.016ghz does 2564 on qaudrant…

  • JJOB

    My experience was very disappointing.   My Samsung Captivate died and I went to Skyrocket only to find that the Captivate was a superior phone.   First, the phone was hot in my pocket and the battery wouldn’t last 4 hours without use.

    Second, the phone does not work properly with Microsoft Exchange Server.   Wordwrap doesn’t function.   Samsung support told me it was not designed to work with MS Exchange Server.

    I paid the restocking fee and went to Nitro LG.   It is a delight and I found that the other functions such as the way it notifies, displays texting and email and handles other uses are far superior to the Skyrocket.

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  • Lee

    I dunno about the Skyrocket, but the regular ‘ole Galaxy SII has an absolute SH*T battery. I bought it because I heard it was a beast of a phone. Turns out a bought a device that bricks after a few hours of simply being on. Total crap. I’m going back to Apple, the phone may not be as cool, but at least I can count on it to have a charge.