The new Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket for AT&T is hardly a far cry from its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S II, and that is a good thing. For a full review of the Samsung Galaxy S II, go here. With the Skyrocket, Samsung has made subtle, but significant changes to the Galaxy S II in the form of a larger display, a faster processor, and last but not least, they have thrown in 4G LTE support for AT&T’s up and coming 4G LTE network. Between all of these improvements, that basically makes the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket for AT&T the most powerful Samsung Galaxy S II model from all of the world’s carriers.
The Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket uses the same amazing Super AMOLED Plus display that can be found on the Samsung Galaxy S II and adds another .2 inches of display real estate for a total of 4.5 inches. That makes the Skyrocket similar in form-factor to the Samsung Infuse 4G for AT&T. Both phones also sport identical 800 x 480 resolutions. Fortunately, despite having bigger screen real estate, the Skyrocket has only slightly bigger dimensions than the original Galaxy S II. The Skyrocket measures 5.15” x 2.75” x 0.37″ and weighs 4.66oz, while the S II measures 4.96” x 2.60” x .35” and weighs 4.3 ounces. That means that the Skyrocket is a little bit thicker, wider, taller and heavier than the S II, but like the S II, it still feels lightweight for a device with such a big display. Fortunately, the extra screen real estate means that the onscreen keyboard feels more spacious. We only wish that they had bumped up the resolution to 960 x 540 which is the resolution of the HTC Vivid’s display. Furthermore, we almost wish that Samsung hadn’t increased the display on the Skyrocket to 4.5 inches. We actually feel like 4.3″ is more than enough, because even though the Skyrocket is just a bit bigger than the S II, we personally prefer the slightly more petite form-factor of the S II.
The design of the Skyrocket is also almost identical to the S II, however its edges are even more rounded and its battery cover has also been replaced with a smoother finish. Also, the flash on the rear-facing camera has been moved from the side of the lens, to below the lens.
Speaking of the camera, Samsung has not made any changes to the Galaxy S II’s camera, so the same excellent 8MP rear-facing camera that can be found in the S II, remains seemingly unchanged in the Skyrocket. We tried to decipher a difference between the two phone’s camera, but weren’t able to notice a difference in output quality. The front-facing camera also remains a 2MP snapper.
The Galaxy S II for AT&T packs in a 1.2GHz Dual Core processor. The Skyrocket ups the ante with a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm APQ8060 processor and 1GB of ram, along with 16GB of built-in storage. The Galaxy S II blew through Quadrant’s benchmarks with a score of 3078,
so it was a bit of a surprise to discover that the Skyrocket earned a score of 2518 in Quadrant. Don’t get us wrong, the Skyrocket feels just as responsive and fluid as the S II as far as everyday performance is concerned, but we were surprised that the benchmarks for the 1.2GHz processor in the S II are so significantly greater than the benchmarks on the Skyrocket. This really isn’t a deal breaker, but more of a peculiarity. Our only conclusion is that the 1.2GHz Samsung Exnyos C210 in the S II must be a faster processor than the 1.5GHz Qualcomm processor in the Skyrocket, after all, we know that when it comes to processors, higher numbers don’t necessarily mean everything.
Update 11/6/2011: We’ve performed a hard-reset on the device and the Skyrocket is now showing a benchmark score of 3148 in Quadrant Standard, so the device is indeed faster than the S II, but not all that much.
Software-wise, the Skyrocket comes running Android Gingerbread 2.3.5 and is preloaded with a nearly identical set of Apps to the S II, along with Samsung’s TouchWiz U.I.
Call quality on the Skyrocket is actually better than with the Galaxy S II. We could hear callers clearer and louder using the Skyrocket and they said the same of us. We wonder if this has to do with the Skyrocket’s hardware, or if it’s due to the 4G LTE SIM card that the Skyrocket is rocking.
But perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Skyrocket is its ability to run on 4G LTE speeds. Unfortunately we could not test the device to its full potential because 4G LTE is not yet available in New York City. However, AT&T says that 4G LTE will be available in 15 markets by the end of 2011, and we suspect that New York will be one of those first 15 cities, so we will make sure to update this post with speed tests as soon as 4G LTE is up and running.
Update 1/1/2011: Check out our 4G LTE speed tests here
4G LTE is the next generation of AT&T’s 4G network. It should be able to bring speeds of up-to 21mbps, although on a busy network speeds will likely average between 6mbps and 12mbps. Either way that means that tasks like making video calls, and streaming movies, should be a much more pleasant and smooth experience, as will web browsing and similar tasks. At the moment 4G LTE is available in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio, and as of Sunday LTE will go live in Washington D.C., Boston, Baltimore and Athens, Georgia. Data plan pricing for 4G LTE will be the same as it currently is for 3G and 4G HSPA+.
This review is actually incomplete until we get to test the 4G LTE speeds that the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket is capable of, and we are impatiently waiting for a chance to do just that. We’ll also be posting a review of the HTC Vivid, which is AT&T’s other new 4G LTE smartphone – as soon as we can properly test its 4G LTE capabilities. In the meanwhile we can say that the Skyrocket is more or less the same “old” Galaxy S II with an amazing display, performance, and camera, but just a little bigger and heavier. The Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket goes on sale tomorrow, November 6th, and it will retail for $249 with a 2 year contract.
The Good: Like the Samsung Galaxy S II but 4G LTE ready, excellent display, camera and form-factor, great performance
The Bad: AT&T 4G LTE only available in a few markets so far, benchmark performance is slower than the Galaxy S II, would have liked a higher res display
Update 11/6/2011: We just popped an AT&T 3G Sim in the Skyrocket and with the 3G SIM, data does not work on the device, but you can still make calls. So it seems like this device needs to have a 4G LTE SIM to soar. Either way, this can’t be good news for those who would want to unlock the device and use it with SIMs overseas.
Update 11/9/2011: We’re giving away the Samsung Galaxy S II, click here for more!