One thing that makes it so special is the versatility that having a 1.2 dual core processor gives you, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the fact that the phone provides full HD video output to your television, so we thought we’d give it a little test to see just how good it was.
The fact is that with HD output via HDMI, a stonking 16 or 32GB of internal RAM, plus microSD storage up to 32GB, the S2 offers a nice specification for a media player. But can it stand up to real world work, and what do you need to make it all work properly?
The first thing that’s needed is to grab the essential components of a media center, and that’s basically connectivity and control. For our test we grabbed a Samsung brand MHL to HDMI TV Out Adapter which retails at £15.00/$24.00.
The thing to remember about this puppy is you need to plug in some power to make it work, which means you’ll need the Galaxy S2 power charger from the phone’s factory kit.
The next thing is a controller, which in this case is a Dual Connect Bluetooth Mini Keyboard with Mouse Track from Brando. This retails at a healthy $42.00, but for the price you get a proper QWERTY chiclet keyboard with a great battery life and the ability to Bluetooth sync with two devices, so you can have it working with the S2 phone as well as say a Playstation or iPad.
Unlike cheaper model keyboards, pairing this Brando Bluetooth keyboard with the Samsung smartphone is easy. Just push in the recessed pairing button for a couple of seconds and enter the pairing code on the keyboard when the phone flashes up the box. At that point you’ve got full remote control of the Galaxy S2 from up to 10 metres away, and yes Android does recognise the mouse movement cursor on the phone.
So from there it’s all downhill. Connect the phone to the HDMI adapter, plug in the power, attach the standard HDMI cable to your HD flat screen television and synch the keyboard to the phone. You do need to jiggle the phone to trigger landscape mode before retreating to the couch though. We fired up both the default Android video player and the free beta VLC player for Android and both worked flawlessly with the keyboard and high resolution video content. The phone supports 1080p output, plus DivX, MP4 and Xvid formats amongst others, and the video picture on TV is excellent.
There were some issues we noticed though, including a) a faint but perceptible jitter which occurs very rarely during high speed panning shots b) sound moving out of synch with video after a period of playback c) a learning curve requirement to work out which keys control which functions on the video player of choice. In the end we worked out that the small key with the mouse icon on it is the best for pause/stop and mouse button actions in general, after which things became a whole lot easier.
On the whole the experience is extremely impressive all round. You can genuinely kick back on the couch, and operate the phone using the keyboard as if it was a full blown laptop. In fact the video output is mind-bogglingly good when you remember that this is a PHONE! To clear up a couple of questions, no the handset doesn’t get overly hot, and no the battery doesn’t appear to lose charge while playing long movies even while plugged in.
The really impressive feature? Being able to stream YouTube, BBC iPlayer over WiFi to your TV at decent resolutions. It really means you can turn any dumb television into an Internet connected media box in seconds, which is extremely cool. Of course you’re going to have problems trying to stream very high resolution HQ YouTube over WiFi, but it’s still a really nice experience even in the lower resolutions. And of course we’ve not even touched on the photos and music multimedia options, which are also handled with ease.
The Samsung Galaxy S2 smartphone really does offer a close to laptop quality experience on the TV while operating as a media center. The hefty dual core processor, 1GB RAM, versatile video codecs and ample storage space mean that it’s probably the first mobile phone that comes out of the box ready for just about anything. The most serious problem we had was with the audio synch, but we’re not sure if that was a handset problem or something to do with the player or codecs, so we’ll keep testing. If you’re thinking about doing something like this, it’s also definitely worth while investing in a decent keyboard so you can remotely control the system without having to constantly get up from your seat.
PS Here’s a nice set of Tips & Tricks for the Galaxy S2 as a bonus for reading this far!