Review

Introduction

Success breeds imitation and we have the next Galaxy S remake to bear witness. But make no mistake about it – the Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL is not just another clone. This time changes aren’t just skin deep.


Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL official photos

We are talking a new screen, a new CPU and a different battery here. Although it’s actually hard to notice a difference on the outside, save for a slightly thicker body. Basically most of the internals have been replaced, which may have or may have not resulted in a significant change in the user experience.

Key features

  • Quad-band GSM and tri-band 3G support
  • 7.2 Mbps HSDPA and 5.76 Mbps HSUPA support
  • 4″ 16M-color Super Clear LCD capacitive touchscreen of WVGA (480 x 800 pixel) resolution
  • Slim 10.9mm profile
  • 1GHz Cortex A8 CPU, PowerVR SGX530 GPU, TI OMAP 3630 chipset; 478MB of RAM available to the user
  • 5 MP autofocus camera with face, smile and blink detection
  • 720p HD video recording at 30fps
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b, g and n support
  • GPS with A-GPS connectivity; Digital compass
  • 4GB/16GB internal storage, microSD slot
  • Accelerometer and proximity sensor
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Secondary video-call camera
  • microUSB port (charging) and stereo Bluetooth v3.0
  • Android OS v2.2 (Froyo) with TouchWiz UI customization
  • FM radio with RDS
  • Adobe Flash 10.1 support for the web browser
  • Document editor
  • File manager comes preinstalled
  • Samsung Apps brings a few nice apps for free
  • Battery has increased capacity (1650 mAh) over the original Galaxy S (1500 mAh)

Main disadvantages

  • Super Clear LCD is somewhat inferior to SuperAMOLED
  • Camera lacks flash
  • No dedicated camera key
  • The all-plastic body is a real fingerprint magnet
  • Feeble loudspeaker
  • Increased thickness (10.6mm), height (123.7mm) and weight (131 g) compared to the original Galaxy S (9.9mm, 122.4mm and 119 g)
  • Less capable GPU compared to the original Galaxy S

The Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL is a victim of timing. It couldn’t have been less fortunate to follow in the footsteps of the original Galaxy S – knowing it will never be able to catch up. At least Samsung should know perfectly well what to expect.

This is not the first flagship they’re forced by circumstances to replace. Much like the S8530 Wave II, the I9003 is more of a substitute, rather than an upgrade. You can think of the I9003 SL as a way to make sure there will be enough AMOLED panels for the Galaxy S2 without the need to discontinue the original Galaxy S altogether.

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Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL at ours

The AMOLED shortage is to be felt for at least another while and Samsung are trying hard to work their way around it. We’ll have to see how this next attempt plays out. The I9003 has many people to convince that it’s a good enough replacement. Users have every right to be skeptical. It will take a good deal of persuasion to keep them from spending their cash elsewhere.

So let’s see if there’s life after SuperAMOLED for the Galaxy SL.

Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL 360-degree spin

The Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL is a fairly large phone – with a 4” screen it can’t help it. Yet the device remains pretty slim at 10.66mm so finding a place for it in your pocket isn’t all that difficult. The extra 1mm of thickness and height compared to the original Galaxy S is not a thing to notice or feel unless you hold the two devices side by side.

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Original Galaxy S (bottom) vs. Galaxy SL (top): you would hardly feel the difference

Most users are sure to find the weight of the I9003 passable at 131 g. It’s not the lightest handset around but it gives a nice solid feeling, that the original Galaxy S somehow lacked.

The I9003 Galaxy SL vs. the I9000 Galaxy S

The first thing to notice is that there’s nothing much new to notice about the Galaxy SL. All resemblance to the original Galaxy S is entirely on purpose. Not that you can hide the absence of a Super AMOLED screen for ever.

Anyway, the dotted rear cover is probably the biggest difference – it’s still there but a lot less prominent, which in fact is a point in favor of the new I9003 Galaxy SL.

And if the original Galaxy S could get away with almost anything thanks to the best screen in business, the sequel has a lot more on its hands. The Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL has a 4” Super Clear LCD screen of WVGA resolution. Just in case you have missed our display shootout, we’ll give you a short overview of the main pros and cons of Super Clear LCD over SuperAMOLED.

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But for the back it’s hard to tell the I9003 (right) apart from the original Galaxy S (left)

On the plus side, you get a brighter screen of somewhat better sharpness. What you are sacrificing however is the contrast, which is out of this world on the original Galaxy S and only average on the I9003. SuperAMOLED has the upper hand in sunlight legibility too (though the difference here is less prominent).

SuperAMOLED screens are known to have a greenish tint but they make up for it with punchy and saturated colors. And the Super Clear LCD on the I9003 has a touch of blue to its screen so its accuracy isn’t any better either. We got admit some of us preferred its less saturated output, so it might be a personal thing.

We wouldn’t say brightness itself matters all that much, unless you use your phone screen as a flashlight. It’s more a part of the sunlight legibility thing and as we said the Super AMOLED has a slight edge despite it’s a bit less bright.

All in all, the improved sharpness is too little to show for all those sacrifices so we can’t rate a Super Clear LCD screen as high as AMOLED. And that’s not even counting the lesser power-efficiency, which is why the Samsung I9003 has a larger battery in the first place.

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The Super Clear LCD screen (right) is some way off the SuperAMOLED standard (left)

But are we not going to deem the I9003 a failure. The thing is not everyone comes from a SuperAMOLED screen (indeed the S8500 owners might be the only ones who could consider this switch) and in the land of LCD, the I9003 isn’t doing bad at all.

It’s still a better screen than, say the Desire HD (we don’t count size here), and it probably only loses to the Retina display of the iPhone 4. Check out this next series of photos that compares the I9003 Galaxy SL display to the LG Optimus 2X screen.

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The Super Clear LCD compared to the Optimus 2X IPS LCD screen

We’ve also prepared a comparison video for you to see how contrast and color rendition change with angle.

It’s pretty hard to pick between those two as the Super Clear LCD of the Galaxy SL has an advantage in terms of viewing angles, while the Optimus 2X LCD has a slight edge in terms of color rendering.

Still the LG Optimus 2X pricing suggests that it should be well above the I9003 Galaxy SL league and the very fact that we are find the screens comparable flatters the Samsung smartphone. Having the second or third best LCD in business isn’t bad for a handset that’s about to go mid-range.

Controls and construction

Leaving the screen aside, the rest of the hardware of the I9003 Galaxy SL is the same as the original I9000 Galaxy S.

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Nothing has changed at the front

There are three keys below the display – capacitive Menu and Back buttons on either side of a hardware home key.

A long press on the menu key launches the search field, so in effect users have a dedicated search key too.

As usual, pressing and holding the home key activates the task switcher (which in turn has a shortcut to the task manager).

The power and screen lock key on the Samsung I9003Galaxy SL is placed high up on the right side of the handset. There is no camera key here, but there should be a way around this sooner rather than later. Custom ROMs for the original Galaxy had the power button serve as a shutter key in the camera app.

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The power key is high up on the right side

On the left, we find the volume rocker, which provides enough pressing area and good enough feedback to make usage trouble-free.

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The volume rocker is at the bottom

The bottom of the I9003 Galaxy SL has nothing but the mouthpiece.

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There’s not much to see at the bottom

On the top of the phone is the tiny sliding lid that covers the microUSB port. Next to it is the exposed 3.5mm standard audio jack.

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The two jacks are on top

At the back, we find the 5 megapixel camera lens and the loudspeaker grill. There is no flash of any kind so low-light photography or video capture is not the I9003 Galaxy SL element. It’s a pity this didn’t become the second Galaxy S to pack a flash, after the CDMA-based EPIC 4G.

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Again we don’t get a flash for the 5 megapixel camera

The microSD card slot is under the battery cover, but fortunately is hot-swappable. It handled a 16GB card trouble-free and support for 32GB is promised too.

The other element of interest under the I9003 Galaxy SL back panel is the 1650 mAh Li-Ion battery. Its large capacity however doesn’t give longer service than the 1500 mAh battery that powers the I9000, due to the more power-hungry display. You can still count on two to three days of heavy usage though.

An interesting detail – the new battery fits the old Galaxy S perfectly and doesn’t need a new back cover or anything.

The Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL is quite well built. We can confirm the I9000 ages pretty decently – scratches on the back panel and mostly the little chin on its bottom do appear over time and drops on rough surface cause damage to the frame around the display, but that happens to most phones out there. On the other hand you will have to try really hard if you are to damage the Gorilla glass-protected screen.

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The I9003 is easy to handle

The general ergonomics of the Galaxy SL is perfectly fine too. You might or might not want to work with a 4” screen, but if size doesn’t bother you, the display sensitivity is top notch and the controls are excellent.

User interface gets a Froyo boost

The Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL runs a TouchWiz-enhanced Android 2.2 Froyo. At this point most of the first-gen Galaxy S units have too received a Froyo update so the experience on those devices is pretty similar, if not identical. We’ll still list the changes brought by the OS upgrade here.

We’ll be reusing texts from past reviews but you should rest assured that we’ve updated all the content to match the Galaxy SL specifics.

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The interface hasn’t changed

Now let’s go through the user interface description quickly. The homescreen fits up to 7 panes, which can be managed quite easily. A pinch zoom on screen takes you to the edit screen where you can add, remove and rearrange the panes as you see fit.

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Editing the homescreen panes is as easy as it gets

The Samsung home-baked widgets are still here and even new ones are added. Some of them are preinstalled, while others are available for free from the Samsung Apps repository. Still there are so many of those available over at the Android market that custom widgets are hardly considered a selling point any more.

The four shortcuts docked at the bottom are still here. You use the rightmost of them to alternate between homescreen and app drawer and the rest can lead to whatever apps you want.

An interesting change brought by Samsung for the Android 2.2-compatible version of their TouchWiz launcher is the built-in task manager. Coming complete with a homescreen widget that shows the number of currently active apps, it saves you the need to install a task killer on your own.

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The Samsung task manager

It’s exactly that task manager and its readings that completely convince us that Samsung wasn’t completely honest when they announced the I9000 Galaxy RAM capacity.

Back in the day the company confirmed twice that the handset packs 512 MB, just like the I9003 Galaxy SL now.

However the new handset reports 478MB worth of available RAM (after the slice reserved for the OS), while the original Galaxy S was showing south of 340MB.

Obviously the original Galaxy S has some good 138MB less amount of RAM than the new SL despite Samsung claims both have an equal amount of 512MB on board. We suppose the less powerful GPU consumes less RAM, which explains where some of the difference comes from.

Moving on, the Android 2.2-running I9003 Galaxy SL brings a few new live wallpapers. Again, there are plenty of those in the Android Market, so it’s not much of a differentiating feature.

However the improved notification area is one of our favorites. Packing Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and Mute toggles since Eclair it now adds an automatic rotation switch. These handy shortcuts can save you a whole load of digging in the Settings.

The system lock screen has remained relatively unchanged – you now need to swipe to the left or rather (rather than upwards) to remove the virtual glass pane covering your phone. There are cool alternative unlocking patterns too when you have a missed event – a message or a call.

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The lock screen hasn’t changed either

Finally, we come to the performance. The Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL packs a new TI OMAP 3430 chipset, rather than the home-brewed Hummingbird on the I9000. Yet both of those have a 1 GHz Cortex A8 CPU on the inside so UI navigation is equally smooth. Froyo speeds up app performance too, though you probably won’t feel the update as a 2-5 times better as it says on the Froyo box.

However you should keep in mind that the Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL comes with the less powerful PowerVR SGX530 GPU, instead of the PowerVR SGX540. That should result in somewhat less stellar performance in apps that support hardware 3D acceleration.

Since our pre-release unit obviously had some issues with the benchmark tests we won’t be publishing its results for the time being. We’ll update the review once we get hold of a retail unit.

Phonebook gets an extra point for swipe gestures

A typical Android smartphone, Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL has a phonebook with massive functionality and practically unlimited capacity. However the Samsung customizations give it an edge against competitors that use the same platform.

We are mostly talking about the swipe gestures that really take functionality up a notch. In the main contact list, or any other list with names and numbers, a swipe to the right on a name will dial the contact’s default number, while a swipe to the left will start the New message interface.

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The phonebook does a great job * Swiping on a contact’s name or number in the log will start a call or launch the message composer

Of course, there’s also quick contacts pop-up support but those require two clicks rather than a swipe. On the other hand it also offers video call and email as options so it has its uses.

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The quick contacts feature

The handset displays the phone memory, SIM-stored and all Google contacts in the phonebook. There is a dedicated setting for that, so you really can have all of your contacts gathered in one place. You can search the entries by either flick-scrolling the list or using the alphabet scroll at the side of the screen (another Samsung-made feature).

There are many info fields that you can assign to each contact, but it still remains perfectly organized. You have all the types listed (numbers, email addresses, etc) and there’s a plus sign on the right – clicking it adds another item of that type. Pressing the minus sign under it deletes the unneeded field.

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Editing a contact’s details

Telephony works like a charm too

The I9003 telephony department remains unchanged after the updates. Considering that there isn’t a worthy feature that we can think of that was unavailable before that’s hardly a surprise though. We had no reception troubles or in-call voice quality issues either.

Smart Dial is here with one of the best implementations we have seen. The I9003 Galaxy SL searches both contact numbers and names. The number of results found is displayed next to the first pick and if you press that button the whole list appears.

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Smart dial is present

Thanks to the proximity sensor, your screen will automatically turn off during a call. The available options during a call include taking a note, using the keypad, muting, holding the call or adding another call to this conversation.

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The in-call screen

The call log is the tab next to the dial pad. It shows all the dialed, received and missed calls in one list sorting your call history by contacts. There’re also favorites and frequent contacts lists that show your starred contacts alphabetically and the numbers you have dialed most often by number of calls.

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Checking out the call log

Unfortunately, the loudspeaker performance remained below par. The I9000 was one of the quietest handsets we have put through our traditional loudspeaker test and even though the I9003 does a bit better it still fails to impressive. You should definitely keep a close eye on this one in noisier environments.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/Music, dB Ringingphone, dB Overall score
Samsung I9000 Galaxy S 66.6 65.9 66.6 Below Average
Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL 68.5 66.2 70.3 Average
HTC Desire HD 69.7 66.6 78.3 Good
Nokia N8 75.8 66.2 82.7 Very Good
HTC Desire 76.6 75.7 84.6 Excellent

You can find out more about our test here.

All-round messaging

The SMS and MMS messaging section is quite straightforward and simple – there are no folders here, just a new message button. Under that button is a list of all your messages organized into threads.

Swiping on a message header will do exactly the same as in the phonebook – a left swipe starts a new message, while swiping to the right will start a call.

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The I9003 Galaxy SL messaging

There’s application-specific search that lets you quickly find a given message among all your stored SMS and MMS.

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Searching for a specific message

To add message recipients, just start typing the corresponding name or number and choose from the contacts offered.

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There’s smart dial here too

Any unsent messages and drafts are marked with a “Draft” label so you can tell them apart from the rest. What we really like is that each thread keeps the text in the tap-to-compose box even if you exit without sending it or explicitly save it.

If you wish to manage a specific message in the history, you can press and hold a message to bring up options such as edit, forward and delete as well as view details and copy message text.

A press-and-hold in the tap-to-compose area gives you access to functions such as cut, copy and paste. You are free to paste the copied text across applications like email, notes, chats, etc. and vice versa.

Converting an SMS to MMS is logical and easy. When you add multimedia content to the message, it is automatically turned into an MMS. You can just quickly add a photo or an audio file to go with the text or you can choose to go into a full-blown MMS editor, depending on your needs.

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Adding any multimedia content automatically turns an SMS into an MMS

Moving onto email, the Gmail app supports batch operations, which allows multiple emails to be archived, labeled or deleted. Multiple Gmail accounts are supported.

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The Gmail app

There is also a generic email app for all your other email accounts and it can support multiple POP or IMAP inboxes. You have access to the original folders that are created online, side by side with the standard local ones such as inbox, drafts and sent items.

The I9003 Galaxy SL also sports a combined inbox, which brings together all your mail in a single folder so you don’t need to check each one for new mail. This can be quite handy if you have lots of accounts and you just want to check if there is a new message needing your attention.

As far as the text input options are concerned, the I9010 Galaxy SL GA comes with the Samsung home-backed keyboard preinstalled. It’s actually much more comfortable (and accurate!) than the often criticized stock Android QWERTY.

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The Samsung keyboard is pretty comfortable

And if you are for the ultimate speed there’s also Swype onboard. The innovative text input solution that took over the world is responsible for all current typing speed records. It does take some time to get used to, but after that it might even give you a chance to rival some hardware keyboards.

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Swyping on the I9003 Galaxy S

The gallery still downsizes the images

The Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL comes with the stock Froyo gallery, rather than a modified TouchWiz version. It has good functionality, cool 3D looks and nice transition effects, but unfortunately (and again) only shows a downsized version of your images.

Images and videos placed in different folders appear in different sub-galleries that automatically get the name of the folder, which is very convenient – just like a file manager.

The different albums appear as piles of photos which fall in neat grids once selected. If you have online albums over at Picasa those show up as separate stacks as well.

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The gallery looks nice

Alternatively, you photos can be organized by date with the help of a button in the top right corner, which switches between grid and timeline view.

In grid view, there’s a date slider, which can also be used to find photos taken on a certain date.

If you are checking out a photo, you can use the tabs at the top of the screen to jump back to the main gallery screen, without having to go through its folder.

The gallery supports finger scrolling or panning so you can skip images without having to return to the default view. Just swipe to the left or right when viewing a photo in fullscreen mode and the previous/next image will appear.

Thanks to the Galaxy SL multi-touch support pinch zooming is also available here but you can also use double tap or even the +/- buttons. Unfortunately zooming in isn’t going to reveal much more detail (if any at all).

The Android gallery still shows only downsized version of you images, though if you send one from here the full-res shot is received on the other end. We really think that fixing this should be high on the Google priority list. With large high-res screens like that modern day smartphones make for excellent picture browsing tools and this limitation is really taking most of the fun out.

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Unfortunately you are only getting downsized images here

There are tons of options for a picture – you can crop or rotate it directly in the gallery. The Send feature offers quick sharing via Picasa, Email apps, Bluetooth or MMS.

A pretty good video player

If video watching on a mobile is what you like to do the Samsung Galaxy SL looks like a great device for you. With powerful hardware, wide codecs support and a welcomingly large screen it’s pretty capable to say the least.

The dedicated video player app has a nice and simple interface that automatically disappears when not used to allow you to enjoy your videos in their full shine. The on-screen controls boil down to play/pause and skip buttons, as well as a draggable progress bar.

There’s DvX and XviD video support as with the rest of the Galaxy SL family.

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The I9003 Galaxy SL comes with a pretty solid video

Performance with higher-res videos is great – it played 720p videos like a champ. It’s no wonder, considering it can record 720p videos.

There’s a TV-Out feature (though it’s only SD) or you could use the DLNA support to stream videos and photos to your DLNA-enabled TV or media player (any PC with Wi-Fi and DLNA-capable software would do too).

The Outdoor visibility setting is also present. It boosts the brightness and contrast of your screen to give you better viewing quality outside. The video recorder also sports this option.

A fancy music player

The Samsung Galaxy SL makes use of the TouchWiz music player. The interface consists of several tabs for the sorting options: current playlist, all tracks, playlists and albums, artists and composers. You are free to remove those you don’t need to make the interface easier to navigate.

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The music player is nice looking and functional

In addition, Samsung has enabled equalizer presets on the Galaxy SL along with Samsung’s DNSe technology. You can use the Album art for the song (if present) or you can switch on the visualizations.

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The available settings and equalizers

The great feature that allows you to quickly look up a song on YouTube or via Google search is also here.

The handset also prompts you to select whether to look up the artist, the song title or the album. What’s even better, the YouTube search results are loaded straight into the YouTube client.

And with the added eye-candy, album view and song scrolling, things are almost as good as they can get now.

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Landscape view and scrolling

We won’t be publishing the audio quality results of the I9003 Galaxy SL for the time being due to the pre-release status of our unit. We’ll update the review once we get hold of a final unit.

FM Radio on board

The Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL is equipped with an FM radio with RDS too. The interface is simple – there’s a tuning dial and you can save as many as 6 stations as favorites. You can also listen on the loudspeaker, but the headset is still needed.

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The FM radio app

A decent 5 megapixel snapper

The Galaxy SL lineup is staying out of the megapixel race and the I9003 is no exception – it packs a 5MP camera, which seems to be the norm for higher end Androids. This one’s also bare of accessories though – no flash, not even a shutter key.

The user interface is standard Samsung for the most part – and that’s not a bad thing. It’s easily thumbable and offers readily accessible scene and shooting modes. Geotagging, face and smile detection are enabled too.

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The Samsung Galaxy SL camera interface

Similar to its galactic siblings, the I9003 Samsung Galaxy SL lacks a dedicated shutter key and the virtual shutter key that’s not even half-pressable are to the detriment of the camera but once you get used to it, Samsung’s solution is quite good.

You use the touch focus feature to focus on your subject and tap the shutter key – the camera auto-focus is among the fastest we’ve seen. This makes focusing on the subject (and possibly reframing the shot to observe the rule of thirds) by half-pressing the shutter obsolete. You frame the shot how you want it, focus on what you want and snap the photo – it takes some getting used to, but in the end it works fine.

The camera offers a wide range of photographic features, almost anything you can find in a cameraphone – blink detection, image stabilization, geotagging, smile detection, face detection and auto contrast.

The Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL image quality is about average for the 5 megapixel league. The resolved detail is hardly impressive but colors are nicely rendered and contrast is pretty good. The metering seems a bit too enthusiastic, which works out fine in most cases but results in highlight clipping slightly more often than usual.

Check out a few samples and judge for yourselves.

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Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL camera samples

Video recording is pretty fine

The Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL is capable of shooting 720p videos at 30fps. The achievement is pretty great, considering that there’s only one handset that does better so far.

The camcorder interface has the same layout as the still camera one.

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Camcorder interface

The HD footage recorded in mp4 format comes up perfectly smooth. Its image quality is decent and the amount of resolved detail is good (if unspectacular), but the colors are a bit oversaturated and the dynamic range could be a bit better. Still that might change when the handset officially hits the shelves.

You can also download this untouched 720p sample (15MB), taken straight from the device.

Strangely enough our I9003 lacked continuous autofocus when shooting video. Of course that could just be an issue with our pre-release unit as both the original Galaxy SL (after the update) and the Galaxy SL Giorgio Armani had this feature.

Connectivity well set

The I9003 Galaxy SL covers its connectivity bases alright – worldwide ready quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and tri-band HSPA with download rates of up to 7.2 Mbps and upload at 5.76 Mbps.

Similar to the first Galaxy S phone – the I9003 offers Wi-Fi (b/g/n), the new Bluetooth v3.0 with A2DP support and USB v2.0. The USB interface is standard microUSB, which makes finding a suitable cable a lot easier.

Besides its 16GB integrated storage, the Samsung I9000 Galaxy SL supports microSD cards of up to 32GB. The slot is under the battery cover. There is also 2GB of ROM, with 1.5 GB free space for app installation. As you know Android 2.2 Froyo enables installing apps on the memory card and the extra internal storage, so you shouldn’t be concerned about insufficient space.

The 3.5 mm standard audio port completes the connectivity tally. You can keep your favorite headphones and use them with the Galaxy SL hassle-free.

A great web browser

Solid web browsing has been an inherent part of the Android deal since day one. And version 2.2 Froyo is the fastest yet – and then there’s the Flash 10.1 capability, which really opens up the Web (which for better or for worse still relies heavily on Flash for video streaming and navigation).

The user interface is pretty much nonexistent at first sight. Once the page loads, all you see is the URL bar and the bookmark button on a line at the top of the screen. Once you zoom in and pan around though even that line disappears (scroll to the top or press menu to bring it back).

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The I9003 Galaxy SL comes with an excellent browser

That way you have the entire 4” screen for web browsing. The Galaxy SL browser supports two zoom methods – double tap and multitouch pinch-zooming.

The browser supports text reflow, but it works only with double tap zooming – a moment after adjusting the zoom level, columns of text adjust to fit the screen width. Without text reflow you will either have to zoom out until the text fits (but then it’s too small to read comfortably) or scroll sideways to read each line.

The minimalist UI is quite powerful – hit the menu key and six keys pop up. You can open a new tab, switch tabs, refresh the page, go forward, and open bookmarks. The final button reveals even more options (text copying, find on page, etc.).

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Multiple tabs management • page options and settings • bookmarks

The bookmark list shows a thumbnail of the bookmarked page and you also get a “most visited” list in addition to the history.

One of the best parts of the I9003 Galaxy SL web browser is the full Flash support. YouTube videos played quite smoothly (360p-480p), and so did the games from the mobile section of Kongregate.

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Playing Flash videos in the browser

Quite a few Flash games worked very well in the browser (and are optimized for touch control). The high-quality videos on YouTube and other Flash video services had some dropped frames, but the overall Flash performance turned out pretty decent.

You could use the YouTube app if you find navigating YouTube in the browser hard. The experience on the Galaxy phones such as this one of the best you can possibly get from a smartphone.

Organizer and apps

Quite expectedly the I9003 Galaxy SL comes with the ThinkFree Office pre-installed – it’s both a document viewer and an editor. It works like a charm and is capable of pinch zooming. Both panning and zooming are fast and the overall performance of the Office package is excellent.

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ThinkFree Office for viewing and editing documents comes preinstalled

The calendar has four different types of view – agenda, daily, weekly and monthly. Adding a new event is quick and easy, and you can also set an alarm to act as a reminder.

The agenda view shows a list of all the calendar entries from the recent past to the near future. It’s a very handy tool when you need to check your appointments for the next few days.

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The I9003 Galaxy SL calendar

There is also a calculator aboard. It is nicely touch optimized – the buttons are big enough and easy to hit.

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The calculator has two modes

The alarm clock app is descent and allows a huge number of alarms to be set, each with its own start time and repeat pattern.

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The excellent alarm options

There are also World Clock, Stopwatch, Timer and Voice recorder available.

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World Clock • Stopwatch • Timer • Voice recorder

As usual Samsung has included the My Files app – a simple to use but functional file manager, which also doubles as an image gallery. It can move, copy, lock and rename files in bulk, even send multiple files over Bluetooth. It will only browse the memory card and the large internal storage (it can’t access the inbuilt memory).

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The My Files app

GPS and navigation

The Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL comes with a GPS receiver, which locked onto satellites in about a minute with A-GPS turned off.

Google Maps is the titular application and its Street View mode is probably the best part of the deal in places where turn-by-turn voice navigation isn’t yet offered. If the Street View is available in the area you’re interested in, you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the area. When the digital compass is turned on it feels like making a virtual tour of the surroundings!

Voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation using Google Maps Navigation is only available in select countries and unless you live in any of them the best you can do is plan a route in advance and keep an eye on your current location during travel.

Our I9003 Galaxy SL came with Maps 4.5 but if you update it to version 5, you’ll get access to some great features. Offline rerouting is one – if you stray off your course, Maps will recalculate the route without the need for an Internet connection. You can’t change the destination without connection though.

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Google Maps 5.0

The I9003 Galaxy SL is on the list of devices that support all features of Google Maps 5.0 – 3D buildings (where available), two finger rotation, tilting and so on.

Android Market is where the fun starts

The Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL is running the latest available version of Android and has a WV screen, giving you access to the whole Android Market (some apps won’t run on older versions or low-res screens).

The structure of the Android Market is quite simple – featured apps on top and above them, three sections (Applications, Games and Downloads). There is also a shortcut up there for initiating a search.

The Applications and Games sections are divided into subsections (e.g. Communication, Entertainment etc.) so you can filter the apps that are relevant to you. Of course, there is also an option of displaying them all in bulk, but you’ll probably need days to browse them all that way.

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The are more than 100K apps and games in the Android Market

There are all kinds of apps in the Android market and the most important ones are covered (file managers, navigation apps, document readers etc.).

The Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL also has access to the Samsung Apps repository, where you can find some extra apps and games. We did find a few free gems there so you should definitely check it out.

Samsung I9003 Galaxy SL
Samsung Apps repository

Final words

The Samsung I9003 Galaxy S is a solid smartphone. It’s slim, it’s got lots of screen estate and oomph under the hood. But it fails to bring anything new to the table and by dropping the gorgeous Super AMOLED screen it has lost the Galaxy S line most important selling point.

There’s just nothing about the I9003 that can make it an obvious choice over competitors. It’s a solid device that – with the right price tag – may even get the nod ahead of the Desire HD. But it’s easy one to ignore too if your local pricing has gone through the roof.

But still there’s a scenario, in which the I9003 can justify its existence. The price of the original I9000 Galaxy S just can’t drop any further – considering the high production cost and short supply of AMOLED screens at this time. Plus we’ve heard that Vodafone will have the exclusive right to sell the SAMOLED Galaxies for some time, so the appearance of the Galaxy SL makes sense.

The Super Clear LCD screen makes the inevitable transition to a lower price tier. Potential customers will find it’s actually possible to live with a screen that’s not mind-blowing. As long as they’re charged a reasonable price. And it’s a nice LCD screen, we give it that. It’s just not SAMOLED nice.

SuperAMOLED is still the best screen in business and 2010 was the year of the mobile display tech. But 2011 is already here and there are more and better tricks that capture the users’ imagination. Many people will probably pick a dual-core CPU and a more recent Android version over a Super AMOLED screen. So it makes sense to keep the limited supply for the new flagships that are just around the corner. And by the way, this is an issue for the competition to consider too.

The HTC Desire is the perfect example of a phone affected by the shortage of AMOLED screens. Expected to cost about as much as an HTC Desire (which too runs the risk of not getting many updates from now on), the I9003 has a larger screen and loads of internal storage to show for it.

HTC Desire
HTC Desire

If you wouldn’t mind living with Android 2.1 Eclair and somewhat limited multi-touch functionality you might save yourselves a few bucks by purchasing the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10. You will also get a superior camera as a bonus for this deal.

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10
Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10

The Nokia C7 comes cheaper, too and packs an AMOLED screen, but the lower resolution, less internal storage and limited choice of apps mean that the I9003 is at least good a deal. Plus, Symbian^3 does need to sort its interface and web browser issues. The autofocus camera is another thing that can tip the scales in favor of the I9003.

Nokia C7
Nokia C7

The Samsung I9003 is by no means better by the original Galaxy S but this is not to be held against it. This is not a typical upgrade – it doesn’t follow the chain of command. It’s a substitute forced by circumstances much like with the Wave and Wave II. The Galaxy SL might be the right device for upgraders coming from the likes of the Galaxy Spica. All it needs is a properly adjusted price tag to prove that no AMOLED, no party is the wrong mentality.





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