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Monster 21-foot crocodile captured

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Written on 2:06 AM by yahoo

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A monster 21-foot (6.4-meter) saltwater crocodile, believed to be the biggest ever captured, has been trapped in the southern Philippines after a spate of fatal attacks, officials said Tuesday.
The 1,075-kg (2,370-pound) male is suspected of eating a farmer who went missing in July in the town of Bunawan, and of killing a 12-year-old girl whose head was bitten off two years ago, crocodile hunter Rollie Sumiller said.
The hunter examined the crocodile's stomach contents by forcing it to vomit after it was captured Saturday, but there was no trace of human remains or of several water buffaloes also reported missing by locals.
"The community was relieved," Sumiller said of the capture, but added: "We're not really sure if this is the man-eater, because there have been other sightings of other crocodiles in the area."
The local government of the impoverished town of 30,000 people has decided against putting down the reptile, and will instead build a nature park where it will go on display.
Josefina de Leon, wildlife division chief at the Philippines environment ministry, said the beast was likely the biggest crocodile ever captured anywhere in the world.
"Based on existing records the largest that had been captured previously was 5.48 meters long," she told AFP.
The Philippine specimen would easily dwarf the largest captive saltwater crocodile, which the Guinness World Records website lists as Cassius, a 5.48-meter (18-foot) male which lives at an Australian nature park.
Press reports also describe other huge crocs including a 6.2-meter (20.3-foot) adult male killed in Papua New Guinea in 1982 that was measured after it was skinned.
The Bunawan hunting team, employed by a government-run crocodile breeding farm, began laying bait using chicken, pork and dog meat on August 15 in an attempt to snare the beast.
But the reptile, which measured three feet (0.91 meters) across its back, simply bit off both the meat and the line it was skewered on.
A heavy metal cable finally proved beyond the power of its jaws, and the beast was subdued in a creek late Saturday with the help of about 30 local men.
It was the team's second attempt after a failed expedition launched in response to the fatal 2009 attack.
Beyond the mark of the hook inside its upper jaw, the crocodile did not appear to have sustained any serious injuries, Sumiller said.
Bunawan Mayor Edwin Cox Elorde said the government would build a nature park showcasing the giant crocodile and other species found in the vast marshland on the upper reaches of the massive Agusan river basin on Mindanao island.
"It will be the biggest star of the park," Elorde told reporters.
Sumiller said the plan was the best option available for the creature.
"He's a problem crocodile that needs to be taken from the wild... and used for eco-tourism," he said.
Crocodylus porosus, or the estuarine crocodile, is the world's largest reptile. It grows to five or six metres in length and can live up to 100 years.
While not considered an endangered species globally, it is "critically endangered" in the Philippines, where it is hunted for its hide which is used in the fashion industry, de Leon said.
"There have been very few sightings of porosus in the wild in the Philippines in recent years," she added.

In July, a saltwater crocodile measuring almost 14 feet (4.2 meters) was caught on the western Philippine island of Palawan after it killed a man.



Men's Health All Terrain Race Photos 2011 and Result

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Written on 4:06 AM by yahoo

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Osama bin Laden, killed in Pakistan

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Written on 8:44 PM by yahoo

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(CNN) -- The most prominent face of terror in America and beyond, Osama Bin Laden, has been killed in Pakistan, U.S. officials said Sunday night.
Bin Laden was the leader of al Qaeda, the terrorist network behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. U.S. officials said that their forces have the body of bin Laden.
The enormity of the destruction -- the World Trade Center's towers devastated by two hijacked airplanes, the Pentagon partially destroyed by a third hijacked jetliner, a fourth flight crashed in rural Pennsylvania, and more than 3,000 people killed -- gave bin Laden a global presence.
The Saudi-born zealot commanded an organization run like a rogue multinational firm, experts said, with subsidiaries operating secretly in dozens of countries, plotting terror, raising money and recruiting young Muslim men -- even boys -- from many nations to its training camps in Afghanistan.
He used the fruits of his family's success -- a personal fortune estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars -- to help finance al Qaeda in its quest for a new pan-Islamic religious state. How much bin Laden got in the settlement of the family estate is still a matter of contention. Estimates range from tens of millions to hundreds of millions.
Even before September 11, bin Laden was already on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
He had been implicated in a series of deadly, high-profile attacks that had grown in their intensity and success during the 1990s.
They included a deadly firefight with U.S. soldiers in Somalia in October 1993, the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed 224 in August 1998, and an attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors in October 2000.
Bin Laden eluded capture for years, once reportedly slipping out of a training camp in Afghanistan just hours before a barrage of U.S. cruise missiles destroyed it.
On September 11, sources said, the evidence immediately pointed to bin Laden. Within days, those close to the investigation said they had their proof.
Six days after the attack, President George W. Bush made it clear Osama bin Laden was the No. 1 suspect.
"I want justice," Bush said. "There's an old poster out West that said, 'Wanted, dead or alive.'"
Osama bin Laden was born in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1957, the 17th of 52 children in a family that had struck it rich in the construction business.
His father, Mohamed bin Laden, was a native of Yemen, who immigrated to Saudi Arabia as a child. He became a billionaire by building his company into the largest construction firm in the Saudi kingdom.
As Saudi Arabia became flush with oil money, so, too, did the bin Laden family business, as Osama's father cultivated and exploited connections within the royal family.
One of the elder bin Laden's four wives -- described as Syrian in some accounts -- was Osama's mother. The young bin Laden inherited a share of the family fortune at an early age after his father died in an aircraft accident.
The bin Ladens were noted for their religious commitment. In his youth, Osama studied with Muslim scholars. Two of the family business' most prestigious projects also left a lasting impression: the renovations of mosques at Mecca and Medina, Islam's two holiest places.
As a young man attending college in Jeddah, Osama's interest in religion started to take a political turn. One of his professors was Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian scholar who was a key figure in the rise of a new pan-Islamic religious movement.
Azzam founded an organization to help the mujahedeen fighting to repel the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
Bin Laden soon became the organization's top financier, using his family connections to raise money. He left as a volunteer for Afghanistan at 22, joining the U.S.-backed call to arms against the Soviets.
He remained there for a decade, using construction equipment from his family's business to help the Muslim guerrilla forces build shelters, tunnels and roads through the rugged Afghan mountains, and at times taking part in battle.
In the late 1980s, bin Laden founded al Qaeda, Arabic for "the base," an organization that CNN terrorism analyst and author Peter Bergen says had fairly prosaic beginnings. One of its purposes was to provide documentation for Arab fighters who fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan, including death certificates.
Al Qaeda, under bin Laden's leadership, ran a number of guesthouses for these Arab fighters and their families. It also operated training camps to help them prepare for the fight against the Soviets.
In the early 1990s, with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, bin Laden turned his sights on the world's remaining superpower -- the United States. War-hardened and victorious, he returned to Saudi Arabia following the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan.
In a 1997 CNN interview, bin Laden declared a "jihad," or "holy war," against the United States.
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait provided the next turning point in Osama bin Laden's career.
When the United States sent troops to Saudi Arabia for battle against Iraq in the Persian Gulf War, bin Laden was outraged. He had offered his own men to defend the Saudi kingdom but the Saudi government ignored his plan.
He began to target the United States for its presence in Saudi Arabia, home to the Muslim holy sites of Mecca and Medina. With bin Laden's criticisms creating too much friction with the Saudi government, he and his supporters left for Sudan in 1991.
There, according to U.S. officials, al Qaeda began to evolve into a terror network, with bin Laden at its helm. Tapping into his personal fortune, bin Laden operated a range of businesses involved in construction, farming and exporting.
Although the U.S. government was unaware of it at the time, bin Laden was already actively working against it.
According to court testimony, he sent one of his top lieutenants, Mohammed Atef, to help train Somalis to attack U.S. peacekeeping troops stationed there. Bin Laden would later hint, during an interview with CNN, of his involvement in the deaths of 18 U.S. Army Rangers in 1993 in Mogadishu.
Also in 1993, terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in New York, killing six and wounding hundreds. Eventually, bin Laden would be named along with many others as an unindicted co-conspirator in that case. The mastermind of the attack, Ramzi Yousef, would later be revealed to have close ties to al Qaeda.
In 1996, bin Laden took his war against the United States a step further. By then, he had been stripped of his Saudi citizenship and forced by Sudanese officials, under pressure from the United States, to leave that country. He returned to Afghanistan where he received harbor from the fundamentalist Taliban, who were ruling the country.
By then, the United States had begun to recognize a growing threat from bin Laden, citing him as a financier of terrorism in a government report.
According to reports, however, the U.S. government passed up a Sudanese government offer to turn over bin Laden, because at the time it had no criminal charges against him. The Saudis, according to an interview with their former intelligence chief in Time magazine, also declined to take custody of bin Laden.
In Afghanistan in 1996, bin Laden issued a "fatwa," or a religious order, entitled "Declaration of War Against Americans Who Occupy the Lands of the Two Holy Mosques."
"There is no more important thing than pushing the American occupier out," decreed the fatwa, which praised Muslim youths willing to die to accomplish that goal: "Youths only want one thing, to kill (U.S. soldiers) so they can get to Paradise."
In his first interview with Western media in 1997, bin Laden told CNN that the United States was "unjust, criminal and tyrannical."
"The U.S. today, as a result of the arrogant atmosphere, has set a double standard, calling whoever goes against its injustice a terrorist," he said in the interview. "It wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose on us agents to rule us."
In February 1998, he expanded his target list, issuing a new fatwa against all Americans, including civilians.
They were to be killed wherever they might be found anywhere in the world, he decreed. This new fatwa announced the creation of the "The World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders" and was co-signed by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, head of Egypt's al-Jihad terrorist group.
Six months later, explosions destroyed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people and injuring 4,000 more.
U.S. prosecutors later indicted bin Laden for masterminding those attacks.
By the time three hijacked airliners struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, symbols of the U.S. business and military might, bin Laden's terror network had become global in its reach.
The organization soon became America's prime target in Bush's war against global terrorism. Bin Laden, its founder, became the most-wanted man in the world.
Then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell explained al Qaeda's network this way: "Osama bin Laden is the chairman of the holding company, and within that holding company are terrorist cells and organizations in dozens of countries around the world, any of them capable of committing a terrorist act."
"It's not enough to get one individual, although we'll start with that one individual," Powell said.
In statements released from his hideouts in Afghanistan after September 11, bin Laden denied al Qaeda was responsible for the attacks.
A videotape of bin Laden later obtained and released by the U.S. government, however, showed him saying he knew the September 11 attacks were coming, chuckling and gloating about their toll. Even with his knowledge of the construction trade, he said with a smile, he did not expect the twin towers of the World Trade Center to collapse completely.
Speaking in an earlier video recording that was first broadcast over the Arabic-language television network Al-Jazeera, bin Laden said America is "filled with fear from the north, south, east and west. Thank God for that."
"These events have split the world into two camps -- belief and disbelief," he said. "America will never dream or know or taste security or safety unless we know safety and security in our land and in Palestine."
Bin Laden had taken advantage of his time in Afghanistan, cementing his ties to the Taliban.
He was particularly close to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. He built a mansion in Kandahar but spent most of his time on the move around the country, according to intelligence sources.
Al Qaeda had a network of training camps and safe houses where recruits from around the world were brought for combat and weapons training and indoctrination.
As long as the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, bin Laden, his four wives and more than 10 children were able to avoid capture.
Before September 11, the Afghan government refused U.S. requests to turn over bin Laden. "Osama's protection is our moral and Islamic duty," one Taliban official was quoted as saying in July 2001.
As the United States bombing campaign helped the Afghan opposition drive the Taliban from power, however, bin Laden's days were numbered.
The reward on his head grew to $25 million. Countless leaflets advertising the bounty were dropped from U.S. airplanes, which flew with impunity over Afghan skies.
"We're hunting him down," Bush said on November 19, 2001. "He runs and he hides, but as we've said repeatedly, the noose is beginning to narrow. The net is getting tighter."
But he eluded U.S. and allied authorities during the war in Afghanistan, vanishing in December 2001, apparently fleeing during the intensive bombing campaign in the rugged Tora Bora region near the border with Pakistan.
"He's alive or dead. He's in Afghanistan or somewhere else," then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in April 2002 when asked about bin Laden's whereabouts.
No more videos showing bin Laden were released during the spring and summer of 2002 and there was speculation that he may have died during U.S. bombing raids in Afghanistan.
But audiotapes released in October and November 2002 and broadcast on Al-Jazeera were allegedly were from him. U.S. government experts analyzed the tapes and said the voice on the tapes was almost certainly bin Laden's.
On February 11, 2002, a new audio message purportedly from bin Laden called on Muslims around the world to show solidarity against U.S.-led military action in Iraq.
The tape was broadcast on Al Jazeera, which originally denied its existence. The voice on tape added that any nation that helps the United States attack Iraq, "(Has) to know that they are outside this Islamic nation. Jordan and Morocco and Nigeria and Saudi Arabia should be careful that this war, this crusade, is attacking the people of Islam first."

Osama bin Laden was killed by the U.S. forces

2

Written on 8:18 PM by yahoo

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[Updated, 11:11 p.m. ET] Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in a mansion outside the Pakistani capital of Islamabad along with other family members, senior U.S. official tells CNN.

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to address the nation shortly.

FULL STORY

[Updated, 10:55 p.m. ET] A woman whose mother was killed on American Airlines Flight 11 on September 11 expressed "relief" over reports that Osama bin Laden is dead.

In an e-mail to CNN, Carrie Lemack said:  "Cannot express how this feels to my family, but relief is one word.  We hope we can now focus on all that that madman took, namely nearly 3,000 + innocent victims, and not on him."

[Updated, 10:55 p.m. ET] Osama bin Laden is dead, sources told CNN Sunday night.

Congressional and administration sources say U.S. officials have the body of bin Laden, who was reportedly killed in Afghanistan. The details about his death were not immediately available.

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to address the nation shortly.

[Updated, 10:45 p.m. ET]  Osama bin Laden is dead, CNN's John King reported Sunday night, citing sources.

[Initial post, 10:09 p.m. ET] U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to make a statement Sunday night, tentatively at 10:30 p.m., the White House said. The subject of his address was not known.

Obama is expected to address national security in his speech, a source said.

Samsung Galaxy S II review

1

Written on 7:42 PM by yahoo

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If you don't already know all about the Samsung Galaxy S II, where have you been the past two months? The successor to one of the most popular Android handsets to date carries a burden of expectation almost as sizable as its 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus screen. It promises to be thinner, lighter, and faster than the Galaxy S that preceded it, while garnishing Android 2.3.3 with a set of TouchWiz customizations that might actually enhance, rather than hinder, the user experience. As such, the Galaxy S II earns Samsung full marks for ambition, but does this slinky new smartphone live up to its interstellar hype? The answer, as always, can be found after the break.


Hardware



The Samsung Galaxy S II is 8.49mm (0.33 inches) thick. We whipped out a ruler and checked, it's true. Admittedly, that measurement expands a little at the handset's bottom, where a curvy bump houses its loudspeaker, and around the camera compartment, which protrudes ever so slightly from the rest of the body, but even at its thickest point, this phone doesn't allow itself to go beyond the 1cm mark. Given the veritable spec sheet overload that Samsung has included within the Galaxy S II, we consider its thin profile a stunning feat of engineering. In terms of the pursuit of the absolute slimmest device, NEC'sMEDIAS N-04C is still the champ at 7.7mm, but global audiences should feel comfortable in replacing the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, which measures 8.7mm at its thinnest point, with the Galaxy S II for their benchmark slim device. 

More importantly, Samsung's new 4.3-inch handset feels better in the hand than the Arc, thanks to its intelligently curved sides that provide a comfortable and assured grip. The textured rear cover also feels good to the touch, and should withstand nicks and scratches a lot better than the original Galaxy S' backplate, though don't expect its featherlight construction to contribute much to the phone's overall rigidity. That will be provided by the still-mostly-plastic frame surrounding the phone's screen. We found little cause to doubt the Galaxy S II's durability, though we certainly wouldn't go recommending it as the phone for the builder in your life. There's a minuscule crevice between the handset's frame and screen that looks prone to gathering dust if exposed to dirty environments, and in spite of the generally reassuring build quality, the Galaxy S II is still made out of plastic rather than something more robust like HTC or Nokia's all-aluminum cases.

Returning to the screen, it's fronted by one continuous sheet of glass, which protects a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display along with a batch of sensors and a front-facing camera at the top, and two capacitive Android keys at the bottom. The earpiece and Home button are the only disruptions to the sleek glass surface. Whatever coating Samsung has applied to the Galaxy S II's screen works very well, as it resists smudges and fingerprint marks much better than the average smartphone. A volume rocker and a power / lock key each take up one side of the GSII, with a 3.5mm headphone jack adorning its top and a micro-USB charging / data port at the bottom. That's it, no frills, no extras, and -- to the dismay of some -- no dedicated camera shutter button. At least the controls you do get all work very well. The side-mounted buttons do their job without fuss and touchscreen responsiveness is impeccable. The Menu and Back keys are purely capacitive, whereas the Home button is, well, an actual button -- it requires you to physically depress it in order to register input. That distinction may feel a bit awkward at first, but we rather enjoyed it. It meant accidental key taps were all but impossible to achieve and gave a more definitive nature to punching the Home key, which somehow felt appropriate given the fact it yanks you out of whatever you're doing and back to the homescreen.

Display

The Galaxy S II's screen is nothing short of spectacular. Blacks are impenetrable, colors pop out at you, and viewing angles are supreme. This would usually be the part where we'd point out that qHD (960 x 540) resolution is fast becoming the norm among top-tier smartphones and that the GSII's 800 x 480 is therefore a bit behind the curve, but frankly, we don't care. With a screen as beautiful as this, such things pale into insignificance. And we use that verb advisedly -- whereas the majority of LCDs quickly lose their luster when you tilt them away from center, color saturation and vibrancy on the Galaxy S II remain undiminished. It is only at extreme angles that you'll notice some discoloration, but that's only if you're looking for it and takes nothing away from the awe-inspiring experience of simply using this device.

Whether you're pushing it to its limits with movie watching or just tamely browsing the web, the Super AMOLED Plus panel inside the Galaxy S II never fails to remind you that it's simply better than almost everything else that's out there. For an instructive example of the contrast on offer here, take a look at our recent post regarding the LG Optimus Big's upcoming launch in Korea. The pattern on that handset's white back was so subtle on our desktop monitor that we completely missed it, whereas when we looked at the same image on the GSII, it looked clear as day. Maybe that doesn't speak too highly of the monitors we're working with, but it underlines the supremacy of the display Samsung has squeezed into the Galaxy S II.

We'd even go so far as to say it's better than the iPhone 4's screen, purely because, at 4.3 inches, it gives us so much more room to work with. It's almost impossible to split the two up in terms of quality of output, they're both top notch. Notably, however, that was also true of Samsung's original Super AMOLED display, the one that graced the 4-inch Galaxy S, and by now you must be wondering if there's actually anything significant enough in the new S-AMOLED technology to justify appending that "Plus" to its name. The short answer is yes, and it's all in the pixels.

The one major downside to the original Super AMOLED panel was to be found in its PenTile matrix subpixel arrangement. It employed an RGBG pattern, wherein you got two green subpixels for every pair of red and blue ones, but the overall resolution was counted on the basis of green subpixels. Ergo, a PenTile 800 x 480 resolution wasn't as rich at the subpixel level as your standard RGB screen (768,000 versus 1,152,000), which resulted in slightly grainier images than would otherwise have been the case. Well, that "otherwise" scenario is now with us, because Samsung has switched to a Real-Stripe RGB array in the 4.3-inch Galaxy S II, which means it packs the full 1.152 megasubpixel count and, as we've already noted, the display looks delectable for it. A lesser criticism of the original Galaxy S was that its colors were a little blown out and oversaturated, but that's once again rendered moot on the successor device -- a software setting called Background effect allows you to tweak saturation, so if you're feeling a little melancholy, you can tone down the intensity of your handset's colors to match your ennui. Basically, if we haven't made it clear already, this is everything that Super AMOLED was, minus the bad parts and plus an extra .3 inches in real estate. A triumph.

Okay, there is one mildly irritating aspect about the Galaxy S II's screen and that's the auto-brightness -- it tends to hunt around for the correct setting and occasionally makes jarring jumps between darker and brighter values. Whether that's down to the ambient light sensor or the software reading data from it isn't all that important, what's relevant is that we found ourselves more comfortable with a human helming the brightness controls.

Battery life

The story of the Galaxy S II's battery life cannot be told without returning to its luscious screen. Being an OLED panel, the 4.3-inch display here doesn't use one single backlight as LCD screens do, and instead only illuminates the pixels that are needed to actively display content. This is the reason why it can generate truer blacks than any backlit panel, but it also permits the user to optimize battery life by doing such things as switching to a darker wallpaper or reading ebooks against a black background. We didn't actually bother with such tweaks, we were too busy exploring every one of the myriad features on this phone, but the option's there as an extra dimension of obsessive control if you care for it. As to the Galaxy S II's actual endurance, we found it highly competitive with the latest batch of Android phones. After 20 hours, half of which were filled with the above tinkering and exploration, we managed to drag the Galaxy S II down to 15 percent of its original charge. This was with our usual push notification suppliers, Gmail and Twitter, running in the background and while constantly connected to our WiFi network. 

Using the Android System Info app (available for free on the Android Market), we found confirmation that the Galaxy S II is indeed running a 1.2GHz ARMv7 dual-core processor, but more importantly, we also dug up a breakdown of how often the SOC was reaching that max speed. Only 9.2 percent of our use harnessed the full 1.2GHz, with Samsung wisely downclocking its chip to as low as 200MHz when the phone's idling (that accounted for 46 percent of the Galaxy S II's uptime). What's impressive about this is that we never hit upon any performance bumps to indicate that we were running at slower speeds. Clearly, Samsung's power management system is doing its job well. In summary, we expect you'll be able to get a decent couple of days' regular use out of the Galaxy S II -- our experience with it mirrored what we got out of HTC's Incredible S and Desire S that recently crossed our review bench -- though processor-intensive activities like HD video playback will eat into that, as will the variability of 3G coverage. What we can say with absolute certainty is that the Galaxy S II is no slouch when put against its contemporaries, and it also marks a definite improvement in longevity over the original Galaxy S.

Loudspeaker / earpiece

The loudspeaker is surprisingly passable, hell, it's more than passable. We're probably being swayed by the gorgeous screen on this phone, but playing back video without relying on headphones feels just fine, unlike the usual grinding chore that it is on most current phones. That being said, Tinie Tempah's Pass Out -- a song that starts out dominated by deep bass -- sounds like a hilarious remix of the original on the GSII owing to the speaker's inability to dip down low enough to sound out the track's bassline. Bass deprivation is a typical shortcoming of smartphones, which isn't looking likely to find a fix any time soon. You still won't be forced to abandon your dubstep addiction while on the move, however, as Samsung bundles a solid pair of in-ear headphones that do a very respectable job of both isolating external noise and delivering audio to your cranium. Including an in-line mic that doubles as a music play / pause button is no bad thing either. We'd be remiss not to point out that the Galaxy S II's loudspeaker is positioned rather poorly -- it and the two slits cut into the phone's rump for its output face the rear. Laying the handset down on a flat surface immediately alters the sound and a stray finger - a single fleshy finger -- can mute almost everything.

The earpiece performed as close to the middle of the road as you can get. Calls sounded good on our end and equally so on the other side. We had a couple of garbled moments during one conversation, but that's more likely due to network performance than some fault on the Galaxy S II. As to the network itself, the GSII exhibited no reception issues or aberrant behavior, though we weren't able to check out its rated 21.1Mbps HSPA+ speeds on our UK carrier.

Camera

Samsung eschews the default Gingerbread camera app for its own effort, which comes with a neat slice of customization. The left menu column gives you three shortcut slots for the functions you consider most relevant to your photographic exploits. By default, two of them are populated with a button to flip between the rear-facing 8 megapixel and front-facing 2 megapixel camera and another one for controlling the flash, but you can do whatever you fancy. Resolution, ISO, scene and shooting modes, or adjustments like white balance, contrast, metering, and after-effects can all be included in there. And if you consider different things important when in video mode, that's no problem, because that retains its own set of shortcuts separate from the stills mode. It's a fully realized suite of options, even if most users will neglect the left side and just keep bashing the capture key on the right.

When they do so, they'll be treated to some excellent results. The camera compartment on the back of the Galaxy S II justifies its size (it's still tiny, it just happens to protrude a little bit from the ultrathin GSII body) with the collection of great detail in nearly every shot. What most impressed us about this sensor is that images remained relatively sharp at full resolution -- such as the one you see above, it's a 100 percent crop from an 8 megapixel capture -- with Samsung feeling confident enough in the quality of its hardware to apply almost no noise-reducing blur under default settings. That does permit for graininess to sneak into some images, but on the whole, we're looking at one of the finest smartphone camera sensors around. Closeup shots are handled very well too, in spite of the lack of a dedicated macro mode (There's a Macro setting under the Focus mode menu; thanks, Josh!). The flash is a typically overpowered LED unit, though we were impressed to see the Galaxy S II use it while focusing on a nearby object but not while shooting -- had it been used in the shot, the flash would've whitewashed the entire composition, so it's good to see the software showing a timely bit of restraint. 

The only real issue we encountered was that that the GSII's sensor has a predictably narrow dynamic range, meaning that photographs with high contrast between dark and well-lit areas end up with either deep shadows or blown out highlights, depending on which you opt to focus on. Then again, that can lead to some highly artistic / moody shots, so we're not too sure this is a major downer. A limitation, sure, but not something that will seriously impact your enjoyment of snapping pics with this phone.

As to video, it too looks crisp and sharp, though the ever-present rolling shutter effect is very much in evidence when there's rapid motion on screen (see the bus passing by in the sample below). Provided you don't insist on panning around too quickly or recording hound races from the sidelines, that shouldn't pose much of a problem. There's little in the way of image stabilization too, but again, so long as your ambitions stretch no further than casual HD video, the Galaxy S II should prove more than sufficient.


Even when pushed to record at 1080p, the Galaxy S II showed no sign of slowdown or even any processing lag. Speed of operation, both in stills and video, is as fast as we've seen yet. The time taken to enter the camera app, process one image and be ready for the next, and to switch between camera and camcorder modes was in all cases supreme. We consider that a big part of a successful camera's mechanics -- being able and ready to respond to the user immediately instead of making him -- so the Galaxy S II scores another big tick from us. Samsung also provides a Photo editor app that lets you tweak, crop and stylize your imagery. It covers all the basics and throws in a few fun extras for those who like to experiment.

Software


General responsiveness is absolutely exemplary. If you've read what we had to say about the G2x and the way it simply flies through homescreens, menus and applications, you'll know that we have a high bar for Android performance already set, but the Galaxy S II beats it anyway. There's simply never been an Android handset this smooth and this fluid in its operation. Nothing phases the GSII, and the only time we got it to show any performance dropoff was in enacting a pinching gesture on the home screen to bring up an Exposé-like overview of all seven homescreens. That's seven fully loaded-out homescreens with information updating live (multiple clocks plus news and weather feeds) and the only thing that recipe for memory overload produced was a slight stutter in animating the zooming effect. There's just no getting around the extravagant amounts of power this device has and we can't wait to see Samsung jam one of these Exynos chips inside a future tablet or two.

We know you like your benchmarks, so we might as well hit you with those all-important numbers. Do take heed, however, that graphical tests such as those in Quadrant and Neocore perform at the phone's native resolution, which will bias results in favor of lower-res screens -- so don't take what you see as a conclusive performance comparison, use it just as an indicator. With that out of the way, here are the scores: Quadrant gave us results in the 3,000 to 3,400 range, Linpack produced an average of 47 MFLOPS, and Nenamark and Neocore both brought in a 59.8fps average that was limited by a 60fps software cap on the phone (a suspicion that was further confirmed by running Fps2D and seeing the same behavior). It's a shame that we weren't able to properly quantify the true maximum capability of the Exynos dual-core chip and Mali-400 graphics within, but that Quadrant score can be taken as highly representative of the chasm that exists between the Galaxy S II and smartphones that have come before it. It really is that much better. Put simply, this is the most powerful mobile handset we've yet tested.

Browser

Browser performance is superb in terms of speed but a little troubled when it comes to rendering. In our use of the Galaxy S II, we were consistently met with pronounced aliasing when viewing webpages from a more distant, zoomed-out view. There were no issues in terms of the structure of the page, all sites organized themselves exactly as their makers designed them, but pulling out for an overview brought out the jaggy lines and generally looked unattractive. That's not, however, a functional flaw, it's just a superficial scratch on a muscly brawler. In terms of actually navigating webpages, the Galaxy S II is outstanding. Page scrolling is so smooth it borders on slippery, pinch-to-zoom is flawless, and re-orienting the screen from portrait to landscape and back is done in a flash. 

Oh, did we say Flash? One entirely aberrant aspect of our review handset was that we couldn't get it to play back any in-browser Flash content. Instead, it encouraged us to upgrade our Flash Player. We did so, downloading and installing Flash Player 10.2, but still had no joy. This seems like an unhappy fluke and we'll see how Samsung responds to our queries on the matter.

Update: Thanks to our reader David, we've now figured out the root of this little problemo. Turns out the browser required us to tick an "enable plugins" box to get Flash running. We did so and, sure enough, in-browser Flash was a go. Frame rates have been consistently high across multiple websites and videos, which is in keeping with the rest of the Galaxy S II's performance.

TouchWiz 4.0

Android should already be a familiar friend (sometimes foe) to most of you, so we'll just go ahead and dive right into what Samsung has built atop the Android 2.3.3 base on the Galaxy S II with its latest set of OS customizations, dubbed TouchWiz 4.0. For a deeper exploration of what's new and improved in the Gingerbread iteration of Google's operating system, check out our Nexus S review.

We start at the inevitable beginning, namely the lock screen. The Galaxy S II's lock screen won't offer the same hotbed of activity that you might find in HTC's new Sense 3.0, but it does come with some pretty awesome functionality of its own. Missed calls and unread messages become little tabs on the side of your locked GSII, which you may swipe into view and thereby unlock the phone straight into the message or call that needs your attention. It's slick, as fast as everything else on this speedster of a phone, and it adds real utility to your day-to-day use. Speaking of calls, your options when receiving one are to to pick up, hang up, or reject with a text message -- with a slide-up menu offering you the most common apologetic missives to send out. When the shoe's on the other foot and you're seeking to reach out to your nearest and dearest, swiping right on their name in the Contacts list will initiate a call, while swiping left will start the composition of a text. Each contact card also comes with a history of communications between you and the other party, providing gentle reminders of when you last checked in with your neglected friends. The Galaxy S could do some of this fancy stuff too, but that shouldn't take away from the fact that we're looking at genuinely useful additions that enhance the Android user experience.

Long-pressing the Home button brings you to an app switcher exhibiting six of your most recently active apps, with a Task Manager loitering with malicious intent beneath them. Entering that Manager lets you view active tasks along with their RAM and CPU cycle consumption, with an option to kill them if you feel it necessary, and to then flush from the phone's memory any remnants of their operation. Not that you'll really need to be micromanaging either of those things with 1GB of RAM and oodles of processing power, but still, it's a useful feature to have. Also available is a Program Monitor widget for your homescreen that shows the number of active applications at any given time and links you into the same Task Manager menu. Looking at its fluctuating count, we could see the phone was selectively deactivating some apps as we increased the number of open programs. That never led to us losing data or having to restart apps, so whatever resource management is kicking in looks to be doing its job judiciously and with precision.


Samsung also throws a trifecta of motion sensor-assisted functions into the Galaxy S II. The first is something you might be familiar from HTC's Sense: flipping the phone to face the floor mutes all sounds, whether they be incoming calls or media playing on the device. Unlike HTC's implementation, however -- which had an unfortunate tendency to be hit and miss in its recognition -- Samsung's "Turn over" feature works without hitch each and every time. We're big fans of this seemingly benign option because it combines the physical gesture of turning the sound source away from you with the software response of switching all audio off. It feels natural and can be seen as a representation of where phones may and ought to be headed, to a place where they predict and judge your intent using a higher level of intelligence than the usual impassive expectation of conventional input.

The other two motion controls are truly novel and, we suspect, will be quite neat party tricks for Galaxy S II users to show off. Tilt-zoom gives you a new way to zoom within the browser and picture gallery app, whereby you tilt the phone up to enlarge an image or down to shrink it. This is activated by placing two fingers on the screen simultaneously and comes with a sensitivity adjustment for users to tailor it to their whims. We don't know if we'd ever come to use tilt-zoom over the tried and tested pinch-to-zoom functionality -- which is naturally also present here -- but the Galaxy S II makes zooming of any kind a pleasure to behold. As already outlined above, this phone just executes zooms and animations exactly as they were meant to be done. Having dealt with tilting, Samsung also gives us a panning motion function, which comes in handy when reorganizing your homescreens. There are seven of them in total and any grizzled Android user will know the chore of having to transition through multiple screens to get an icon positioned just right. Samsung's bright idea here has been to use the accelerometer to recognize the phone's lateral motion and react to it by moving you through the homescreens. This motion-aided panning is only accessible when you're rearranging your widgets or shortcuts, but once you understand that a 90-degree turn will jump you three homescreens in a given direction, navigation can be made delightfully quick.

The Galaxy S II's onscreen keyboard is terrific, allowing us to get up to a fast typing speed within almost no time at all. Samsung needn't feel too smug about it, though, as this is an almost identical recreation of the default Gingerbread button pad. The Korean company has opted to include a dedicated button for voice input in the place of the comma, which is now relegated to hanging out with the rest of the punctuation crew in the secondary keyboard mode for symbol / numerical input. We're not thrilled by this change, as we use commas a hell of a lot more than voice input, but we recognize the reason why Samsung did it -- two of its pre-launch ads for the Galaxy S II were focused on the use of its Voice Talk feature to perform effortless handsfree communication. Only problem is that the reality of using the Vlingo-powered Voice Talk is more an exercise in frustration than anything else. It's also been given priority by dedicating a double-tap of the Home button to it (from wherever you are on the phone), but once you actually get into the app itself, you clash with slow (purely because of the software) operation, a consistent failure to properly recognize common words, and a generally unrewarding user experience. It's a gimmick, pure and simple. Whatever value you extract from using it will be be the result of sheer stubbornness on your part rather than good software design.

Alas, we can't say anything much more positive about Samsung's set of Hubs on the phone. There are Game, Music, Readers, and Social Hubs, however we found everything other than the ebook reader a waste of time. The Game Hub doesn't yet offer anything that differentiates it from simply searching out games on the Android Market, the Music Hub tries to sell you stuff without providing a compelling reason to jump into yet another online music store, and the Social Hub tries to convince you that you need it to organize all your social feeds, messages, and email. Such centralized control might have been handy earlier on in Android's development, but the native Gmail and Gtalk apps have evolved to provide trouble-free use, while the Twitter client for the platform is now more than mature enough to handle itself. What we're looking at, then, is redundant functionality. The Readers Hub, as we say, is the one that we can see ourselves actually using, mostly owing to the inclusion of the Kobo e-reader software, though it too seems geared more toward selling you stuff than actually serving users' needs.

We'll finish off with a quick run through the rest of Samsung's additions to the Android experience. Sharing over DLNA is made stupidly simple with the AllShare app, and if you're on a Windows PC, you can just browse through the device's stored music, video and pictures and access content on the fly. The whole process is as seamless as it is wireless. The persistent "dock" at the bottom of the homescreen is not customizable (as it is on Sony Ericsson's latest batch of Android phones, for example). It gives you access to your Phone, Contacts, Messaging, and Apps list, and hopes you'll like them, because if you don't... tough! The Applications menu isn't the best we've ever seen either. Don't get us wrong, its navigation exhibits the same stupendous speed and responsiveness as the rest of the phone, but automated reorganization into alphabetical or date order isn't available. You can only switch to a list view or manually rejig the way the apps are listed on each page. Screenshots of whatever the Galaxy S II is displaying can be taken by pressing the Home and power buttons simultaneously. It's not yet a common feature among Android devices, but we'd like it to become one. We're also happy to see Samsung maintain its long-held tradition of providing some of the weirdest ringtones around, the vast majority of which seem wholly unsuitable for anyone but the most obnoxious of users. Nevertheless, we did manage to unearth a rare gem in the Cassiopeia tone, which sounds like a slowed-down version of theMetal Gear Solid codec chime.


Wrap-up


For a handset with such a broad range of standout features and specs, the Galaxy S II is remarkably easy to summarize. It's the best Android smartphone yet, but more importantly, it might well be the best smartphone, period. Of course, a 4.3-inch screen size won't suit everyone, no matter how stupendously thin the device that carries it may be, and we also can't say for sure that the Galaxy S II would justify a long-term iOS user foresaking his investment into one ecosystem and making the leap to another. Nonetheless, if you're asking us what smartphone to buy today, unconstrained by such externalities, the Galaxy S II would be the clear choice. Sometimes it's just as simple as that.

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