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Review: Is Samsung's Galaxy S III worth all the hype?

Written by Andre Yoskowitz (Google+) @ 03 Jul 2012 23:37 User comments (14)

Review: Is Samsung's Galaxy S III worth all the hype? Samsung's latest flagship device, the Galaxy S III, is easily the most hyped Android device of the year, and possibly of all-time. The question is whether the phone is worth the hype, and whether it appeals to the broad spectrum of Android fans out there.
While the specs aren't too different from competitors like the HTC One X, what really differentiates the device is its software, which is quite frankly Samsung's own evolution of Android, itself. Built on Android 4.0, the S III adds new features on top of its standard TouchWiz UI (now Nature UX), including S Beam, S Memo, S Planner, S Voice, Smart Stay, Direct Call, and early access to the new Flipboard Android app.

Specs and Design



Side-by-side with Galaxy Nexus

For the AT&T model being reviewed, the device runs on a lightning-fast Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor at 1.5 GHz. The phone has 2GB RAM, an 8MP camera, a front-side camera, AT&T's LTE access, a 2100mAh battery and a microSD slot.

Overall, the specs are high-end for the current generation, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Moving to design, there has been considerable complaints about the looks of the device, but I don't see why. The phone is sleek, especially in blue, and has a minimalist feel to it. There is little room on the bezel around the large 4.8-inch screen, and there is a single button in the bottom center, replicating Apple's Home key and past Galaxy S devices. The "back" and "menu" buttons are hidden while the screen is off but visible when lit. The design is curved and has a faux-brushed aluminum blue.

It does somewhat cheapen the look and feel of the device, but it in no way makes the device look "ugly." The glossy plastic back cover is a magnet for fingerprints and is also one of the first devices I've seen that is completely flat. I prefer the look and feel of the Galaxy Nexus and the HTC One X, but that is also subject to personal preference. Ergonomically, even at its size, the phone fits well in your hand and is balanced. No issues there.



Display





The screen is the biggest deal when even speaking about the Galaxy S III. The device is using a massive 4.8-inch AMOLED display with a 1280 x 720 resolution. The screen uses Pentile tech, which has been a severe problem in past devices but is not a problem at all in the GS III. For lack of more eloquent terms, the display is fantastic. Bright, great contrast, great colors, sharp edges with the exception of the classic Samsung "blue tint" that becomes only slightly visible at certain angles. Any "Pentile blur" is not noticeable, even after extended use.

Response to touch and motion works without issue and without lag, as it should.

Performance and Battery Life





In terms of performance, the device knocks it out of the park.

The Quadrant score came in at 5080, the same as the HTC One X with the same Snapdragon S4. The performance is double that of the Galaxy Nexus and most other phones. However, this device cannot even live up to itself, when using the Exynos 4 quad-core chip it was built for. Unfortunately, the Exynos cannot work with LTE radios, just yet.

Framerate is fast, gaming performance is fast and the chip is efficient, as well.

Battery life is solid for a device with such a large and bright screen, although it is nothing to truly write home about. The large 2100mAh battery, bigger than any battery with the exception of the Moto Razr Maxx and Galaxy Note, certainly helps. With little to moderate use, and LTE on/Wi-Fi off, the device lasted just over 3 days. Using the screen for extended periods, however, will dramatically cut that time down, as expected. Expect 18-24 hours with regular/heavy use.

AT&T's LTE was fast and stayed connected with little to no issues at all during testing.

Camera





Without having used the Nokia Pureview, I can say the Galaxy S III has the best camera I have used on a smartphone that was not tweaked.

The overall photo quality is excellent and the pictures remain sharp and with colors even at full resolution.

Unlike the iPhone, the GS III does not allow for tap-to-focus, but luckily it chooses the correct target most of the time. There are multiple shooting modes, including Single, Burst, Best HDR, Panorama, Share Shot and Buddy share. Burst allows you to shoot up to 20 pictures in "a burst" at 2.8 photos per second. Best will take 8 shots in a burst and pick the best one depending on lighting conditions, red eye, blinking, etc. HDR is one of the "cooler" features, which takes three fast photos in succession, one in high-exposure, one in mid and one in low. The software then combines the photos keeping the best details from each.

As is now standard, you can take stills while filming video, in 16:9 resolution.



Software





Here is the bread and butter of the new flagship. Samsung has added a host of new features on top of its standard TouchWiz UI/Nature UX, including S Beam, S Memo, S Planner, S Voice, Smart Stay, Direct Call, and early access to the new Flipboard Android app. I have never been too much of a fan of TouchWiz as I feel in terms of aesthetics it cannot compare to vanilla Android 4.0. However, it is hard to notice on the GS III, especially with a bevy of live wallpapers including deep sea jelly fish and luminous dots.

Smart Stay is one of the more useful of the new features, making sure the screen doesn't dim or lock when you are reading or otherwise using the device.

Pre-installed is the AllShare Play app, which lets you play any content on other AllShare connected devices within the same network. It works similar to DLNA and connects to all of Samsung's Wi-Fi-enabled devices. The app worked well with no hitches connecting to a Sony Wi-Fi Blu-ray player.

Another great new feature is Direct Call, which lets you instantly call whoever you are texting by just lifting the phone to your ear. The same goes if you are just searching through your contacts for a specific person.



The last big addition is that of S Beam, which is similar to Android Beam, which vanilla ICS users should be familiar with. Android Beam is for Android-to-Android while S-Beam is for Galaxy S III-to-Galaxy S III, making it somewhat proprietary but the sharing ability is exactly the same. Touch two devices and you can share pictures, music and other content from device to device.

All Galaxy S III come with exclusive access to Flipboard, the personalized magazine app made popular to iOS users.



The rest of the features come via TouchWiz itself, including motion control and shake. The main purpose they serve is too differentiate the Galaxy from stock Android, and it works.

On the AT&T model, the bloatware was surprisingly kept to a minimum, which was a welcome relief. The only bloat was AT&T Navigator, Device Help, AT&T Messages, YP Mobile and myAT&T, and they were actually uninstallable, as well. Great.



S-Voice




S-Voice, Samsung's answer to Apple's Siri virtual assistant, works almost exactly the same. The software uses voice controls to help you control the device as well as give you search and information results to questions.

Unfortunately, S-Voice works as poorly as Siri does, as well, for most things. Simple questions like "find me the nearest Chinese restaurant" were met with incorrect answers or simply "I didn't catch that. Please try again." Other simple voice commands worked flawlessly, like setting up alarms or getting the weather, but these were also done in a quiet, empty room.

S-Voice is nice, but just like Siri, it is a gimmick that needs work. Into the future, it is safe to say that both technologies will be much more accurate, much more useful and be at the fore-front of any new flagship device.

Final Thoughts



The Samsung Galaxy S III shows off why it is the latest and greatest flagship device for the company. Some of the new software is gimmicky, and I have never been a fan of Samsung's overlays, but there is more than enough here to love, especially the camera. One big issue, however, is whether the device, being how tweaked it is by Samsung, will receive timely updates such as Jelly Bean and beyond over the next two years. That remains to be seen.

Regardless, the screen is gorgeous, the phone is fast, and it provides the best of Android and the best of Samsung. The company has another hit on their hands.

Specs 8.5/10
Design 8/10
Display 9.5/10
Battery Life 8/10
Performance 9.5/10
Camera 9.5/10
Software 8.5/10

Total: 8.79/10




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14 user comments

14.7.2012 0:37

2GB of RAM for the US version, no?

Other than that this was a good review to keep me occupied as I anxiously await my Verizon pre-order.

24.7.2012 0:44

Originally posted by Tazer247:
2GB of RAM for the US version, no?

Other than that this was a good review to keep me occupied as I anxiously await my Verizon pre-order.
Correct, updated.

34.7.2012 2:32

Want so much. Can't live without the keyboard though, I do way too much typing on my phone. Release ICS for Droid 4 Moto! Now!

44.7.2012 9:23

Things like Samsung not heading down the anti-consumer road of things like no memory expansion or sealed away batteries are also of great interest to me (and I suspect many others).

The cloud is fine in a big city or large town, elsewhere its limitations rapidly show.....and as a micro SD slot costs pennies to include @ manufacture I just cannot see any other reason (other than commercial greed) for refusing to include one (and this applies to both somne of the latest phones & tablets).

The ability to use the latest 64gb SD XC micro cards is a real plus (as it is on the S2 as well).

A sealed away battery is plainly idiotic on these ultra slim phones, so credit to Samsung for not letting greed get the better of them there too.

I'll give it a couple of years, I've just bought a new phone but my factory refurb'd Samsung Galaxy S2 was less than half the price of an S3.
No contest, the S3 is very nice & very good but not over twice as good as an S2.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 04 Jul 2012 @ 9:24

54.7.2012 15:20

Originally posted by Interestx:
Things like Samsung not heading down the anti-consumer road of things like no memory expansion or sealed away batteries are also of great interest to me (and I suspect many others).

The cloud is fine in a big city or large town, elsewhere its limitations rapidly show.....and as a micro SD slot costs pennies to include @ manufacture I just cannot see any other reason (other than commercial greed) for refusing to include one (and this applies to both somne of the latest phones & tablets).

The ability to use the latest 64gb SD XC micro cards is a real plus (as it is on the S2 as well).

A sealed away battery is plainly idiotic on these ultra slim phones, so credit to Samsung for not letting greed get the better of them there too.

I'll give it a couple of years, I've just bought a new phone but my factory refurb'd Samsung Galaxy S2 was less than half the price of an S3.
No contest, the S3 is very nice & very good but not over twice as good as an S2.
agree~ siii does have all of above u mention~ removable battery and expansion slot~ def a plus

Being nice always has its own consequences

64.7.2012 18:49
justby
Unverified new user

Originally posted by core2kid:
Want so much. Can't live without the keyboard though, I do way too much typing on my phone. Release ICS for Droid 4 Moto! Now!
If you ever got used to swype and the speed at which you can enter text you would wonder why you ever thought a keyboard on a phone was a good idea.

75.7.2012 1:23

the daft thing about all the hype is.. you can put a nice clean rom of the 4.0 andriod on your s2 and pretty much get an s3 anyway.. watch out for the "swap" of internal and external sd locations.. 2 ways round that.. won't go into details.. both are easy enough to implement.

I would say to any s2 owners being sucked in by the hype.. don't bother.. just update your kernel/rom to increase speed.. ditch all the phone company bloatware crap at the same time.. and in use you won't notice ANY difference in speed or performance. All this "extra" ram is just so fone companies can install more "impossible to turn off" crap..




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85.7.2012 2:02

Originally posted by ps355528:
the daft thing about all the hype is.. you can put a nice clean rom of the 4.0 andriod on your s2 and pretty much get an s3 anyway.. watch out for the "swap" of internal and external sd locations.. 2 ways round that.. won't go into details.. both are easy enough to implement.

I would say to any s2 owners being sucked in by the hype.. don't bother.. just update your kernel/rom to increase speed.. ditch all the phone company bloatware crap at the same time.. and in use you won't notice ANY difference in speed or performance. All this "extra" ram is just so fone companies can install more "impossible to turn off" crap..
in case u didnt know, u can actually uninstall the bloatware


Quote:
On the AT&T model, the bloatware was surprisingly kept to a minimum, which was a welcome relief. The only bloat was AT&T Navigator, Device Help, AT&T Messages, YP Mobile and myAT&T, and they were actually uninstallable, as well. Great.


This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 05 Jul 2012 @ 2:13

Being nice always has its own consequences

95.7.2012 6:07

samsung galaxy s4

- Snapdragon S4 MSM8974 Quad Core
- Adreno 320
- 2GB Ram
- 12 mp 1080p camera
- 4.5 display

105.7.2012 17:28

Thinking of picking up one of these in August if my money's right... I feel like I can't leave my HTCs though :(


*\\\****//\\\***//\\\*****
**\\\**//**\\\*//**\\\*******
***\\\//****\\\ ****\\\****

116.7.2012 9:55

The US version is LTE only and 2 cores due to the LTE chip allowing for a dual core CPU.

Could still have the 4 core GPU though.

2gig of prog ram is very handy the phone won't bog down.

I have the 3G version very good phone the 4cores have more than enough power for anything you can throw at them.

1.5gig prog ram though but still good.

4 core GPU.

The battery has the NFC addon in it so if you swap the battery you won't have NFC in the phone.

My S3 last for hours stream spotofy and playing games etc I hardly charge it up.

don't worry about the cell standby doesn't chew iup the battery


the S3 3G has ICS 4.0.4 on it if people wanted to know.


A problem for LTE android phones though android can't do the LTE side very well using the cell mapping programs have all sorts of notes about the problems android have with LTE phones.

127.7.2012 0:10

Originally posted by phoenix19861:
samsung galaxy s4

- Snapdragon S4 MSM8974 Quad Core
- Adreno 320
- 2GB Ram
- 12 mp 1080p camera
- 4.5 display
why would it have 4.5 display when S3 is 4.8 display?

Being nice always has its own consequences

137.7.2012 0:12

Originally posted by justby:
Originally posted by core2kid:
Want so much. Can't live without the keyboard though, I do way too much typing on my phone. Release ICS for Droid 4 Moto! Now!
If you ever got used to swype and the speed at which you can enter text you would wonder why you ever thought a keyboard on a phone was a good idea.
Used swipe and I'm pretty good but I'm still a keyboard guy. I send some long emails.

148.7.2012 10:50

Great review; lots of useful information. Doing my research into an upgrade and so far have not found any better. Think I'll wait a couple more months to see if Iphone 5 makes a comparison worthwhile.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 08 Jul 2012 @ 10:52

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