You’d think that reviewing a flagship device from a top manufacturer would be easy – I mean, there’s definitely plenty to talk about features-wise, right? Normally, I’d say yes, but the newest member of Samsung’s Galaxy series, the Galaxy S III is a unique case. The device has been the subject of numerous speculations even before the launch was officially announced, and most people have already made up their minds about the device (good or bad) that giving your own two cents about the matter is sure to draw a lot of flak from both sides. Nevertheless, here it is – my review for the Samsung Galaxy S III.
Let’s not beat around the bush here – the Samsung Galaxy S III’s overall appearance is a bit underwhelming. I shouldn’t be surprised, as the Samsung Galaxy S II took the safe route roughly six months earlier, so I think that the S III is just staying true to its roots. Don’t take me wrong, it’s not ugly – the curved plastic sides and round edges make it one of the loveliest pieces of engineering ever to grace my palm – but compared to other devices that’s come out this year, the design feels a bit too safe for me.
The overall layout and design of the Galaxy S III is an improvement over the old device. The huge 4.8-inch Super AMOLED screen is surrounded by plastic, and the overall curved design grows on you the longer you use it. There’s an 8-megapixel camera on the back that’s flanked by an LED flash and a small speaker that surprisingly loud for its size. The volume rocker is located on the left side of the device, while the power button sits on the opposite side. A 3.5mm jack is located on the top, while a microUSB port on the bottom serves as both the charging and data port.
On the top right side of the panel sits the front-facing camera. On the bottom of the Galaxy S III sits the home button, which is flanked by the back and menu capacitive buttons.
Samsung has gotten a lot of flak over the past month after finally announcing the Galaxy S III because of the screen used. Basically, the 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display on the Galaxy S III is a Pentile display, which basically means that the screen uses a Pentile Subpixel arrangement which sometimes result in a pixelated display, something that some people deem unacceptable in high-end smartphone that boasts a 1280 x 720 resolution. The truth is that the display only becomes an issue when you hold it close to your face, and to be honest, because of it’s size you’re not really going to be doing that often (or, at all). Other than that little hitch, the screen was otherwise fantastic, and I was happy to see all the things that made Super AMOLED screens such a pleasure to look at was present, chief of which were excellent blacks and color reproduction.
The hardware running the Galaxy S III is impressive – the Galaxy S III is the first ever smartphone to run and use Samsung’s Exynos Quad processor, and serves up quad-core 1.4GHz speeds at the hands of the user. Samsung’s Exynos Quad isone of the two commercially available quad-core processors available at the market today, with the other one being NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 processor that incidentally powers it’s main rival, the HTC One X. That particular processor is paired with 1GB of RAM and a smattering of storage capacities, from 16GB all the way to 32GB.
Samsung has also generously provided a microSD slot so you’re not permanently shoehorned into the storage size of the Galaxy S III variant you bought. The Galaxy S III rocks Android 4.0 ICS (naturally) with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI layered heavily on top – so heavy in fact, that you’d be hard pressed to see ICS in there.
The camera on the Galaxy S III is probably one of the best we’ve used, and is able to stand toe-to-toe with the excellent camera located on the HTC One X. There’s virtually no shutter lag when you start shooting, and the camera is able to take pictures quickly in burst mode – 6 frames per second, in fact – which means you’ll be able to take the shot whatever happens. Pictures are crisp and clear, and the colors are excellent.
Of course, people will always want to see actual benchmark numbers for the Galaxy S III to see how it stacks with other devices in its class. While synthetic benchmarks are never a substitute for actual, real-world performance, it’s nice to see where the Galaxy S III stands when it’s compared to the competition. And as you can see on the numbers above, the Galaxy S III eeks out a bit over the HTC One X in Quadrant, while it’s barely second place over the Asus Transformer Prime in AnTuTu’s tests.
All of those numbers indicate that the Galaxy S III should be a solid performer. Thankfully that is the case – the Galaxy S III performed well during its time with me, and never hanged or had any problems of any sort when it came to performance. Apps loaded quickly, and the Galaxy S III made short work of whatever I presented it with, may it be apps or games.
I feel I need to mention all the proprietary Samsung features and technologies that made it into the Galaxy S III, chief of which is the Smart Stay technology inside it. The premise is that the front facing camera recognizes and watches your eyes when looking at the screen, and doesn’t dim or turn off the screen while you’re still looking at it, which makes reading webpages or particularly long emails a pleasure to do, as you’re not intermittently touching the screen to interrupt the time-out counter. Another nice feature that I loved is Social Tag – basically, the phone asks you to tag someone when you first take a picture of them. From then on, the phone automatically tags that person in your social network. The phone also has a Siri-like phone assistant called S Voice, but in practice it wasn’t really that easy or intuitive to use.
Battery life is one of those things that don’t really increase as fast as processor speed, and to be honest it’s one of the things that most veteran smartphone owners look for in devices nowadays. Thankfully, the large 2100 mAh battery on the Galaxy S III and the relatively modest power draw of the Super AMOLED display meant that the Galaxy S III could keep up with us during a day’s worth of heavy use, which meant a lot of Facebook, games, browsing and mobile data. Relatively less active users could potentially eek out more, and we’re pretty sure that the Galaxy S III can go for two days without charging when used by someone who isn’t as addicted to the internet as me.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that everything is perfect with the Galaxy S III. Aside from the issues I’ve already mentioned before, one of the things that weirded me out a bit is the swapping of the menu and back keys – which goes against the groundwork that Google has done for ICS. It’s a small thing yes, but if you swap phones as much as me (or have other, ICS equipped smartphones) you’ll find that the innocuous change is confusing and annoying. Also, it baffles the mind why their S-Beam (which is basically their improved version of data sharing by NFC) was made to cater to only to the Galaxy S III – it will not work on other NFC equipped devices. There are more NFC equipped Android devices popping up every week, and that particular limit is strange to say the least.
There isn’t a single standout feature that really sells the Galaxy S III – it’s really how the all the parts come together that make it special. The processor, large screen and proprietary features like Smart Stay make it an intelligent device that’s a pleasure to use. While it’s not as visually stunning as its main rival, it has all the right things going for it.
Smart Stay technology
Long battery life
TouchWiz UI is too heavily layered on top of Android 4.0
S-Beam is restricted to other Galaxy S III’s.
It’s not quite a great a leap in smartphone design as the Galaxy S II was, but the Samsung Galaxy S III is still one of the best smartphones you can buy.
- Operating System: Android 4.0 ICS with TouchWiz UI
- CPU: Samsung Exynos 4212 Quad, Quad-core 1.4 GHz Cortex-A9
- LCD size: Super AMOLED 4.8 inches, 720 x 1280 resolution
- Physical Dimensions: 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm
- Weight: 133 grams
- Band: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900, HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
- Internal memory: 16GB /32GB /64GB, expandable through microSD