Samsung Galaxy S3 full review
The Galaxy S III was unveiled and launched only just over a year ago. That fact feels odd these days, when the Galaxy S4 is in the market and the S3 is firmly established as a hugely succesful Android smartphone. It was the first smartphone to truly take the fight to the iPhone, and as a consequence we live in a world in which the Galaxy S4 can compete on an even level with the iPhone 5, Sony Xperia Z, HTC One, BlackBerry Z10, Nokia Lumia 925 and the rest of the high-end phone lineup. (See also: Moto G vs Galaxy S3 smartphone comparison review.)
But the Galaxy S III remains a top-level phone in its own right. If you bought one a year ago you are unlikely to be in the market for a new one. And there are good deals to be had on the Galaxy S III - you can pick it up on our own mobile phones deals site for around £20 a month.
Here we've updated our Galaxy S3 review to put it in context with the current market. Should you buy a Galaxy S III? Read on to find out. See also: Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 vs Galaxy SIII vs Galaxy Note II comparison review.
Samsung Galaxy S3: Design
The design of the Samsung Galaxy S3 is similar to its predecessor but different at the same time. For starters the phone is much more rounded with smooth flowing lines and rounded corners and edges, somewhat like the Galaxy Nexus. It looks much sleeker than the Galaxy S2, and the Galaxy S4 looks extremely similar to the Galaxy S3 in design. Put simply, it's just a bigger version.
We're disappointed that Samsung has kept the physical home button which is saddled by two touch sensitive counterparts for Back and Menu. The Home button is a too thin and narrow and we'd much rather a full set of touch buttons but you can't have everything.
One design flaw is the lack of a Recent Apps button to access the multi-tasking feature of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Instead you have to hold the home button down, not something we found intuitive at all.
The buttons and ports are spread out around the handset with Power on the right, Volume on left, microUSB on the bottom and the 3.5mm headphone jack on the top. The buttons are easy enough to reach and have a nice action, although we would prefer the Volume rocker to be a little larger.
Samsung said the shape is 'inspired by nature' but we don’t really care - what matters more is the size, weight and feel. The Samsung Galaxy S3 is very thin and light for such a large phone at just 8.6mm and 133g. It is comfortable to hold, partly because Samsung has reduced the bezel size keeping the dimensions down as much as possible.
The smartphone is almost exactly the same size as the HTC One X at 71 x 137 mm. It’s a really big phone and though it’s comfortable to hold it is sometimes difficult to use, having to stretch across the large screen with one hand simply due to its size. This is coming from a user with quite large hands so we fear that for a lot of users the device will be just too big for day-to-day usage. Visit: Samsung Galaxy S3 vs HTC One X comparison review.
The Galaxy S3 handset is available in pebble blue and marble white. The former has a nice brushed finish while the latter a glossy sheen. Both look nice but we prefer the blue option.
Galaxy S3: video review
Samsung Galaxy S3: Build quality
We can't help but feel the Galaxy S3 has too much of a plasticky feel, mainly brought about by its flimsy removable rear cover which effectively peels away from the back. This is a let-down and not something we want to see from such a 'premium' smartphone with such a high price tag.
Despite the overwhelming use of plastic, the Galaxy S3 feels well made. The thin metal rim running around the edge gives the phone good strength, offering only a small amount of flex when put under strain. The one-piece glass front feels especially nice so ignoring the rear cover it's a good effort.
The Galaxy S4 has maintained this design and build feel. It is also made mostly of plastic, but over time we have come to realise that being made of shiny plastic makes a phone more robust and impervious to scratches and bumps, which may be no bad thing.
Samsung Galaxy S3: Hardware
As expected the Galaxy S3 is powered by Samsung’s own Exynos 4 Quad processor, something we actually knew before the launch event. It is a 32nm chip based on the ARM Cortex A9 quad-core architecture and has a clock speed of 1.4GHz.
Strangely Samsung hasn't specified the amount of RAM but our benchmarking app tells us that it has 780MB which the specification sheet would probably tout as 1GB.
In the GeekBench 2 test the Galaxy S3 managed a score of 1659. The Galaxy S4 outdoes this with a 1.9GHz quad-core processor. It breezed its way to being a new record holder in both Geekbench 2 and GLBenchmark with results of 3227 and 41fps. The former is significantly more than the HTC One's 2721 previous record and almost twice that of the Galaxy S3.
The Galaxy S4 couldn't quite manage a treble win but still gave us an impressive time of 1092ms in the SunSpider test. The iPhone 5 remains the best phone in this area at 903ms.
But this is to forget the S3 remains a great performer. When it made the Galaxy S3 Samsung managed to achieve the kind of smooth performance previously only reached by Apple's iPhone. It's the kind of situation where we struggled to make the Galaxy S3, er, struggle.
For example, the phone can play video content in a pop-out window while you do other tasks. If you want proof of performance then there you have it. Other demanding tasks such as scrolling and zooming on a desktop version of website just happen with no lag; the processor puts up no fuss whatsoever.
The biggest lag we found was the short delay between pressing the power button to wake the handset up and the screen coming to life. But even then the delay was minor.
In terms of internal storage, the Galaxy S3 matches the iPhone 4S and has 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacity options. Much to our delight it also has a microSD card slot for expansion of up to a further 64GB. This choice is a big win in our opinion.
As we mentioned earlier the Galaxy S3 is a pretty big smartphone. This is mainly down to its 4.8-inch Super AMOLED screen which has an HD resolution of 720 x 1280.
The Galaxy S3 screen is stunning and comparable in quality to the one found on the HTC One X. It has a high pixel density of 306ppi where individual pixels are not distinguishable offering astonishing levels of detail. Viewing angles are very good; we found reflections in the screen more of a problem. The Galaxy S4 by contrast has a 5in screen, meaning it will be slightly larger than the Galaxy S3's 4.8-inch display. Its resolution has also increased - from 720x1280 up to a Full HD 1080x1920. This ups the pixel density significantly from 306ppi to 441ppi.
In both cases Super AMOLED technology means colours a bright and punchy while blacks are very, well, black. It's partly what makes the screen have such an impact on the eyes but users wanting a more natural look will probably find the screen a bit garish.
Wireless charging is a stand out feature which is not only super cool but very practical too.
Other connectivity in the Galaxy S3 includes the standard Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and microUSB as well as near-field communications (NFC) technology and support for the digital living network alliance (DLNA) standard.