U.S. Samsung Galaxy S III Review, A Contender Not To Be Reckoned With? (Video)

by Joe Sirianni on
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Introduction

Well, we didn’t have to wait too long this go-around for a Galaxy S device to make its way across the pond into the hands of the US masses.  Not even a full month yet, most of the US carriers will be getting their devices and those who pre-ordered it will be playing with one any day now.  The device is roughly going for $199 on a 2yr contract and will be available on five different carriers in the U.S.  You see how that works Apple?  This is how you sell more devices, you don’t give a single carrier six years of exclusivity.  But then again, what does it matter since you’re going to sue them for every device they manufacture from here until the end of time?  But I digress.  Back to the review.  So, now the device is here, does it live up to the hype?  I’d like to think so.  And though it’s obvious that Samsung cut a few corners in the hardware dept, it’s still a fricking awesome device.  That is my personal and professional opinion by the way.  All kidding aside, Samsung has done a great job offering a slew of new features software wise on the handset.  Apps like Allshare, S-Beam and many more, the handset is not only all work but plenty of play as well.  With a gorgeous 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display (1280 x 720) this device is going to take the industry by storm.  Add to that ICS 4.0, a nasty Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPU and 2GB of RAM and you have more than just a player here.  Head on past the break to read the rest of the review and don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Design

I think as far as the design factor goes, Samsung hit this one out of the park.  Best way I can describe the device is to think a “4.8-inch One S”.  Hate to compare the two but they’re comparable as far as design goes.  In that I mean, they’re pretty darn thin though Samsung has the upper hand here (removable storage and battery).  At just 8.6mm (.34-inches) thin, Samsung has out done the Galaxy S II though we wish they didn’t use the cheap plastic housing that they so often use.  However, as most of us know, this is but one tactic that Sammy uses to keep their devices lightweight.  In any event, it’s certainly a worthy successor to the GS II and is definitely worth the upgrade if you’re due for one.  According to Samsung, the device takes its design ques from “nature” and though it’s sporting a paper-thin housing for a rear cover, I think most will still be pleased with the device.  The handset sports curves on either side of the rectangular device with slightly rounded corners.  And unlike previous Galaxy S U.S. devices, Samsung has opted to keep the hardware and style virtually identical to that of its cousin across the way.  Rather than swapping out the center physical hardware button and two capacitive buttons for a four capacitive button layout, Samsung left it the way it was.  I’m sure their manufacturing department is thrilled as they’ll be able to ship more devices quickly not having to alter it for several different carriers.  And while it would be nice if the button was also a directional pad, I would have rather opted for all capacitive buttons.  I think most will find it unnatural to hit a hardware button, especially one handed when they’ve been lightly and effortlessly tapping capacitive buttons for years.  To each his own though, and yet remains to see how the masses feel and think about it.  All in all, Samsung refers to the device as “simple and intuitive” and I’m inclined to agree.   

 

Hardware

One can’t discuss hardware without discussing design and vice versa as often is the case.  However, the combination of hardware that makes up the exterior and interior of the device is nothing to shrug a shoulder at.  And though many of us were disappointed at the choice of housing the company went with for the GSIII, I think a large majority of people will agree with me when I say I think pulled it off.  And while paper-thin plastic makes up the majority of the device, the trade off is that it’s super thin and lightweight.  The device sports the typical unlock on/off button on the right side of the device, volume toggle on the left, single home/task manager button on the bottom front and 3.5 mm headphone jack on top.  On the backside of the handset can be seen the speaker grill, 8 mega-pixel camera lens and single LED  flash.  The backside sports the typical Galaxy S nomenclature and the respective carrier’s branding.  And though the device is technically mostly plastic, it still feels sturdy in the hand as most plastic casing tends to produce a slight squeak when you press on it.  However, not in the case of the GSIII.  Samsung graciously provided TA with two ceramic white models for review.  Take note, the white device is a smudge magnet and depending on the atmosphere and environment at the time, it could become slippery as heck.  So just make sure you have a death grip on it at all times.  We’re not sure how the metallic blue model will pan out, but we’re assuming it’s going to feel roughly the same.  Now would also be a good time to note that Samsung has decided to add, among the many accessories for the device, the same flip case that was bestowed and coveted on the Galaxy Note.  That’s right folks, Samsung has brought the same flip case the Note touts to the GSIII.  Unlike most cases where it slides on or clips on to the existing hardware, the flip case takes the place of your battery cover.  Utilizing this route, the device experiences no added bulk, remaining super thin while still simultaneously offering full protection to the screen.  And though the GSIII’s screen is Gorilla glass and doesn’t really need protecting, it looks cool as hell.  And while we’re on the subject of accessories, let’s not forget about TecTiles.  TecTiles, very close to what we’ve seen with Sony’s Smart Tags, allows you to place or stick small stickers with embeded circuitry in them to quickly change your device’s profile on the fly, switch to an app or pretty much do anything you feel like having the handset do on the go.  Headed to the gym and want to bring up your mp3 player with hard core music, move your work folders off of your home screen and bring up a cardio assistant widget?  Well, then tape a TecTile to your gym bag and just touch it with your phone.  In seconds your device will act and set itself to whatever you’ve programed it to.  The functionality is also a stand alone application and Samsung has offered the device for non GSIII phones.  The application is available on the Google Play Store and the tags will go for 5 tags at $14.99 if you’re interested.

Samsung TecTiles

Samsung Flip Case

Battery

Surprisingly, Samsung has included a whopping 2100 mAh interchangeable battery to accompany this workhorse of a handset.  I don’t know about you but I’m extremely grateful for the extra juice as I constantly work off of my phone on any given day.  A while back HTC took a survey which yielded results revealing that people wanted thinner handsets over more battery life.  Well, I think Samsung has done a fantastic job delivering them both in the GSIII.  Having two devices in my possession for testing purposes, I mostly worked off of the one while the other sat in the box until I needed it.  I can recall the standby device sat there for quite some time on a single charge before I finally saw the “battery low” alert.  Overall, we’ll gladly welcome extra battery life any day.  Especially when you can wrap 2100 mAh’s of it into a 8.6mm package.

Performance

I’m not sure where to even begin with this category.  I’ve never seen a device perform this well before.  The handset is a processing power machine to put it accurately and unlike its cousin in Europe, it’s not sporting the Exynos quad-core CPU initially announced.  Instead, the US variant sports the popular Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 chip-set which has been noted to compete closely with other quad-core CPU’s.  As for a typical day’s use, the device lasted the entire time with very heavy use.  The combination of the S4 Chip and 2100 mAh battery makes for great battery performance as we were able to surf the web, watch multiple YouTube videos & trailers, listen to mp3′s in the background, view documentation with heavy graphics and schematics and send & recieve emails all day long.  After abusing the device for the entire day there was still 30-40% of battery life left.  We’ll certainly take that any day.  Overall, we’re certain you’ll be pleased with the performance of the device especially if you’re the type of power user who lives on their phone for a living.  In addition, there isn’t going to be a huge difference in performance if you’ve played with an Exynos quad-core device and have since moved to the dual-core S4 chip model.  All in all, if you want a handset that will work for you, this is it.

AT&T                                               Sprint 

Software

If you’ve had high hopes that the device would come with stock Android (which none of you should have) you’ll certainly be disappointed as the handset, like its predecessors, is accompanied with  TouchWiz.  Although, as I’ve mentioned many times in the past, I’ll take the TouchWiz UX over Sense UI any day.  And though sense has become extremely lighter in latter days such as seen on the One S and One X, I still don’t like its heavy integration into the OS.  TouchWiz is certainly extremely visible and noticeable from within the device’s version of ICS 4.0, however, I don’t mind it because I find the apps, widgets and functionality useful and effective.   The calendar integration (my most used app) which is the same one from the Galaxy Note is phenomenal as well as the many other extras not found on devices without having to obtain them via a third party method.  Apps like AllShare, ChatON, Flipboard, Media Hub, S Memo, S Suggest, S Voice and many other respective widgets have come to be a part of my daily routine.  Aside from the extra software integration by Samsung, all the standard ICS bells and whistles are there.  However, note that a few methods of accessing certain functionality are slightly different than they are on the Galaxy Nexus with stock ICS.  For instance, you can’t create folders on the desk top as you can in standard ICS by dragging one app over another.  You’ll need to access this via the menu.  In addition, Samsung’s standard app doc at the bottom, unlike the GSII, is now fixed and unable to edit as to where you could in previous versions.  This shouldn’t be a deal breaker for most but I figured I’d make a note of it since this is a review and all.

Galaxy S III Allshare Review

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Galaxy S III S-Beam Functionality

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Camera

The camera on the GSIII is unprecedented and reminiscent of that found on the HTC One Series.  If you want to check it out, you can scope our review of the One S here.  The camera itself sports a high end sensor as Sammy sure knows how to implement a camera.  This will certainly be your one stop shop for a point and shoot and cause you to leave your stand alone camera at home for sure.  Much like the One series camera, Sammy has implemented the ever popular burst mode feature with “best shot” functionality and picture capture in video mode capabilities.  By far, Samsung has delivered one of the best cameras on the market to ever accompany a cell phone.  Image quality on the device is not to be reckoned with as it renders high full-res shots that look both sharp and extremely detailed.  And for those off beat shots that require you to capture the moment on a dull and gloomy day, there’s an excellent and useful HDR mode which shoots multiple shots with different exposures, rendering a much better image than would have otherwise been obtained in poor conditions.

Outdoor Sample Shots

Galaxy S III Outdoor Video Sample

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Final thoughts

Overall, the Galaxy S III shines through to overtake its many shortcomings.  Sporting a beautiful large 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display, a fantastic dual-core CPU (Snapdragon S4) and blazing fast and high-end camera, the device is sure to sell like hotcakes by the millions.  If you’re due for an upgrade, I guarantee you, you will not be disappointed with the handset and it will most likely serve all of your purposes, whether you’re a casual web surfer or a constantly on-the-go workaholic who would rather cut a toe off than be without a smartphone for productivity reasons.  Our only cons with the device is Samsung’s choice of build material.  We would have rather seen them go the route of HTC with some sort of a uni-body housing even if it meant weighing a little more.  Otherwise, the GSIII is a solid handset and the optimal choice for an upgrade if you had to upgrade to the latest and greatest today.  Check out the rest of the snapshots of the device for features, hardware and comparisons.  Feel free to let us know what you think in the comments below.

Full Device Specefications:

  • 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display (1280 x 720)
  • Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 1.5 GHz dual core CPU
  • Weight: 4.73 ounces
  • Comes in Ceramic White and Metallic Blue
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB and 32GB  (Internal storage) versions
  • 5.38″ x 2.78″ x 0.34″ (137 x 71 x 8.6mm)
  • Expandable memory with MicroSD
  • 2100mAh battery
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • MicroUSB
  • NFC enabled
  • 42Mbps HSPA+ or 4G LTE
  • 8MP Camera w/ LED Flash (4x zoom)
  • 1.9MP Front-facing camera
  • S Beam capable
  • SmartTV
  • AllShare
  • Mobile Hotspot
All Photos:

» See more articles by Joe Sirianni


  • kadas

    So long videos and nothing, baaad

  • Cheesycook

    Any word on WICC compatibility? I hate cables!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Revmacd Jim Macdonald

     This was the most comprehensive phone review I’ve ever read, and I’ve read hundreds of them. I was looking forward to the phone. Now I know exactly what it is I’m looking forward to. That was a ton of work. Well done.

    • J

      Don’t you think that the writer is just a fanatic of Samsung? How in the world a dual core can beat a quadcore? Very bias!

  • AlxRocks

    Can you make actual phone calls on the device? Are the calls clear?
    Every review whines about materials and performance and software, no one ever comments on phone calls…..

    • seth

      I agree. I love my smart phone but the call clarity sucks and no review ever mentions it

  • http://www.facebook.com/kashan.mahmwd.5 KaShan Mahmwd

    I agree. I love my smart phone