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July 04, 2012

Samsung Galaxy S3 Review

The Samsung Galaxy S3 is one of the most highly-anticipated smartphone of 2012. It’s mainly because of the stellar success of its predecessor and Samsung’s over-all performance in the Android handset market. Check out our full review of the Galaxy S3 i9300 after the break.

When we first saw the Galaxy S3 during the global launch in London back in May, we were not that crazy about its design. The hardware was pretty impressive, the additional Samung features were nice but a bit gimmicky, yet the design did not really sink in that well with us (close to saying it’s an acquired taste).

However, once you’ve held the Galaxy S3 and used it for some considerable amount of time, your perception of the handset’s design will probably change and learn to love it. We were fortunate enough to be able to use both the Ceramic White and the Pebble Blue for this review.

Design and Construction.

Since the popular Galaxy S2, Samsung has made a lot of changes in the design of the Galaxy S3. The material used is still the same polycarbonate component with a glossy coating Samsung referred to as hyperglazed.

We got both the Ceramic White and the Pebble Blue variants to review and noticed a slight difference between the two. Both have that glossy coating over the materials but the Ceramic White has more of a plain or flat texture while the Pebble Blue has that brushed pattern beneath that hyperglazed surface.

The body of the handset is more rounded and looks closer to the Galaxy Nexus than the S2. The curved back panel allows it to fit more comfortably on the palm of your hands, giving you a better grip of the handset. However, the glossy finish also makes the device a bit slippery in some occasions (slipped off my jacket pocket once and twice on my desktop table); hence, we recommend getting a case for the device as soon as possible.

The construction of the S3 is pretty simplistic with very few exterior embellishment. The 3.5mm port is on the top left corner; the power button is on the upper right side; the volume control is on the left side and a micro-USB port is at the bottom. There are two microphones — one at the top and one at the bottom, the other could be for active noise-cancellation.

At the back side, you will find the 8MP camera with the LED flash on its left side and the speaker on the right side. The front panel features the physical Home button at the bottom end along with two soft keys that sandwiches it (Menu and Back). It’s curious that Samsung used the Menu and Back soft keys on the handset since these two were prominent with Gingerbread rather than ICS which already incorporated the soft keys into the screen. The only reason we can think of is that TouchWiz UI 4.0 has skinned ICS and removed those native keys.

To better appreciate the handset design, we’ve prepared a short unboxing video of the Galaxy S3 below:

We also noticed that the battery cover is also plastic and so thin that you’ll need to be careful when taking the cover off lest you might break it.

On the Ceramic White variant, the two-tone complexion is white with a silver lining on the side while the Pebble Blue has a dark-blue body with a ocean-blue lining. It will really be a matter of taste which of the two you prefer. Apparently, there’s been a lack in supply of the Pebble Blue variant because of some manufacturing delays.

Nevertheless, we find the device very firm and solid. The implementation of the design is done very meticulously and the hyperglazed coating does have its advantages. Despite the 4.8-inch size of the handset, we are able to use it with one hand comfortably and with ease. Of course, that’s really dependent from one person to another.

Display.

Samsung uses a Super HD AMOLED display on the Galaxy S3. It only means that the handset uses an AMOLED screen (with an integrated digitizer) with a 720p HD resolution (1280×720 pixels). This gives the Galaxy S3 a pixel density of 306ppi.

While that isn’t really at the top of the pixel density charts (the Galaxy Nexus has 316ppi, the Xperia S has 343ppi and the One X), it’s right up there with a lot of flagship handsets. Both the Galaxy Note and the Galaxy Nexus shared the same Pentile technology with the Galaxy S3.

Nonetheless, we loved the bright and crisp display of the Galaxy S3. Outdoor visibility if decent to good and manages to be usable even with glare caused by direct sunlight (only to a certain extent).

The entire front panel is covered with a single solid sheet of glass that spills toward the edges. The physical Home button looks like it’s made of aluminum and is carved out of the glass, separating it from the rest of the homogenous surface.

The glass surface is slightly raised (or embossed) so the viewing angles are pretty close to 180-degrees (especially when watching videos or movies).

Android ICS and TouchWiz UI.

The Galaxy S3 came out with Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS v4.0.4) out of the box. They also added a custom skin using Samsung’s own TouchWiz UI 4.0. The UI has improved a lot since the first time we saw it in the Galaxy S3 a couple of years ago. It’s simple yet fluid and we’re liking the design of the native icons, widgets and layout.

The UI is pretty clean and simple. If you’ve used a Galaxy phone from Samsung before, you will already be familiar with TouchWiz. The little additional touches, the transition effects and smoothness of the navigation really adds to the prettification and usability of the device.

A lot of widgets have also been added and incorporated into the UI. We also noticed the drop-down menu added more options and shortcuts to more-commonly used features.

Samsung added a lot of interesting features that uses motion sensors and gestures. We liked the Direct Call feature and have used it a lot of times. Smart Stay seems like a very neat feature but using it is a hit or miss (really depends on the ambient light).

The Pop-up Play looks gimmicky and the fact that there is an app in the Google Play Store that the do the same makes it not that unique. In fact, the Super Video app supports two floating videos at the same time.

While there are a number of Samsung-exclusive apps pre-installed in the S3, you have access to hundreds of thousands of apps in the Google Play Store (both free and paid). And if you get bored of the TouchWiz UI, you can always download a custom launcher like Go Launcher EX.

Well, hi there, Galaxy!

The S Voice is one of the newer features introduced with the Galaxy S3. It is an evolution of the Voice Talk app found in the Galaxy Note (powered by Vlingo).

It is obviously a play on the Apple’s Siri personal assistant. Surprisingly, we realized that S Voice is much more usable than Siri because it supports our location (meaning, you can ask for location-based services).

S Voice managed to pin-point us to a map when we asked “where I am”, and also gave us the local weather and answered who the president of the Philippines correctly.

The voice is also more human and less robotic compared to Siri. Of course, we also experience some issues with “accent” and “pronunciation” with S Voice.

Multimedia and Camera.

While the S3 still had the same 8MP camera like the S2, the sensor has been vastly improved. Image quality both in stills and video are really good. The snapper is very fast and can do up to 3 shots per second with a burst of 20 continuous shots which is great for action scenes.

Chekc out some of our sample photos in the gallery below:

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Images are crisp and well-saturated, the exposure levels are even and the colors are rich and vivid. We can definitely say that the S3 has one of the best built-in camera in a smartphone.

The native camera app has a lot of functions and features including shooting modes like HDR and Burst shot (at 20 continuous frames). There’s also Face Detection but it’s a hit or miss when used in the field.

The S3 can capture full HD 1080p video at 30fps. The camera can auto-focus while recording or you can switch the focus area by tapping on the object on the screen.

Check out our sample clip below (make sure to select the 1080p version on playback):

The camera also has the ability to take stills while recording and there are options in the settings for enabling Outdoor Visibility and Anti-Shake (video stabilization).

The speaker of the unit is situated at the back beside the camera and while it is obviously facing away from the user, the volume of the audio isn’t sacrificed. Sound quality is good though we could not really say it’s the best we’ve ever used on a smartphone. The speaker is also slightly muted when you lay it down on its back.

The S3 also plays full HD video and movies very smoothly. The AMOLED screen adds to the crispness and brightness of the videos although we’d suggest using a headphone to better appreciate the audio/sounds when doing so.

The Pop-up Play is a neat trick which allows you to watch a video on a small floating screen while doing something else, but as we mentioned earlier, it’s just that — a neat trick.

Performance and Benchmarks.

Samsung has done very well in making the S3’s performance as smooth and fluid as possible. The handset is very fast, very responsive and can handle a lot of tasks and running apps all at the same time without any noticeable lags.

We also liked the idea of maximizing the features offered by NFC and WiFi Direct. We’ve tried the S Beam between two Galaxy S3’s and it worked very well in transferring large files in such a short time. NFC was used to quickly pair the two handsets then WiFi Direct kicks in to deliver blazing-fast data transfers.

This feature currently works with the S3 at the moment but with the announcement of JellyBean, it will be standard to Android handsets.

Based on the numbers alone, the Galaxy S3 trumps all other smartphones in all three (3) benchmark tests we did — Quadrant Advanced, Antutu Benchmark and NenaMark 2.

With a Quadrant score of 5,859, it’s the highest we’ve seen on any handset or tablet we’ve ever tested or reviewed. The same goes with Antutu benchmark — the S3 surpassed the 10k mark with a score of 12,044. The Nemark 2 score gave it an impressive 58.8fps rating.

Again, these are just benchmark results and though they may not represent real-world performance, it’s a good indication of the relative performance of the S3 compared to other handsets in the market. But, by the numbers alone, we can already say the S3 is the “King of Benchmarks“.

Call Quality and Battery Life.

Voice calls on the Galaxy S3 are pretty clear and loud. We did not experience any drop calls in the last couple of weeks using it.

The 2100mAh Li-ion battery on the S3 might seem enough but if you’re connected to a 3G network all the time, you’d be lucky to survive the day without recharging your unit. However, with moderate use, we’re surprised that the handset can actually last two full days with casual internet and mostly calls and SMS.

We also noticed that the power-saving mode of the S3 works pretty well when the handset is in idle. The again, the battery life will greatly depend on your usage behavior.

Conclusion.

With the launch of the Galaxy S3, we noticed that Samsung is slowly inching towards the cloud and adding more soft features into their devices. They’ve already proven they’re really good at making their own hardware so adding a more compelling ecosystem (aside from the basic Android ecosystem) is the next logical step.

The Galaxy S3 certainly delivered the promise a lot of people were expecting, and maybe even more. It’s got the impressive hardware and a mature platform to run on. Samsung has done it again and we are pretty sure they will be selling millions of S3 (and millions more) in the coming months.

Samsung Galaxy S3 i9300 specs:
4.8-inch Super HD AMOLED screen @ 1280×720 pixels (306ppi)
1.4GHz Samsung Exynos 4 Quad processor
Mali-400MP GPU
1GB RAM
16GB internal storage
up to 32GB via microSD card
HSPA+ up to 21Mbps
8MP rear camera with LED flash
1080p @ 30fps video recording
1.9MP front-facing camera
720p HD video recording
NFC
Bluetooth 4.0
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n with WiFi Bonding
2,100mAh Li-Ion battery
Android 4.0 ICS with TouchWiz UX
8.6mm thickness, 133gram weight

The Samsung Galaxy S3 has a suggested retail price of Php32,990 and is available in stores nationwide. Local telcos are also offering it under postpaid plans — comes free with Unli Data Plan 2000 with Smart and Supersurf Plan 2499 with Globe.

What we liked about it:
● Top-notch performance
● Great camera
● Quad-core processor
● NFC & WiFi Direct put to good use
● Good battery life
● S Voice is pretty usable
● Free 50GB DropBox account for 2 years

What we did not like:
● Still pricey
● Glossy finish makes it slippery
● Some gimmicky features

Disclosure: The White Ceramic S3 was provided to us by Samsung Philippines while the Pebble Blue S3 was provided to us by Lazada Philippines (sells for Php31,989 in their listing here).

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94 Responses to “Samsung Galaxy S3 Review”

  1. miongb
    Twitter: miongb
    says:

    i’m dying to have this phone! i hope it’s september na so that i could renew my data plan na with smart! sana naman by that time, 24mos na lang lockin period, di na 30mos!

  2. Glenn Ong
    Twitter: GlennOng
    says:

    Bought mine from Hong Kong at <26K php. The phone is undoubtedly great, but having some challenges with maintaining battery life.

    • princeytoy
      Twitter: princeytoy
      says:

      I actually have the same problem. I think it’s because I always turn my 3G On when outside or Wifi On when Im home.

    • donskie says:

      I can have my battery last up to the afternoon with wifi on and data network enabled in 1 full charge

    • wacko says:

      how many times do you have to charge your phone in a day?

  3. Mark Llego
    Twitter: llegomark
    says:

    Working Hard just to buy this phone.

  4. Marcelino says:

    Shall I sell my iPhone 4S for this or wait for the iPhone 5 or Note 2?

    Hmmmm. The Pebble Blue one looks tempting.

  5. Iyan Sommerset
    Twitter: iyansommerset
    says:

    Pop-up Play sounds fun. I like listening/half-heartedly watching late night talk shows while surfing the internet.

  6. hideki
    Twitter: BeyondHideki
    says:

    to all those who own a unit..try this

    Go to Settings > About device > keep
    tapping Android version
    Press and hold the android..

    cool stuff. xD

  7. John says:

    For fuck’s sake samsung. Why the fuck do you insist on putting that shitty home button. This isn’t even designed for fucking humans. Vanilla Android is way posh than this. Really ? Seriously ?! Will BE getting the NEXT Nexus instead, now that Google has proved that they really care for their Nexus Line + design is [and will be] sexy as fuck.

  8. Archie
    Twitter: archieMatuloy
    says:

    I applied already sa globe but unfortunately,.. wala pa rin sila mabigay na phone sakin.. its been two weeks since i applied a plan.. Nakakalungkot lang kasi as i read reviews like this, lalo ko lang ginugusto yung phone kaso nga wala naman maibigay na unit si globe.. T-T Nice review.. :) cant wait to have this phone..

  9. will says:

    just bought mine last friday. it is a great phone to have. smooth finish and fast reaction time when using the apps. highly recommended to have.

  10. Archie
    Twitter: archieMatuloy
    says:

    @paolo, I actually need a plan.. not a new phone.. magaapply na rin lang bakit hindi pa yung high end, diba? :) it depends on what you need..

    • edil says:

      @archie: dumating na ba yung S3 mo?

      kaka send ko lang ng application and reqs e. so matagal tagal pala akong wait mode…

  11. John Land says:

    This seems like a really cool thing phone. I’m going to read the reviews on this one.

  12. Ren says:

    This review says it all, not until you held it! I curuously tried a demo unit in Anson’s and its like a high karat gold with feather-like weight. I want to try HTC OneX to help me decide!

    • miongb
      Twitter: miongb
      says:

      To help you decide:

      1. expandable memory (thru microsd)
      2. replaceable battery

      yung dalawang importanteng bagay na yan, nasa s3 at wala sa one x.

  13. Enya says:

    Torn between this & a 4S?

  14. Glen says:

    Hi Abe,
    the quadrant score seems to be a bit low compared to the antutu benchmark.
    My HTC ONE X is getting 11,360 on Antutu and 6047 on Quadrant.

    Can you also do a comparison between HTC ONE X and Samsung Galaxy S3?

    Comparison in the sense of the following:
    – built quality
    – call clarity
    – battery life
    – photos / videos comparison (including low light captures)
    – audio / music playback
    – ruggedness

  15. Too much hype says:

    S2 is still the best android fone, though S3 is a nice upgrade. It just didn’t live up to the hype that surround it.

    • Marcelino says:

      Specs-wise? YES.

      Design/Aesthetics-wise? NO.

      Like the author said, it’s an acquired taste.

  16. Cocolumboy says:

    Naku laggy din yan, @.@

  17. Enya says:

    Tried this at Megamall the other day. How come pinch zooming pictures in the gallery doesnt come close to S2’s fluidity!

    • Marcelino says:

      I was at Megamall kanina.

      Tried it for the first time. Hindi rin gaano fluid yung pag-swipe sa Homescreen panels at sa Apps tray.

  18. Mirkly says:

    Marami pa rin nabobola sa paramihan ng cores ng Andoid. Kahit quad core pa yan, laggy pa rin unlike Windows Phone and iOS na buttery smooth sa single core.

  19. Rain says:

    i do still love apple iPhone, useful, durable and very useful do i mentioned it twice?

  20. Jomie says:

    Does anyone know if the 64gb version is available here, and how much? What’s the price difference between the 16 and 32gb version locally? Been looking over the net, and haven’t found an answer yet

  21. Macky says:

    Bought mine yesterday. I love the phone! switched from ios.

  22. FF2012 says:

    I have this right now. I switched from an iPhone 4S and I must say that I’m happy with what I did.

    It’s not better or worse than iPhone, it’s just different and I’m loving it.

    It’s stupid to argue about which is better. What I do to avoid arguing with others is that I don’t stay loyal to a single brand. You should do that too, unless you’re poor and can’t afford to do so.

  23. luis alexander says:

    just got my pebble blue yesterday through smart unli data 2000! very fast approval. i applied on monday then got approved the following day then got my unit on wednesday!

    thank you smart! smart sm north edsa to be exact! i am loving the phone!

    i hope that i would not incur additional charges to its data when the bill comes…

  24. Anne says:

    Just got one yesterday.. ba’t ganun.. i’m more satisfied with the quality of photos taken from my SG Note. :( thinking if i maybe need to change some settings.

  25. donna says:

    Hi yugs. Does the battery overheat fast? Im currently using htc one x and my only complaint is its battery, it overheats too quickly, makes me think of replacing it with s3, do u think it’s worth it?

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