Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Samsung Galaxy S3 Review - Hands On

Watch the video review

Samsung has unveiled its latest flagship smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S3,

More on the "Next Galaxy" -
Samsung Galaxy S3 vs HTC One X vs iPhone 4S

Samsung Galaxy S3 – Have Android Smartphones Become Boring?

Samsung Galaxy S3 - Design and Hardware
Samsung has literally taken something of a step backward with this handset's design, bearing as it does more resemblance to the original Samsung Galaxy S rather than the S2. In particular, the back is all curved glossy plastic rather than the squared-off chequered look of the S2 or Galaxy Nexus. The overall effect is a little underwhelming.

Where the iPhone 4S has its stark steel and glass frame, the Nokia N8 and HTC One X have their curvy matt plastic chassis and the Sony Xperia S has its intriguing clear plastic strip, the S3 looks a little bland and moreover feels a bit cheap. in white or 'pebble blue', neither finish particularly wowed us. Much as the S2 didn't really, and look how many that sold – so maybe it's just us.

In terms of practicalities, though, we can have few complaints. While clearly not a ruggedised phone, it feels well put together and will no doubt prove to stand up to the rigours of everyday life, just as the similarly plasticky S2 did. Moreover, despite being a large phone (dimensions of .6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm) it sits reasonably comfortably in the hand thanks to nicely rounded corners, and the power button is conveniently placed on the right edge, rather than the top where you might have to stretch for it. Meanwhile the volume rocker is in its usual spot on the left.

Inevitably it's a bit of a stretch to reach all the whopping 4.8in screen, but then that's the same with all these big-screened smartphones. Also, despite its slenderness, it doesn't feel too unwieldy to handle – it's easy to get a good grip.

Paying homage to its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S2, the navigation buttons consist of a central physical Home button (Apple lawsuit beware) flanked by two touch-sensitive buttons, one for Back and one for bringing up the new Android 4.0 Multi-tasking menu. They seem responsive and easy to use.

On the back sits the 8MP camera with its LED flash, and there's also a front facing video camera. Prize the battery cover off and there's a 2100mAh battery (likely good enough for a lslightly higher than average day and a half's use), SIM slot and microSD. Onboard storage varies from 16GB upwards so your storage options are plentiful. Indeed this is perhaps this phone's main trump card when compared to the HTC One X.

On the top edge is the obligatory headphone jack, meanwhile, the microUSB socket on the bottom is used for charging and data transfer and as it's MHL compatible you can also connect the phone directly to your TV for instant large screen video playback and web browsing/email/etc. All you need is an adapter which you can pick up for about £5. The phone also supports NFC.

Samsung Galaxy S3 - Screen
Some reports were suggesting the Galaxy S3 may feature a bonkers 1080p resolution display but unsurprisingly this isn't the case. Instead we have an essentially Samsung Galaxy Nexus matching 4.8in panel with an HD Ready resolution of 720 x 1,280 pixels. This gives it a pretty high pixel density of 303ppi, just a jot under the iPhone 4S's 326ppi. It looks amazing, packing in a huge amount of detail and making it great for web browsing.

There is something of a caveat, though. This is an HD Super Amoled panel, which denotes this as being a display that uses a Pentile subpixel arrangement. As such it doesn't have quite the sharpness of the best HD LCD panels. Colours also don't look quite as accurate. However, on the flipside, you don't get any backlight bleed and colours simply leap from the screen, and they look a bit more natural than some Super Amoleds we've seen. Watching video and gaming, in particular are really engaging because of this, especially given the size of the screen.

Overall it's an amazing display, though on first impression the HTC One X's screen just edges it.

Samsung Galaxy S3 - Processor / Performance
We've "known" for a little while now that the S3's processor will be Samsung's new 1.4GHz quad-core Exynos 4. We also saw a while back some benchmark results that were apparently from this phone, which suggested this is the fastest phone on the planet when it comes to graphics performance. Now that we've had a go we can confirm that it really is incredibly fast.

Subjectively, it's difficult to notice all this extra performance over and above something like the HTC One X or iPhone 4S – they're all damned fast! Where any difference may come through is in gaming but even here it's going to be subtle at best – yes, we're already at the stage where the hardware is almost too fast and software needs to catch up.

Samsung Galaxy S3 – Camera
It's a little disappointing that Samsung hasn't gone to town on the camera, adding a 12MP sensor or a fancy Xenon flash, but so far as we could tell from a quick play, the 8MP model here is right up there. Images seem well exposed, colourful and detailed while the app is very easy to use. You can point to focus, choose from a wealth of scene modes, add effects easily and there's a quick burst mode too.

One unique feature an outdoors mode which makes the screen easier to see when it bright sunshine – It just makes it all yellow so you can see what's going on.

Overall, while reserve full judgement until we can properly judge quality, on first impression we'd again have to give the nod to the One X. It certainly wins out on ease of use.

Samsung Galaxy S3 – Interface
Samsung is shipping the Galaxy S3 with Android 4.0 running on it, unlike some other manufacturers who have shipped hardware early but only running Android 2.3. Here though, we're all up to date.

This being Samsung things are customised, though, but anyone with a Galaxy S2 will find it familiar. Most of the changes are just cosmetic with icons and fonts tweaked here and there, but there are a few standout features.

The most obvious of these is S Voice. This Siri clone, is a voice activated assistant that you can call upon to turn your phone into 'a friend'. You can call up the web browser or write a message, and for these basic things it seemed to work quite well. However, it didn't seem very intelligent. Asking it to open the web browser, for instance, was met with a virtual blank face, as of course the Android web browser is called 'Internet'.

We'll be back with more thoughts soon but for the time being we'll wrap up.

Samsung Galaxy S3 - Thoughts So Far
We like the look of the Galaxy S3 from the front, with its simple design, curved corners and metal trim. However, the glossy plastic back really puts a damper on things – it just doesn't exude class or luxury. Otherwise this phone is either class leading or at least on par. The processor is stunningly fast, the screen stunningly dazzling and the microSD slot stunningly practical! It may lack a certain wow factor but for features alone this phone has been worth the wait. Just.

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