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Samsung Galaxy S3 Review

galaxy s3 review

It’s here, the Samsung Galaxy S3 has arrived. Well, almost. Depending on the carrier, you may not see it for a week or two, but the time is certainly upon us. Are you ready for one phone, in two colors, on all carriers? Are you ready for 2GB of RAM? How about a phone that lets you and your friends share the world with a couple of clicks? Do you want to be a part of the next Android global phenomenon? This is the phone that is supposed to bring all of that – let’s see if it did. 

The Good:

  • Specs:  You can’t argue with the legitimacy of the specs for the Galaxy S3. On top you have a 4.8″ HD Super AMOLED display that is gorgeous, a top-of-the-line 8MP camera in the rear, front 1.9MP camera, 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 2GB of RAM, incredibly loud speaker, 2100mAh battery, expandable storage up to 64GB, and internal storage up to 32GB. This phone is as top tier as it gets.
  • Performance:  People are going to roll their eyes at the dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor in this phone since we can’t seem to get anything else in this country, but you’d be a fool to discount it. Qualcomm knows what they are doing here, folks. This phone flies. If you want one of, if not the smoothest experiences on a smartphone to date, you are looking at it. There are zero stutters, the transitions never lag, and multi-tasking is a breeze. Once you figure out the navigation button system, you are going to be blown away by the speed of this 2GB RAM and dual-core processor combo.
  • Camera:  The 8MP camera on the GS3 is pretty awesome. It’s super fast (instant shutter), takes better than average pictures under lower lighting, and shoots in burst (20 instant pics) and all sorts of other sharing modes. The software can be customized to your liking, it takes stills during video, and the facial recognition in it works incredibly well. If you were looking for one of the top smartphone cameras available today, this is one of them.

  • Build:  This phone feels just as solid in hand as any other phone you will hold this year. It may be made of plastic and not some fancy oxidized ceramic, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart. Samsung has taken heat in the past for having “cheap” feeling phones, however, this is not one of them. It has just enough weight to allow it to sit nicely in your hand, yet it’s light enough to make you feel at ease. You also have Gorilla Glass 2 on the front to give you a bit of extra protection.
  • Screen:  Yep, it’s pentile. Do we care? Just like with the Galaxy Nexus, we don’t. The pixel count is high enough that your eye isn’t going to pick out anything horrendous. Also, Samsung confirmed to us that while this display is still the same HD Super AMOLED tech used in the G-Nex, that it has actually been improved a bit. It wasn’t a big enough step up to call it a “Plus,” but it is better. After looking at it for the last week, I would tend to believe that it has been improved, with colors appearing clearer, brighter and truer. Looking at the macro shots below though, may tell a different story depending on what your eye sees. No matter what, it looks beautiful to the naked eye.

(Click to enlarge)

  • Design:  I’m torn a bit on whether or not I truly love the design of the Galaxy S3. I hate the physical home button, menu and back keys, and also dislike the white back plate of the white version. For whatever reason though, I seem to have fallen in love with the blue color chosen for its counterpart. It would be a lie if I said that this phone equals or bests the HTC One X in terms of design, however, it remains a looker and has already caught the attention of many of my friends. I could do without the shiny finish that tends to attract fingerprints at times, but it’s not a deal breaker. Overall, the GS3 is designed very well.
  • Battery Life:  While I’m still waiting to get my hands on Verizon’s Galaxy S3, so that we can test the battery life on LTE, I’ve had no issues with the AT&T version. Over the last week, I have been able to push this phone through a full day with ease. I have to admit that I haven’t done much gaming yet, but there has been plenty of settings tweaking, Beaming, WiFi-direct connections, and camera work that all would crush a battery in hours in the past. This Snapdragon S4 processor may be our cure for battery life until the new LTE chips are released. Also, we should note that the battery is removable, so if the 2100mAh of juice aren’t enough, you will likely have the option to upgrade to a bigger one.

 

  • TouchWiz:  Look, I’d rather do without an Android skin if I had the choice, but Nexus devices are the only ones giving us that experience at this point. Skins are here to help OEMs differentiate their products and Samsung has done a solid job here. While the “nature” theme is a bit obnoxious at times, the feature add-ons like Share Shot, S Beam, and all of the camera software tweaks are fantastic and a joy to use. Not only that, but you have system toggles in the notification bar, easy connectivity to friends and networks, and more customizable options in settings menus than we have seen in some time. Samsung focused on giving owners of the GS3 quick ways to connect and share content with friends – they have more than succeeded.
  • Call Quality:  Voice calls all sound great on the Galaxy S3. I’m not a massive talker, but every time I placed a call and talked for more than a few minutes, I could hear the other party as clear as ever.
  • Network Connectivity:  Ahh yes, connectivity. After the disaster that was the radio situation on the Verizon Galaxy Nexus, you have to be wondering how the GS3 fairs. So far, this AT&T device has been stellar. Now, that doesn’t mean that Verizon’s CDMA/LTE version will be of the same quality, but I get the feeling that Samsung knows where it failed with the G-Nex and has corrected it. No dropped calls for me and no major data drop outs or hand-off issues to be reported.
  • Accessories:  You should be beyond excited over the fact that Samsung forced all carriers across the globe to adopt one design and not give them the opportunity to change it. You will have more accessories to choose from than you ever imagined. There will be docks from multiple accessory dealers, cases galore, extended batteries that aren’t confusing, and so much more. I hate to bring up the iPhone, but you may know in the near future exactly what their accessory world is like.

  • Pricing:  Options are always good, aren’t they? Samsung is releasing this phone with 16GB or 32GB of internal storage and has priced each version at $199 and $249 respectively. Well, except on T-Mobile where the pricing is beyond confusing. If you are going with AT&T, Verizon or Sprint, you get the pricing I just stated which is on-par with other top tier phones. Be sure to keep in mind that the expandable storage goes up to 64GB, so even if you choose the lesser 16GB version, you’ll still have the ability to add on a ton if you need it.
  • Color Options:  Again, how can you not like options? For the first time in recent memory, Samsung is releasing an Android phone with 2 color choices at launch:  ceramic white and pebble blue. Both look great, but I’d give the blue a slight edge over the white. And thank you Sammy, for not making either of them charcoal or black. Hooray, for color!

The Not-so-Good:

  • Physical Home Button:  Why Samsung!?! Why did you include this navigation key setup? The Android team, with Ice Cream Sandwich, wanted the world to move away from a menu button and physical nav keys, yet here we are with the biggest device of the year sticking to them. I hated the physical home button on the Galaxy S2 and I still hate it with the Galaxy S3. It just doesn’t feel natural or convenient to have to physically press in a button to get back home. Not only that, but it isn’t pretty either.
  • S Voice:  One of the big selling points for the GS3 is going to be their Siri knock-off dubbed S Voice. As someone that has tried just about every single one of these voice recognition and activity services, trust me when I say that this one isn’t going to change the world. Does it have a bigger repertoire than many? It does. Does it outperform them all? At times. Will it become an integral piece to your smartphone experience? Well, even Siri hasn’t with iPhone users, so I doubt it will with this phone.

 

  • TouchWiz Styling:  For as much as I praised TouchWiz in the “Good” section above, I have to be fair and bring up some of the parts that drive me nuts as well. For starters, this “nature” theme is completely silly. I do not want water all over my phone, nor do I want it to sound like a dripping faucet every time I press a button. Even in its 2012 form, TW remains too cartoony for my liking. I tend to prefer more minimal looks with clean lines, and subtle colors, two things that Samsung has migrated far from. The feature set in TW is impressive, but the look is still lacking.
  • Keyboard:  When you pick up a Galaxy S3 over the next couple of weeks, install a 3rd party keyboard immediately. The keyboard included sounds awesome on paper with Swype-ish trace typing and predictive text, however, it does neither well. The swiping action over words is hit or miss and the predictive texting is so aggressive that you almost never know what you are typing and will find yourself questioning how it decided on the predicted options. Swiftkey’s newest beta is still your best friend.

  • Bloatware:  Since it’s not a Nexus, it’s going to have bloatware no matter what carrier you purchase it from. Thankfully, you can hide most of it and uninstall some of it. Some day, we may win this battle and be able to fully remove it from our phones the way we can a computer, but that day is not here yet.

Unboxing:

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Software Tour:

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Sharing With Share Shot, S Beam and More

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Gallery:

Marble White

Pebble Blue

Vs.

The Verdict:

Is the Samsung Galaxy S3 the greatest smartphone ever made? That’s a tough question. It is one hell of a smartphone though. This and the HTC One X are on a level of their own at this point in 2012, with each offering a few pluses over the other. Both have incredible screens, great internal hardware, amazing cameras, and are the complete package. For me though, the software add-ons to the GS3 give it the edge. Phones are now so powerful that manufacturers need to turn to software to try and separate themselves and I feel like Samsung has done that here. While TouchWiz has its quirks and a silly nature-inspired theme, it’s moving the industry forward in a great way through its ability to share so easily with friends and family. You cannot go wrong with this device.

*We had both the AT&T and T-Mobile versions of the phone in our possession for review purposes thanks to Samsung.

  • scuba steve

    does the screen show black splotches with a black background in a dark room like the gnex and razr? I want a phone that the blacks roll off of the screen in a dark room.

  • http://www.orgnixstudios.com/services/illustration/ Kevin

    I can’t wait to get my S3!

  • CaptainHowdy13

    I was at best buy mobile today and saw them get the blue one. I almost stole one and ran off!

  • Almighty_Rezound

    Now you can have 5 smart phones for $50 instead of $150, use your wifi.

  • http://twitter.com/kennonk Kennon

    I got mine around Noon today and I agree with almost all of your points except the keyboard section. I’ve been using Swype since the AT&T captivate launched in July 2 years ago, then again for the SGS2 since last October and I have yet to install it on the SGS3. I think the swype-like functionality of the new samsung keyboard is very usable and you get the best of both worlds because unlike the swype keyboard you can easily peck out non-standard words using the traditional keyboard style. Maybe my opinion will change in the coming days or weeks but I have been using this thing non-stop for the last 8+ hours and I think the new Samsung keyboard is solid. Otherwise, this is a very good breakdown for the average user. Thanks :-)

  • Dean

    I have unlimited data on Verizon and an getting a gs3

  • GBRIT

    Did anyone notice the boxes for both devices in this test are already “SAFE BRANDED” for enterprise networks. Just another feature that was not mentioned in the review and another reason to purchase this phone. It appears that all S3 phones wil have this feature?

  • Nw_adventure

    Still no mention of multi-tasking ability – Why don’t any of the blog or tech review sites discuss this rather important functionality ? Strange -

  • emily

    Get MirrorLink extracted and out to cyanogen and aokp please! I need it for my new Sony Mirrorlink car stereo im installing!!!!!

  • hitekdroid

    this plus my transformer prime can take over the world!!! or at least my social life.

  • dj

    Wow i cant even imagine that. Im with rogers in canada 6 gig data plan with 3100 minutes and more. For 89$ lol. Hopefully they stop gouging you guys down there

  • http://twitter.com/DustinK27 Dustin K

    Just pre ordered the 32GB pebble blue ahhh can’t wait, but keep in mind 30$ activation fee and 25$ in taxes eek

  • Thomas897

    Why is Touch wiz on the White diff from the Blue? I Hope the Verizon model looks like the White one

    • nam

      because of different carriers making very slight modifications to the stock gs3 ui

      • Thomas897

        Does anyone know which UI Verizon is running?

  • blairh

    Most consumers will WELCOME the physical home button with a smile. For current iPhone users thinking of jumping ship, it’s more familiar. Second, I hate capacitive buttons. I’ll take a physical button over capacitive any day. I like how the One X has a capacitive home button yet you CANNOT wake the phone by hitting the button. With the S3 you can.

    Even the CNET review praised the physical home button and this is the only review that ‘hates’ it.

  • SubMatrix

    What’s with the black background in the S3 display comparison not being pure black? Anyone notice that?

  • Ben

    Kellex, I haven’t seen anything about wifi tethering on this device, although I’m sure it’s included. I know you don’t have a Verizon version to test, but once available, it would be good to know if a widget will allow “free” access to wifi tethering same as a Gnex.

  • james

    great reviews …u guys did great job…DL best site on web

  • Doan

    “The Not-so-Good:
    Physical Home Button: Why Samsung!?! Why did you include this navigation key setup? The Android team, with Ice Cream Sandwich, wanted the world to move away from a menu button and physical nav keys, yet here we are with the biggest device of the year sticking to them. I hated the physical home button on the Galaxy S2 and I still hate it with the Galaxy S3. It just doesn’t feel natural or convenient to have to physically press in a button to get back home. Not only that, but it isn’t pretty either.”
    This.
    This.
    This!

  • Micah Gemmell

    ug. I really want to wait for Motorola’s Razr HD before I decide on getting this phone or not. BUT, Verizon is forcing me to decide within 8 days… My three choices are : The Galaxy Nexus, The Galaxy S3, or the Razr HD. I’m coming from a Droid X,m so I feel partial to Motorola…

    • Sqube

      Really? I’ve got to say, coming from a Droid X made me vow not to purchase a phone from them if they had anything to do with the operating system, ever again.

      • Micah Gemmell

        I hated the stock skin, but it was relatively easy to root and flash roms too (i guess once they figured the 2nd init thing out…. what phone do you own now?

        • Sqube

          I’ve got the GNex now.

    • c4v3man

      The Nexus has a slower, less power efficient processor, less RAM, smaller screen, and slow updates if history is correct. Many also complain about the radio being weak/unreliable. The Galaxy S3 has a cutting edge efficient processor/radio (for an LTE device anyways), and will probably have a similar mod/ROM development as the Nexus, if not greater due to being available on all carriers during it’s prime. Standard software updates may lag even further behind the nexus, but you can just run AOKP or CM9, etc and update immediately that way.

      The RAZR HD doesn’t exist, can’t be preordered, and that is highly unlikely to change within the next 8 days.

      Needless to say, I preordered a S3 based on the above.

      • Droosh

        The Razr will have an encrypted bootloader. The GS3 has a better SoC than the Nexus and a much better speaker. Those are my reasons. (My wife will get my Nexus and my daughter will get her phone.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Buck/100003482949493 Joe Buck

      i’m getting my wife the razr hd,never going back to samsuck phones

  • Sean Wood

    Nova launcher and this thing will be a thing of beauty…

  • http://www.twitter.com/nblufire12 Nathan Patel

    Just how much brighter is the HTC One X’s display?

    Looking at my Galaxy Nexus in the sun makes me think I want a SuperLC2 display

  • kevin

    The ONLY reason im going to love the physical home button is because while texting I always have a nasty habit of hitting the home button on my galaxy nexus while in the middle of a text.

  • http://twitter.com/fritzo2162 DougZ

    So, is the S III worth eBaying the G Nexus, or are the two too close to bother?

  • blood

    why didn’t you mention that the snapdragon s4 outperforms the tegra 3?

  • ineedthatpurse

    Love love LOVE this phone.. I have the GNex now.. but truly can’t wait till this one is in my hot little hands. Only slightly annoyed by the physical home button. But its not enough to keep me from upgrading before my unlimited plan disappears ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.wetzel Matt Wetzel

    I don’t understand how everyone can claim that there’s no problems with these pentile displays. Put it next to a Rezound or the HTC one x and you’ll see a huge difference. You’ll never be able to go back to pentile again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Buck/100003482949493 Joe Buck

    wow ,he hadnt had it on for 5 minutes and it froze up already

  • Jarrett Guma

    Im planning on buying a razr maxx at best buy, upgrading my plan before the switch to family share, waiting 2 weeks for verizon to release this phone, then bringing the razr maxx back and exchanging it for the galaxy s3. you think this plan will work?

  • jake

    Not a fan of TW or that home button. Waiting for the Razr HD. Will have the same display and processor but onscreen buttons, better build quality, better camera and that awesome 3300MAH battery.

  • AhsanS

    Guys, is 2GB of data enough for a LTE phone? Assuming I use Wi-Fi whenever its available, and turn off 4G unless I’m actually using the phone.

    • james

      Assuming you dont use photo heavy or video heavy apps or webpages then you are ok. Apps like instagram made my data shoot up enormously in a couple hours of usage. Battery life on LTE phones also dies alot faster using those types of apps. I use Wi-Fi as much as possible if im near. 2GB is fine as long as you dont download apps or photos on the network…id use Wi-Fi for that. You probably already know all this.

  • Beka27

    How was the intensity of the Notification light on the white version? I’ve heard some other reviewers say it doesn’t show up that well against the white background.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bobby-Mei/789119685 Bobby Mei

    How is the screen wakeup time on this thing?

  • JazzoRenee

    I can’t wait to activate my pre-ordered 32GD white S3 on my grandfather’ed unlimited Verizon data plan 3G/4G no sarcasm over here.

    • andy b

      Problem is Verizon is going to attract zero new customers with that. Great for you, but it sucks for everyone else, and it’s total garbage that they delayed their S3 release to make it unavailable under the old plan.

      $90 for 1GB is trash. No amount of network quality makes that worthwhile (and anyway, where I live, Verizon’s 4G is second only to Sprints OLD 4G network in terms of crappy speed).

      • JazzoRenee

        Sorry, you aren’t a happy camper.

  • Alexander Pruss

    Funny: the physical buttons are something that I think is really important. It’s great to have consistent locations to press. The inconsistent placement of MENU icons is one of the big UI problems with ICS apps. With the SIII, I would miss the SII’s search key: I like being able to launch various apps by holding down the search key, and again it’s really nice to have a consistent way start searching in all apps. Consistent placement lets you leverage muscle memory for navigation.

    Actually, I continue to miss the four hardware buttons that Palms traditionally have. It was very convenient to be able to assign favorite apps to keys that would both turn the device on and launch the app. I was even able to assign a different app to pressing a hardware key and long-holding it, so I could have eight different functionalities available instantly.

    • http://profiles.google.com/adamtruelove Adam Truelove

      The inconsistent location of the action overflow (not menu, ICS has no menu anymore) in ICS is an issue, but adding a stupid physical button is not the answer.

    • Doan

      Consistency means the same layout of buttons. Your argument that “physical button = consistency” is flawed, when any type of consistent button layout is… consistent. Physical, capacitive, on-screen; it doesn’t matter.

  • J Dub

    The only thing I care about knowing is VZW LTE battery life…and there’s no sign of it on any of these “reviews”.

    • JazzoRenee

      Because the phone hasn’t been released from Verizon yet.

    • bchampnd

      This is also something I’m quite curious about but you’ll notice that none of these reviews are for the Verizon GS3. They’re all for AT&T and/or Sprint. I guess Verizon decided not to give anyone a model to review on their network.

      I’d guess that the VZW edition will have similar battery life the AT&T one because that is also an LTE device. Other reviews say that the battery will last a day but no more. Obviously, YMMV depending on usage and signal strength.

  • Steve P.

    Will CM9 be a real option to get away from vendor UI tweaks?

  • Guest

    Upgrading from OG to this is going to feel so good :D

    • hitekdroid

      yes yes yes

  • BulletTooth_Tony

    The Sprint version still has no SIM card. Lame.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alana.danes Alana Danes

    Looks like a great phone. Hope it works with straight talk

  • http://profiles.google.com/adamtruelove Adam Truelove

    If we could take the performance and camera of this thing and combine it with the Gnex, then you’d have a perfect phone. Hell, just the camera would be fine, I’m not running hardcore weather simulation on my phone.

    • Paolo_Ozaraga

      So basically, this device with stock Android 4.0?

      • http://profiles.google.com/adamtruelove Adam Truelove

        Um no, I want the Gnex, except with the internals and camera of the SGSIII.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Mcclain/1463591684 Jim Mcclain

    The drop test video was enough to make me say hell no to this thing

    • gs3here

      U are a moron to base ur decision based on a unscientific test

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Buck/100003482949493 Joe Buck

        well dropped from the same heights,ear level,it was destroyed,didnt pay much attention the kids test or on the car, but to be completely destroyed ,even worse than an iphone? I mean we all know how fragile an iphone is, and it faired better, I think its because of the weight,they mentioned its a heavier phone,and it seems that gorilla class 2 is not what its cracked up to me lol

    • JazzoRenee

      What are you 4 years old and still clumsy. Put a silicon case on it and keep on moving.
      I still have my Galaxy S Fascinate and that thing had fallen, hit, banged and smashed into just about everything and it’s still works, not a scratch on the screen.

  • Aardvark99

    What’s with the color of the home button on the pebble blue version? What color is it? Sometimes it looks the same color as the phone, sometimes light blue, sometimes purple.

    What does it look like in-person?

  • Knlegend1

    Home button looks laggy.

  • bchampnd

    Can’t wait for my pre-order to arrive!

    I’m alittle disappointed that Verizon is getting this a few weeks later and that the US variant doesn’t have the quadcore processor (I know the dualcore is probably more than enough and is probably better for battery life but it likely does not perform as well when it comes to gaming) but this seems like a good way to use the last of my subsidized upgrades while getting to keep unlimited data. And I’ll take Verizon’s network over AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile any day.

  • King of Nynex

    This phone looks good, but I’d still prefer my Nexus.

  • Nemesis099

    I was excited about the S3 but I couldn’t put off my purchase anymore and got a Droid Razr Maxx. I hope the S3 is a winner so a new high benchmark is created for Android phones going forward.

    • Maggs

      I did the same. I am very happy with my Maxx but it is hard to ignore all the hoopla for the SIII, kind of thinking of adding another line to get one but that would make no sense

  • Futbolrunner

    I tried pre-ordering the Verizon GSIII at best buy yesterday and the rep couldn’t find it in their system. He asked somebody else and said what I already knew, “it’s not coming out till July.” Anyone else have this problem?

    • JazzoRenee

      Hmmmm “pre-order”

    • http://www.facebook.com/maxgurule Max Gurule

      Huh? O_o

  • Jeff

    Nice review K..
    Looking forward to receiving my SIII; upgrading from the first Incredible(yep.. one of the few who is still this very reliable phone)
    Thanks

    • Jeremy

      Upgrading from original incredible as well. Looking forward to having real batter life

    • Chronon7364

      Upgrading from a blackberry. Yay!

  • Knlegend1

    Now let me wait on the Droid Razr HD to make my final decision.

  • e_droid

    Hmmm… making me want to switch my pre-ordered Marble White to Pebble Blue.
    Edit. – Wondering if I can change the color on my pre-order… any ideas?