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Smartphones

Samsung Galaxy S III review

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We’ve finally put the Samsung Galaxy S III through testing and here's what we think about the new smartphone.

Design

The design of the Samsung Galaxy S III is similar to its predecessor but offers subtle differences. 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 S II.

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 S III 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 S III vs HTC One X comparison review.

The Galaxy S III 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.

Build quality

We can't help but feel the Galaxy S III has too much of a plasticy 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 S III 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.

Hardware

As expected the Galaxy S III 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.

We're working on bring you the performance benchmark results but from a user perspective the Galaxy S III is almost flawless. Samsung has managed to achieve the kind of smooth performance only reached by Apple's iPhone. It's the kind of situation where we struggled to make the Galaxy S III, 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 S III 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 S III 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 S III 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 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 S III 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.

Subject to further testing, the Galaxy S III has turned out to be an excellent smartphone. It offers a good design and build quality, despite our small niggles. Samsung has put together an impressive set of hardware resulting in silky smooth performance and extensive software features.



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