Where does one start when talking about a phone that garnered so much hype, such praise and was met with such anticipation as the Samsung Galaxy S3. It’s predecessor the Samsung Galaxy S2 took the world by storm after a rather delayed launch, so the Galaxy S3 had a rather large pair of shoes to fill. Granted, Samsung did release other phones in the time between flagships, with the Note getting surprising attention but no other Samsung handset was as anticipated as the S3 was.
It wouldn’t be much of a review if it was a perfect phone and believe you me, the phone is far from perfect. You will see this phone compared to the HTC One X throughout this review as well as all over the internet and by the end of this review, you’ll see why I will still get the One X over the SGS3, but that of course is a matter of personal preference and grasping at straws.
Review continues after the jump
First Impressions And Exterior
Cracking open the box, revealing the 4.8inch monster that is the SGS3 was dreading using such an unwieldy phone as my main phone. As the days went on, I found that the SGS3 had quite decent ergonomics unbefitting of it’s stature. I was pleasantly surprised and will probably be a lot more lenient to larger phones in future.
There were however some things about the design of the phone that in my opinion let the phone down big time. Firstly the overall finish of the phone was plasticky as heck, resulting in a smudge magnet and it feeling like less of a phone than it actually was. Next, the side buttons performed exactly as they were intended, well for a week that is. After a week of use, the buttons came looseish and will respond with just a small tap to the side, not good especially for the power button. While we are on the topic of the power button, why on earth do phones put it on the side? Even with a big device such as this, I think it would have been more intuitive on the top!
One of the annoying things is not Samsung’s sole fault per se, as I have seen other handsets with this issue is that on the SGS3, the menu and back capacitive button are swapped compared to say a Sony Xperia phone or the LG L7, no biggie, but took me a while to get used to it.
The screen on the SGS3 is bright as all heck and is pretty darn sharp, displaying incredible contrast and vibrance. Despite it not being the Super AMOLED Plus HD XT GT 3 Hyper DX 4, at 1280 x 720, the Pentile Super HD AMOLED display does a pretty fine job. I used the screen at maximum brightness most of the time and in the bright sun it fared pretty well. The screen on the SGS3 is probably one of the best I’ve used in terms of color rendition, contrast and sharpness. The only other comparable screen that I’ve used is of course the HTC One X and the WhiteMagic display of the Xperia P.
How does one even begin to sum up the user experience of the Samsung Galaxy S3? I will always be comparing it to its nearest rival, the HTC One X, but it would be like comparing 2 super cars; Both are desirable, expensive, premium and have their own pros and cons. Rather than go through every little details, I’ll just touch on the things that stood out to me about the SGS3.
Firstly, what really impressed me about the SGS3 is it’s exceptional battery life. The 2,100mAh battery lasted me a consistent full day (and then some) use on highest brightness, wifi on and off and regular amounts of social media use. On one very bizarre day, I squeezed just about 22hours of lighter use from the SGS3, with 5% left to spare. That’s what smartphones batteries should be, not the piddly things we have grown accustomed to this day and age.
Something that I don’t usually comment on during reviews, I think the SGS3 did very well – Call Quality. Strangely enough, the call quality (when my crappy telco actually held a call) was very clear and not muffled at all. Dare I say, the call quality was better than any phone I have ever used.
As shown in our LYNGBAPS, the SGS3 rules the roost when it comes to pure benchmarking prowess but let’s be honest, who on earth really compares those numbers in a real world setting. What I can say is that the Quad Core processor in the SGS3 makes using the phone a lovely experience. I can’t say there was any noticeable difference from the HTC One X, despite the benchmarks saying there is one. The difference between a quad and dual core phone however, is very evident. In fact, I think i’m spoilt by the quad core processor so much that every time I have to wait a smidge for anything to start, open or just work, I find myself missing the SGS3 very much.
Next, a point of contention to many people: The Camera. I’m going based on our tests we ran for the LYNGBAPS where we compared it with the HTC One X and I can really say, to my eye and shooting style, the SGS3 does have a better camera. At a lower light, the HTC One X does produce cleaner, brighter pictures, but from what I saw, it was also softer detail wise. The SGS3 image may be a little noisier, but from what I saw, centre and edge sharpness was clearer than the One X. Using macro mode, we got images which were incredible for mobile phone standards and very impressive. I will stick to my conclusion at the end of the LYNGBAPS that the SGS3 camera outperforms the HTC One X’s on a pixel level. But in all honesty, there is but a hair between them. I would be lying if I said the HTC Camera was nothing short of excellent too.
Now the biggest gripe I have with this phone and a continued one I have with all Samsung phones out today: Touchwiz. In an ideal world, each android phone would be graced with a vanilla install of Android OS. Touchwiz takes the beautiful Ice Cream Sandwich experience, puts everything in a blender and just minces it up, reconstituting it in a strange Samsung way. Things that we are familiar with have been hidden in extra menus and even after using it for the longest time, I still haven’t found out how to change the darn lock screen shortcuts. Let’s be honest, who ACTUALLY uses ChatON? That being said, I actually enjoyed a little bit of the Nature UX interface in that at the lock screen you don’t have to swipe a particular bar, but just ripple your finger across the screen as you would a pond to unlock. The rest of the theme is a little too serene for my taste. Granted you can easily change the experience with a root or non root solution, but I think this is a core functionality that should be improved, not just slapped with a ton of makeup, or a completely new face. That being said, TouchWiz now on this phone is MILES above the monstrosity it once was many moons ago.
What more is there to say about the Samsung Galaxy S3? It is a fantastic phone! Great camera, battery life, fast and zippy throughout the experience and a pleasure to use. Get used to the small things and everything is fine and dandy. Which would I get, the HTC One X or the Galaxy S3? As mentioned before during the LYNGBAPS, this has been the most difficult choice for me. Never have I encountered a handset rivalry with so little between them that I change my mind on almost a daily basis for the answer to this question. They are both incredible phones, but if you want a recommendation, you’re going to have to line the spec sheets up and nitpick at all the small details. Whatever phone you buy, you are going to be pleased. Would I recommend the S3? Hell yes. I will hand it to Samsung, not only have they converted me to a large screen user, they have also given us one of the best phones I have ever used in 2+ years at Lowyat.NET.
The downside to this? So did HTC.