Review: Samsung Galaxy S III
‘Places some amazing technologies into the hands of the people’
Right at the top of the hill, the Samsung Galaxy S III sits in the top-spot as Samsung’s flagship handset. It is nimble, powerful, but how well does this handset perform as a phone? The much awaited powerhouse device does a lot of things exceptionally well, but some important things are lacking.
|Fast as a bullet||Poor call quality|
|Amazing screen resolution and brightness||Poor build quality|
|Fantastic camera optics, fast focus||Screen is useless in sunlight|
|Slim and light||Battery charges slowly|
|Great audio quality|
WHAT WE LIKED
As soon as I opened the box for this phone, I knew I was in for a serious experience. Peeling off the screen protector that listed some amazing features like quad-core processing, NFC and a super-AMOLED display, that needless to say, excited the geek within. In reality, this is a geek phone. The average user will enjoy a fast phone with a good display and leave it at that. Us geeks will see a thin powerhouse with a plethora of fantastic features.
The startup graphics served to show how amazing the device’s display is. My room was fairly dark when I booted up the device, but there was a noticeable increase in ambient light when I hit the power button, to the point that I often found myself having to decrease the brightness when using the phone at night in bed. The resolution and pixel density are impressive and with a high refresh rate, make for a great viewing experience without lag or motion blur.
I soon met TouchWiz, the Samsung UI Layer. I know TouchWiz has gotten a bad rap of late, but to be completely honest, I didn’t mind it. It is fairly innocuous and provides some cute graphics and animations. I particularly like the TouchWiz clock widget, which adjusts its little picture to suit the time of day and weather conditions. TouchWiz was fast and responsive and I never felt it glitch or get in the way of my experience. It was welcoming, engaging but unobtrusive, like a UI layer should be. That said, it does have a few inconsistencies that need to be better thought out. Sliding ones hand across the screen to take a screenshot often changed what it was I was trying to screenshot.
Once initial impressions and introductions were made, I set out on putting the GSIII through its paces. I started with video. Beautiful. This is a beast that does like to be fed well, so if you give it HD content, you will be rewarded with a fantastic viewing experience on a gorgeous display. Gaming is also pretty amazing. This is where that quad-core processor really comes into its own. Those heavy-loading 3D graphics are handled with ease as the Exynos processor automatically switches all four processors on. S*** gets real. I swear, this thing didn’t flinch as it tore through immersive 3D gaming. Needless to say, I was impressed.
My inner/outer camera geek was also indulged with the optics in this handset. The daylight photo quality was surprisingly amazing. Focus was sharp and almost instant, with a surprisingly short macro range. I managed to get crystal clear focus at just a few centimeters!
WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE
As awesome and quick and punchy as this phone is, there was a lot I didn’t like. Call quality was the biggest problem. On numerous occasions did my friend Lauren (there you go Lol, your special mention) complain about the poor call quality and how she couldn’t hear me. She wasn’t the only one who said this, and I have heard through the grapevine that this is a prevailing opinion of the phone. Call quality was acceptable for me, but the earpiece is not loud enough and I often found myself pressing the LOUD button to hear what was being said on the other end.
The next thing that struck me was the build quality. For a device that if Samsung’s flagship model, and an expensive one at that, I simply expected better. Even my Mum, who is a bit of a luddite, picked up the phone and said “ugh, it just feels like too much of a toy to me!”. In all honesty, she is right. The body is made of all plastic and peeling the back panel off to access the battery made me feel nervous that I would snap it. The battery life on the phone isn’t terrible, especially for a device of its specifications. I would go to bed each night with about 15% still in the tank – as good as most other smartphones, but charging the thing took ages. While most other smartphones I have use charge up within an hour or so and can be used whilst charging, this one was the exception. Charging the SGIII took a solid few hours and using the phone whilst charging significantly slowed the process.
Image quality suffered significantly when using the camera at night, which really disappointed after the great optical performance earlier that day! Granted, it is a phone, but the camera seems to boost the ISO up to 800, something that cannot be achieved on a sensor of this size without significant noise. Finally, the built in keyboard is terrible. Aside from being poorly designed, the auto-correct dictionary made a habit of learning my frequent typos and repeating. Thankfully, I could quickly replace this with SwiftKey 3.
There is no denying that it is a beautiful phone. The screen is big and beautiful, slightly curved at the edges so that the display gently melds into the bezel. It features two capacitive buttons, which unless are lit, do not appear, which is very cool. They also glow beautifully in low light!
There are a few disappointing aspects of the design. The Samsung logo on the back is rough and unpleasant to touch and the camera lens is a point of contact when the phone is laid on its back, making it susceptible to scratching. As mentioned, it does have a significant ‘plasticy’ feel to it, making me feel as if the device was a bit fragile. I also worry about scratching the phone, and for a device that will be with me for almost every second of my life for two or so years, that is not something I want to have to constantly worry about.
The music quality out of the phone is fantastic! Samsung have included a high-quality DAC and have gone as far as to package the phone with in-ear headphones – an unexpected rarity when most consumer devices are packaged with headphones that cost the better part of $3.50.
The phone has GLONASS. I travel alot and am a massive geek, so quietly appreciate Samsung’s inclusion of a GLONASS receiver in the handset. For those who do not know, GLONASS is the Russian version of GPS, so if you take this phone into Russia or the nearby area’s you will enjoy super fast navigation, comrade. Much better than the American
Samsung’s S Voice is terribly unreliable, and on the occassion that it does work, I found that it couldnt provide me with relevant, meaningful information. While Google Voice or Siri can search for a decipher ‘information’, S Voice was pretty much limited to ‘Data’ – it could only tell me facts when directly asked “what is the time in Melbourne?” or simple things like that.
The ambient light sensor can be slow to respond in bright light, and often does so poorly, rendering the phone pretty useless in bright light. Thankfully, Samsung included a brightness slider in the pull-down menu in a recent update, meaning that I could crank up the brightness when needed to compensate.
|Operating System||Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0.x|
|Processor||1.4 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A9|
|Screen||4.8″ HD SUPER AMOLED (1280×720 pixels)|
|Camera||Rear – 8.0MP / Front camera – 1.9MP|
|Storage||16/32/64 GB flash memory|
Overall, this phone is a great phone. It is fast, responsive and has some amazing new technologies in it that we will see become part of our every day life very soon. Gaming and video are immersive and smooth, and the camera is crisp and fast. But it is not without its flaws. I cant escape the feeling of fragility and plastic-iness the call quality was too often complained about to go unnoticed. In all honesty, I think this phone is 80% there. A fix or two to the UI would bring it to 85%, but with the state of the design and call quality, at 85 it will remain. The question is, would you be happy with anything less than 100?