Review: Samsung Galaxy S III (T-Mobile) – The Best Phone I’ve Ever Owned (Pt. 1 – The Hardware)
Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past few months, it’s probably safe to assume you’ve at least heard of Samsung’s new flagship phone, the Galaxy S III. Since the moment the phone was first announced in London, it was my mission to make it my next Android device.
Luckily, It was a successful mission, since I managed to get my hands on the T-Mobile (SGH-T999) version the day after it launched on June 21st. Now, before we get into this juicy review, let’s go over the device specs, just in case anyone needs a quick refresher, shall we?
- Height: 5.38 inches (136.6 mm)
- Width: 2.78 inches (70.6 mm) Depth: 0.34 inches (8.6 mm)Weight: 4.69 oz. (133 g)
- 4.8” HD Super AMOLED screen 1280×720
Processor and Operating System
- Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ S4 Processor with 1.5 GHz Dual-Core CPUs
- Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
- 2 GB of RAM 16GB or 32GB internal memory, expandable with up to a 64GB SD card
- 2100mAh battery Talk time: 10 hours Standby time: 200 hours
- MP3, AMR-NB / WB, AAC / AAC+ / eAAC+, WMA, OGG (Vorbis), FLAC, AC-3, apt-X
- Advanced 8MP Camera with LED Flash (less than 1 second startup, zero shutter lag, 3 shots per second)
- 1.9MP front facing camera
- can record in 720p HD Full HD (1080p) video recording and playback up to 30 fps
- XMPEG4, H.264, H.263, VC-1. DivX, VP8, WMV7 / 8, Sorenson Spark, DivX3.11
- 4G capable, theoretical peak download speeds of up to 42 mbps
Bells and Whistles
- AllShare Play
- S Beam Smartphone
- Mobile HotSpot
- Near Field Communication
- Wi-Fi Direct
- Certified Samsung SAFE, LED
- Touch Wiz 5.0
- S Voice (Voice Commands)
- Motion Activation
- 11 PIN MHL Adapter required for HDMI capability
In the Box
- Handset Battery
- Micro SIM Card
Build and Feel
The Galaxy S III looks cheaply built, but don’t let looks fool you here. This is a prime example of a device you have to hold in your hand before passing any judgements. The phone’s chassis is built from a light plastic, though Samsung wants the world to believe it is a more complex polycarbonate chassis.
I’m not denying this, but the battery cover definitely feels flimsy to me. In fact, the first thought I had when removing the battery cover for the first time was, “Uh-oh — This thing is gonna snap before I even get the phone turned on”. Luckily, my paranoia was just that and it hasn’t broken on me just yet.
The phone is finished with a glossy coating that, at first, I thought was going to be a bad call because it seemed like the phone was a bit too slick. Again, I was wrong, as the phone fits my palm just right and the finish almost seems to grip to my hand a bit when holding it.
I’m also a fan of the S3′s rounded edges. They make the phone much more visually appealing than the latest Galaxy phone’s predecessor, the Galaxy S II. Though, I will admit, the SII definitely feels a bit more sturdy and solid, at the cost of just a bit more weight. For being such a large device, the Galaxy S III is surprisingly light. The phone itself weighs about as much as its 2100 mAh battery, which isn’t very heavy itself. Together, the device and battery only dial in at 133 grams. So, for having such a large screen, it doesn’t feel like you’re carrying around a brick in your pocket.
The device has a plastic physical “Home” button in the bottom-center of the screen, with two capacitive buttons on either side: the “Menu” button is on the right and the “Back” button is on the left. Optionally, you can choose to dim the capacitive button lights, or disable them altogether, which should save you a few extra minutes of battery life per charge.
This phone is chock full of innovative new features, blazing-fast hardware and enough RAM to satisfy even the most hungry of power-hungry Android fanatics. Unfortunately, it does not come rocking the 1.4 GHz quad-core processor that the international version packs, but the 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor definitely isn’t one to be scoffed at, as it handles almost anything you can throw at it as a regular-to-heavy Android user.
We know many of you may argue the validity of benchmark scores, but that isn’t going to stop us from testing — we know some of you swear by them, too. Below are scores from two different Android benchmarking apps. First up, we’ve got Antutu Benchmark:
And then, we have Quadrant Standard:
As you can see, the Galaxy S III stands up to the challenge in both tests, getting a respectable 6680 in Antutu and a chart-topping 4872 in Quadrant. One thing I’d like to note — if you have Power Saving mode enabled, your scores will be slightly lower than this.
Also, these are scores from the stock ROM for the device, so I’d imagine a little custom development is only going to drive these numbers higher and higher.
The S3 handles pretty much everything I do with great ease. Unfortunately, a few games on the Play Store still lack support for the device, but otherwise everything runs amazingly well.
The 2,100 mAh battery provides more than enough juice to get you through the day, even with moderate usage. As is the case with any device, the more you use it, the faster your power will drain.
I typically get 10-12 hours with moderate use and 7-9 with slightly more use. If I play games for an extended period of time or watch a lot of HD video, the battery dies out at around 6-7 hours. For me,
I’m never too far from a charger, so I don’t worry about it too much. I’ve yet to have the phone die on me without intentionally draining the battery though, so I’m definitely pleased with the battery life.
Take a look below at my typical day’s battery lifespan, with moderate use and no “Power Saver” setting turned on:
Camera and Video Recorder
The camera and video recorder on the Galaxy S III are among the best available on the smartphone market. The camera takes excellent high-resolution photographs in nearly any situation, including low-lit areas where most other phones fail to do the trick.
Above, you can see the snazzy new camera UI and below, I’ll go into more detail about the innards of the Galaxy S III’s 8MP rear-facing camera, 1.9MP front-facer, and 1080P capable HD video recorder.
The icons on the camera UI are your means of navigating the application. The button in the top left corner chooses between the front and rear-facing cameras. Below that is your flash settings — choose between always on, automatic, and always off. The next button down opens up your shooting mode menu. Here, you can choose from the following options:
- Single shot – Exactly as it implies, this setting is for take single photos.
- Smile shot — Tap the camera button — pictures are automatically taken when your subject smiles. This feature seems to work pretty well from the few times I’ve used it.
- Beauty — I’m not really sure what this one does, but it does add a white square shooting target on your screen for face capture. The photos do not come out noticeably different from those taken in normal mode.
- Cartoon — This setting adds a cartoonish filter to your photos, in real time, so you can see what they will look like before taking them.
- Share shot — Share shot enables you to share photos with other users via WiFi Direct. Obviously, a WiFi Direct connection is required for share shot to work.
- Buddy photo share — Take and share photos with friends via face detection.
Moving to the fourth button down on the left-hand side of the camera app, this is where you set your focus mode. Choose from Auto focus, Macro or Face detection. The last button at the bottom on the left is your camera settings. Here, you have access to the following settings:
- Edit shortcuts
- Shooting mode
- Scene mode
- Exposure value
- Focus mode
- White balance
- Auto contrast
- Image quality
- GPS tag
- Shutter sound
On the right side of the camera app, the top button switches between photo and video mode, the button in the middle is used for taking pictures and starting/stopping the video recorder. Below that is a preview window that displays the last photo or video taken on your phone. Clicking this window opens the Gallery application, where you can view all of the photos and videos stored on your device.
One awesome feature of the Galaxy S III camera is facial tagging. You can easily tag friends, family and other acquaintances from your contacts in your photographs by pressing the yellow square, as shown in the screenshot below (handsome little booger, isn’t he?):
So, you want to see it in action, do you? Check out the gallery of test photos taken with the Galaxy S III below and then check out the sample video recording clips below that.
1080p Video Sample:
720p Video Sample:
Editing photos on the fly is simple with the Galaxy S III. While, the app doesn’t come pre-installed, you can easily download it from the Samsung Apps application, which I’ll talk more about a bit later. After downloading the photo editor, you can apply a number of different effects and make changes to any picture stored on your device.
Network speeds are dependent upon where you live. I live in the Des Moines HSPA+ market and, while my speeds are nowhere close to some of the screenshots I see from Verizon customers, my average network speeds are definitely something I can live with. I usually get between 8 and 12Mbps download speeds and between 1.5 and 2Mbps for upload speeds. It sure has come a long way since dial-up, hasn’t it?