Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia T/TL

December 24, 2012
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It isn’t uncommon for Android devices to have reputations. The Samsung Galaxy S3 GT-I9300 is considered by many to be the King of Android phones, and with good reason. According to Samsung, it sold 30 million Galaxy S3 units during the first 150 days after the phone was released in May.

The Sony Xperia T LT30p (Xperia TL LT30at on AT&T in the U.S.), on the other hand, did not quite gain a reputation. Rather, Sony has attached James Bond’s name to the device. That’s right — Agent 007, man of charisma, charm, and exquisitely tailored suits, has his name attached to the Xperia T and even uses it for a few seconds in the latest Bond movie, Skyfall.

These two devices, the Galaxy S3 and the Xperia T, both have very large names but do they deserve them? More importantly, which of these phones will come out on top?

Read on for our comparison review, or you can skip to our comparison video.

Physical Build and Design

Dimensions and Weight

Galaxy S3 Xperia T
Height 136.6 mm (5.38 inch) 129.4 mm (5.1 in)
Width 70.6 mm (2.78 inch) 67.3 mm (2.6 in)
Thickness 8.6 mm (0.34 inch) 9.35 mm (0.4 in)
Weight 133 (4.69 oz) 139 grams (4.90308 oz)

The Galaxy S3 and Xperia T almost have the same height, width, and thickness. Both phones are light and easy to carry around. I can’t really tell which of these phones are heavier when I hold them in my hands.

For this device comparison, I used a the Pebble Blue version of the Galaxy S3. The plastic surrounding the screen has a brushed metal look, which you can see when you hold the Galaxy S3 up to the light. The Galaxy S3 also has rounded corners, giving it a more natural look. The Xperia T, on the other hand, has a more industrial look going for it, with lots of elegant lines, a hard plastic front, and a back cover that feels nice to touch.

The Xperia T’s build looks and feels solid. When I hold it tightly in one hand, the body doesn’t creak. However, don’t let the Galaxy S3’s looks fool you. The phone may look slim but it doesn’t creak at all when gripped tightly in one hand.

Front

The Xperia T’s front has no physical button as all its buttons are onscreen. The Galaxy S3, on the other hand, has a physical Home button flanked by the capacitive buttons for Menu and Back, but you can only see them when they light up. I feel that they’re placed a little too low and too close to the bottom side of the phone; they could have benefited from being placed a little higher and out of accidental touching range.

Both the Xperia T and Galaxy S3 have wider bottom bezels, slim top bezels, and slimmer left and right bezels. These make the phones easy to hold in portrait and in landscape mode, though I’ve many times accidentally touched the Galaxy S3’s capacitive buttons while watching a video or playing a game.

Sides

On the top side of both phones, you can find the 3.5-mm headphone jack, making them easy to plug your headphones into.

The Galaxy S3’s left side contains its Volume Rocker, while the Xperia T’s left side only contains its Micro USB port.

While the Galaxy S3 only has its Power button on its right side, the Xperia T has more going on this same side. This is where you can find the cutaway flap covering the microSD and micro-SIM card slots, as well as the Power button, the Volume Rocker, and the dedicated Shutter button.

The Xperia T’s buttons are located lower on the phone than usual, making it difficult for users to reach if they don’t hold the lower part of the phone. The Galaxy S3’s button placement, on the other hand, is much more convenient for users.

On the Galaxy S3 and Xperia T’s bottom side, you can find the small hole for the microphone but the Galaxy S3 also keeps its Micro USB port here.

Back

The Xperia T’s non-removable back is a nice contrast to its industrial minimalistic front. The backplate is covered with soft rubber material that does not attract smudges and fingerprints. The Galaxy S3’s own back is made of polycarbonate plastic, matching the plastic of the phone’s front. The Galaxy S3’s backplate is removable and is quite flexible, but it’s not immune to scratches and tends to attract smudges. I’ve been using the Galaxy S3 for a while now and I can already see scratches on the back cover.

The good thing about the Galaxy S3’s backcover, however, is that I can easily replace it with a third-party back cover in case the previous one gets worn. I can also replace the battery if the phone runs out of juice. The Xperia T has a unibody build, so you’re stuck with one back cover style and an irreplaceable battery.

The Galaxy S3’s 8 MP camera juts out from the backplate, flanked by the LED flash and the loudspeaker grille. The Xperia T’s 13 MP camera also juts out from backplate; below it, you can find the LED flash and the N-Mark logo. On the lower half of the Xperia T’s backplate, you can find the loudspeaker grille, which is rather deep.

The Xperia T bears the same curved back as those on such Xperia phones as the Xperia J, the Xperia Arc, and the Xperia TX. Because of the curved edges, it feels as if the Xperia T is leaning into your hand.

The Galaxy S3’s polished and glossy back is nice to look at. The rounded corners and the smooth surface make the phone easy and comfortable to hold, as if you’re holding a smooth round pebble in your hand. This polished and glossy back cover not only is simple but also gives the phone an air of elegance.

Display

Both these phones are great for watching videos and looking at pictures, but the screens are quite different.

The Xperia T’s colors are a bit too bright while the Galaxy S3’s own screen showed more saturated and darker colors. Compared to the Xperia T, however, the Galaxy S3’s screen shows more realistic colors. Regardless of whether you want your colors to be more realistic or to be brighter, both of these screens provide great viewing experience and have no trouble displaying tiny details such as sand, drops of water, and scales.

The Xperia T comes with Sony’s Bravia Engine technology, which enhances images and reduces noise on your screen. I’ve noticed, however, that while brighter colors in videos look fine on the Xperia T, the dark tones are quite noisy.

The Galaxy S3 has a unique feature that keeps your screen on while you’re looking at it. It’s called Smart Stay, and as long as your eyes are on the screen, it won’t be timing out any time soon. This is great when you’re reading an ebook or browsing the Web. You’ll need adequate lighting, though, for this feature to work.

Processing Power

Galaxy S3 Xperia T
Chipset Exynos 4412 Snapdragon MSM8260A
CPU quad-core 1.4 GHz Cortex-A9 dual-core 1.5 GHz Krait
GPU Mali-400MP Adreno 225
RAM 1 GB 1 GB
Internal Storage 16/32/64 GB 16 GB
External Storage Up to 64 GB expandable via microSD card up to 32 GB

Two different processors power these phones: a quad-core processor on the Galaxy S3 and a dual-core processor on the Xperia T.

Both phones are generally smooth and fluid but I noticed some minor lag on the Xperia T, which may not just be because of its dual-core processor but also because the phone is still running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The Galaxy S3 is smoother and more fluid, thanks to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean’s Project Butter.

No lags and freezes were observed on either of the phones while I played HD games such as Dead Trigger.

The Galaxy S3 also offers more storage capacity options compared to the 16-gigabyte storage capacity of the Xperia T. Both phones also have microSD card slots for additional storage; the Galaxy S3 can support up to 64 gigabytes while the Xperia T can support up to 32 gigabytes.

Benchmarks

Benchmark Galaxy S3 Xperia T
Quadrant 5461 4631
AnTuTu 10239 9807
CF-Bench 13224 9491
Vellamo Mobile Benchmark HTML5 1417 1821
Vellamo Mobile Benchmark Metal 557 582
Geekbench 2 1489 1588
Linpack for Android Single Thread 54.937 MFLOPS 95.131 MFLOPS
Linpack for Android Multi-thread 460.838 MFLOPS 102.737 MFLOPS
GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt HD C16Z16 Offscreen 15 fps 13 fps
GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt HD C16Z16 Onscreen 15 fps 22 fps
Nenamark 1 60.0 fps 60.1 fps
Nenamark 2 58.8 fps 60.0 fps
An3DBench XL 34334 36846
SunSpider 0.9.1 JavaScript (lower is better) 2036.8 ms 1747.8 ms
BrowserMark 2.0 1881 2921
Google V8 Benchmark Suite 1744 1488

In terms of CPU performance, the results of our benchmark tests vary. The Galaxy S3 beats the Xperia T in some areas, while the Xperia T bests the Galaxy S3 in others. In terms of GPU and browser performance, however, the Xperia T fared better than the Galaxy S3.

Connectivity

Both the Xperia T and the Galaxy S3 can connect to 2G, 3G, and Wi-Fi connections. Some variants of the Galaxy S3 and AT&T’s variant of the Xperia T, the Xperia TL LT30at, can connect to 4G LTE networks.

Both phones require a micro-SIM for you to use their phone capabilities. The SIM tray on the Galaxy S3 is located under the back cover. The Xperia T’s SIM slot is hidden under the cutaway flap on its right side.

Other means of connectivity are NFC, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, and Bluetooth. Both phones use standards-compliant Micro USB ports and cables for transferring files and connecting to their wall chargers.

Camera

The Xperia T carries a 13-megapixel rear camera with a Sony Exmor R sensor while the Galaxy S3 has an 8-megapixel shooter. Taking pictures with both of these phones is great, but I definitely give plus points to the Xperia T’s dedicated Shutter button. It turns the phone into a mini-digicam.

The camera apps on both phones are simple but offer flexibility to users. These two apps offer a variety of modes to enhance images. Both cameras can shoot different sizes, but between them, the Galaxy S3 has more image size options. Aside from taking 8-megapixel pictures, the Galaxy S3 can also shoot 6-, 3.2-, 2.4-, 0.9-, and 0.3-megapixel images. The Xperia T has options for only 13-, 10- and 2-megapixel picture sizes with varying aspect ratios.

In my experience, both cameras’ performance was quite fast. They instantly snapped the picture the moment I pressed the Shutter button. Auto-focus usually takes 1-2 seconds in bright settings and much longer in low-light environments.

Let’s see how both rear cameras performed:

In these outdoor shots, both images came out crisp and of great quality. There were hardly any differences between the them.

In low-light settings, however, the Galaxy S3 produced a darker and noisier image than the Xperia T did.

Both phones’ LED flashes were bright enough to brighten the area. The Xperia T’s flash produced a yellowish light, while the Galaxy S3’s own LED flash was bluish-white.

For video calling, the Galaxy S3 carries a 1.9-megapixel camera while there’s a 1.3-megapixel on the Xperia T.

The Xperia T’s front camera tended to produce foggy images.

In low-light settings, the Xperia T’s front camera captured a brighter image, but it was noisier than the Galaxy S3’s picture.

Both phones can capture 1080p Full HD videos and have image stabilization to avoid jittery clips. Although both phones have image stabilization features, the video that I recorded on the Xperia T is more jittery than the Galaxy S3.

Video quality on both phones were good but colors rendered on the Xperia T were more subdued and less vibrant than those on the Galaxy S3. Video sound was also good, however, they also captured background noise.

Media Playback

For watching your favorite videos, both phones can play 1080p Full HD videos without choking or stuttering. The video players on both phones are straightforward and simple to use. The Galaxy S3, however, has a unique feature called Pop up play that lets you watch your videos while browsing the Web or reading your messages.

Both phones’ respective music players are simple and flexible. They both allow you to enhance your music experience using equalizer presets or by manually adjusting the equalizer. The Xperia T’s WALKMAN Music app comes with a 5-band equalizer but the Galaxy S3’s music player has a 7-band equalizer.

The Galaxy S3 also features extended equalizer settings such as Bass, 3D effect, Reverb Level, Room Size, and Clarity. The Xperia T, on the other hand, comes with Clear BASS, which lets you tweak the lower sound spectrum, and xLoud to enhance the volume of the Xperia T’s loudspeakers.

Turn up the volume on the Xperia T, however, and you’ll hear distortion, especially for techno and dubstep tracks. The Galaxy S3’s own loudspeaker does better when you turn up the Volume and, though there is some distortion, it is not particularly bothersome.

Putting these phones down on their backs while you’re playing music is not a problem. The Galaxy S3’s camera protrudes from the backplate, giving it a bit of lift, and preventing the loudspeaker grille from being covered up. The Xperia T’s own curved back also helps prevent its loudspeaker grille from being muffled.

Battery Life

We subjected the Galaxy S3 and the Xperia T to our informal battery test, which consists of turning on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS; setting brightness to maximum; enabling sync options, and never letting the screen turn off. For the first part of the test, I looped an HD video for 1 hour. The second half of the text involved browsing a Web page with lots of graphics for another hour.

The test had whittled the Xperia T’s battery down to 51% but the Galaxy S3 managed to walk away with 61%. With normal use, the Galaxy S3 might make it through 8 hours but Xperia T users may want to pack their chargers with them.

Software

Both the Galaxy S3 and the Xperia T ran Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box. The Galaxy S3, however, was released earlier this year and is now running Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean with Samsung’s TouchWiz Nature UX on top.

The Xperia T, however, may see an Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update some time in 2013. The Xperia T uses Sony’s own Timescape UI.

Lockscreen

True to Samsung’s design cues from nature, the Galaxy S3’s lockscreen becomes a collection of ripples when you tap on it. You can slide your finger anywhere to unlock the screen. To quickly launch apps, you can place up to 5 app shortcuts at the bottom of the lockscreen. You won’t find that on the Xperia T.

Contrasting the Galaxy S3’s more natural look, the Xperia T is all business with its slider. On the left side is a lock icon while on the right is a camera icon. Sliding the lock icon to the right unlocks the phone, while sliding the camera icon to the right launches the camera app.

I find the Galaxy S3 quicker to unlock, but it’s also more prone to being accidentally unlocked with a wayward touch. The Xperia T’s icons, whether for unlocking the phone or launching the camera, need to reach the end of the slider. In my opinion, this makes the Xperia T less likely to be accidentally unlocked.

Homescreen

Both the Galaxy S3 and the Xperia T allow you to use homescreens for your app shortcuts and widgets. The Galaxy S3, however, offers 7 homescreens while the Xperia T only has 5. At the bottom of the screen on both phones, you can find an app dock that can contain 4 app shortcuts or folders and one button for the app drawer.

Notifications

Because the Xperia T and the Galaxy S3 are Android devices, you can pull down the notification menu by swiping down from the status bar. You can even dismiss individual notifications or clear all of them with one click.

At the top of the notification menu, you can access several toggles, but the Xperia T’s toggles are limited to only Sound, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Data, and a shortcut to Settings. The Galaxy S3, on the other hand, has quick toggles for Wi-Fi, GPS, Sound, Screen rotation, Power Saving, Blocking mode, Data, Bluetooth, and Sync.

The Galaxy S3 allows you to adjust brightness from the notification bar, something you cannot do on the Xperia T.

App Drawer

The App Drawers on both phones are similar, arranged on a 5×4 grid. Both of them allow you to arrange apps in certain ways. The Galaxy S3 lets you view your apps as a customizable grid, an alphabetical grid, or an alphabetical list.

The Xperia T, on the other hand, lets you arrange apps by your own order, alphabetically, most used, or recently installed. Both phones let you uninstall apps from the App Drawer without having to go through Settings.

The Galaxy S3’s app drawer has a separate tab for widgets, which the Xperia T’s own app drawer does not have.

Widgets

Both the Galaxy S3 and the Xperia T let you utilize the homescreen by adding widgets and app shortcuts. The Xperia T’s widgets are geared towards keeping in touch with your friends, while the Galaxy S3’s own widgets suggest apps for you to try out and keep you up to speed on the latest news.

One notable widget on the Xperia T is a widget that contains all the vital toggles that Sony couldn’t cram into the notification menu. These include Backlight, GPS, Auto-sync, Airplane, Hotspot, Roaming, and NFC.

Personalization

Since they’re both Android smartphones, the Xperia T and the Galaxy S3 carry the same stock Android features that allow you to customize your phone. Each phone, however, has a unique set of personalization features.

The Galaxy S3 has the following:

  • Selecting two homescreen modes
  • Changing the font style
  • Selecting from 4 screen modes
  • Enabling/disabling motion gestures

The Xperia T, on the other hand, has the following:

  • Themes
  • Customizing keyboard layout and adding additional keys

Keyboard

The Xperia T, by default, uses the Xperia keyboard which I found a bit too small for my thumbs. The Galaxy S3’s default Samsung keyboard, on the other hand, was easier to type with as it provided more space between the keys.

Both these phones offer gesture typing, known as Continuous Input on the Galaxy S3 and Gesture Input on the Xperia T.

If you’re tired of typing, you can use the voice-to-text feature. This feature, however, cannot be used on either of the phones without an Internet connection.

Search

Both phones use Google as default search engine; however, the Galaxy S3 uses the smooth and fast Google Now which is only compatible with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and higher. Aside from Google Now, the Galaxy S3 also has a virtual voice assistant called S Voice. You can ask S Voice to find a restaurant nearby, to compose your messages, to set important notes, and to give you the current weather.

Security

Both phones have the same stock Android security features such as pattern lock, PIN, and Face Unlock. The Galaxy S3, however, added some of its own features, such as Motion unlock, Face and Voice unlock, and remote controls with SamsungDive.

Pricing and Availability

The Xperia T is available in black, silver, and white but with only a 16 GB model. It is available for about 400 pounds (about US$645) in the U.K. If you’re based in Canada, you can get the Xperia T for anywhere between CA$525 to CA$550. The Xperia T’s LTE variant can be purchased from AT&T as the Xperia TL LT30at with a 2-year US$100 contract.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 comes with 16- and 32-gigabyte variants for an estimated price of US$550 and US$680, respectively. The 64-gigabyte variant is available in select countries for an estimated price of US$800.

Video Review

Check out our video comparison of these two phones on YouTube:

Conclusion

In sum, the Galaxy S3 and the Xperia T are both great Android devices. Performance-wise, both phones fare pretty well. The two have gorgeous displays that are perfect for watching HD videos. Gaming is also smooth and fluid on both phones. Shutterbugs will definitely love both phones’ snappy camera performance and flexible camera apps, especially the dedicated Shutter button on the Xperia T.

In terms of operating system, though, I’m all for the Galaxy S3’s Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. This OS makes the interface more fluid and seamless with Project Butter. You also get to use the smooth and fast search app Google Now. Plus, the nature-inspired TouchWiz user interface is very relaxing and easy to use.

The Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich with Timescape UI on the Xperia T is generally smooth but not as smooth as Jelly Bean. Sony will be releasing the Jelly Bean update for the Xperia T next year. Until that time arrives, I’ll stick with the Samsung Galaxy S3.

Which phone is your personal favorite? Is it the Samsung Galaxy S3 or the Xperia T/TL? Tell us what you think by leaving a comment or voting in the polls below.

(with contributions from Alvin Ybañez)

[poll id="196"]

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