Samsung Galaxy S3 Review – Best smartphone ever made? [Video]

May 27, 2012
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I have a confession to make. When I first laid eyes on the Samsung Galaxy S3, I thought the design was unappealing and uninspired. I felt that the styling was a bit dated; akin to a slight upgrade of the Nexus One. From the initial launch invitation which featured marble white and blue blobs, I expected something more raw, more edgy. I was expecting a fusion of liquid metal and styling from Verizon’s iconic Droid campaigns. I was expecting to be impressed, to be blown to pieces with something completely revolutionary.

Thankfully, I was invited to the launch event here in Malaysia, and my first impressions have been ripped to tatters. After having had the opportunity to spend some quality hands on time with the Galaxy S3, I have realized that my initial impressions were unfounded. The leaked images of the S3 that appeared in the few days leading up to the S3 launch did not do justice to this amazing piece of technology I hold before me now.

Honestly, I am in love. It was love at first touch, and all preconceived notions I had about the S3 design have melted away, and been replaced by pure technological bliss and delight.

Designed To Make Sense

Right out of the box, the battery was amazingly thin – thinner than any removable battery I have ever seen or handled. That’s 2100mAh of power that will keep you going for long. Once popped in, the plastic battery cover snapped on easily – something that Samsung has used previously in the S2, Galaxy Nexus and Note.

Even with a gigantic4.8” HD Super AMOLED display, the phone feels incredibly light and very comfortable in my hands. Getting the device for the first time, I find myself in a perpetual state of what can only be described as ‘eureka moments’. The whole ‘inspired by nature’ talk began to make sense. It’s a design that works perfectly.

Quite simply, the design of the Samsung Galaxy S3 is a breath of fresh air in the midst of sharp and edgy ubiquitous mobile design.

A Garden Of Eden

The Samsung Touchwiz Nature UX is fast and fluid; like the way water ripples with your every touch. This is the most refined version of Touchwiz ever. It is a welcome from the ‘raw and efficient’ versions of homescreens currently on Android.

If you remember my article on the Galaxy Nexus, the Google flagship wasn’t up to my expectations in terms of smoothness. The S3 is.

I also commend Samsung for their proper execution of the app drawer. Previously (on the Note), grid view was a mess. However, this time, they included alphabetical grid view, which arranges everything nicely. I wish they gave the same option to the Android 4.0 update to the Note (they didn’t).

Going through the ringtone options, the soothing ‘nature’ sounds that are incorporated made me love it more. It’s not just love at first sight, but love at first touch and sound.

Power Packed Processor

To be honest, there isn’t anything revolutionary about the hardware. Yes, it does have a 1.4GHz quad core Exynos SoC – which is among the best there is right now. This time though, Samsung actually went above mere raw hardware, and really took their software to the next level. Having used the phone nonstop for the past few days, I can confidently write that Samsung has actually improved on stock Android 4.0 ICS  in ways I thought no manufacturer was capable.

Spec wise, the device hold its own among the best devices of today, including the HTC One X (both international quad core and its dual core S4 LTE variant), and rips to tatters the best devices of yesteryear, including the S2, the HTC Sensation, and other similarly spec’ed devices.

Even though the camera is a ‘measly’ 8MP, it has a new BIS sensor for low light shooting, which really helps to take fantastic shots in low light situations, – with no flash. Apart from these obvious changes, sticking to the 8MP camera makes everything seems quite normal.

Other specs include 1GB of RAM, an overclocked Mali 400 GPU and that glorious 4.8 inch HD Super AMOLED screen. Enough good cannot be said of the 4.8 inch display on the Galaxy S3. Despite having a Pentile Matrix, which many a blogger has moaned and lamented, colors have never beeen richer, and blacks have never been more bottomless. Comparing it to the displays of the Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy Note, I can say that Samsung seems to have improved on those already fantastic displays this time round.

The amazing, attention grabbing display, all the powerful specs, and the most mature, refined and robust version of Android yet work to create what is arguably the finest performance of any smartphone ever devised.

Lightning Fast Performance

The 1.4GHz quad core Exynos completes any task you throw at it in record time. The result of having the Exynos is extreme fluidity and smoothness, a kind of fluidity that is unparalleled at this point in time. I cannot stress how fast this device is. It’s unlike any device I have ever used – everything occurs instantly.

Comparing the Galaxy Note side by side, it was obvious that the S3 completes tasks seconds before the Note even has the chance to react. The difference in performance is simply shocking.Web pages are only limited by your internet speed. Capturing photos is instant. Multitasking between apps occurs the moment you finger touches the screen. I am still in awe, and picking up my Galaxy Note or nearby Galaxy Nexus suddenly becomes a dreadful, cumbersome activity. 

Camera Joy

For all of you out there that love taking pictures and video with your mobile device, I think you’ll be happy to hear that the Samsung Galaxy S3 offers quite a few new innovations in the optics department, too.

Firstly, there is the Burst Shot and Best Photo. Burst Shot lets you burst up to 20 consecutive shots at 6 frames per second. Best Photo is a feature that automatically recommends the best photo to you from 8 consecutive shots at 6 frames per second. On its own, the camera shoots almost instantaneously and ‘burst’ manually – which is absolutely fantastic. Zero shutter lag makes taking burst shots even better.

There is also a HDR mode that you can shoot with, which was able to take some fantastic shots in high light environments and situations. I’ll be uploading them to a gallery here as soon as possible.

In video mode, there’s Recording Snapshot, which enables you to grab 1920×1080 resolution images while the video is recording. The best is is the touch to focus feature in video recording, which allows you to switch your video’s focus on the go. This provides videos that have substantially better depth of field, a feature previously unavailable to any smartphone. Here, the Galaxy S3 and the thought and effort that went into it, shines through bright and clear.

Benchmark Heaven

In terms of benchmarks, the S3 was very impressive. To some degree, it was miles ahead of its nearest competitor, the HTC One X. In other areas, it sets a standard that seems – for now – almost impossible to beat.

Benchmarks

  • 5444 in Quadrant Standard.
  • 2081 in Vellamo
  • 58.8fpsin Nenamark2
  • 55.299 single thread and 177.544 multi thread on Linpak (both 2.2 precision)
  • 60.0fps on Neocore
  • 22258, 5084, 11953 on CF Bench

If benchmarks are any indication of how great a device is, then these figures will tell you that the S3 rocks – and rocks harder than even the HTC One – to become what is likely the most powerful smartphone in the world. In terms of real world performance, it is better than the One X. Bam!

The benchmarks do confirm that drastic hardware improvements have taken place, but the changes in the S3 aren’t just about the cores and megapixels. On the software side, Samsung has taken Android to a whole other level of intuitive operation and usability. Their refinements are tucked into so softly to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, that they feel like they should have always been there. It would seem that Samsung has finally listened to their fans, and minimized their overlay in such a way that it enhances the user experience. Great job Samsung!

Smarter Call Features

Under the Motions setting, you can turn on Direct Call, which allows you to immediately call a person from their SMS message or from their contact profile. This makes using the Samsung Galaxy S3 a very natural experience.

There’s also a Smart Alert function under Motions. Whenever you have any missed calls or messages, it vibrates when you pick up your phone. Apart from this ingenious function, there’s always the notification light to inform you of any missed calls or messages. Despite the soft and soothing tones, the speaker (placed behind the phone, next to the camera) is sufficiently loud for day to day purposes.

We really have to commend Samsung here, as this is exactly what people were looking for. The notification light is a very  welcome addition, and the baked in thought that went to making this device offer a natural, intuitive experience are both profound, and, in practice, very useful and appreciated additions.

Connectivity Just Got Better

If you think Android Beam is awesome, you’ve got to see what the S Beam can do. S Beam works just like Android Beam, but goes a step further with WiFi Direct. With WiFi Direct, you can transfer items like huge 1080p videos (that are hundreds of megabytes in size) in minutes. However, the problem is this – S Beam is currently available only for the S3. This makes it a problem for non-S3 users. To transfer to and from older (Samsung) devices, you’ll still have to pair your devices manually via WiFi Direct.

There’s also a new app called AllShare Play that share files and media to other connected devices. Through AllShare Play, you can also create a Group Cast – which also allows editing of files and the changes to be immediately applied across numerous devices.

S Voice, A Better Version Than Vlingo

Although there are some who claim that S Voice, the voice recognition app in the S3, is nothing more than a repackaged Vlingo app, it is clear that the former has been much improved.

S Voice now offers advanced tasks such as changing phone settings, voice record and updating your social network status. During the launch of the S3, Samsung also demonstrated taking photos with S Voice. I can imagine that this being very convenient for lots of different reasons, but most people might find it to be sort of ‘gimmicky’, but then again, so is Siri.

Either way – on par and better in lots of ways than the leading voice recognition apps for mobile devices in the world. Android 4.0 already features truly excellent voice to text functionality, and Samsung appears to have improved that here. We will be really testing the full limits of what S Voice can do over the next several days, so stay tuned for a follow up on this aspect. So far, so good!

Features that are Smart

In a bid to make the Galaxy S3 more user friendly, Samsung came up with Smart Stay, a function that disables screen timeout when detecting a user viewing the display. From my observation of using the device extensively for the past 48 hours, I noticed that the S3 checks for eye contact at certain intervals, and proceeds to dim the display. However, the moment the screen is turned off, the display won’t switch back on. To summarize, Smart Stay really works well when you’re staring directly at the screen, but awkward angles and occasional glances proved to be a challenge for the device. Perhaps they can improve this with a software update, but it’s still a nice feature to have.

Video lovers can also rejoice at the introduction of Pop Up Play, where your videosc can play in a floating window, above your other tasks like email, SMS, web browsing or whatever you like, really. Have ADHD? You’re going to love this device.

Sudden Surprises?


In addition to all the magic the S3 is packing, Samsung decided to sweeten the deal even further by offering an unprecedented amount of cloud storage for device owners. They’re offering – for 24 months – 50GB of Dropbox space. Make no mistake ladies and gentleman, that’s a lot of cloud space to have for 24 months.

There are a few things that left me puzzled and scratching my head. For example, the ‘News and Weather’ a la ‘geniewidget’ has been removed from the S3. I am a huge user of Geniewidget, and surprisingly, it’s gone. Perhaps Samsung felt that users might lean towards Pulse or Flipboard. For that matter, there’s no Flipboard on the phone. That eye pleasing app which had made waves over the past few weeks is absent on the review set. That is quite a surprise.

Even more surprising, is the lack of Swype on the S3. This may come as good news to some – especially those who prefer getting Swype beta. To work around this, Samsung incorporated similar Swype features in the Samsung Keyboard. That’s a good sign, as consumers can choose which keyboard they prefer.

Ultimately though, none of this matters. The software, keyboards, apps, and all other elements like that are user configurable. My minor gripes should not dissuade you dear reader, for they are 1% of the picture. Samsung has created something truly magical with this device.

Conclusion

Honestly, i’m speechless. I love everything about the Samsung Galaxy S3. It’s modern, it’s human and it’s closest to being perfect that I think a smartphone could ever be. To see Android having come this far, leaves me in awe. It’s display is the best I have ever witnessed – better than the Galaxy Nexus, HTC One X, iPhone 4S, or that of any mobile device I have ever laid eyes on. Its speed and fluidity of operation are unrivaled, and near instantaneous. Despite its relativley large size, it is remarkably well balanced in the hand, and feels fantastic to the touch. It is, in my opinion, the best Android device – no – the best Smartphone – ever created.

Video

There is one thing I hate though, and that’s the fact that I will have to return this review set in two weeks time.  Going back to my Galaxy Note is going to be very difficult. Make no mistake folks – this is quite simply the best smartphone in the world.

What are your thoughts?

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