Finally, after weeks of debates, rumors, and leaks, the Samsung Galaxy S3 was officially unveiled yesterday at the Samsung Unpacked event in London. How does the S3 compare against its predecessor, the Galaxy S2? Is it just a minor update, as some rumors claimed a few weeks ago, or is the S3 a “legit” member of the most successful line of Android smartphones to ever go into production? How much has the Android world evolved since last year when the S2 was announced? We’ll answer all these questions and more as we compare the Galaxy S3 against its predecessor, the Galaxy S2. So let’s get started, shall we?
Display and form factor
The Samsung Galaxy S3 features a big and bright 4.8-inch SAMOLED HD display running at a native resolution of 1280 by 720 pixels. Unfortunately, the lack of a “Plus” in the display tech means that the S3 uses the PenTile arrangement, where the subpixels are shared between adjacent pixels. To some, this doesn’t make too much of a difference, but the most eagle-eyed of you will surely be able to tell between the display on the S3 and the 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display of the Galaxy S2, one that uses a regular RGB matrix and runs at a 480 by 800 pixel resolution. The Galaxy Nexus also used a pentile screen, much to some customer’s dismay. That doesn’t mean that the S3 display is poor (on the contrary), but it’s definitely worth mentioning that its pixel density 306 ppi is not achieved naturally. The contrast is great, the colors are vivid, and its a huge step up from the display of the S2. Some believe that at least one US version of the Galaxy S3 will feature a SAMOLED Plus display, but that remains to be seen.
The folks over at Engadget have placed the displays of the original Galaxy S, the S2, the S2 LTE and that of the S3 under a microscope, allowing us to see the drawbacks of using a pentile arrangement instead of a regular RGB matrix. See if you can tell the difference between a pentile screen and one based on a regular RGB matrix!
As the Galaxy S3 features a display larger by half an inch compared to that of the S2, the dimensions of the handset have increased as well, although the difference isn’t as big as you would expect thank to its remarkably smaller bezel and chin. The S3 measures 136.6 mm in height and 70.6 mm in width, while the S2 measures 125.3 mm in height and 66.1 mm in width. It’s worth noting that the Samsung Galaxy S3 is also 0.1 mm thicker than its predecessor, measuring 8.6 mm. I am a firm believer that anything under 9 mm is thin enough, as a smartphone also has to be thick enough to be used comfortably. The S3 is also heavier than the S2, weighing in at 133 grams.
Note: both the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy S2 use Corning’s Gorilla Glass scratch-free screen protection technology, and the S3 features the latest from the masters of tough display tech.
Processor, GPU, RAM
As it was confirmed before the official unveiling of the Galaxy S3, the newest smartphone in the Galaxy S line features a quad-core Exynos 4212 processor clocked at 1.4GHz per core. The Exynos 4212 is based on the ARM Cortex A9 processor, but manufactured by Samsung internally. Preliminary benchmark results seem to claim that the Exynos 4212 is the fastest smartphone processor in the world, faster than both the dual-core Snapdragon S4 and the quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3. By comparison, the Galaxy S2 uses a 1.2GHz dual-core Exynos processor, also based on Cortex A9.
Both the Galaxy S2 and the Galaxy S3 use the same GPU architecture, namely the Mali-400MP, although it is believed that Samsung has clocked the S3’s GPU to 400MHz, while the one on the S2 is clocked at 233MHz. We’re still waiting for more benchmark results to fly in so that we can tell how the overclocked Mali-400MP GPU stacks up against the Adreno 225 CPU inside the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 SoC or the Nvidia Geforce ULP inside the Tegra 3. Both the S2 and the S3 are equipped with 1GB of RAM as the jump to 2GB of RAM is still deemed unnecessary in a smartphone these days.
Although Samsung have confirmed that the Galaxy S3 will also be available in LTE versions, they were unable to specify the differences (if any) between the 3G version unveiled yesterday and the upcoming LTE versions. Some claim that the US, LTE-enabled versions will arrive with a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 SoC, much like HTC did with the HTC One X / AT&T One XL. Granted, the Samsung S2 LTE also swapped the Samsung-built Exynos processor found inside the international version of the S2 in favor of a Qualcomm Scorpion CPU, but that was before Samsung have released their own LTE radio along with the Galaxy Nexus. As far as I’m concerned, there is a chance for the Exynos 4212 to rear its quad-core head in the LTE versions for the Galaxy S3 as well, so keep your fingers crossed.
Cameras, Storage & Battery
It turns out that the rumors claiming the S3 will feature a 12MP camera turned out to be false, as the S3 features the exact same 8MP camera as that of the S2, although Samsung have made some improvements to the camera app that should enable faster photo sharing. It’s unfortunate that the quality of the camera has stagnated, but compromises are required to keep the price from jumping to astronomical levels. And let’s be honest, the S2 takes amazing photos, 720p, and 1080p video already.
While the S2 only came in 16GB and 32GB versions, the Galaxy S3 also comes in a 64GB variant. Fortunately, the S3 features a micro-SD card slot, just like its predecessor, and unlike the HTC One X. Galaxy S3 customers will also be offered a free 50GB DropBox cloud storage account.
The S3 features a bigger battery than that of the S2 (2100 mAh vs 1650 mAh), but so far, we’re unable to tell how much of the extra battery power goes to the larger display and the quad-core processor. Unfortunately, we don’t expect the S3 to sport a much bigger battery life span than that of the S2. Do reserve judgement on this part of the VS until we get a chance to do a thorough hands on review of the hardware in about three weeks from now.
As far as I’m concerned, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is the best Android smartphone in the world. The S3 sports the fastest processor around, will get an LTE-compatible variant soon, has a beautiful design, and runs the latest version of Android available – 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. As the S3 bests the Galaxy S2 in almost every conceivable way (minus the camera), it is definitely a true successor for the best selling Android smartphone of 2011. Unfortunately, many will be disappointed that Samsung opted for the PenTile arrangement instead of an RGB matrix. A SAMOLED HD Plus variant of the S3 is everything an Android user could possibly ask for.
And how about you? Is the S3 worthy of your dollar dollar bills? Is it a worthy successor to the best selling Android phone of 2012? Let us know if we should give Sammy a hug or a slap!