In this second and final part of our review, we discuss the design and performance aspects of the Samsung Galaxy S3, one of the most successful smartphone handsets ever released.
The Galaxy S3 is surprisingly light and slender considering the size of the screen. It is only 8.6mm thick (the Galaxy S2 was 8.9mm thick) and weighs 133g. By comparison the HTC One X is 8.9mm and 130g whilst the iPhone 5 is 7.6mm thick and weighs a feather-light 112g. The new Galaxy S4 with its Sony Xperia Z rivalling 5 inch screen is 7.9mm thick and 130g.
A smoother, rounder look debuts on the S3 taking over from the more rectangular look of its predecessor, the S2. The pebble-style casing reminds us of the Galaxy Nexus smartphone and although doesn’t look that modern, the gentle curves allow the hand to mould around the device. It is good to see that the camera is now almost flush with the main body of the phone as opposed to the slightly ugly and awkward raised lens housing sported by the S2. As is now standard Android smartphone fare, the three back, home and menu buttons are at the bottom of the screen, with only the home button a physical one, the other two being touch sensitive. The other keys are the power or lock key and the volume rocker switch, both located on the top right-hand side of the casing.
For a once range topping device the S3 feels a little cheap. Too much plastic is definitely the culprit and although it is of good quality, without any nicer materials such as aluminium, titanium or Kevlar (as found on the Motorola Razr i XT890) it really struggles to feel premium. We’d much rather have a little extra weight if it meant we could loose a bit of the plastic. The acres of smooth plastic also don’t help with the handling of the device as it is often a little too shiny and slippery to be gripped firmly. For those looking for a more upmarket feel, the HTC One, iPhone 5 and Sony Xperia T are three smartphones that offers more premium materials. The S3 is available in blue or white, but as with most of Samsung’s popular handsets, look out for special edition colours such as red, pink or silver in the future.
The S3 packs a 1.4GHz quad-core processor inside its slender shell, and although the handset has been superseded by the S4 (although not replaced, it is now seen as a ‘budget’ model) it still has more then enough power, both in terms of data processing and graphics rendering. HD video is handled extremely well and general in-use performance feels really slick, lacking the sluggishness often present on lower end handset such as the Nokia Lumia 520 or Sony Xperia J. It also manages to beat the similarly priced Motorola Razr i, for the most part because the Razr relies on a fast but single core only CPU. The S3 even compares well to the latest handsets such as the iPhone 5 and Sony Xperia Z, with the S3 having plenty enough power to tackle most of the games in the Google Play store.
Large, high-definition screens, multi-core processors and the desire for slimmer handsets are all the enemy of acceptable battery life. To combat this, Samsung has given the S3 a power saver mode to extract the maximum battery performance by limiting CPU use, wireless activity, screen brightness, altering background colours and limiting vibrations and sound feedback. This, coupled with the user removable 2,100mAh battery, allows the Samsung to achieve more than acceptable battery performance. It is worth noting that Samsung sell a larger 3000mAh replacement battery for around £45. Those that may be interested in this product need to note that the battery is slightly larger than the standard one, so it comes with a slightly chunkier back cover.
The Galaxy S3 can be seen as an evolution of its predecessor, with the notable enhancements being a bigger screen, more CPU power and a slimmer design. The fact that the newer Samsung Galaxy S4 and Xperia Z haven’t really made the S3 look dated are testimony to the specification that is packed into this handset. With a powerful processor and a 4.8″ screen the S3 will be a relevant phone for several years to come. It also poses the question of whether top tier smartphones such as the Google Nexus 4, HTC One, or Sony Xperia Z are really worth the additional cost.
The Galaxy S3 is without doubt one of the best value handsets on the market. With ample screen size and impressive processing power the device will easily stand up to handsets such as the Sony Xperia Z or HTC One. If you really do want to pay extra for the latest smartphone, then the S3’s successor the Samsung Galaxy S4 is an option worth considering, although you need to be sure that you will make use of the extra features over the previous generation handsets.