Samsung Galaxy S III Review: A Big Screen Smartphone with Brawny Specs

By Evan Dashevsky, dealnews contributor

Samsung released its Galaxy S III smartphone last week to a crowd of eager consumers and reviewers, and their verdict is in: Samsung aims high with the Galaxy S III ("GS3"), as it's got lots of new bells and whistles. But most folks say that it by no means overrules the Galaxy's chief Android competitor, the HTC One X, nor will it cause any existential jitters to Apple's iPhone 4S.

However, many reviews give props to Samsung for adding a lot to the GS3's digital innards, which feature the Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS. As a piece of hardware, Wired sums the GS3 up as "Samsung's most ambitious smartphone yet." Still, few reviewers considered it the best Android smartphone on the market, although most consumers will likely still be happy with it. We look at why, in this Samsung Galaxy S III meta review.

Is Bigger Better?

The most noticeable element of the GS3 is its engorged size. The phone measures in at 5.4" x 2.8", with a 4.8" screen (just outgunning the One X's 4.7" display) and is only a half-inch shy of the 5.3" display on the Galaxy Note "mini tablet." The GS3's big screen is part of a larger trend that has seen phone displays get bigger. As handsets have evolved far beyond talk-plus-email devices of the Blackberry age, the standard 3.5" display on, say, the iPhone 4S may soon feel too small for many users. "The extra screen size is noticeable and great to have," reads the Engadget review. "When it comes to watching videos, reading eBooks or surfing websites, every fraction helps."

Despite its size, the GS3 manages to not pack on too much extra weight; at 4.7oz., it's only 1 full oz. heavier than the One X (as well as the previous Galaxy S II), but still 2oz. lighter than the iPhone 4S. The phone is also relatively slim at only 8.6mm (around .39") compared to the girth of the iPhone 4S (9.3mm) or the One X (9.5mm). Unless you are a hipster devoted to the skinniest of skinny jeans, it won't explode your front pocket.

"From a design standpoint, the [GS3] is lovely," commented Gizmodo, speaking of the phone's curvaceous aesthetics. CNET also praised the shapely phone noting that the "bezel is beveled, or rather, rounded" making for a detail that's worth noticing.

Screen Play

With as big a screen as the GS3 has, it only makes sense that it also has a quality resolution. The GS3's large 1280x720 resolution SuperAMOLED screen fits the bill and seems to be a hit with users. According to CNET, the screen is suitable for most users, but is still dimmer than comparable devices. "The screen is still lovely ... but the comparative image darkness is a little disappointing, and was especially noticeable in my sunny-day photo and video shoots."

The GS3 screen is also notable in that it's one of the first phones to use Corning's second generation of Gorilla Glass, which the company claims enables "slimmer and sleeker devices, brighter images, and greater touch sensitivity." In regards to the sensitivity of the touchscreen, CNET attests that the mere brush of a finger generated a response.

While megapixels aren't the last word in picture quality, the GS3's 8-megapixel rear camera is comparable to that of the iPhone 4S and the One X, and has Gizmodo raving: "Photos were incredibly sharp and detailed, and colors looked good." And the 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera isn't too shabby either: it interacts with a piece of native software called Smart Stay, which can detect when to dim the screen when you're taking a snapshot. The front-facing camera specs are on par with that of the One X (1.3-megapixels) and the iPhone 4S VGA-capable secondary camera. And just to have an oh-my-how-far-we've-come moment: the original iPhone boasted a 2-megapixel main camera.

The GS3's design is also pleasing, albeit a bit different. It features a different button scheme than the typical 4-button Android layout. Instead, you'll find one large physical main "home" button flanked by two capacitive buttons for "back" and "menu." Pressing the main home button once takes you to your home screen, while holding it allows you to switch between tasks, and double-clicking it opens the voice commands. Most reviewers seemed to welcome this break from convention, which Gizmodo called "very intuitive."

It's What's on the Inside that Counts

The Samsung Galaxy S III comes in 16GB or 32GB flavors, but both models pack a secret weapon in the form of a microSD card slot located beneath the back cover. Few consumers will have a problem staying within the memory constraints of the phone's native 16GB version, but for those who download every app known to man and shoot a lot of video, space may become an issue and the notion of an SD card slot is a big selling point. Neither the HTC One X nor the iPhone 4S has this feature.

Like the One X, the international version of the GS3 features a quad-core processor, but the engineers haven't figured out a way to reconcile that processor with the North American LTE service. So, for those of us in the United States, we'll have to settle for the still-impressive 1.5GHz S4 dual-core processor. Combine that with a standard 2GB of RAM, and this phone can deliver bleeding edge speeds.

At $200 for the 16GB and $250 for 32GB, the GS3 is priced in the same tier as a subsidized iPhone 4S and the comparably-spec'd One X (of course, while the One X is only available on AT&T, the GS3 is available for all five major U.S. carriers). The Samsung GS3, HTC One X, and the Apple iPhone 4S are all great phones at the premium end of the smartphone spectrum. If you love the Apple aesthetic, then little will compel you to take a walk with Android. But within the Android universe, the GS3 is neck-and-neck specwise with the One X. However the Samsung Galaxy S III's slightly larger screen and microSD card input are selling points that may pull many consumers over to Samsung's latest outing.

Which specs are you most excited about? What do you think Samsung left out? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Thinking of purchasing the latest and greatest from Samsung? Keep an eye on our Android phone deals page, or consider setting up a custom email alert.

Photo credits: Tech Paradise and Gadget

Follow @dealnewsfeature on Twitter for the latest roundups, price trend info, and stories. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


Leave a comment!

or Register
Sprint's One X (Evo LTE) does have an SD card. It however does not have a replaceable battery. I can use my Evo LTE all day, unplugging it at 6:30 am and plugging it back in at 11 pm with no issues and usually 40% battery remaining.
If you consider Sprint's version and other versions "different devices" then why not add that comment in the post that Sprint's device has an SD? It isn't a fair comparison without adding that information for people like me. I consider a microSD essential, Sprint has that.
What are your reasons for considering the One X and Evo LTE different devices?
Emily Dovi (DealNews)
We are reiterating that the front-facing camera on the SG3 is comparable to that of the front-facing camera on the One X. And that the main camera on the iPhone 4S is akin to that of the SG3.
Nice review, but saying a 2mp front camera is on par with a VGA camera is nuts - you do realize that it's almost 7 times more resolution, right?
Emily Dovi (DealNews)
There are more than a few differences between the EVO 4G LTE and the One X, namely the microSD slot that's missing from the One X. But generally speaking, yes, the main difference lies not in the hardware, but in the carrier, as both have LTE capabilities. However, we consider the EVO and the One X two different devices with a lot of similar specs. For more on their side-by-side comparison, read here:
"of course, while the One X is only available on AT&T, the GS3 is available for all five major U.S. carriers"

This isn't entirely correct.  Sprint carries the One X under another title (EVO 4G LTE) with very minor changes. 
The S3 is distinguished from its competition (e.g. the HTC One X) by itsMicroSD card slot & swappable battery (I wouldn't consider a phone without these features).  The S3's predecessor, the S2, also has these features, but the S3 distinguishes itself from the S2 by having reportedly better power usage.
I'd consider the Galaxy SIII over the others mainly for the swappable battery. I am a heavy user and I love having a battery in a charger always ready for when my phone is about to die. I also love the micro-SD card slot. I think I'll go get one today.