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Hands-On with the Samsung Galaxy S III

Hardware Software Video Tour Comments  42  

May 3, 2012, 1:00 PM   by Rich Brome
updated May 3, 2012, 2:30 PM

Samsung today announced the Galaxy S III, its global flagship phone for 2012. We spent a bit of time with it. Read on for our first impressions of the hardware and the impressive software, plus photos and video of this sexy phone.

Samsung's Galaxy S series is becoming synonymous with a quality high-end Android experience. These are global flagship phones that most carriers around the globe are anxious to offer. They make Apple nervous enough to sue Samsung over the way they work. In London today, Samsung unveiled the third in the series, predictably named the Galaxy S III.

The hardware impresses, but the software is where the real magic is....

There's no doubt that it's a sexy phone. The "marble white" version is simply glossy white. The "pebble blue" version, however, has a transparent front and back, that are glossy and smooth on the surface, but show a brushed-metal texture below. The front is glass that's been rounded near the edge - much like the HTC One X - to feel smooth as you hold it or make swiping gestures. It feels great. The back is polycarbonate that's been coated with something called "hyper glaze". It's very glossy, and does show fingerprints.

 

hardware

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The phone is quite thin at 8.6mm, and quite rounded, in every direction. This helps it fit nicely in most hands, even though it has a huge 4.8-inch display. Putting it next to the Galaxy Note, the Note still looks enormous by comparison. Everyone wants the biggest display in the smallest phone, and the Galaxy S III strikes an excellent balance on that front. The overall feel and build quality is great, even with the plastic back. The weight is also excellent, at 133g.

 

compared to...

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

That 4.8-inch display is 720p HD Super AMOLED, of course. It is PenTile, which not everyone likes. But, much like the display on the Galaxy Nexus, it's hard to tell that's it's PenTile at the high pixel density of a true HD display. If you know what to look for and hold it up to your eye, you can tell, but in most daily use, it looks great. It's not technically the best display we've seen recently, but it's not bad. It's quite nice and doesn't embarrass the phone.

There's no camera button, unfortunately, but you'll find everything else where you expect it, including a 3.5mm audio jack on the top and micro-USB port on the bottom. Mercifully, the back cover is easy to remove and replace, unlike last year's model. Underneath, you'll find the 2100 mAh battery and microSD memory card slot.

That memory card slot is one of the first to support SDXC, so it can support cards to 64 GB. Since you will be able to buy the phone with up to 64 GB of internal memory, that means this phone could offer up to an impressive 128 GB of total storage fully loaded.

The bottom of the front sports a nice physical home button, flanked by two capacitive touch keys that are only visible when illuminated. They're illuminated only within one second of touching them, which is a tad annoying. However, since the home key is a physical button, it's easy to feel, and thus it's easy to simply feel the area to the left or right of the home button and press there to activate the correct touch button.

The front buttons aren't the usual ones, though. The home button does what you'd expect, except that it doubles as the multi-tasking key when held down. To the right is the "back" key, which to me would make more sense on the left, but perhaps that's just me. The left is actually a menu key. Yes, you read that right: a dedicated hardware menu key on a phone that ships with Android 4.0! I'm sure that a lot of people will appreciate that, (as Android 4.0 has been widely criticized for banishing the "menu" options to confusing on-screen buttons.)

Other hardware features include NFC, of course, and HSPA+ 21 data, or LTE in some versions (which Samsung isn't providing details about just yet.) There's Bluetooth 4.0 LE on board, matching the iPhone 4S and HTC One series.

The camera clocks in at 8 megapixels, complemented by a flash and a front camera that can record 720p HD video. The camera interface supports all of the great features and controls we expect from Samsung, including macro mode, sweep panorama, blink detection, smile shot, and face detection. The Galaxy S III brings some new tricks, though, including zero shutter lag and 0.3-second shot-to-shot time. You can actually shoot three photos per second, and in burst mode, six per second. While recording 1080p HD video, you can also shoot 6-megapixel still photos without interrupting the video.

 

camera interface

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The processor is a quad-core Samsung Exynos, at least in this international version, but Samsung is being tight-lipped so far about how US versions might differ. I noticed some stuttering while using it, but it's not final software, so that doesn't mean much, and any US version could sport a different chip.

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Subject Author Date
New S II owner...should I be upset? spirit22 May 8, 2012, 6:03 AM
Just a couple observations/opinions toaster oven May 7, 2012, 1:54 AM
Looks cheap bluecoyote May 3, 2012, 3:36 PM
Disappointing MarryTheNight May 3, 2012, 2:26 PM
Thx for the video Rich!!! Jayshmay May 3, 2012, 2:35 PM
Did Samsung buy up all the worlds cheap plastic? kinster02 May 3, 2012, 6:53 PM
Get outta my way!!!!! I'm in line here!!! Jayshmay May 3, 2012, 1:21 PM
That's the phone I'd buy bob a May 3, 2012, 3:27 PM
 
 
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