The Samsung Galaxy S III launches a hype level typically reserved for the Apple iPhone -- and for good reason. Samsung has earned its reputation for delivering some of the best Android hardware, most recently with the Galaxy Nexus and both the Galaxy S and Galaxy S II. Also, reviews of the international Galaxy S III have been near universally positive.
So now it comes Stateside, and it marks a milestone for Samsung. Prior Galaxy S models were each tailored to and tweaked by the respective carriers, ensuring each had their own distinct version. In the case of the S II, a long 7-month window between its official unveiling at Mobile World Congress 2011 and its US release date the following September. With the S III, Samsung is flexing its mighty market muscle, and releasing a universal device, meaning the Sprint S III will basically be the same as the Verizon S III and the AT&T S III, sans the logos, carrier network, and some pre-loaded apps.
It's not all good news, however. Samsung scuttled the quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 chipset from the international unit for a dual-core Qualcomm (1.5 GHz) CPU because Tegra 3 doesn't play nice with the US 4G LTE networks. That might make the spec obsessed frown, but what does it mean in terms of overall performance? Read this full Samsung Galaxy S III review to find out.
Build & Design
The Samsung Galaxy S III is a big phone -- and that's not stating the obvious, because in hand it seems much smaller than its 4.8-inch display would otherwise suggest. By comparison, the Apple iPhone 4S has a 3.5-inch display, and it wasn't that long ago we argued whether 5-inch displays signified tablet or smartphone.
It technically measures 5.38 x 2.78 x 0.34 inches, and weighs only 4.7 ounces. As with most any Samsung device, it mostly plastic, complete with a removable back and colored trim. It's very resistant to scratches and could probably withstand more than a few accidental drops owing to its light weight, though I didn't stress test it enough to discover it's breaking point. I would caution anyone from keeping it in their back pocket however, for fear of sitting on it accidentally, and maybe cracking it. It is only a third of an inch thick remember.
A slight girth betrays ergonomics, however, and there are thicker phones on the market that are more comfortable for talking on a call. But Samsung somewhat alleviates this slight negative with a curve-heavy design. Looking at the S III, I'm hard pressed to find a straight line or flat surface other than the display front. Even the long landscape edges seem to have a slight curvature. Still, the large display front will press against your cheek when taking a call, and any makeup, dirt, or sweat will rub off.
In terms of buttons, the S III has an all-purpose "home" button that serves multiple functions (double tap brings up S Voice, tap and hold brings up recent apps) in between the menu and back light-up soft keys. The front-facing, 1.9-megapixel camera sits to the right of the ear piece and an LED indicator light, next to the proximity and light sensors.
The 8-megapixel rear camera sits on the back, with an LED flash to its left, and a speaker to its right.
The microUSB multifunction charging input is on the bottom along with a microphone, while a 3.5mm audio jack rests on the top, also along with a microphone (active for speakerphone and video). The left landscape side houses the volume rocker, while the right houses the power button.
The back cover pops open from the top and provides access to battery as well as the SIM card and microSD card slots.
The Samsung Galaxy S III has a 4.8-inch display with a 1280 x 720 resolution, giving it 306 pixels per inch (ppi). The Samsung Galaxy Nexus and iPhone 4S have higher PPI counts, but both have smaller screens, too. Anything over 300 PPI is overkill anyway, so I'm not complaining too loudly.
The Galaxy S III's unusually large -- and welcomed -- size aside, its Super AMOLED display is its defining feature. Yes, there are other smartphones with AMOLED displays, mostly from Samsung, but it is worth repeating that it produces deeper blacks and more vibrant colors than LED or LCD displays. It's vibrancy also helps it cut through glare from overhead lights better than the alternatives, and it consumes less power and helps preserve battery life.
If there is a fair complaint that can be levied at Super AMOLED displays, it's perhaps that the colors are a bit too vibrant, and contrast a bit too heavy. That can wear on the eyes with extended viewing or reading, but so can staring at a small screen, regardless of display type.
In regards to the S III, the image output tends toward the cooler blue and greenish tones, which dims any whites a bit. The S III has a large viewing angle, but a strong blue hue gives way to a magenta haze at the severe angles.
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