Despite not sporting NVIDIA’s latest and greatest quad-core Tegra 3, the Samsung Galaxy S III is still one of the more capable phones on the market, as judged by both my day to day usage and the Quadrant benchmark. Over multiple runs of the benchmark, the S III outpaces the stellar HTC One X and the quad-core Tegra 3 ASUS Transformer Prime TF201 tablet.
Those who doubt this claim need to look no further than the Pop Up Player feature included in the S III video player. With it, users can take any locally stored video and “pop it up” out of the player, turning it into a widget-sized window that continues to play over any other application, including the browser or homescreen. The small video can be moved around the display, without interrupting any other tasks. This feature would probably be impossible on a less powerful device.
Web performance is also stellar, and remarkably smooth, which can be said for any navigation or scrolling on the Galaxy S III. No doubt, the beefy 2GB of RAM helps in this regard. Looking at the popular Sunspider Benchmark, the Galaxy S III bested virtually every tablet tested to date on Brighthand sister site, TabletPCReview. In fact, only Samsung’s own Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus beat it over multiple runs. Out of the box, the device powers up to the lock screen in about 30 seconds.
The S III battery impressed, probably aided by the Super AMOLED display. Samsung claims 2100mAh unit will last 9 hours with regular usage. I believe it. I got a full day of use while abusing it and testing out the features.
Software and Apps
The Samsung Galaxy S III ships with Android Ice Cream Sandwich (version 4.04 at the time of review) along with Samsung’s own tweaks and features in the form of TouchWiz. Samsung has done a good job of integrating most of the TouchWiz features that it’s hard to tell where it ends and Android ICS begins, which hasn’t always been the case with Samsung devices.
One feature definitely tied exclusively to Samsung is S Voice, Sammy’s answer to Siri. Like Siri, S Voice, which answers to “Hi Galaxy,” is a voice activated personal assistant of sorts. It’s novel and fun at first, but like Siri S Voice is often hard of hearing or frustratingly dense. I did find some use for it in setting alarms and changing basic settings, but performing those tasks manually isn’t really a chore. More useful than S Voice are the voice commands Samsung designed for specific apps, like the camera (say “cheese” to snap a pic), phone (“answer” or “reject”), and the alarm (“snooze” or “stop”).
Also exclusive to the S III for the moment is Smart Stay, and it’s one of the more practical features I’ve seen in some time. With Smart Stay, the Galaxy S III senses when eyes are on the display and does not timeout and dim the screen. When activated, an eye icon will occasionally pop up in the notification bar, and the S III will use the camera to look for eyes on the device. It’s ideal for reading long emails, eBooks, or text-heavy web pages.
Samsung feature exclusivity doesn’t end there; the company’s AllShare brand of DLNA sharing is also present on the S III. Through AllShare, you can essentially broadcast locally-stored content from your phone onto other DLNA and AllShare-enabled products like Galaxy tablets, Samsung Smart TVs, and PCs with the AllShare program, provided the devices are all on the same Wi-Fi network. It works flawlessly with other Samsung devices, and users can share documents and pictures through a feature called Group Cast, and that even allows users to mark up something like a Word document or Power Point presentation. On non-Samsung device, like a Panasonic TV or Motorola Android smartphone, AllShare DLNA streaming is hit and miss and GroupCast is not available.
The Samsung Galaxy S III is the latest Samsung phone to support NFC. So as we await the coming mobile payment revolution (and to that end, the Sprint S III ships with Google wallet, while the AT&T version we tested does not) Samsung is using NFC to help share contacts, pics, links and other goodies via S Beam.
Yes, Android has Android Beam baked in that basically does the same thing, but Samsung claims S Beam can “share over a wider distance” in their reviewer’s guide. It works very well between two Galaxy S III devices, though pressing the backs together is awkward owing mostly to the thinness. I’m not sure how well it would work with another non-Samsung NFC handset via Android Beam, however.
The Galaxy S III has a 1.9-megapixel front camera and an 8-megapixel rear shooter. Image quality meets the mid-to-low standards of most other modern smartphones, and the S III will do just fine for quick casual shots and simple YouTube-bound clips.
Once again, the fun is found in the features, and the S III camera has a ton of them. For stills, it offers a bunch filters and modes, many of which are also available on other Android ICS devices, including a neat panorama option for great landscape photos, and an HDR feature that combines three photos taken at different exposures for a more balanced picture.
Other decent features include burst shot, which takes 20 quick photos over about six seconds, and best shot, which then recommends the best photo based on focus, blinking, smiles and other factors. I was not expecting much from it, but I found it to be surprisingly accurate in choosing the technical “best” photo of any given bunch.
Perhaps the best feature, or at least the one with the most potential, is Share Shot. With it users can connect handsets and each photo taken by each handset will be shared across all devices in the photo gallery. On paper, it’s great for a party or gathering, but in practice, it’s clunky and awkward to set up. It requires a Wi-Fi direct connection between phones, which often drops or disconnects, and it only works with the Galaxy S III model at the time of this review.