Monday, 23 July 2012

Samsung Galaxy S3

Samsung have enjoyed enormous successes over the last few years in their mobile division. The S2 was, hands down, one of the best handsets to have graced the android platform. So you can imagine the excitement that surrounded the next generation of the Galaxy flagship, the S3. Does it live up to the expectations? Can it compete against the HTC One X? Incidentally, you may notice a lot of comparing to the One X, this is simply because both phones have been released relatively close together and are similar specs wise. Read on people.

The Design of the S3 it has to be said, is not the strongest. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not a bad design. The phone feels fine to hold in the hand, it feels sturdy, light and well built. But there is an overall feeling when looking a little closer that the design is not up there in quality with the 4s, Lumia 900 and the One X, which are it’s main competitors, it just doesn’t have that wow factor for me. Some of my quibbles won’t bother a lot of people, but there are things about the design that grate on me.

The biggest of these is the metal band that encircles the phone, look closer reader. That’s not metal; it’s plastic that’s been made to look like brushed Aluminium. Now this is a phone that retails new and sim free at around the £450 mark, for that kind of price, I would expect it to be gilded with gold leaf and made of truffles. On a serious note though, it grates mostly because it feels like a lie.
The inclusion of a home button is a nice touch; it has a nice springy feel to it and is definitely a welcome inclusion. In comparison to the direct competitor the One X, the S3 doesn’t appear to run into any of the screen flex issues that the One X sometimes has. The power button is mounted on the side of the phone allowing the phone to be unlocked easily with one hand, something that some taller phones with top mounted power buttons struggle with.

This is where the S3 really shines. It boasts a Quad-core 1.4 GHz Cortex-A9 with an Exynos 4412 Quad chipset, coupled with 1GB of ram. It is the most powerful phone on the market right now. Games run incredibly smooth, and applications are quick to open. Camera software and processes run especially quick. I’ve so far not noticed any over heating issues when pushing the phone that I did get, albeit rarely, with the One X.

A lot has been written about Samsung’s choice to build the S3 with a Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen. I can alleviate some of the concerns. The screen looks great, gone are some of the annoying unnatural colour tints that blighted earlier iterations. Colours now appear much more natural and Samsung have done a great job in it’s improvements. For most people the display will be more than satisfactory. Is it better than the One X’s display? To my eyes the answer is a no, viewing angles on the One X’s display are a lot better and colours do appear a little bit more natural. But all in all, the S3’s display will not disappoint anyone.

The camera is an 8MP with LED flash and autofocus. The quality and speed of the camera is commendable. Samsung really has pushed the boat out with its improvements to its camera hardware. Camera software is not quite up there in terms of its quality with HTC’s ImageSense, but that’s the only quibble in an otherwise excellent camera package.

Battery life on the S3 has been pretty great. I easily make it though the day with no issues. It currently beats the One X for battery performance hands down.

I’m still of the opinion that the closer to stock android a phone gets the better. The S3’s version of android is TouchWiz, and it works perfectly well, my favourite part being the quick touch tabs in the notifications tray.

What I really want to talk about is some additional features that have been added by Samsung to the OS; Samsung has heavily publicized most of these so it’s something I believe is important to talk about.  The two I want to talk about are below and I’ve chosen them because of the varying degrees of usefulness that I believe they have

Lets start with S-Voice, Samsung’s Siri alternative. I can’t help but wonder how many people will actually use S-Voice. I have similar misgivings about Siri on apples platform. I found that S-Voice was not as intuitive as I had hoped, sometimes it cut me off mid sentence, sometimes when I was prompted to wake the Galaxy by saying “Hi Galaxy” it just plain didn’t work. Were I to use it for basic functions such as text messaging I would actually find it more of a hindrance than help. I tested it my sending a text message, I could honestly have sent 3 text messages in the time it took for S-Voice to send the one text. So I still firmly believe this voice software to be a gimmick, and for the record I’m also looking at you Apple with your Siri…you started this.

Next is Smart Stay. Smart Stay is a system that uses the front facing camera to know whether you are looking at the device and delay its sleep function. I actually found smart stay to be really useful; I find it annoying having to wake my devices whilst I’m still using them. So for me this is a really nice inclusion and I’m hoping to see it in more devices.

So, can I recommend the Samsung Galaxy S3 to you? Yes I can, the phone has some nice improvements to it’s Touch Wiz software. The screen is superb as is the camera and general performance. Am I excited when using the S3? No, for me the design issues highlighted earlier get in the way of my being excited. The One X has improvements to it’s software and hardware over previous iterations but is also a step forward in it’s design. The S3 has improvements to it’s software and hardware but from a design point feels like a step backwards, like they’re being too safe.


Reviewed by your friendly neighborhood otaku

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