Big screens and back doors
If you're considering the Galaxy S III, odds are you're in the market for something with a big screen. At 4.8" diagonally, the display is just 0.5" short of the humongous screen on the Galaxy Note and a full 1.3" larger than the iPhone 4's Retina panel. Much has been made of the Retina's 330 PPI, and the Galaxy comes close to matching that pixel density. The Galaxy's 1280x720 display resolution works out to 306 PPI.
At typical distances, the screen looks great to my eyes. Text is sharp and colors are vivid, although there's a clear bias toward the blue end of the spectrum. That tint is typical for the underlying Super AMOLED panel technology.
The screen's individual pixels are difficult to see up close, but I noticed the same screen-door effect Cyril observed on the Galaxy Note, which uses a similar Super AMOLED panel with a pentile subpixel layout. My face has to be about 6" from the display to see any hint of the associated lattice pattern, though.
The problem with typical smartphone screens, and indeed the full-color screens on most electronics devices, is that their backlights are no match for the raging fireball in the sky. Even the best displays wilt in direct sunlight, and the Galaxy S III's is no different. Fortunately, there's sufficient backlight brightness to for visibility in the shade and more than enough to be blinding indoors. You can click the buttons under the image above to see each lighting condition with the screen set to full brightness.
More often than not, I found myself adjusting the S III's brightness manually. The auto option's output is simply too dim in most conditions, resulting in a picture forced to share focus with reflections in the screen's glossy surface. If a smartphone maker's auto brightness algorithm is going to be that conservative, it would be nice if users were given some freedom to tweak the sensitivity.
At least you have the freedom to expand the Galaxy's internal storage, which consists of 16GB or 32GB of flash depending on the configuration. All it takes in a thumbnail to pop off the back panel, revealing a microSDXC slot that can accept memory cards up to 64GB.
Our view of the innards also highlights the removable battery, which is a beefy 8Wh unit. Swapping the battery requires neither tools nor a genius.
The Galaxy S III regularly lasted over 24 hours while I was testing it, but I'm admittedly not a heavy user. When you work from home sitting in front of a combined 137 inches of screen area and have multiple tablets floating around the house, smartphones don't get much action.
At home, the Galaxy pulled most of its data from my Wi-Fi network. The S III supports the 802.11n standard, and Bluetooth 4.0 is included for the headset crowd. A 4G LTE modem takes care of broadband connectivity on the go.
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 1.5GHz|
|Display||4.8" super AMOLED with 1280x720 resolution|
|Software||Android 4.0 with Samsung TouchWiz interface|
|Ports||1 Micro USB 2.0
1 analog audio headphone port
|Expansion slots||1 microSDXC slot (up to 64GB)|
HSPA+ 850/900/1900/2100 (up to 21 Mbps)
|Camera||8-megapixel rear with LED flash
|Input devices||Capacitive touch screen|
|Dimensions||5.38" x 2.77" x 0.34" (136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm)|
|Weight||4.69 oz (133 g)|
|Battery||7.98Wh (2100 mAh) lithium-ion|
Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 SoC can be found inside Galaxy S III handsets sold in the US. Wikipedia tells me the specific model number is MSM8960, which denotes a 28-nm dually with ARM-based "Krait" cores clocked at 1.5GHz. An Adreno 225 GPU joins the CPU cores on the chip, bringing DirectX 9-class graphics to the party. Samsung adds a monstrous 2GB of RAM to cap things off.
We haven't run the Galaxy through our benchmark suite, but I can tell you it's very fast. Applications load quickly, and there's a snappy feel to the whole user experience. Even without Android 4.1 Jelly Bean's "Project Butter" responsiveness enhancements, the user interface feels agile. We've captured some common tasks on our high-speed camera at 240 FPS to illustrate. For reference, a second clip shows the same actions on the Galaxy Nexus, which has a slower CPU but is running the latest Android release.
Jelly Bean's optimized UI is definitely more fluid, although it doesn't necessarily feel much faster in day-to-day use. The Galaxy S III holds its own, and the UI transitions exhibit less hitching than we've captured on the ICS-equipped Transformer Pad Infinity tablet, which boasts a quad-core Tegra 3 SoC.