Sunday, May 6, 2012

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

The most in-depth preview of the next Galaxy!!!

There's something so refreshing about seeing such fervour about a phone that's not prefaced with an 'i' – so it's almost an honour to be one of the first publications to get a proper hands on with the Samsung Galaxy S3.





While the Korean firm has been subject to the same clamour for information as Apple, which will have pleased the now-largest smartphone maker after years as an also-ran in the mobile phones space, it's not been in the same league as the Cupertino lot when it comes to secrecy.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 has been snapped multiple times in leaks – some more accurate than others, it has to be said – and the specs mooted have turned out to be pretty bang on.

 

 But that doesn't matter – megapixels and gigabytes don't mean anything if they're not wrapped up in a decent package, so is the Samsung Galaxy S3 a worthy successor to the much-loved Galaxy S2?






Design:

The Samsung Galaxy S3 is, according to Samsung anyway, 'inspired by nature – it sees, listens, responds, and allows you to share the greatest moments'.

While this is all a little hyperbolic, the nature theme is certainly present when you handle the phone for the first time. Brushed plastic – you've got a choice of 'Marble White' and 'Pebble Blue' – adorns the large device, which runs in with dimensions of 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm, despite still having to pack in a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED HD screen.

 

We'll lay it out right now: the plastic feeling of the Galaxy S3 won't appeal to all. It feels very lightweight (despite tipping the scales at 133g) in the hand, and some people will read this as feeling a little cheap.



However, it's exactly the same sensation as we found on the Galaxy S2, and given the silly numbers of sales that had, we think there's more than a market for a phone that you'll barely notice in your pocket most of the time.


Compared to rest of the Galaxy line, the S3 has more in common with the original Galaxy S than the Galaxy S2, with curved edges the theme in the design language. The home button has also been elongated, although the same menu and back buttons remain from the prequel.

Overall, the effect is much more like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus than anything else – rounded edges, HD screen but with a more minimal bezel to really accentuate the screen in the hand.

And let's take a minute and talk about the screen: it's beautiful. We almost feel sad that this isn't the first HD screen we've seen on a mobile phone, as it's kind of lost its lustre since the likes of the Nexus, Note and One X have all managed the same trick – but if you've not seen one before and you compare it to a Galaxy S2, its worlds apart.

 

The 309ppi pixel density is up there with the iPhone 4S, and it makes us realise that while a Retina Display is lovely, 3.5-inch screens just don't cut it any more.

We'll be mightily surprised if the combined popularity of the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S3 don't prompt Apple into a re-tooling of the screen with the iPhone 5, as the contrast ratio, large display and excellent colour reproduction will definitely wow users on the shelves.

It seems Samsung has tweaked the colour balance on the Galaxy S3 as well – things don't look as saturated as before, which will certainly help entice those that previously were against Super AMOLED before due to the harshness of colours.

 

But in the hand, the Samsung Galaxy S3 feels superb. The design contours well against the palm, and while the screen size may be a little big for some (you'll need a bit of shuffling to reach the upper section of the screen) it's definitely useable in the hand.

So in short: if you don't mind plastic and you like big HD screens in your pocket, this is a phone definitely worth checking out.

Interface

Samsung has unsurprisingly re-tooled the Touchwiz overlay for the Galaxy S3, and has really gone to town with the whole 'inspired by nature' business.

For instance, the lock screen now becomes more interactive than ever. You don't get a visual clue when you're unlocking (which may be a nod to the litigation brought forth by Apple on the subject) but touch the screen and you'll see a little water ripple under the finger.

 

Added to that is a little water drop sound, and the whole effect is surprisingly pleasing. We can see it irritating a few people after a while though, so turning it off will probably be a decent option.

It's clear with the S3 that Samsung has worked out there's only so much it can do on the hardware side these days – not to say that we're pretty impressed with the spec list - and as such has tried to bring the unique flavour through the interface instead.

With the re-worked Touchwiz, there's a definite sense the whole process has been simplified, as the phone has got a much easier feel to it when swiping around. That's not to say there aren't loads of widgets to be played with, but there is less clutter on the larger screen.

 

The dock at the bottom of the display has been increased to now hold five favourite items, which is a real plus for those that want internet, mail, phone and messaging all within easy reach (as well as the app menu).

Swiping around the display was easy as pie – it's not exactly taxing on the processor, but we could not find a jot of slowdown in the pre-production model we were playing with, which always bodes immensely well.

However, there is a worry that the quad core 1.4 GHz Exynos CPU could suck power a little too dramatically – and to that end Samsung has come out with an innovative eye-tracking method called Smart Stay.
 

This idea will track your eyes when looking at the display, and dim it when you're not checking out your phone. In practice it seemed a little all over the place when trying it, but there's only a momentary icon that pops up to let you know if the eye has been tracked by the camera.

It's a novel idea though, and one that could really be ace if it comes to fruition as Samsung hopes.

The other 'smart' idea Samsung had was the idea that voice recognition could work with Smart Voice – and we hope that this does actually happen as it was nowhere near Siri level on the Samsung Galaxy S2.

Visually, there are a few cues from Siri in the demo we saw – although we couldn't actually try it out as the connectivity was really poor in our demo. But in theory you'll be able to say 'Hi Galaxy' or 'Hi Buddy' to activate the voice control, and do anything from change the music control to initiating the camera.


 We're still not convinced that voice control will ever really work on a phone, but Samsung is touting 'natural language processing' as the reason why the phone will be more accurate in hearing what you say.

Smart alert is also present, and will be a lot more useful than voice activation. Pick up the phone when you've got a missed call or text and it will vibrate gently in your hand in combination with the notification light to let you know you're a popular bunny.

But overall the good news is the large screen looks great, the slick operation under the finger is exactly what we wanted and the little touches like the rippling lock screen do actually feel quite natural.

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