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Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Verdict

A superb screen and camera, plus a host of software extras means it’s a gold star for Samsung once again, notwithstanding the less-than-stellar design

Review Date: 21 Jan 2013

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: Free, on a £26.00 per month, 24 months contract.

Buy it now for: £199
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
6 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Performance
6 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

UPDATE: Our Samsung Galaxy S III review has been updated with a section on the Android 4.1.2 update. Scroll to the end of the review to read more.

Samsung’s place at the smartphone industry’s top table is well earned. Its last two flagship handsets have been exemplary, and it has slowly but surely built up a fanbase only Apple can claim to rival. The Samsung Galaxy S III, as the firm’s biggest launch yet, has a lot to live up to, and this is one of those rare devices that actually lives up to the hype.

The Galaxy S III ups the ante in a number of significant areas, none more so than its display. It’s 4.8in in size, up half an inch from the 4.3in of the Samsung Galaxy S II, it matches our current A-List champion (the HTC One X) pixel for pixel with an HD resolution of 720 x 1,280, and our first impressions are that it’s breathtakingly gorgeous.

Samsung Galaxy S III

The colours are bright and highly saturated, just like on its predecessor, but nothing quite prepares you for its hyper-real feel. Video content and photos pop off the screen so dramatically they almost look 3D, and every detail of every movie scene is laid bare.

The technology behind this is Super AMOLED. That’s surprising, given its pentile pixel array is technically a downgrade from the Super AMOLED Plus technology used in the Galaxy S II. In use, however, you’d struggle to notice the slightly grainy quality it lends tiny text.

When measured with a colorimeter it fails to match the display on the Galaxy S II and that on its rival, the HTC One X. The maximum brightness on a pure white screen is 240cd/m2, compared with the 300cd/m2 of its predecessor. The HTC One X’s IPS display measured 490cd/m2 in this test and the iPhone 4S was way up at 581cd/m2. The perfect contrast AMOLED brings to the table means that, again, it isn’t something you’d immediately think to criticise it for. Even in bright, sunny conditions, this screen is readable as long as you angle it away from the sky.

Physical design

The design of the Galaxy S III is a little less impressive. It’s available in a brushed metal-effect blue or “marble white”, but either way the build isn’t too clever. Samsung says the rear panel is polycarbonate, and finished in a “hyperglazed” coating; to us it looks and feels like polished plastic. Remove it, and it’s disconcertingly bendy and flexible.

Samsung Galaxy S III

To be fair, the bendiness doesn’t matter when it’s clipped in place on the rear of the phone, and this is far from an ugly slab of plastic. In fact, we rather like its smoothly rounded corners and rear panel, and the subtly curved edges of the glass on the front. It’s as slim as you like at 8.9mm, and despite the huge expanse of glass at the front, it doesn’t weigh an awful lot either. At 132g, it's 8g lighter than the much smaller iPhone 4S.

We do have some practical concerns over the design of the Galaxy S III, however, and these surround the controls at the bottom of the screen. They’re made up of a central physical home button flanked by a pair of capacitive touch buttons. This is nothing out of the ordinary – both previous Galaxy S handsets had the same arrangement – but here they’re much more sensitive and placed too close to the edge of the phone. We regularly found ourselves activating the context menu and backing out of apps by accident.

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