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Samsung Galaxy S3 expert review

What happens when two Agents go head-to-head reviewing the world's hottest new smartphone? We've tested the Samsung Galaxy S3's hardware, software and features, comparing it to other new mobiles on the market. Find out what our Agents think of Samsung's new flagship phone.

Pros

Agent Nayler:

Samsung’s own 1.4GHz Exynos processor can handle anything you throw at it. I like the carefully chosen new features, including S-Voice commands, Direct call, Smart Alert and my personal favourite - Pop up play.

Agent King:

The HD screen looks stunning, with rich colour and sharp images. The 1.4GHz processor makes S3 lightning fast and smooth to use.

Cons

Agent Nayler:

While the S3 has some of the best specs on the market, the casing feels slightly flimsy and to me the faux-brushed aluminium on the edges doesn’t have the premium feel a phone of this calibre should have.

Agent King:

At only 133g, the S3 lacks a solid, weighty feel and the white casing feels a bit plasticy.

Design

Agent Nayler:

As is the fashion with high end smartphones now, the front is a single sheet of Gorilla glass with a tiny bezel around the sides. The single home button has become a defining features of the Galaxy series. People are in two minds about a physical button and to be honest it does feel a bit out of place. This is a 4.8" phone, and it does feel quite large in your hand. I found myself stretching sometimes to reach parts of the screen. Overall the Super AMOLED HD panel is a joy to use.

Agent King:

The phone feels nice in your hand and the rounded edges make it easy to grip, unlike Agent Nayler I didn't find myself stretching to use it - while using the phone with both hands is simple, it’s also possible to use it with one hand. The S3 has the largest screen on the market after the Galaxy Note, and at 4.8” it’s perfect for videos and internet browsing.

Hardware

Agent King:

The 4.8” HD sAMOLED display is one of the big talking points for the S3. When I first powered on the phone and saw the rich colour density and razor sharp icons it was hard not to be impressed. Only HTC One X matches the S3’s 720 x 1280 resolution. While it's great that there will be three different memory sizes available - 16GB, 32GB and a massive 64GB, it's frustrating that only the 16GB version is available to purchase now. This isn't too much of a worry though, as you can add a microSD card up to 64GB and Dropbox are offering all Galaxy S3 customers a 50GB upgrade to their only storage account for two years!

The rear facing 8MP camera is capable of 1080p HD recording. It’s not the most impressive mobile phone camera on the market (Xperia S has a 12MP snapper) but it's more than capable enough for day to day images and video. Plus the software features more than make up for any loss in pixels. The front facing camera is a very respectable 1.9MP, which is plenty for video calling and profile photos etc.

Battery life is impressive, thanks to the 2100mAh sized battery. This is an area where most smartphone seems to fall over so it’s great to see Samsung taking this seriously. The battery is also removable, meaning you can swap it out for a spare should you lose power while away from a charge point for any great amount of time.

Software

Agent Nayler:

The S3 runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, coupled with Samsung’s recent incarnation of their own TouchWiz software, which sits over the top of the Operating System and adds extra features. It's good to see Samsung toning their UI down and allowing you to experience more of the stock Android look and feel, while adding new features like S-Voice.

S-Voice is Samsung taking the fight to Apple, attacking one of the iPhone 4S’ biggest draws – the digital personal assistant; Siri. Both Siri and S-Voice are both very capable. Both will allow you to create entries in your diary, set your time to wake up in the morning and to call your mother on the way home from work. Where they differ is in the real results and I have to say S-Voice just seems to be lacking in comparison with Siri. On many occasions I had to repeat my commands to S-Voice for it to eventually understand me. Not to say that Siri doesn’t have its problems, and naturally I would expect these issues to perhaps fade over time with updates.

Samsung have also included a whole host of new and interesting features which subtly really improve the phone. There are alerts when you pick up the phone, motion controls to let you move shortcuts around the home screen, and you can unlock the phone with your voice. My personal favourite is one feature Samsung have dubbed – ‘Pop-up Play’ this brings picture-in-picture to your phone. This is multitasking in every sense of the word; you can now continue watching that movie while checking that email from work without interrupting anything. Really putting that quad core processor through its paces!

Smart Stay is something I’ve found particularly useful. Whenever I’ve setup a new phone for myself I’ve always changed the display to time out around 3-5 minutes. I find nothing more annoying than having to unlock your phone when it’s gone to sleep while reading a webpage. Smart Stay monitors your eyes so it understands when you’re actually looking at the screen and doesn’t shut off the screen till you’re done. You can check out the S3's vast array of new software features in our Galaxy S3 setup guide.

Managing your mobile - top tips to help you stop wasting money on calls, texts and data

Changing the way you use your smartphone can help you can keep your monthly bill at a minimum. There are plenty of apps and settings available to minimise the amount of calls, texts and data you use up, here are some handy hints to get you started:

  • Long press on an empty spot on the homescreen and select widget > power control to add an easy-to-use battery control unit to your touchscreen and quickly toggle your services on/off to maximise battery life
  • Download the free Bill Angel app for Android by Carphone Warehouse, as it can help you monitor your mobile usage and stay on top of how you’re using your smartphone
  • When you don't need to be connected (for instance if you're on the train or in a meeting), turn off your data connections by going to settings > wireless and networks > mobile networks > untick 'data enabled'. This will disable 3G. To disable location-based services go to settings > location based services >GPS. This will give you more battery life
  • Download Skype for Android and use it over Wi-Fi to make free voice calls to your family and friends (this will conserve your call allowance)
  • Download WhatsApp Messenger for Android and use it to send text-like messages to your contacts without using up your SMS allowance

Agent verdict:

Agent King

In S3 high end hardware meets up-to-date software, and the result is far from disappointing. Samsung's innovative flagship smartphone has stood up well to our tests and while this next evolution of the Galaxy Smartphone line won’t suit everyone due to its hefty size and price tag - when asked 'could this be your next phone?' My answer is 'yes!'

Agent Nayler

Picking your new smartphone just became a lot harder. S3 brings a lot of impressive hardware and software together in a nice package. S3 fits the bill, whether it's your first smartphone, your latest toy or your business powerhouse. I agree with Agent King that the main barrier for some people will be the physical size of the handset, but this is truly a fantastic phone.

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