Published on May 4, 2012 3:04 PM

Samsung Galaxy S3: First Look, First Impressions

Samsung Galaxy S3 first lookAt Samsung's presentation event for the Galaxy S3 last night, we managed to get a quick hands-on with the firm's new flagship Android handset. Read on for our first impressions.

The Galaxy S3 has been eagerly awaited, to say the least, and was finally unveiled yesterday at a special event at London's Earls Court Exhibition Centre.

Samsung's replacement for the highly popular Galaxy S2 has a pretty impressive spec sheet and a good range of new functions—some of which are reminiscent of Apple's iPhone 4S. The Galaxy S3 has a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED screen and runs on a Samsung-made quad-core processor. It has an 8-Megapixel camera that's very quick to shoot and save pictures. It can even take a high-speed burst of 20 back-to-back snaps and use its face-recognition capabilities to send pictures of any contacts it recognises directly to them—clever stuff.

Disappointing Design?

Any disappointment with the S3's design is no doubt testimony to the high expectations everyone had for this handset. While we had no problems with the phone's general finish, we have to admit that the S3 isn't exactly pushing back boundaries when it comes to design. In fact, at last night's presentation, there was a distinct lack of 'wow' factor. OK, so the S3 is pretty easy on the eye, and it's by no means an ugly phone, but it just doesn't really stand out (leaving size aside for a moment!). There are no major breakthroughs on the design front, which is a shame, as this can be an important factor for many users.

Since the S3 isn't likely to be the cheapest phone out there (see below) and with so much hype and suspense surrounding its arrival, it would have been nice to something more than just another plastic smartphone casing, which could easily have been designed one or two years ago. That said, the curved edges keep the 'brick effect' at bay, the plastic is relatively lightweight (133 g) and the phone's pretty slim (136.6 × 70.6 x 8.6 mm).

Samsung Galaxy S3 first look - from the side

Improved Multitasking

New features include an updated TouchWiz interface and an advanced voice-control function called 'S Voice' that's similar to Apple's Siri. This can be used to launch an app or tool (e.g. 'digital camera') and bring the phone out of standby. There's also a face-recognition system that stops the phone going onto standby while someone's looking at it, which is handy for web browsing and reading online.

You can now keep a video playing in one corner of the screen while doing something else simultaneously, and 'S Beam' functionality means that Galaxy S3 users can share files via NFC or Wi-Fi by simply tapping their phones together.

Once you've selected a contact you can now instantly call that person by raising the handset up to your ear—a gesture that also answers calls automatically without you having to press any buttons. It just remains to be seen whether all these good ideas will really slip seamlessly into our day-to-day habits as users. After all, how many people actually use Siri on a day-to-day basis?

Samsung Galaxy S3 first look - white

All in all, the Galaxy S3 has raised the bar a notch or so upwards for Android smartphones. But while you won't be able to get the best out of the super-powered processor just yet (you'll have to wait for developers to make apps that use its power to the max.), the 2,100 mAh battery should bring instant relief, as it's likely to hold out for longer than the 24 hours that seem to be the norm for smartphones these days.

Earlier today, we published the results of two benchmark tests we ran on the Galaxy S3 to evaluate CPU and GPU power. The excellent results (summarised below compared with other high-end smartphones) suggest that the Galaxy S3 should offer top-rate performances, even with the most power-hungry games.

From what we saw in our brief hands-on, responsiveness in the S3 was fantastic, and navigating through the internal menus was seamlessly smooth. The powerful CPU and top-of-the-range tech specs mean that the Galaxy S3 isn't likely to age too quickly!

Samsung Galaxy S3 first look - sunspider benchmark
Sunspider: test breakdown. The results of each sub-test are represented on
a scale of 1 to 5 (5 = the best), making them easier to interpret and compare.

GS3 Samsung benchmarks

Browsermark: the higher the score, the better.

Samsung Galaxy S3 first look - sunspider benchmark
Sunspider: the lower the score, the better.

Screen: Big or Too Big?

Samsung's Super AMOLED screen technology is well-known for its excellent display quality, with infinite contrast making the screen easy to read even in full sunlight. The display also has an ultra-glossy finish, which will no doubt be too shiny for certain users.

Some were expecting to see a higher resolution than the S3's 720 x 1080 pixels and a higher pixel density to display plenty of detail onscreen while keeping things sharp and easy to read. However, Samsung has kept things more or less in line with the competition on that front (Sony Xperia S, HTC One X, iPhone 4S). In terms of colour fidelity, we didn't think colours on the S3 screen looked any more neutral than in the recent Sony Xperia S and HTC One X—they're no doubt still as flashy and eye-catching as ever for maximum impact.

Samsung Galaxy S3 first look - bigh screen

The size of the phone's screen got more than a few people talking at last night's presentation. At 4.8 inches (12 cm), in spite of the mobile's slim casing and lightweight design, the Galaxy S3 is pushing a Galaxy Note kind of size. Many users find these outsized displays too big, as they inevitably make handsets too big to slip into a pocket and tricky to use with one hand. So although the Galaxy S3 is a handset designed for mass appeal, will it really be able to win over users who aren't multimedia (games, videos) or Internet addicts with a 4.8-inch screen?

We've already tested several large-screen mobiles, and while we certainly found the Galaxy S3 big, its slim casing and rounded edges ultimately still made it a nice phone to handle.

Price is Key

UK pricing for the Galaxy S3 is still to be confirmed, but the SIM-free phone has been announced with a European RRP of €649 (approx. £527) for the 16 GB model (although memory can thankfully be extended, as Samsung hasn't followed other manufacturers into ditching the microSD port). So with its top-notch tech specs and decent, if unremarkable design, Samsung has priced its handset at the top end of the top-of-the-range market, ahead of the iPhone 4S, from €629 (£510), and the HTC One X at €549 (£446). Obviously, contract deals and offers will bring its price down considerably, but the Galaxy S3 is still a pricey phone. It'll be interesting to see whether Samsung's UK prices mirror European pricing in this way.

Have Your Say

We're interested in hearing what you've got to say about the Galaxy S3. Was it over-hyped? Are you disappointed with its design? What do you make of its size? Head on over to the DigitalVersus forum and let us know exactly what you think.
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