Samsung Galaxy S3 $499

4th Aug 2014 | 15:25

Samsung Galaxy S3

A phone still worthy of the hype

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

A much lower price tag has helped the Galaxy S3 remain an attractive proposition, but with an older OS and slightly aging features there's now better budget options out there.

Like:

Decent battery life; Superb screen; Quad-core speed;

Dislike:

Subjective design; S Voice not optimised;

Introduction

The Samsung Galaxy S3 has been available in the market for over two years now, but with the recent update to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and further price reductions thanks to the recent introduction of the Galaxy S5 there's still a lot going for the ageing handset.

It may have been two years ago but Samsung made a big deal about this phone at launch and it is easy to see why. Sales topped 30 million in November 2012, and given the amount of people seen rocking the handset, those number seem to bear a hallmark of truth.

The question now is can the might of the Samsung Galaxy S3 still carry it through or will this smartphone veteran finally have to step aside to let the younger, fresher guns through?

One of the biggest draws to older flagships is the lower price, and with contracts now starting as low as £14.50 per month and at £169 on pay as you go there is little that the Korean device can do wrong.

This low price means that it will find itself fighting out against the so called "mini" generation, handsets that all match up with the 4.8-inch 720p screen. The powerful Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is on the scene and is unquestionably the most powerful of the smaller screened handsets, but is a fair bit more expensive, and Samsung has its the new Galaxy S5 Mini too.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

That super low price tag also means that even the likes of the Moto G are providing some really powerful competition.

But let's get down to the main question – is this the phone you should be spending your hard-earned cash on?

The Samsung Galaxy S3 started the design nature that has flowed through nigh on every Galaxy handset since. As Samsung put it, the S3 was 'inspired by nature – it sees, listens, responds, and enables 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.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Brushed polycarbonate adorns the large device, which runs in with dimensions of 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm (5.38 x 2.78 x 0.34 inches), despite still having to pack in a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED HD screen.

You've got a choice of annoyingly named colours such as "marble white", "pebble blue", "amber brown", "garnet red", "sapphire black" or "titanium grey".

I say "large device", but given the current range of massive flagships with the 5.5-inch LG G3, the 5.2-inch Sony Xperia Z2 and the 5.1-inch Galaxy S5 (dare I mention the 6.4-inch Xperia Z Ultra) the Galaxy S3 is by no means huge. During day-to-day use I found that the Galaxy S3 is just about the perfect size for me, and my hands are by no means small.

I'll lay it out right now: the plastic feeling of the Galaxy S3 won't appeal to all, especially against the likes of the all metal HTC One and One M8. It feels very lightweight (despite tipping the scales at 133g/4.7oz) in the hand, and some people will read this as feeling a little cheap.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Let me be clear though, the Galaxy S3 is not a cheap-feeling phone. It's got a really solid Gorilla Glass 2 front, a well-packaged interior and a more robust battery cover. It's polycarbonate rather than bog-standard plastic, although I'm not sure some people will like the more rounded nature of the design.

When it comes to colour options, there's no doubt in my mind that the pebble blue offering is more attractive than the white (the marble white looks similar to a low-end Galaxy Mini or similar), but the host of extra colours I mentioned earlier really do mean that you're not tied down.

As the Galaxy S3 was the launch pad for the design of almost every Galaxy handset to date, the rounded nature does feel very familiar, even if it was a little controversial on the day of its announcement.

Even by today's standards the bezel feels minimal and helps to accentuate the screen and give a more premium feel.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

The button design is the same as on every Galaxy handset and has been well thought out. Although it is by no means the biggest handset, it is difficult to make all the keys accessible on a handset of this size. The lock button on the right-hand side (rather than the top) makes a large degree of sense and feels very natural.

Other traditional Samsung buttons are around, with the home button, and its soft key 'back' and 'menu' buttons being great additions; it means contextual menus can be found easily without needing to mess around looking for the on-screen icon.

Google has certainly pushed the on-screen navigation buttons recently, but I'm still convinced that adding real buttons is the way to go.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

The volume up and down button is parallel to the lock key on the left-hand side of the phone, and also within easy reach when holding the Galaxy S3 in the hand.

The microUSB slot is placed at the bottom of the phone - easy to find with a charger - while the battery cover is also made of the same polycarbonate material as the rest of the body. Oh, and the battery cover is removable.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

This means that not only can you switch the battery in and out - a key consideration for many people - there's also a cheeky surprise in the shape of a microSD slot next to the microSIM port.

Sure, there are stats that say only 10% of users regularly go over 16GB of storage, but there's always the lower end version of the Galaxy S3 for that. With HD movie downloads becoming far more prevalent, plus the influx of HD apps, I think more space is an excellent idea.

Overall the Samsung Galaxy S3 feels superb in the hand. 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 more than useable day to day.

In short, the Galaxy S3 still manages to retain its premium feel and is shaping up to be a bit of a bargain with its lower price tag.

Key features

Today there can be no doubt that the biggest feature of the Samsung Galaxy S3 is the price tag. With it now being one of the most affordable smartphones on the market, it asks a lot of questions of the much more expensive handsets that are now dominating the highest ends of the market.

If the likes of the Galaxy S3 can come in at less than £15pm, is there a need for the high price tags that its younger brethren still command?

Simply put, yes. There is no doubt that the Galaxy S3 is still a powerful phone at the price tag that it is being offered at, but that lower price and older age does mean an awful lot of compromises in terms of power and with a phone that is already two years old, support from Korean HQ is definitely waning.

Samsung was also keen to highlight the screen, which was not only a massive upgrade from anything that was seen before it but has also become the bar for any screen to have come since.

It may not match the QHD LG G3's 1440 x 2560 display, nor even the 1920 x 1080 displays that sit on the likes of the Galaxy S5, the Xperia Z2 or the HTC One M8 but it doesn't come with their price tags either.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

The Galaxy S3's screen instead fights it out with the Xperia Z1 Compact and HTC One Mini 2 both in terms of size and resolution, although the HTC is ever so slightly smaller. This is a battle that has really heated up, especially given that the Sony comes packing its proprietary Triluminous display.

That said, for me the Samsung still manages to come out on top thanks to the Super AMOLED screen on board.

The Galaxy S3's 8MP camera deserves a special mention. It is by no means that largest camera sensor available on a mobile handset today but in my mind it sits at about the right level.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Test shots show that the Galaxy S3 is able to take more than sufficient photographs for daily life; be it a replacement for a compact camera while on holiday, at a birthday party, holiday or other celebration.

It does still struggle in lower light situations however, and the 8MP sensor will never be able to rival the 20.1MP offering of the Sony's, or the 16MPs sat inside the S5, but beats the Moto G hands down.

Interface and performance

One of the biggest things that has to be thought through when purchasing an older smartphone is what software comes preloaded. For more advanced users that might look at taking matters into their own hands this isn't so bad, but for regular users this can prove a large hiccup.

Samsung launched the Galaxy S3 at a time when Ice Cream Sandwich was the flavour of the moment, but has since upgraded the handset to a more reasonable Jelly Bean. This means that it sits on software that is soon to be two generations out of date with Android L just around the corner.

What does this mean for the Galaxy S3 then? For starters it means that it lags a little behind even a lot of the cheapest handsets that are now being brought to market, and will drop even further in the coming months.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

If Samsung takes the steps of making Android L available to the Galaxy S3 I would be very surprised, but don't take my word as gospel truth, crazier things have happened.

Those that aren't fans of Samsung's TouchWiz UI should look away now as there is no escaping its clutches on the Galaxy S3, predating any agreement that Samsung has with Google to tone down the customisation in favour of a cleaner more Google-y experience.

This means that the Samsung's Touchwiz overlay does feel a little dated. The lock screen still has that water ripple under the finger complete with water drop sound, which is a nice touch, but gets annoying very quickly so I soon turned it off.

Also available are a whole raft of widgets, a swipe to the left or right over the clock allows you to easily browse information, and faster than opening the S3 itself. It's not something I found I used an awful lot, but I can see it being quite popular.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Samsung has taken a leaf out of HTC's book as well with the new overlay to the Galaxy S3, by enabling you to open up specific applications from the lock screen. Simply swipe the application upwards and you'll be taken directly to it without having to navigate within the phone itself.

The S3 wasn't the speediest to wake up from sleep mode, pressing the unlock key on the side and there was a noticeable lag to turn the screen on, something that I've not really found on any newer handsets.

The 1.4GHz quad-core Exynos processor chugs away behind the screen, and at the time was one of the best on the market. Since the advent of Qualcomm's Snapdragon series this has taken a back seat, and I would suggest that even the lower powered Snapdragon 400 feels slightly faster.

In terms of widgets, the Galaxy S3 comes with 11 packed screens so there is a lot to play with even before you've selected your favourites from the Play Store.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

The dock at the bottom of the display holds five items, which is now the standard across larger screens. What I can't work out is why this hasn't been carried above to the home screens, which instead can still only hold four.

It's annoying that you still have to create folders though - stock Google allows you to drop icons on top of one another to create clusters of similar apps, but with the Samsung Galaxy S3 you still need to manually make a folder before you can lob stuff into it.

Given that the Samsung Galaxy S3 is an older handset, there may still be the worry that the quad-core CPU will be a little power thirsty, hence the introduction of an innovative eye-tracking method called Smart Stay.

This will track your eyes when looking at the display, and dim it when you're not checking out your phone. In tests though I found that it was a little hit and miss, although this isn't something that is confined to the S3 as I have found that problem on a whole range of Galaxy devices.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Smart alert is also present, and is 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.

In truth, the fact that the notification light is there is more useful when picking up the phone to see if anyone has got in contact, but it's a neat feature that adds to the overall effect of the 'human integration' of the phone.

Samsung's quick control functions are thankfully still available in the drop down notifications menu, easily accessed from the top of any screen. I'm glad they're still there even today as it makes doing things like turning the Wi-Fi on and off much easier.

Android Jelly Bean is embedded out of the box, meaning you've got an older OS but still the plethora of options when it comes to notification management. You can easily get rid of anything that you don't care about by simply swiping the alert left or right – it's a really neat system that means you can leave the bits you really care about.

Samsung has also put the brightness alteration bar in, and also allows you to adjust the level of auto brightness.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

The neatness is reproduced in the application management pane: when holding down the home button at the bottom of the phone you're presented with a long list of all the applications you've recently opened – another flick of the finger and they're shut down.

This, thankfully, loads up instantly, and comes with some friends at the bottom, unlike other Android handsets. The Google Now option is flanked by an icon to shut down all the open applications, as well as being able to jump into your RAM usage and cut that down as well.

In terms of management options, there are more than ever before. The battery usage meter is joined by the data management tool that enables you to see which apps are sucking down the most bytes, and also (quite neatly, using sliding bars) enables you to set warnings for when you're getting close to your data limit and when you've reached it.

You can even tell the phone to stop connecting to the internet over 3G if you're worried about your data charges after a certain period. This is certainly going to satisfy those who don't ever know how much data they're using, because you're in total control.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

The menu system is very easy to use, as before. You can sort your apps chronologically or alphabetically and if you're not a fan of the standard grid system you can chuck them all into one long list.

There's a tab for apps (which you can filter to just those you've downloaded) and also widgets too – with the seven enabled home screens on the top to chuck them into. There are loads to choose from (with more to come as you download applications) which can get a bit chaotic when you're scrolling through.

And if you want to uninstall apps, simply open up the option from the menu in the App drawer - much easier than messing about through the innards of the phone or heading through Play Store.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

The other big feature for the S3 is the addition of motion control – not necessarily a new idea, but one that's been pushed to a whole new level in the phone.

This means that not only does turning over the phone or placing your hand over it mute a call, but also performs the same trick when playing music. It can even do it when turning the phone over in mid-air, which is quite impressive when you think the handset can tell the difference between the pocket and a desk.

Other features, such as tapping the top of the phone to move to the top of a list, are pretty cool, but ultimately pale in comparison to Apple's (likely patented) tapping at the top of the screen. The S3's effort is nowhere near universal, so you can find yourself tapping the phone to no avail on more than one occasion.

Overall the Galaxy S3 still performs well, powered by that quad-core processor. That said, the budget brigade are creeping up with quad-core CPU's of their own and are providing more than adequate challenges to the S3.

The Moto G at a similar price comes with updated software, and without the same TouchWiz UI that sits over Android. This means it feels a little slicker, and more modern overall.

Battery life and the essentials

Battery life

Battery life. One of the most contentious elements still on smartphones and one we're all keen to see stop being an issue. Thankfully it's nothing to worry about on the Samsung Galaxy S3.

The 2100mAh battery is designed to make sure that the large screen, with millions of pixels, isn't going to suck down the power as fast as it might do. Samsung has even upgraded this to offer a 3,000mAh option, which will appeal to a vast amount of people - although it's at least £40 if you want the extra power. It does come with an NFC chip, though.

That's not to say the screen isn't thirsty – it takes up a good portion of the battery meter each time you check in – but overall, battery life was not an issue I butted up against regularly.

I ran a 90 minute video at full brightness and applied all accounts (Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, Exchange etc) and set them all to the most regular updates over Wi-Fi.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

The Samsung Galaxy S3 managed to get to only 82% battery power by the end of the test – compare that to the 67% of the Moto G and you can see why I'm impressed.

Under heavy load, the phone will last about eight hours. And I mean heavy: the battery test I mentioned plus an hour of photography and video. After that, half an hour of playing Riptide GP and then some web browsing for a further hour. Then around 20 minutes of music listening before an hour's session on video.

I also had the voice-control activated from the lock screen the whole time, which Samsung tells you is a real battery killer as it listens to what you say.

This pushed the battery to about 20%, after which I killed it trying to synchronise over Wi-Fi direct in about 45 minutes (although this can be a real battery drainer).

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

In real use, as in not checking it every seven seconds to play with it (the curse of the new phone) you'll get a much more reasonable battery life. I regularly saw power drops of only 30% by 2pm, and a healthy 25% by bedtime.

This will change during use, obviously, but it's much harder to hammer the battery through actually doing things the phone is supposed to.

Even my dad can get through more than a day's use and he constantly has GPS and Wi-Fi enabled, so in short there is a real case to be made for the Galaxy S3 here.

The essentials

The Galaxy S3 has to be able to perform a whole variety of functions in order to be able to be called a smartphone, and given the high levels of sales that the S3 has experienced over the past two years I think it's safe to say that all of them are performed with aplomb.

When it comes to contact management, the Galaxy S3 suffers from a lack of Twitter integration and the contact images can seem a little low res too.

It's to the credit of the Galaxy S3 that you can choose the location of your picture for each contact, meaning you can have Google+ for some and Facebook for others, but the fact that even high resolution pictures are shrunk down to smaller versions is confusing.

Add to this the fact the picture will stretch when you get a call from said friend, and I can only recommend you head into the Facebook app and manually add their picture from a profile - which is both time-consuming and stalkerish.

Let's not get too hung up on the fact that the contacts system is uninspiring though - it's still one of the best out there even if it is mostly stock Android.

For instance, you have not only a dedicated ringtone but a dedicated buzz pattern so each person is still recognisable in the pocket. And from the menu system you can set defaults on everything from email addresses to names.

Plus there are loads of ways to save contacts in other places - Samsung's online account mirrors Google's by letting you merge them all together, with the added bonus that Samsung's doesn't have the same online mishmash of names when you go to browse it.

SGS3

Calling on the Samsung Galaxy S3, to put it bluntly, couldn't be better in my eyes. Sure, it's a relatively simple function in today's smartphones, but it's still often ruined by brands not giving it enough attention.

Take the likes of noise reduction - in tests, the S3 came out top in terms of calling the same person with traffic and wind behind us. Even walking past a building site the only criticism I was given was 'it's a tad windy, isn't it?'

There's a new feature with Samsung's "Adapt Sound", something that I've never felt does as lot. In short it attempts to optimise the sound to your own hearing, something that is likely to appeal to older users.

Smart dialling is also included; pressing the numbers will call up the corresponding letters, making tapping 323 the easiest way to get to 'Dad'.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

A decent keyboard experience is a necessity for smartphones, and this is an area that the Galaxy S3 hasn't let me down. As time has gone past I have found that I am getting more accustomed to the Swype style input, something that has been included in the Galaxy S3's settings menu.

Text input, either through that aforementioned swiping, or through tapping the screen is incredibly accurate. It isn't on the same level as the likes of SwiftKey, a keyboard that I would recommend immensely, especially as it is now free. But it is certainly more than adequate for those that don't want the hassle of downloading a third party app, or want to maximise the space on the SD card.

Those that want to make the most of their included data plan, or even their Wi-Fi, will likely be looking at using the Galaxy S3 for mobile browsing and emails. Each one also comes with two apps, something that I really implore all manufacturers to take a look at.

SGS3

I can get the sense in multiple email apps as one is a dedicated Gmail app, and the other a generic email app but having both a native and Chrome web browser just doesn't make sense, especially as both apps seem to operate in an identical manner.

There isn't a lot to say about the email apps, other than they cover just about every feature that you can think of, and can be set up almost instantly by pulling down all the necessary data from your email providers.

The same goes for the internet apps, both providing a decent experience when browsing the world wide web although I would suggest that the Chrome app is more useful as it syncs across all your Chrome enabled devices.

Camera

The camera on the Samsung Galaxy S3 is one of the biggest surprises from the Korean firm, and shows quite a step-change in the way it approaches mobile design: it's stuck at 8MP with the sequel to the S2.

I don't think this is much of a problem - the humble phone doesn't need any more than 8MP to take good quality snaps - but Samsung has always chased specs in the past, so this was an interesting move.

It certainly doesn't live up to the 20.1MP offering of the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, but beats the Moto G with its 5MP sensor hands down.

While there's no dedicated shutter button, getting into the camera is a piece of cake thanks to the number of options you've got.

Making sure one of the icons is on the lock screen definitely helps, but you can also hold the screen and turn the S3 into landscape mode (when on the lock screen) and the camera opens up instantly - but for the life of me I couldn't get it to work.

Samsung Galaxy S3

Samsung has thankfully dialled back the range of settings you can mess around with on the Galaxy S3, which means a slicker experience when trawling through the settings - plus you can edit the icon placement to make it simpler to find the functions you use most often.

It has, however, added in a new feature with the software update: a wand will enable you to apply effects before shooting. One of the most striking is the change to filter out colours, meaning you can get some great shots where only blue and green are on show, for instance.

One of the most novel features on the Galaxy S3 is the ability to recognise faces from within photographs - this is meant to make it simpler to find the people you care about. It seems a little nonsensical though that the results don't go into the contact's profile within your phone (which would make sense given you have to assign a contact to the tag to make it work) but if you've got them in a group you can see that simply from within the Gallery app.

However at times the trick is a little bit hit and miss. I'd estimate around 80% of the photos I took got the face spot on (although sometimes questioned whether the tag was right rather than automatically setting it) but the other times it had no idea.

However, when it does work, it's mightily impressive, and you can email the photo to those involved (but sadly not upload to Facebook pre-tagged).

Samsung Galaxy S3

There are a number of other features I like too: burst mode works well, taking 20 photos in a row at around 10 per second, which is great if you're trying to take a picture of your cat doing a back flip and want all of the sections.

Best shot can also be used with burst mode, where the Samsung Galaxy S3 works out the best picture for you from the selection, but you're limited to eight shots in this scenario.

I'm probably being a little bit picky, but the processing time after each best shot set taken was a little long. Thankfully though, Samsung has fixed an issue where you had to set up burst mode manually, you can just hold the shutter key now.

The front-facing camera is closing in on being a decent sensor in its own right - at 1.9MP it's capable of taking non-grainy self portraits and can even record in 720p video as well.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

The other features, such as HDR mode, beauty mode, panorama and smile shot, all offer excellent picture quality if you're into that sort of thing - although I can't really see a use for cartoon other than for those who want a blurry mess to show to friends.

Overall, the speed with which you can take a picture, the options on offer and the sheer range of settings for those who want to dig a little bit deeper (the contrast, exposure, ISO levels and white balance tweaks will appeal to many) all combine to make a cracking camera that will be more than adequate for most.

I can't see the Galaxy S3 winning many cameraphone of the year awards, thanks to last-gen hardware onboard - but the pictures you take are available quickly, have a variety of ways to improve them and certainly look pretty decent.

Camera samples

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

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Samsung Galaxy S3 review

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Samsung Galaxy S3 review

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Samsung Galaxy S3 review

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Samsung Galaxy S3 review

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Samsung Galaxy S3 review

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Samsung Galaxy S3 review

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Samsung Galaxy S3 review

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Samsung Galaxy S3 review

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Samsung Galaxy S3 review

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Samsung Galaxy S3 review

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Samsung Galaxy S3 review

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Samsung Galaxy S3 review

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Samsung Galaxy S3 review

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Samsung Galaxy S3 review

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Media

Despite its age, the Samsung Galaxy S3 still offers a superb effort in the media space – in fact, the biggest criticism of it here is the fact that it's actually trying to do too much, which is never a bad thing.

But a quick word of warning to those looking to get the 16GB version of the S3 – the OS takes up a whopping 5GB of space, so you're only getting 11GB capacity in reality.

But that's not a huge issue, thanks to that lovely microSD card slot. Hear that Apple? Expandable memory. It's a good thing.

Plus Samsung offers up 50GB of Dropbox storage, so if you run out of space now you're doing something a little odd.

Oh, and quick note on the bundled headphones: they're excellent for free options. They're a little lightweight and lack bass quality compared to high-end options, but the in-ear nature and microphone work very well.

Music

The Music player on the Samsung Galaxy S3 is certainly a decent enough effort and offers all the functionality I'm looking for in a mobile phone - from smart playlists to wireless streaming, it's all there.

For instance, the second you connect headphones to your Samsung Galaxy S3 you get not only the chance to fire up the music player, but look in the notifications pane and you'll see all the apps that are optimised for headphones, be it the music player, FM radio or YouTube.

The notifications pane is actually a pretty pivotal section for the music player, as you can also pause and skip tracks from here - it's something Samsung has offered for years, but I'm glad it's still there.

Samsung Galaxy S3

But onto the important stuff: the quality of the sound. And yes, it's good. Very good indeed. The tonal quality is very even throughout listening, and the sheer range of equaliser settings is dizzying. Most of them are slightly useless and very similar to one another, but the difference in quality between 'dance' and 'rock' is enough to warrant use.

There's also a virtual surround sound option in there as well, which I'm surprised did actually give the impression of 7.1 sound (well, it could have been 5.1. My ears aren't that discerning). It only worked on tracks encoded at a higher bitrate, but it's a good option nonetheless.

Let's be clear though, the sound is not of the same quality that I've heard through my HTC One, let alone that of the One M8. If you're after something that is more suited to music, the HTC's are definitely the strongest bet right now.

In terms of actual use, the music player is pretty standard on the Samsung Galaxy S3 - that's not a bad thing, but there's not much to really talk about. The buttons could do with being slightly larger, especially given how much space the album art is given, but it's not going to cause tears before bedtime or anything.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

There are a few other options to talk about here: for instance, dive into the menu and you'll see that if the music file you're playing has embedded lyrics, you can see them on the screen at the same time. It's a shame Samsung couldn't repeat Motorola's excellent trick of being able to call them from an online database, but I can't see too many people missing this as a feature.

You can also set the play speed from within the menu, all the way up to 2x. Why you'd want to, and why it's hidden in a menu, I don't know, but it's there if you want it. I can confirm it does speed up songs. Perhaps you want to make your tunes that much more squeaky when annoying others on the bus?

Video

The Video player on the Samsung Galaxy S3 is one of the best stock players on the market - without question.

One of its main strengths is the layout: it's simple and easy to use. The buttons are large enough, and the slider is easy to grab to move through a video at your own speed. It's a shame you can't swipe on the screen anywhere and do things like move the brightness up and down and scroll through the movie at different speeds.

The range of files supported is brilliant too: from AVI to MP4 to Xvid and DivX it's all there, and will appeal to those who like watching movies on the go. You can simply change the ratio of the file, which is a function that so many seem to omit at the moment - sometimes our files aren't the best-behaved, so this option is critical.

The playback is excellent. The deep contrast ratios, the colour reproduction, it's all pretty much class leading. Yes the range of "mini" phones now all come with 720p screens, and modern flagships come in even better but Samsung's Super AMOLED tech is still really impressive.

Samsung Galaxy S3

Pop Up Player is also on offer from Samsung, and is a cool function to have. Press the button at the bottom right-hand side of the screen and you can keep the video playing when you're browsing the web or flicking through photos.

The other function is watching videos from your PC or other DLNA-enabled device, and unlike the music player the news is much better: it works. Simply jump into the video player app and you'll be able to search for nearby devices and see a list of shared videos.

FM radio

The FM radio on the Samsung Galaxy S3 has all manner of functionality built into it – most importantly the fact you can record the station you're listening to. So many other manufacturers don't offer this, and I love being able to nab whatever I'm listening to for offline fun.

The scanning is very strong as well – I found many stations that most other phones couldn't pick up in the same area.

Gaming

Gaming is also handled well, although the Galaxy S3 does miss the same level of power that the newest flagships come with. Casual gaming is just as simple as ever, but the more power intensive games do tend to make the S3 struggle a little bit. This is one area that the 2.2GHz CPU of the Z1 Compact really comes into play.

Comparison

Moto G

When it comes to budget devices there is one go to device, and right now that device has to be the Moto G. There is very little doubt that this smashed many bars when it was released, and must have left many manufacturers reeling at just what can be achieved at such a low price point.

Samsung Galaxy S3

The Motorola device comes with a number of perks that make it more desirable than the S3. The smaller screen still looks amazing, the quad-core processor gives the Samsung a run for its money and it even comes with stock Android 4.4 on board.

It might seem like a little point but if you're looking to sign up to a two year contract I can imagine it being a massive drag using software that is already a year old. With Android L right around the corner, the Galaxy S3 might get lucky but I wouldn't be my life savings on it.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

If you're looking for a high-powered Android handset with a smaller screen, there can only really be one winner. The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact really is an awesome device.

Its high-powered insides and massive camera offer just about everything of a full sized flagship but at a much more finger friendly sizing.

Samsung Galaxy S3

This really highlights the age of the Galaxy S3, which at the time launched with the most impressive specs on the market. For those looking for a flagship model at a smaller size, the Sony is definitely the device of choice.

However, all this power does come at a cost, being significantly more expensive than the Galaxy S3 on both contract and on SIM-free deals.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini

It might seem a little unfair to put the Galaxy S3 against a device that hasn't launched yet, but the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini could be the final nail in the coffin for the veteran flagship.

It sports a 4.5-inch 720p display, 1.4GHz quad-core chip, 1.5GB of RAM, 8MP rear camera, 2.1MP front snapper, dust- and water resistant body, fingerprint scanner and Android 4.4 KitKat.

Samsung Galaxy S3

That's a decent level of specs and it means the Galaxy S5 Mini overshadows the Galaxy S3, although it is more expensive.

Hands on gallery

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Verdict

Two years ago the Samsung Galaxy S3 was the device to have, with the only real competition coming from a certain Cupertino based firm. Today the story is completely different, with budget devices such as the Moto G giving the Samsung a marathon run for its money.

Also thrown into the mix is the current trend for "mini" devices, which despite their almost ludicrous title still come with pretty large screens, almost all matching the 4.8-inch 720p screen.

So does an ageing flagship still cut it against the new boys?

We liked

Despite the fact that HD screens are now the norm of the smaller device, there is no taking away from the Super AMOLED tech that Samsung has been using it its higher end devices. Despite being a few years old, this still gives the Galaxy S3 a lot of sparkle.

Storage is also highly impressive, with the largest models able to support up to 128GB (64GB microSD on top of the highest end S3) plus a further 50GB of Dropbox space for the next two years only making the S3 more desirable.

Finally I should add a nod to the battery. Not one of my friends that own the Galaxy S3 has ever moaned about not having enough charge, and that includes my GPS loving father and gaming loving brother. You can also buy a 3000mAh battery pack if the 2100mAh isn't quite enough.

We disliked

I can sum up my biggest grievance with the S3 in three words; Android Jelly Bean. Yes we're looking at an older handset so it can be expected that the OS will also be older, but this is something that will eventually prove to be annoying, especially if you're on a two year contract.

Samsung's TouchWiz UI can also prove to be a little much for some people. Whilst I must admit that I am a fan of Samsung's UI, it's not quite as good as Sony's UI and I know that many will be put off by the heavily customised features that aren't present on the likes of the Moto G.

Finally it is only a minor niggle but needs to be addressed; that of Smart Stay. Samsung's eye tracking technology has never appealed to me as it is unable to properly track my eyes. If the idea is for it to keep the screen lit whilst I'm looking at it, then it's extremely frustrating when the screen dims. Please sort this out Samsung.

Verdict

So, you're thinking about purchasing a Samsung Galaxy S3. Is it going to be a good idea? In short, that really depends.

There is an awful lot that the Samsung offers, with its still impressive camera and the fact that the aging processor now sits comfortably at the lower end of the market complete with the price to match.

Unfortunately I still struggle to move past the older OS, which is a real shame as it holds the S3 back from smashing the lower end of the market to pieces.

Obviously it makes sense for Samsung, it still has its own phones to sell in this sector after all, but it puts the Galaxy S3 on the back foot against the "mini" generation and the likes of the budget Moto G.

First reviewed: May 2012

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