Samsung Galaxy S III - AT&T Version

People keep saying that we are in the post-PC era and that the future is mobile devices. Legit Reviews started off doing computer hardware and video game reviews, but over the years has evolved into a site that looks at all sorts of consumer electronics and gadgets. When Samsung reached out to us and asked us to look at the Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone for them we figured that we should see what this device is all about. The Samsung Galaxy S III is easily the most hyped Android device of the year, and possibly of all-time.  With a new Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1.5GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, a huge Super AMOLED 4.8-inch screen (720x1280 pixels), 4G LTE, NFC and an impressive 8MP camera it is no wonder that this smartphone has received so much attention.  We'll talk more about the features as we show you the phone.

Samsung Galaxy S III

We asked Samsung for the AT&T version and we received a Pebble Blue 16GB version with part number SGH-I747 last week. AT&T offers this phone in Pebble Blue or Marble White for $199.99 with a 2-year contract, $449.99 with a 1-year contract or $549.99 without a signed commitment. AT&T offers 4G LTE in 39 markets and should also be coming out with a red version of this phone later this summer. Other carries will also be offering this phone, so if you have Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile or US Cellular you are in luck and all should be priced at $200 on-contract. For some reason AT&T doesn't carry the 32GB version, but you can get it with the other carries for around $250 with a contract.

Samsung Galaxy S III

Sliding off the retail box cover we found an inner box that had a lid that could be lifted off. Once that cover was removed we got our first glimpse of the Samsung Galaxy S III! Our AT&T version had a screen protector on it that warns against texting & driving. AT&T is doing a nationwide campaign against texting and driving right now.

Samsung Galaxy S III

The Samsung Galaxy S III looks pretty plain, but don't let the simple looks fool you. The Galaxy S III is rather large due to the 4.8" Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreeen, yet is rather slim with a thickness of 8.6mm. The official measurements are 5.38 x 2.78 x 0.34 inches with a weight of 4.73 ounces. The display has a resolution of 1280x720 (306ppi) and features 16 million colors. Pretty much the entire face of the Samsung Galaxy S III is covered by Corning Gorilla Glass 2, which makes it nearly scratch proof.

Samsung Galaxy S III

Once you take out the Samsung Galaxy S III and the cardboard tray that it comes on you'll see yet another cover that is hiding the charger, USB data cable, wired stereo headphones and some instruction and warranty pamphlets.

Samsung Galaxy S III

The charger that comes with the Samsung Galaxy S III is nice and slim, so it will easily fit in your backpack or laptop back for those short day trips. The charger has no ground and doesn't block any outlets above or below it.  The USB data cable features a standard USB connector on one end and a microUSB connector on the other. It can be used for charging the smartphone and/or for transferring data between a PC and the smartphone. The USB cable measures in at five feet or 60 inches in length! This is a nice length as it it means you can actually use the device while charging it without being attached to where it is plugged into at arms length. It's tough to do that on 36" or smaller cables and anyone that has ever had a short cable should be able to relate to this.

Samsung Galaxy S III External Features

Samsung Galaxy S III

The Samsung Galaxy S III looks great, but let's take a look around the Smartphone and show you some of the features. The most obvious feature is the 4.8" Super AMOLED screen. This screen has a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels and has a 309 pixels per inch (ppi). This pixel density is up there with the sharpness of the iPhone 4S!

Samsung Galaxy S III

Having such a high resolution makes for a great internet experience as you can display web pages that look just like they would on your laptop or desktop PC.

Samsung Galaxy S III

Along the top edge of the Samsung Galaxy S III we have a hidden LED notification light on the left side, the earpiece, light & proximity sensors, and then the 1.9-megapixel front facing camera. The front facing camera shoots video at 720p@30fps.

Samsung Galaxy S III

The Galaxy S III has a physical home button located smack dab in the middle along the bottom edge of the Smartphone. Gone are the four Android capacitive buttons that so many are familiar with, but they won't be missed.  On each side of the home button are the capacitive menu and back keys, which have a soft white glow during use. The home button also activates the S Voice app by double tapping it, and it also activates the multi-tasking menu by executing a long press. By pressing and holding the home button and the power button at the same time you can take a screen shot. Not all phones running Android 4.0 have kept the menu button as the Google default is the recent-apps tab.

You can notice the brushed-metal grain finish that is used on the front of the Galaxy S III really well in this image.

Samsung Galaxy S III

Speaking of the power button, it is located on the ride side of the smartphone. This photo also shows how Samsung has rounded not only the edges and corners, but even the Gorilla Glass 2 surface tapers down on the edges.

Samsung Galaxy S III

The polycarbonate body used on the Samsung Galaxy S III keeps the weight down, but it remains sturdy and feels good in your hand. At 4.7 ounces, the Galaxy S III feels just right in your hand when it comes to weight. The overall size of the phone is large though and we shared the phone with some people and all thought it was big, but not too big. A few people with small hands noted they couldn't get there thumb from the top to the bottom of the screen in one swipe, but people with larger hands were happy as could be.

Samsung Galaxy S III

On the left side of the phone you have the volume rocker and that is it.  The only three physical buttons on this phone are the power, volume and the Android home button!

Samsung Galaxy S III

Along the bottom edge of the Galaxy S III you'll fine the tiny hole for the microphone and the microUSB charging and data transfer port. in the image above we have the microUSB cable plugged in and you can also make out the two soft touch buttons on each side of the home button now as they are lit up while the phone was being turned on. You can also see the hidden LED notification light glowing blue now.

Samsung Galaxy S III

Along the top edge you'll find a 3.5mm headset jack if you would like to use a wired headset to listen to music. The Samsung Galaxy S III also features Bluetooth 4.0, so you can easily connect wireless bluetooth devices as well. Speaking of wireless technologies, this phone supports Wi-Fi, GPS, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0 along with Near-Field Communication (NFC). NFC is a emerging technology that is starting to take off thanks to Google Wallet, TecTiles and more. This top edge also has a small slot in it that allows you to pry off the plastic back cover.

Samsung Galaxy S III

The back of the phone has an impressive 8-megapixel auto-focus camera that’s able to shoot 1080p videos. The default resolution for the images are 3264x2448 pixels and the HD videos are shot at 1080p@30FPS. You can simultaneously shoot HD video and record images. This camera has 4x digital zoom and has a fairly good quality LED flash. To the right of the camera lens you'll see the handset’s speaker grill. The back plastic has a high gloss finish on it that resembles brushed metal again. It looks pretty good, but it does show finger smudges really bad.

Samsung Galaxy S III

Removing the back plastic cover is simple and once removed you can see the Li-ion 2,100 mAh battery, microSIM slot, and microSD card slot. This means the Galaxy S III has expandable memory and a battery than can be replaced. AT&T rates the Samsung Galaxy S III as having up to 8 hours of talk time and up to 8.3 days of standby time. The Near-Field Communication (NFC) hardware is also located some place on the back side of the phone.

Samsung Galaxy S III

Here is a closer look at the microSIM slot and microSD card slot. Notice that the microSD slot is spring-loaded, which makes taking the card in and out so much easier. The Samsung Galaxy S III can use microSD cards up to 64GB in capacity.

Samsung Galaxy S III

We tried out several microSD cards in the Samsung Galaxy S3 and had no problems with any of them.  In the photo above you can see a SanDisk Extreme Pro 16GB UHS-I microSD card being inserted into the socket.

Samsung Galaxy S III

This is what what the Samsung Galaxy S III looks like with both the microSIM slot and microSD card slot being occupied.

Samsung Galaxy S III CPU Benchmarks

Peacekeeper Benchmark

Peacekeeper is an online benchmark from Futuremark that realistically simulates the load placed on the browser by common JavaScript functions as used by popular, modern websites. For users who prioritize speed and performance, Peacekeeper helps answer the question of which browser or tablet is the best for them.

Peacekeeper Benchmark

We tested the Motorola Atrix, Motorola Droid Razr Maxx, Samsung Galaxy S II and Samsung Galaxy S III Smartphones. Last years smartphones were unable to compete with the newer models as the Motorola Atrix with Android 2.3.6 that was released in February 2011 was found to perform half as fast!

Quadrant Benchmark

Quadrant is a CPU, I/O and 3D graphics benchmark. The Standard Edition requires an Internet connection to compute benchmark results and is supported by ads, but that should be fine for most users. We used version v2.1.1 for benchmarking the tablets.

Quadrant Benchmark

Quadrant showed that the Samsung Galaxy S III did the best here on this test thanks to the Snapdragon S4 1.5GHz dual-core processor.  The NVIDIA Tegra 1.0GHz dual-core processor was on the top of our charts in Q1 2011 and now it's at the bottom.  It's amazing how much more powerful cell phones have gotten in just the past year!

Quadrant Benchmark

The LINPACK Benchmarks are a measure of a system’s floating point computing power. Introduced by Jack Dongarra, they measure how fast a computer solves a dense N by N system of linear equations Ax = b, which is a common task in engineering. The solution is obtained by Gaussian elimination with partial pivoting, with 2/3*N3 + 2*N2 floating point operations. The result is reported in Millions of FLoating-point Operations Per Second (MFLOP/s, sometimes simply called FLOPS). This test is more a reflection of the state of the Android Dalvik Virtual Machine than of the floating point performance of the underlying processor. Software written for an Android device is written using Java code that the Dalvik VM interprets at run time. We used version 1.2.8 for benchmarking.

Quadrant Benchmark

The Samsung Galaxy S III ran great on LinPack v1.2.8 for Android and was easily able to beat other big name smartphones!

NenaMark Benchmark

NenaMark is a benchmark of OpenGL ES 2.0, using programmable shaders for graphical effects such as reflections, dynamic shadows, parametric surfaces, particles and different light models to push the GPU to its limits. It can be downloaded from the Android Market or nena.se. We used NenaMark version 2.2 for benchmarking the tablets.

NenaMark Benchmark

When it comes to this popular OpenGL ES 2.0 it should be noted that the screen resolution of the device plays a roll in the performance results as screens with higher resolutions are rendering more pixels.

As you can see, the Samsung Galaxy S III is much faster in this benchmark despite having far more pixels to render than the other three smartphones! Pretty impressive results and since this benchmark runs vsync, it can't go over 60fps. 

GL Benchmark v2.1

GLBenchmark 2.1.4 is an OpenGL ES 2.0 benchmark that we are using for the very first time since you can run it in offscreen mode, which means that you can test devices at the same resolution no matter what the screen size really is. The majority of the tests focus on graphic resources, measuring the quality and performance of the underlying OpenGL ES 2.x implementation. The benchmark, among other features, contains high-level 3D animations; low-level graphic measurements; a possibility to create personalized benchmarking suites by changing settings.

GL Benchmark v2.1

When it comes to this OpenGL ES 2.0 the winner is clear as the Samsung Galaxy S III proved itself to be more than 3.5x faster than the Motorola Atrix.  It also was nearly twice as fast than the Motorola Droid Razr MAXX!

After performance benchmarking the Samsung Galaxy S III it is clear to us that this Smartphone is in a league of its own and the responsiveness and speed of it is unlike any other phone that we have ever used.

Samsung Galaxy S III Camera Testing

We all know that cameras have come a long way in recent years, but when we saw the Samsung Galaxy S III was still using an 8 megapixel rear camera we weren't sure what to expect. The Samsung Galaxy S II also used an 8 megapixel camera, so is this one any better?

Pantech Element Camera

We fired up the camera and the user interface is pretty straight forward and familiar. You have the ability to switch between pictures and videos with the slider on the right and you have all your usual buttons for the flash, focus and settings on the left side.

Pantech Element Camera

We went into setting and quickly found out that this camera has some amazing little features that are normally not seen on a smartphone. You have six shooting modes to pick from and yes you get ones like burst shot, HDR and Panorama. If you pick burst shot you have the ability to run the 'Best Photo' mode, which will select the best shot out of a continuous burst of eight photos. This is a feature that you find on many of the better point-and-shoot cameras! You can change the exposure value, make self-portraits and do all sorts of other things in the settings menu.

Pantech Element Camera

When it comes to focus modes there is auto, macro and face detection.  All of the modes work well and we quickly fell in love with the 8MP camera.

Pantech Element Camera

The 8-megapixel camera facing out the back takes large 3264 x 2448 images and is said to have a zero-lag shutter. On the Fourth of July we were driving by a supermarket and noticed they had a giant flag and the wind was blowing fairly strong causing it to whip around. We pulled up to a red light, put the window down and snapped this image from about 100 feet away. This image is an unedited crop of the original image and as you can see it looks pretty darn good.

Pantech Element Camera

We then ran inside the store and the bright colors of some peppers caught our attention so we snapped this picture on auto. Everything came out crisp and focused. It is almost hard to believe this picture came from a cell phone, but then again this is the Galaxy S III that we are talking about here and it is no regular phone!

Pantech Element Camera

LR did a review on the Stem TimeCommand earlier this year and we happened to find it at Target for the same price as it was half a year ago.  We snapped a picture of it and noticed that the some of the white objects at the edges of the picture were a little over exposed. The Samsung Galaxy S III camera isn't perfect, but it does pretty good.

Pantech Element Camera

The LED Flash on the Galaxy S III also works well.  Anyone that has taken picture of an object with a ton of chrome on it knows how hard that is to photograph. Here is a picture of a Harley taken with the flash on and it didn't come out half bad.  The Galaxy S III camera takes better than average pictures and we found that it did exceptionally well outdoors in well-lit environments and indoors without the flash. 

Samsung Galaxy S III 4G LTE Testing

This review wouldn't be complete if we didn't try out the 4G LTE wireless speeds on the AT&T network as that is one of the most important things with any 4G LTE smartphone!

Samsung Galaxy S III

At our office we get 4G LTE service with three to four bars on the signal strength. We downloaded the Speedtest.net App to check how our upload and download speeds were on the Galaxy S III.

SpeedTest App Results

When we fired up and ran the app we found that with the auto-selected server we were getting roughly 31 Mb/s down and 5.6 MB/s up. These are some of the best 4G LTE speeds that we have ever seen in St. Louis, Missouri. AT&T has invested more than $2.1 billion from 2008 to 2011 in improving the wireless network in St. Louis and it looks like it is really paying off. We regularly get around 30MB/s down and 6 MB/s up around the metro area and the data transfer speeds are amazing.

We wanted to see how some older smartphones do on the AT&T network, so we grabbed the Motorola Atrix and Samsung Galaxy S II to see how they perform on the same server on the same time period.


Samsung Galaxy S III:

SpeedTest App Results

Samsung Galaxy S II:

SpeedTest App Results

Motorola Atrix:

SpeedTest App Results

We ran the Samsung Galaxy S II and Galaxy S III smartphones one minute apart on the same exact server and in the same position on our desk and the results were very different.  The Samsung Galaxy S III hit 22MB/s down and 5MB/s up and the Samsung Galaxy S II was only able to reach 1MB/s down and 0.14MB/s up. The Samsung Galaxy S III was found to have 22x better download speeds and roughly 38x better upload speeds! We switched SIM cards over to the Motorola Atrix and found that it was getting 1MB/s down and 0.5MB/s up. The Samsung Galaxy S III is a true 4G LTE device

AT&T 4G LTE Data plans for Smartphones:

When you buy a Samsung Galaxy S III from AT&T you have a choice between the three data plans.  If you go over your allowed bandwidth usage you are charged more.  For example if you go over the 300MB allowance on the DataPlus plan you will be billed $20 for each additional 300MB used. If the allowance on a DataPro plan is exceeded, an additional 1GB is automatically provided at a rate of $10 for each additional 1GB. As you can see data plans can get very pricey and with download speeds of over 30MB/s and upload speeds around 6MB/s you can blow through a 300MB data plan in under a minute if you wanted to try.

Samsung Galaxy S III microSD Testing

Before we conclude our testing on the Samsung Galaxy S III we wanted to see how fast the phone could read and write to the microSD card. One of the main selling points of Android smartphones is that nearly all of them have expandable storage. We wanted to see how fast the phone could read and write data to this interface.

SanDisk Extreme Pro microSDHC UHS-I card

The SanDisk Extreme Pro microSDHC UHS-I is the fastest microSDHC memory card in the world. This card is class 10 and UHS Speed Class 1 rated (UHS-104). With a read speed of 95 MB/sec it means that this card is speed rated at 633x for those looking for CompactFlash IDE emulation speed numbers. The write speed isn't much slower at 90 MB/sec or 600x. These are impressive ratings and this card should be able to easily handle full HD video and blazing data transfer speeds.

SanDisk Extreme Pro microSDHC UHS-I card

It is also the perfect card to test out on the Samsung Galaxy S III.

SD Card Tester App

We ran the SD Card Tester v1.0.5 App and found that it worked greet on the Samsung Galaxy S III Smartphone. With the file size set to 376MB the benchmark showed write speeds at 15.6 MB/s and read speeds at 22.25 MB/s on the smartphone.

SD Card Tester App

The App says that larger file sizes are better for testing, so we set the file size to 2501 MB and ran the benchmark again. Here we discovered 23.66 MB/s read speeds and 13.41 MB/s write speeds. These speeds are slower than what the SandDisk Extreme Pro are capable of, so the Sasmsung Galaxy S III is clearly causing the bottleneck. Not bad performance numbers though! 

Final Thoughts & Conclusions

The Samsung Galaxy S III looked good on paper and once we got our hands on it in the real world we were by no means disappointed by the smartphone. The Galaxy S III is hands down one of the fastest phones that we have ever used in terms of both the processor performance and the 4G LTE network speeds. We've used dozens of Android based smartphones over the past year and none of them gave us the 'wow' feeling we got when we started using the Galaxy S III.  Samsung wanted to raise the bar and they most certainly have.

Samsung Galaxy S III

The Samsung Galaxy S III uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 1.5GHz dual-core processor with 2GB of RAM and is was a beast. In OpenGL benchmark tests it more nearly quadrupled the benchmark numbers seen on the Motorola Atrix with the NVIDIA Tegra 1.0GHz dual-core processor. The Motorola Atrix was one of the first dual-core smartphones on the market in 2011 and the speed difference between the two is very noticeable. Applications load quicker on the Galaxy S III and it just feels snappier. 

When we tested 4G LTE network performance the Galaxy S III was blazing along at up to 31 MB/s down and 6 MB/s up, which is insane. Most people don't even have internet service that fast at home, so to get that on a cell phone is more than impressive. The camera on the Galaxy S III is very good as well. We have yet to see a perfect camera on a Smartphone, but the one on the Galaxy S III is pretty damn close.

Samsung TecTile

Samsung has also introduced a number of new features like S Voice, S Beam and TecTiles that are pretty neat.  Since the Galaxy S III has NFC support you can use Samsung TecTiles with it. These little stickers can be programmed with information and be placed where you wish. Right now five of these stickers run $15 and only work on Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy S II (T-Mobile only), Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S 4G and Galaxy S Blaze 4G mobile devices.  We recently picked up some of the Samsung TecTiles and have come up with a number of interesting uses for them.  For example they are great at sharing information and are ideal for the back of a business card or for on the refrigerator for sharing information between family members. The can be programmed around 100,000 times before they need to be replaced.

Samsung S Voice

S Voice is a a voice assistant feature that works similar to Apple's Siri. It works fairly well although it isn't as personable as Siri. Voice assist might sound silly to some, but it does make tasks like setting an alarm very easy. The new S Beam feature allows you to connect mobile-to-mobile with other compatible devices using NFC or Wi-Fi to directly share files, videos photos and more. These features are unique to Samsung and do make for a more enjoyable user experience. 

Samsung Galaxy S III

At the end of the day the Samsung Galaxy S III was found to be a great smartphone. The CPU performance was astounding, the AT&T 4G LTE network is fast, the Android 4.0.4 OS was smooth and the 2100 mAh battery was easily able to last a full 8 hour work day. By the time you consider how good the camera is and how fast you fall in love with the 4.8" Super AMOLED display and its 720x1280 resolution this phone easily gets the thumbs up from us. AT&T offers this phone in Pebble Blue or Marble White for $199.99 with a 2-year contract, $449.99 with a 1-year contract or $549.99 without a signed commitment.


Legit Reviews Recommended Award

The Legit Bottom Line: The Post-PC era might be a fun buzz word, but the Samsung Galaxy S III makes you wonder if it is true!