John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Samsung I9300 S3 international review

Ok, I have to say, to date my Samsung S2 I727R is by far the best all round phone I’ve had to date! The Nexus 4 is smoother but with no Sd slot, no LTE, and no removable battery it wasn’t one I would make my every day phone. The S2 is super fast on the network side but the dual core processor while quick, get’s taxed with heavy browsing and MP4 videos. The Nexus 4’s quad core made me envious … The reality is a well rounded device requires a fast data connection and a fast processor to create a great experience.

When the S3 was first announced I have to say I was a bit perturbed. North Americans got LTE but lost the quad core. So to me the S3 was more like an S2.1. So when I got a chance on ebay to scoop an international edition on ebay I pounced on it. The phone came to me by way of Vodaphone in Ireland. The manufacturer part number is GT-I9300MBDBTU. Now I knew right off the bat I would be giving up on LTE, a sad compromise but I have to say I have been turning LTE off on the S2 due to it’s impact on battery life. So first up the compromise, might as well get this out of the way up front. LTE speeds on the S2 ranged all the way up to 470001/17457 (up/down) with an average of roughly 22K down. 3G/4G speeds on the S3 ranged all the way up to 9107/2709 (up/down) with an average of roughly 3500K. So quite a price to pay in data rates. Outside of bragging rights I’m not sure how much this will impact the “feel” of the device.

Let’s start with physical comparison to the S2:
70.6 x 136.6 x 8.6 millimetres 133g 4.8″ screen 720x1280p Vs (SIII)
69.9 x 130.9 x 9.39 millimetres 132g 4.5″ screen 480x800p (SII)
So the size is fairly similar with a slightly larger screen and higher resolution. The battery on the S3 is 2100 mAh vs 1850 on the S2.
The processor on the S3 is quad 1.4G, the S2 is a dual 1.5G.
Front and back cameras are identical to the S2 from a specs point of view. Here is a good article about the camera in the S3 and all the work Samsung has put into the camera software.

After playing with the Note 2 last, I am pleasantly surprised just how Note 2 like this device is, and that’s a compliment. The front buttons, the advanced features, up to date OS (Android 4.1.2). All are freshened beyond that of the S2. This includes support for Allshare Play, Split screen, face recognition for rotate and auto dim, Page buddies, updated Samsung keyboard etc. None of which have come to the S2. Samsung have even publicly stated that where possible new features brought out on the S4 will be brought to the S3 and the Note 2. Rogers NFC payment system has also been announced as coming to the S3 and Note 2. These are considered the flagship devices (for now). So there are benefits to being on the flagship! I’ve also compared this S3 to my buds S3 from Mobilicity and this one is WAY more up to date with Note 2 like features.

The S3 includes support for standard USB OTG cables (and mice/flash drives) but Samsung changed the MHL cable for the S3/Note 2 used for HDMI out. The new connector from the phone is suppose to allow you to do USB OTG and HDMI at the same time, a nice option! Oddly, Samsung never released a cable to allow you to do that. So I have no idea why they changed the connector. Samsung do offer a converter from the new pin out on the S3 to the old MHL adapter. Samsung sell this conenctor for $9.99 but almost every reseller I found that had it wanted a whopping $49.99 for it. WTF? More details about the MHL connector can be found here. The phone can not power HDMI without plugging in the charge cable so HDMI and USB OTG at the same time is out. (Yes I tried it to be sure). I found a number of non Samsung S3 MHL cables around. I bought one only to find it wouldn’t plug in correctly, bought another that was suppose to be a genuine Samsung but wasn’t and finally found a genuine Samsung one at Futureshop (the Source also had it). The Non Samsung one would repeatedly have difficulty keeping the unit charged while on HDMI. On the S2 when the battery was in need of charging, and the processor was pushed an error dialogue would come up and say charging paused due to over heating. It was irritating. On this phone with the 3rd party MHL cable the battery just stopped charging. I’ve tried it with high current 2A chargers and nothing changes it. When you push this phone on HDMI the charging stops or slows down. With the genuine Samsung HDMI cable it happens less but still seem to happen. At least on the Samsung cable when you let the phone rest a bit charging resumes. Oddly the phone does not seem all that hot when it does it. So I have no idea what is going on. This seems, yet again, to be poorly implemented. On the positive side the S3 when plugged into HDMI asks about whether it’s stereo or surround! Nice a first! The S2 and my Samsung tablet never did that.

Speaking of HDMI out there are two obvious things you need from a phone or tablet when connected to HDMI. First is don’t turn the screen off. Second is rotate into landscape. Why is this so hard to even think of? Well the S3 actually does one of the two, it keeps the screen on. Of course the third thing is a dream but onscreen buttons would be nice. Motorola got that right. I wonder sometimes if I am the ONLY person on the planet that does HDMI out on my phone/tablet?

I’m shocked how inconsistently keyboard and mice are implemented even within the Samsung line. In this case they actually got it somewhat right. On an Android keyboard all the special keys work (home, options, search etc). Right mouse buttons finally does something, in this case it is the equivalent of a back which can come in handy. I wish it would do a proper right mouse button but heh. We can’t always get what we want 🙂 Interestingly enough in 2X an RDP program right mouse button actually works. First time for this in a long time. Even the roller ball on the mouse does a proper select down. Woohoo. This really comes in handy when using it with an HDMI screen. Same is true of USB OTG connected mice by the way.

Much has been written about the update camera and gallery aps. So I decided to delve into it a bit. I found the links above talking a lot about the camera upgrades. Some of them are very nice. But let’s never forget the optics in almost any camera on a phone don’t even come close to even a point and shoot camera. Without optics little can be done. That said I played around with the gallery ap. This is a heavy ap and takes a bit to even start up. One of the new features is the ability to tag people in the pictures. As you tag more and more of the same person the ap starts to guess who the person is. Of course if you make a mistake tagging or it keeps tagging it incorrectly it’s a little bit of a hassle. Ok so I’ve tagged people in the photo now what? Well it would seem that you would want this tagging to carry forward to facebook tagging (yes I tried it). It doesn’t. Ok well maybe the tag comes down in the EXIF data for use in other programs. It doesn’t (yes I checked). Ok well maybe I can search for all pictures with a particular person in it on the phone? Nope can’t do that either. So what exactly is the point of tagging people in the pictures? I have no frigging clue. And printing of pictures only works to Samsung printers. No idea the details of what that exactly means or what is supported. And how about printing to web sources? They added that in Vista days. Nope can’t do that either. The camera includes Geotagging (a nice feature) and when your looking at the picture it does display where the picture was taken, so at least is that. So it would seem the gallery ap still has some room for improvement.

The video ap for some absolutely bizarre reason attempts to show an in motion thumbnail of each video. Talk about heavy. And it makes this app seem very sluggish to respond. Silly ..

Allshare play is one of the new features of the device. It is an enhanced DLNA client IMHO. One of the nice features is you can get at your Allshare play content over the internet. So you can get at your pictures, movies, music by loading an allshare client on the PC at home. This actually works reasonably well. Limited of course by the upload speed of your home connection (not to mention a good cell signal and a plan with reasonable data). And don’t forget to turn off (global warming be damned 🙂 ) sleep mode on your PC 🙂

Split screen is a nice feature brought about on the Note 2. It allows you to put two programs up on the screen at the same time. This is a bit clumsy to get working but once setup works fine. And for cutting and pasting between two apps is handy. Programs have to support this split screen. On this smaller screen it’s not of a lot of use but it does work and is smooth.

Page buddies is a neat idea that adds contextual customizable home screens. So for example when you plug in a set of headphone a new homescreen gets added that includes a list of programs you might use on headphones. A neat idea. I would like even more of these!

The S3 does not come with a pen but it does come with a number of the pen friendly programs like S Memo, Paper Artist etc. The capacitive pen I bought does work reasonably well on the S3 and is only limited by the size of the screen. Although I must say I am not sure how much I will ever use this.

Bluetooth audio connections like a number of the past devices I’ve played with is hit and miss. Sometimes it connects effortless. Then there are times I need to initiate it from the phone. And still other times it will not connect without rebooting the phone. I can’t believe this many years later we are still dealing with unreliable bluetooth. This is even with a Samsung HS3000 headset. So even with one of their own devices. My Ford Sync has the same issues. Some days these issues just make me want to scream. Other days I just give up and put the radio on 😦 Speaking of radio this has an FM radio in it. Something I never use. But maybe I should explore.

Kies Air is a neat program to allow you to control your phone remotely from a PC over WIFI. Samsung are improving the ap but it still is buggy, unreliable, and clumsy to use. You have to start it manually each and every time and permit the client. Samsung … some attention hear please. I really would love to have this feature JUST WORK. So I use 3CX instead. It allows me to send SMS messages through the phone from a PC. I have people in my life I communicate with through SMS.

Battery life is one of those things there just ain’t never enough of. I haven’t done a detailed bench mark test of this phones battery performance but let’s just say it sure isn’t better than the S2 in spite of no LTE and in spite of the fact the battery is better. 7 hours of battery life is about what I get before it’s dead most days.

One of the perks of being on a HUGELY popular device is there are lots of accessories for the S3 on ebay and Amazon that are reasonably priced. This includes spare batteries, chargers, cases etc. Oddly Samsung made a car holder for the S2 but not one for S3.

Performance on this phone is good. It’s not as zippy as a Nexus 4. It’s weighted down by the Samsung customizations IMHO. But point this phone at a web site and it performs very well. Probably the best so far. Pauses with the phone are few and far between. The quad core really sings. It also does a great job on MP4 videos. Having the extra power of the quad core really is nice.

I could go on and on about the unique features that Samsung have innovated on. I am thoroughly impressed with the dedication and resources that Samsung are devoting too Android. They really are continuing to move the platform forward at a brisk pace.

The screen on this phone is a little bigger than the S2. I have to say I notice it. When I have to reach up to the top corners of the screen I am really reaching or sliding the phone in my hand to get at the corners. Android really needs to rethink having to reach all four corners of the screen all the while increasing the size of the devices.

I have to say the S3 is hands down a SIGNIFICANT improvement over the S2. More than I had expected. If it weren’t for the loss of LTE the phone would be a complete across the board step forward. I’m starting to sound like a broken record but this is hands down the best phone I’ve played with to date. It’s funny, the more and more functionality that gets added to the phone, the more I use it for. The larger screen means I use my tablet less. Especially when my tablet is a dual core and noticeably slower than this phone. I can’t wait to see the S4.

There’s a funny line that says benchmarks never lie, and only liars use benchmarks. On that foul note here is a comparison between ther performance on the S2 vs the performance on the international S3.

6336 2055 858 1328 294 1244 285 226 81
16301 4072 3090 3507 1298 3481 540 195 118


April 26, 2013 - Posted by | Android

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