Samsung Galaxy S III 4G Review: Better Late Than Never


When Samsung announced the Galaxy S III way back when, the first question that was asked was "SAMSUNG Y U NO 4G?!". Samsung went out and worked with Telstra, Optus and Virgin to remedy the problem and now, months later, we have a 4G-version of the current Android phone to beat. It's been given shiny new software and a trendy new antenna to boot, but is it any good?

What Is It?

A faster, shinier version of the Android phone of the hour, the Samsung Galaxy S III.

What's Good?

The Galaxy S III 4G comes with the latest software in Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean, upgraded networking capabilities with the new 4G antenna and upgraded specifications with 2GB of RAM. As a result, it puts in a solid Geekbench 2 score of 1736, and in Quadrant tests, it scored a healthy result of 5284 — not a huge departure from the original Galaxy S III which scored 5244, but still head and shoulders above something like the HTC One X at 5034.

The Galaxy S III 4G sports 2GB of RAM — 1GB more than the original S III that came out in June. It also boasts the same Exynos 4412 quad-core 1.4Ghz chip which, paired with the RAM boost, makes this handset the Speedy Gonsalés of the Android world.

Animations are smoother than ever, apps launch faster and general usability stands well above the original Galaxy S III. The addition of Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean and all the Project Butter-y goodness is also hugely appreciated. Bravo, Samsung.

The 4G is incredibly fast. We tested the Galaxy S III 4G on Optus, and benchmarked the speed all around Sydney's CBD and the outlying suburbs.

Location Ping Download Upload
Sydney CBD 23ms 26.55Mbps 15.39Mbps
Newtown 25ms 65.62Mbps 28.96Mbps
Mascot 24ms 16.90Mbps 16.88Mbps
North Sydney 24ms 50.35Mbps 24.73Mbps

65Mbps down is the world I want to live in forever.

Other than the spec boost, the software updates and the speed increase that comes from the 4G antenna, the phone is pretty much the same. It's the same smooth, plastic design, the same 4.8-inch screen (Update: yes, I originally got that one wrong) and the same camera as the last Galaxy S III. The only real difference physically is a tiny "4G" logo at the bottom rear of the handset. If it ain't broke, why fix it I guess.

What's Bad?

As you'd expect, the 4G — while wonderful — is a huge battery sucker. The Galaxy S III 4G still packs the same 2100mAh battery as the non-4G model, meaning that you can expect to be looking for a charger sooner than you'd probably like to after a few hours of 4G browsing.

The only other concern is the fact that Google Now — possibly the coolest feature of Android 4.1.1 — is buried on the Galaxy S III. Quite often, you'll find yourself dropping into S Voice rather than Google Now. It's nitpicky, but it's still annoying.


Should You Buy One?

This is the Galaxy S III we should have got back in June. I'll admit that Jelly Bean wasn't a thing then, but we shouldn't have had to wait for it as long as we did. Same thing with 4G. Telstra — a major launch partner for the Galaxy S III — had a 4G network on the go when the device was announced locally, yet we still had to wait four months to get the fast network support.

While you can hold these things against Samsung all you want, the Galaxy S III 4G is wonderful. Better late to the 4G party than never, really. The Galaxy S III 4G blisteringly fast both in hardware and software performance, and it's got the iPhone 5 beat on specs. You will pay a premium for the S III 4G, but your best in terms of bang for buck comes from Virgin, which runs the eye-poppingly fast Optus 4G network at its core for less of your hard-earned per month.

If you've been holding out on switching to the Galaxy S III or have deemed the latest offering from the fruit stand wholly unimpressive, the Galaxy S III 4G is for you.


Comments

    on your HTC One X Quadrant score, I just got a score of 5,908 running 4.0.4 and Sense 4.1 standard ROM. Maybe time to update your scores?

    Yeah, now they need to get more stock since I was advised on a Friday visit to the 'Experience Store' they had run out.
    Oh, and why are we still waiting for the 32Gb variant. Surely they can do production runs of 16 & 32Gb at the same time?

    "the same 4.3-inch screen "

    *face palm*. You mean 4.8"?

    Can you turn 4g off and only use 3g when blazingly fast twitter updates are not needed?

      I've heard you can only select 2G or 3G but not have it switch between the two! Please someone tell me I'm wrong.

        i select WCDMA in settings and have a widget to turn data off. works very well. seeing as i don't live in a 4G area i don't worry about it. getting 11 kbps with DC HSPA anyway.

          ..and does it switch over to 2G when you aren't in a 3G covered area?

            i don't know if it does automatically, i haven't been without 3G reception since i got the phone. i can do calls with it connected though and calls and sms run on 2G (i think that's right). had used 40% battery after 9 hours yesterday.

    "Better Late Than Never"

    I'm sorry... but would this title have not been better on the iPhone 5 articles? O_o

    Can you buy 4G phones online or are they specifically exclusive to the 3 big telcos?

      I'm yet to find a mobile you can't buy from MobiCity and the likes.

        @Rhys, yep I agree MobiCity sell pretty much every phone released but they source their stock from overseas. I have bought several phones from them. My last (HTC Desire HD) was sourced from UAE (United Arab Emirates). Not an issue on face value, but when I had a warranty issue I was advised by HTC Australia to contact HTC UAE. Also, when the OS was updated pretty much all over the world, I missed out because the update was never released in the UAE.

        I want a Galaxy Note 2, and MobiCity and Kogan both have them, but there is no guarantee about where the stock comes from (despite several FB posts and emails). IMO, if you want your phone to receive updates, only buy local, unless you can be sure of where the device is sourced from.

    Cool. Galaxy SIII burns more battery on 4G. But you can still buy. Wheras shoulnt buy iPhone 5 coz it burns you battery on 4G!!!! Excellent piece of neutral article. Oh I forget that you also mentioned iOS apps arnt optimised for iPhone 5 on launch day as well bloody iPhone 5 would let you set an alarm at 0230 on the DST changeover time. Fair enough!! Samsung advertisement at its glory!!! Hang on where is that advertisement note?

      I never comment on this stuff, and I shouldn't feed the trolls, but I can hardly read what you wrote, let alone understand what point you are trying to make.

        Had you read Luke's iPhone 5 review ten you would understand. On the positives he wrote about a ton of stuff. On the negatives he just gave 3 things, 1st obviously the Maps app, 2nd he stated that on the launch day his apps were not iPhone 5 ready and his 3rd complain was the iPhone 5 was using up battery when on 4G and hence people should not buy the iPhone 5. I am sure on that article he mentioned the iPhone was faster than the SGS 3 on everything except he thought the camera was comparable to SGS3. It's not to feed the trolls but if you read Giz AUs articles regularly you would know how the articles have become like advertisements for Samsung

      What did write this comment on? Does it not have a spell checker? Perhaps you are 12 years old. It was pure gibberish. (Sorry to the 12 year olds out there. I'm sure many of you can write more comprehensibly than this)

    Quote: "it scored a healthy result of 5284 — not a huge departure from the original Galaxy S III which scored 5244, but still head and shoulders above something like the HTC One X at 5034"

    Does a less than 5% difference quantify the (admittedly subjective) statement "head and shoulders"?
    How small are your (ours?) head and shoulders?

    What about reception? My father swears by his HTC one x because he reckons the phone gets better signal? Is this true, and if so by what factor?
    One thing these reviews never really mention is how these phones act as a phone. Ie reception, sound quality etc etc

      One xl. Is C class/blue tick it will pick up better signal as it has a higher class antenna. I got to play with the S3 4G today my s2 4g screen has smashed so going to upgrade. Jelly bean works a treat i liked google now and s voice. There are a few extra setting that look neat i hope to have one tomorrow.

    this review isn't that late! the phone has only recently been released locally.

      The way I read it was that the "better late than never" comment was regarding the 4g galaxy s3, not this article.

      That said, the phone has been out in Australia for a month, so it does indeed apply equally to the article.

      Related: why was there no testing done on this device using the Telstra 4g network?

        Greg, SIII 4G hasn't been out in Australia for a month at all... Telstra have them in stock, but they are not allowed to sell them until tomorrow. Optus, Allphones and others are all waiting for their stock to arrive in stores. The Optus online stored had them as out of stock until only a few days ago. How do I know all this, because I have been hunting one down all day. Finally decided to re-contract with Optus. I called every ACT based Optus and AllPhones store looking for a handset... alas, no luck at all, but Optus Civic (Canberra) had one on display to play with. Very very fast and nice.

    Agreed. Some Telstra specific testing would be appreciated!

    When is jellybean for the S3 3G for Telstra going to drop? That's going to make the S3 the iPhone market destroyer of the year...

    I have an S3 4G and I have to say that I am very happy with it all in all. I have seen maximum 70Mbps down on Virgin (Optus) 4G in Leichhardt, and usually waver between 25Mbps and 60Mbps down and 15Mbps and 30Mbps in general usage throughout Sydney. Reception is relatively sustained, the only significant issues is in rail tunnels and underground car parks from time to time.
    In terms of battery life, well the biggest draw is, unsurprisingly, the screen if on full brightness. But I have had twelve hours of quite regular use (moderately high by normal standards) 4G on, intermittent Wifi and GPS, and thus far I have had 12 hours use and still 40% battery. So compared to iPhones and my Galaxy S2, that is pretty good considering capabilities, such as 4G and screen size. I however have not found an issue using Google Now as described by @lukehopwell, pressing and holding the menu button or from the weather notification in the notification bar.
    My only issue comes from the locked down dock icons, but then that isn't a fault of the phone but the software.

    Telstra had 4G models available (but not on display) at the V8's @ Bathurst on the weekend. When I asked what the purchase outright cost would be the sales person told me $869. I asked why they had them there but not on display, and was told they're not 'officially' released until 9th.

    I'm in the market for a new phone, and i've been waiting for the S3 4G to land, but running the exynos processor is a real turn off. I've been running cyanogemod for a couple of years now and i don't think i could go back to such crappy battery life.

    Just want to check if Galaxy S3, 4g will work across all networks as Samsung store do not sell any non Telco outright phone. It is only available i Telstra or Optus variant. I am concerned if 4G will work the same way that if phone is not locked to any network and it cam work on ant network. There is no information available on the net for these details.
    If 4G is network specific, is this a technology limitation or Samsung Galaxy ?

    DOES ANYONE REALISE THAT THE 4G SPEEDS WILL SLOW DOWN THE MORE PEOPLE ON THE NETWORK

    I have had my S3 4G for a few days now, and find it a fantastic phone, considering I picked it up at JB HiFi for $349 unlocked. Fantastic Super AMOLED screen, runs really fast and smooth with no lag, great camera, 2gb ram, and still has 50-60% battery at the end of the day, depending how much I fiddle with it throughout the day (that's with push email through 3 accounts, regular sms/mms, around an hours worth of calls and several photos/videos. I don't use 4g, being on Optus through TPG, who don't offer 4g, but 3G has been fast due to great ability to hold a signal. You can select 2G/3G/4G, 3G/2G, 3G only or 2G only through network settings. There are also plenty of larger battery options available if you tend to chew through the power (one is a whopping 7000mAh!) which I might check out if required. I have also been using Apex Launcher, great if you want to change your standard locked dock icons, as it is very customisable and lightweight/fast. It also allows 12 launch icons (side-scrollable) on the dock. Very happy with this phone! Highly recommended.

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