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

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

[clear] 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.

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


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.