Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III review: S to the third

GSMArena team, 20 May 2012.
Pages: 123456789101112

S Voice challenges Siri, isn't quite there yet

You've probably seen our S Voice vs. Siri vs. Speaktoit Assistant post, but we'll recap our impressions of Samsung's S Voice here.

S Voice understands English, French, Spanish and Korean, Italian and German (take that Siri!). It can be activated by voice too - the default prompts are "Hi Galaxy" (as before) and "Hi Buddy", and you can add custom ones too. That makes for completely hands-free, voice-only control of the phone. Note that this puts a strain on the battery, but there's an option to activate this feature only when the phone is plugged into a charger.

S Voice can do the usual - search the web, make calls, send texts (which Android natively supports and so does Vlingo), but you can also use it instead of the notification area toggles, to control the music player, look up weather and traffic info for a city, set timers and alarms (and snooze them too) or launch an app.

Samsung Galaxy S III Review Samsung Galaxy S III Review Samsung Galaxy S III Review Samsung Galaxy S III Review
S Voice has plenty of options

Some apps get special treatment - for example, you can say "I want to take a picture" to activate the camera and say "Cheese!" to snap the photo. Facebook is another example - you can update your status using S Voice. Same goes for Twitter.

It's also a tool for quickly looking up facts - it's powered by Wolfram Alpha (which handles some of Siri's answers too). It has an enormous database covering topics ranging from Culture and Media to Physics. Unlike Siri, S Voice extracts only the relevant bit of info which Alpha provides and shows you more details only if you want them.

S Voice can also be used as a calculator. Once again, it only gives the relevant answer (Siri shows the whole output from Wolfram Alpha, which tends to get carried away with the amount of detail - e.g. you don't really need a visual representation of 2 + 2).

Here's S Voice in action, up against Siri and a free digital assistant from the Play Store:

One of the things that made a negative impression was that the speech to text transcription was somewhat worse than Siri (which isn't perfect either). S Voice understood the commands most of the time, though there were cases when it didn't quite catch our words correctly.

This was most prominent when we tried to send a text message with voice dictation only - sometimes it would get as much as half of the sentence wrong.

S Voice also needs some polishing when it comes to removing unnecessary prompts - it asked for GPS to be active when checking the traffic in a city (even though we weren't in that city and it shouldn't matter where we are anyway), it stumbled when there were multiple numbers that an SMS can be sent to (it reverted to regular touchscreen interaction, forgetting we're trying to talk to it) and then it crashed when we tried a question just for fun.

Still, if you look past its quirks, S Voice can be a handy tool in situations where your hands are occupied (especially while driving, when you can't take your eyes off the road either). In all other scenarios you will be much better off using your fingers than your voice. Things might improve in the future but we are still a few years away before such technology becomes an essential part of the smartphone user experience.

Synthetic benchmarks

Benchmark Pi is a simple single-threaded benchmark, so we know what we can expect from it. The Galaxy S III falls behind the HTC One S and the Snapdragon version of the One X and their brand new Krait cores, but it gets pretty much the same result as the Tegra-powered HTC One X and its four Cortex-A9's even though those are clocked 100MHz higher than the Galaxy S's.

Benchmark Pi

Lower is better

  • HTC One X (Snapdragon S4)
    279
  • HTC One S
    306
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    338
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    344
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
    351
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    408
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    452
  • Sony Xperia S
    536
  • HTC Sensation XE
    583

Linpack offers multithreaded benchmarking, making it essential for testing quad-core beasts. The Samsung Galaxy S III managed to outpace all phones but the HTC One S. It even beat the international One X even though it should have been a bit slower (again, 4x Cortex-A9 @ 1.4GHz for the Galaxy S III vs. 4x Cortex-A9 @ 1.5GHz for the One X).

Linpack

Higher is better

  • HTC One S
    210
  • HTC One X (Snapdragon S4)
    196
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    177.1
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    126.1
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
    90
  • Sony Xperia S
    86.4
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    77.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    77.1
  • HTC Sensation XE
    50.4

Quadrant is a composite benchmark (it tests CPU, GPU and I/O). The Galaxy S III easily got the top score here, with a comfortable lead over the HTC One S and One X in terms of general performance.

Quadrant

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    5365
  • HTC One X (Snapdragon S4)
    5146
  • HTC One S
    5047
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    4842
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    3531
  • Sony Xperia S
    3173
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    3053
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    2316

The Samsung Galaxy S III relies on a Mali-400MP GPU, though the exact details (number of cores, clock speed, etc.) are still to be revealed. It has a 720p screen to fill with pixels (up from WVGA on the S II), so we were curious to find out how it fares.

NenaMark 2 shows much better performance compared to the NVIDIA GPU inside the other quad-core chipset on the market, the Tegra 3 that the HTC One X uses and it even beats the new Adreno 225 inside the Snapdragon S4. The Galaxy S III shows the best 3D performance on a droid yet.

Note that older Samsung models used to have a 60fps framerate ceiling set in the software and we're not sure yet if the Galaxy S III is running into such a limit, artificially lowering its score (NenaMark reports the results in FPS).

NenaMark 2

Higher is better

  • HTC One S
    60.5
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    58.8
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    51.6
  • HTC One X (Snapdragon S4)
    49.1
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    47.5
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
    43.6
  • Sony Xperia S
    37.5
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    24
  • HTC Sensation XE
    23

GLBenchmark is available on iOS devices too, so it can give us some idea of how the Galaxy S III compares to the PowerVR SGX 543 GPUs. We're using the Egypt test in offscreen 720p mode so that results are directly comparable even though each device has a different physical screen resolution.

The Mali-400MP inside the Galaxy S III beats both the iPhone 4S and iPad 2, which use SGX 543MP2 (at different clock speeds). The SGX 543MP4 inside the new iPad comes out on top though, but it does have a huge battery to back it up and even with a new manufacturing process, it might need to have its clock speed reduced when (if?) it's put inside a mobile phone (like the GPU inside the iPhone 4S is compared to the one inside the iPad 2).

GLBenchmark Egypt (offscreen 720p)

Higher is better

  • New Apple iPad
    140
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    103
  • Apple iPad 2
    90
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    73
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    63
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    62
  • HTC One S
    56
  • HTC One X (Snapdragon S4)
    55.7

SunSpider is a JavaScript benchmark and as such isn't strongly affected by the number of CPU cores - it mostly reflects the raw performance of a single core and how optimized the JavaScript engine itself is.

Samsung seems to have done quite well here as the speed increase goes further than the 16% or so CPU frequency advantage that the Galaxy S III has over its predecessor. The S III is the fastest phone we've tested, beating other ICS phones and even the HTC One S and its Krait CPUs (which use a newer architecture than the Cortex-A9 cores in the S III).

SunSpider

Lower is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    1447
  • HTC One S
    1708
  • New Apple iPad
    1722
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    1757
  • HTC One X (Snapdragon S4)
    1834
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    1849
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    1863
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
    1891
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2217
  • Sony Xperia S
    2587
  • HTC Sensation XE
    4404

BrowserMark adds HTML to the equation - behind the scenes JavaScript computation won't do much if the web page can't update fast and smooth. The Galaxy S III tops this chart as well, and quite comfortably too.

BrowserMark

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    169811
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
    113256
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    111853
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    103591
  • New Apple iPad
    103264
  • HTC One S
    98435
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    96803
  • HTC One X (Snapdragon S4)
    92232
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    88725
  • Sony Xperia S
    74990
  • HTC Sensation XE
    72498
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