Battery life is hugely important, and in the case of the SGS3 USA variants the question is just how long you can go with the combination of even beefier air interfaces like LTE and DC-HSPA+, an even larger 4.8" display, and dual core 28nm MSM8960. The SGS3 includes a very large 7.98 watt-hour battery with a higher 3.8V nominal chemistry (2100 mAh * 3.8 V = 7.98 watt hours).

Battery Capacity

I spent a big part of my limited time with the SGS3s battery life testing, and turned to our Smartphone 2011 suite of battery life tests which I’ve described in detail before. The web browsing tests consist of a few dozen pages which are loaded every 10 seconds with the display set at precisely 200 nits (using a meter) until the phone dies - this is done over WiFi and cellular data. The tethering test consists of a single client notebook attached to the device using its onboard WiFi hotspot function, and four tabs of our page load test alongside a 128 kbps streaming MP3 station are loaded on that notebook until the phone dies.

I was supplied the AT&T and T-Mobile SGS3s, which differ in air interface and band support. The T-Mobile version is on the carrier’s DC-HSPA+ network for testing, and the AT&T version supports both HSPA+ (single carrier) and LTE. Unfortunately AT&T LTE is not lit up in my Tucson, AZ market yet (which would make my life so much easier), so I could only run the 3G WCDMA result. 4G LTE results from that particular device will come shortly and I’ll update appropriately.

Web Browsing (Cellular 3G - EVDO or WCDMA)

Immediately we can see that the combination of MSM8960 and Samsung’s big battery really pay off for the SGS3. Both the T-Mobile and AT&T versions (on DC-HSPA+ 42.2 and HSPA+ 14.4, respectively) post impressive numbers around 8 hours. This is with the display set at 200 nits in the browser, which is one tick short of all the way to maximum on the SGS3. Samsung has included a ton of battery saving display analysis features in the SGS3 browser, which were turned off for this test. Obviously if you turn those on (I would) you’ll be able to push battery life even further. It is shocking how close we come to the previously untouchable iPhone 4S.

As soon as I get the AT&T LTE numbers (I have to travel to an AT&T LTE market and carry out the test there) I’ll update with that graph here.

Web Browsing (WiFi)

Next up is the WiFi battery life test, which posts numbers right around where the 3G cellular test was. You might be wondering why this is since the SGS3 includes an even lower power WiFi stack (BCM4334 even in the Krait-based USA variants). The result indicates to me that we’re almost entirely dominated by display power draw here. If we ran with a lower brightness, I expect you’d see WiFi longevity pull in front of cellular like you’d expect.

Cellular Talk Time

Cellular talk time is starting to get so long that it’s hard to test - I essentially lost an entire day of playing with the AT&T SGS3 to running a call time battery life test. This is a good problem to have, though I’m surprised it didn’t go just a bit longer and match or beat the One X AT&T result.

WiFi Hotspot Battery Life (3G)

The 3G hotspot test really tells what things are like with the display turned off. Quite honestly I’m surprised the SGS3 doesn’t do much better here – it’s possible there’s room for further optimization of the WiFi hotspot mode on SGS3. Likewise, I’ll update with 4G LTE numbers for the AT&T model as soon as I’m in an area where it’s lit up and I can burn a few hours testing.

Overall, in my time with the SGS3 I would subjectively describe battery life as above average. With AMOLED, 200 nits is actually pretty bright, and you see Samsung and other OEMs clamping display brightness well below the physical limits to both save power and prevent burn-in.

Obviously the other interesting question is how the SGS3 fares on its battery saving mode with the CPU clock capped at 1.0 GHz. That’s also next in line for testing.

Software - Android 4.0.4, TouchWiz, S Beam and S Voice Performance Analysis
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  • dijimoto - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    I just realized it was in the title ICS version 4.0.4, ugh... Reply
  • EJ257 - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    So does it use both GPS & GLONASS simultaneously? Or can you set a default and it'll switch over to the other system whenever signal from one of them gets to be too weak? Reply
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    I enjoyed it a lot. I like the fact that 1080p video isn't cropped anymore. My cropped SGS2 1080p doesn't look that good and I use 720p as a result.
    The screen looks good too and mostly I think the SGS3 looks pretty good. But for me, it's not enough to make the upgrade from my SGS2. I just bought a nice chinese tablet (Cube U30GT if anyone wonders) which will keep me happy for some time to come. I won't upgrade this generation. WVGA resolution, SAMOLED+, Mali GPU and good custom ROM support are all enough for me, for now. Maybe next year Intel will bring something new or Android 5/6 will change things. But right now, my SGS2 does everything I need it to do.
    Maybe I didn't notice it, but I didn't see any references to bootloader/custom ROMs. For me, whether or not a phone is easily rooted, hacked etc. is an important part of my purchase decision. Maybe you can include a short discussion of that in the future? If you did mention it, I apologize. :-)
    Reply
  • chiza69 - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - link

    I usually love your reviews Brian as they are often unique and give a different perspective compared to other tech sites. However, one thing that frustrates me, and is consistent in all your reviews is the performance category.

    All you do in this category is run benchmarks. Yes, benchmarks are always fun, but both the iPhone and most Windows Phones have proven that benchmarks do not make a system run smoothly. I mean look at the latest android phone, the Galaxy S3, with it's quadcore processor and top of the line GPU. Yes it is fast in benchmarks, but honestly it still cannot make Android as smooth as iOS.

    All I would like to see is that you add a video of typical performance on the phone, especially with the browser.
    Reply
  • name99 - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    "Clearly there is 380 MB absorbed for both preallocated GPU memory, and possibly DRM / baseband, and after that subtraction the only way to get dual channel (2x32b) LPDDR2 is to make the jump to two 1 GB LPDDR2 devices."

    I don't get this. Why can't you have a 1GiB and a 512MiB package? Are ARM memory controllers less sophisticated than Intel ones and unable to handle such a config? After all this sort of config is standard on Windows --- 3GiB back in the day when that was all Windows could handle, now 6GiB on your mid-range laptops that are too cheap to spring for 8GiB.
    Reply
  • antony22 - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    well been waiting for some reviews of the GS3 I was going to get this or the EVO 4G lte on sprint but after a read the whole article I think I made my choice now
    I cant believe that Samsung chose not to use the on board Wi-Fi and went with another chip when the on board is 28 nm while the BCM4334 is 45nm
    when i was reading the battery life test I thought hmm that is odd that the HTC EVO has better life on wi- fi than the GS3 even when they use the same SOC now everything makes sense and also the GS3 is slower too on wi-fi
    Reply
  • SanX - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    Brian,
    In the section about display pixel angular dimensions (0.933 arcmin) you have used word "pixel" while it is actually just the green subpixel angular size. BUT THAT IS WRONG! The largest problem is the red subpixels angular distance (and contrary to laws of physics much less blue). This gives dirty feel of solid colors of red part of spectrum and jagg of lines. THAT IS EXACTLY the main problem of the pentile displays. And that's red and blue distance TWO time larger the green one and of course IS visible very well - just place the screen of LG Nitro nearby.

    Another problem is your 12 inch distance. Formally and practically the the optimal distance for reading is usually 10 inch (25 cm). This is also why in magnification of lens in physics 25cm is used. I typically take phone even closer - to 9". You barely stand pentile screens in this case.

    We always forget, but ideally for proper scaling of small fonts, because we have digital, not analog screens, it's not a one pixel angular size must be unresolved by our eyes but around TWO stacked ones. That gives 600ppi requirement. Only after that we will not see visible difference (jumps) in line thickness when scale fonts.
    Reply
  • Belard - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    So... with these current "smart" phones... do anyone of them have good enough speakers to actually wake a person up?

    That would be a NICE little added benchmark. How loud can the phone get.

    I'm about to retire my SGS1... its speakerphone mode has always been garbage (being that it faced away from you) and the alarm itself has been pathetic. So bad, that I still us a 4 year old Sony dumb phone as wakeup alarm. Even when this stupid phone "rings", I miss half the calls because the speaker and its vibration are weak.

    How about this... make phones that actually FEEL good in the hand, not some danty tablet-size thingy that you can barely hold onto with your finger tips that doesn't FIT in a pocket. Sure, its fine for those who wear a purse and it seems some guys are wearing purses or bags... that's fine.

    But many of us guys put the phones in OUR pockets where there is money, wallets, keys and whatever.

    The SGS1 was already too damn big to comfortly fit into a pocket... the S3 and now bigger S3 should just make it much worse.
    Reply
  • Eridanus - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    SD card slot? So they screwed up only customers of their Nexus crap? Reply
  • apoorvnaik - Thursday, June 21, 2012 - link

    As seen in your post, you say that a T-Mobile SGS3 will work on AT&T's network also but the specs on the T-Mobile's page say something else.

    Here's the link to the T-Mobile page

    http://www.t-mobile.com/shop/Phones/cell-phone-det...

    I'm looking forward to buy this phone and just wanted to make sure that it could be used worldwide.
    Reply

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