Just like the Samsung Galaxy S II, the newer model has a large emphasis on keeping itself thin and stylish, although ending up 0.1mm thicker than the former, at 8.6mm. Its 4.8″ touchscreen display increases the length to 136.6mm and the width to 70.6mm.
The sheer size of the device makes it impossible to fit in the average hand, with the top section only accessible by sliding the handset down one’s hand. It’s not very troublesome as users can easily become accustomed to this simple movement.
In terms of weight, the 133g are well distributed throughout the phone, making it virtually light to handle. This is one of the secrets of how manufacturers package so many features into thin phones.
After unlocking the screen with the side button, the user is greeted by a large 4.8″ touchscreen display with HD resolution (720 x 1280 pixels), equating to 306 ppi density, just short of the iPhone 4S’ Retina display with 330 ppi. Add the Super AMOLED technology used to build the screen to the Corning Gorilla Glass 2 protection, and we’ve got an extremely vivid display that is almost unbreakable.
Samsung has programmed different modes for the display’s settings – from dynamic to movie mode, just like on TV sets. Regardless, any HD movie played back on this display is nothing short of phenomenal, not only owing to the pixel density, but also thanks to the vividness of the Super AMOLED technology.
There are three buttons below the screen, the home button as visible as on the Galaxy S II, but the other two – options and back – are hidden and only visible when the device is in operation, giving it a sleek, clean look.
The volume rocker and the lock button are auxiliary buttons located on either side of the handset, with no hardware camera button available.
There’s a notification LED at the top of the device that serves to warn the user of missing events or battery state. Both the LED and the bottom hidden buttons seem to leak light onto the device, and while usually this is hardware problem, it seems to be an elegant feature here.
Samsung had to insert a 3.5mm audio jack and the microUSB port with minimal space, as shown by the images. The latter can be used in mass storage mode, with an MHL adaptor for TV-out via an HDMI port that transmits 1080p resolution at 60fps and 7.1 sound at 192kHz, media device for Windows (MTP), camera files transfer (PTP), application development, or just for charging.
The single speaker is located at the back, next to the camera unit, and even though it’s quite small, the volume is loud and its quality is high enough for general music and movie playback.
The camera sensor captures up to 8 megapixel images with auto-focus and has a LED flash next to it. The device records in full HD (1080p) at 30 frames per second, and can even capture video and images at the same time. Users will also find touch focus, face and smile detection, geo-tagging and image stabilization.
The increased battery capacity to 2100mAh means that the device, even with the quad-core processor in use, can operate as long as its competitors, instead of dying after few hours of heavy use. It is quite impressive how it was squeezed into such a thin phone, while at the same time being removable.
The only disadvantage is the build quality of the back cover, which feels rather fragile, especially when being removed, but otherwise not noticeable.
The software and how the quad-core processor helps in performance will be discussed in the next section.