The above table shows how AT&T's version of the Galaxy S III fares against the likes of its global counterpart as well as the AT&T-branded HTC One X. Judging by the scores, you should get a general feel for how the Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 processor performs, since AT&T's GS III and One X deliver comparable results (with the exception of SunSpider, though even then, you'll get different numbers simply by using other browsers). Also, the GS III's extra gigabyte of RAM doesn't get equated into the overall scores -- in fact, the One X actually notches slightly higher marks in everything but Quadrant.
In the same light, however, the EVO 4G LTE -- which also has a single gig of memory -- comes reasonably close to Sprint's and AT&T's Galaxy S III handsets. In fact, the only other test in which Samsung's model comes out on top was CF-Bench, and even then, it only pulls ahead by a five-point margin. All things considered, that difference is negligible -- so much so that if we ran the tests again, the phones could easily flip positions in the rankings.
So what about that extra gigabyte of RAM? The main advantage this gives the Galaxy S III is in multitasking. With heavy use, we noticed some minor pauses when switching back and forth between multiple apps. Overall, though, both AT&T's and Sprint's versions handle multitasking like champs.
As for network speed, both the AT&T GS3 and HTC One X are fully capable of delivering fast LTE throughput. The best score we've recorded on the One X, however, was considerably better than what we saw on AT&T's version of the Galaxy S III. As a disclaimer, these record speeds were not recorded at the same time (we've been using the One X for a much longer period of time) so it's possible we'll see faster speeds as we continue using it on a longer-term basis. And here's something else to keep in mind: when we ran tests together at the same time from the same location, we noted eerily similar speeds -- for instance, with four bars of service, the two phones were both able to push out 13Mbps side-by-side.
What's more concerning, however, is the performance of Sprint's network. Given that its LTE service isn't live anywhere in the country, flagships like the GS3 and EVO 4G LTE are going to top out at 3G (EVDO) speeds for the time being. In the heart of San Francisco, at least, this means rates under 1Mbps. Consistently. We hope to put these two phones to the test on a proper LTE network in the very near future, but this is a sacrifice you'll have to make if you want either of these two devices now.
As for battery life, we've had the opportunity to take the pair through our usual exhaustive rundown tests, which consists of running video on a continuous loop with the screen at 50 percent brightness, audio on, WiFi on (but not connected) and push notifications enabled. From our initial tests, it appears that the 2,100mAh juicepack on both phones just barely best the unlocked model. Sprint's was just a wee bit better, but this likely was due to the fact it was running on EVDO rather than LTE. What this means is that power users will be able to get through a standard eight-hour workday with no problems and everyone else should easily make it to the end of the day without needing a charge. Moderate users should enjoy roughly a day and a half of regular use before heading for the nearest outlet.
Moving onto call quality, we had a blast using the Galaxy S III on both AT&T and Sprint. Our calls always came in crystal-clear, and we could even listen in on conference calls using the external speakerphone without straining to understand what was being said. We didn't notice any signal degradation, nor did these two networks ever cut out on us.
Both models lock onto GPS very quickly -- AT&T's is slightly faster at about three seconds, while Sprint's grabs your position within six to seven -- but we find Sprint's version offers up more precise coordinates. Sure, AT&T's will get you within the blue circle of life and told us we were within 60 meters of the dot, but it would waffle for a good 30 seconds or so trying to pinpoint our exact location (we were in the seventh story of a hotel with large windows). Sprint's positioning was more accurate and did a better job of figuring out our precise location.
The audio quality on both phones is terrific. The external speakers (when placing calls and listening to multimedia) were more than sufficiently loud, and we were impressed by the fact that we could hear many of the music's little nuances -- bass and treble tones came out quite clear. Plugging in the headphones offers a very similar and equally pleasant experience, giving us wonderful clarity in our favorite tunes.
In case you're concerned, hardware isn't the only arena in which the US-centric versions of the Galaxy S III have remained close to Sammy's roots. Indeed, you'll find the same heavily skinned TouchWiz user interface on board, each model blessed with bloatware from its respective carrier. This can't come as much of a shocker to anyone who has used a Samsung device in the past few years -- if it's an Android handset and the manufacturer's logo is stamped somewhere on the exterior, then you've come to expect the TouchWiz experience (Galaxy Nexus and rooted devices excepted). We're not going to go into a rant on how it's been applied to Ice Cream Sandwich (we did our fair share of venting in our original GS3 review), but let's just say that you won't notice very many commonalities in user experience between this and stock ICS.
One thing that did surprise us was the scarcity of bloatware on the AT&T model. Of the 43 apps already hanging out on the GS3 when you first fire it up, only five are there specifically to further the AT&T agenda. Amazed? There's more: of those five, four can be disabled. Yes, Virginia, if you don't find Mother Bell's contributions helpful, you can free yourself from the pain of having to look at most of it. What about the Now Network? The pre-installed software load has been reined in here, too, though Sprint decided to exert a little more influence. With a grand total of 47 preloaded icons in the app tray, Sprint is responsible for nine. Two of these cannot be disabled. Curious to know what's on each device? Check the handy list below to get an idea of what to expect.
As you may notice, Google Wallet is indeed listed amongst Sprint's apps. From what we can tell, this will be the only Galaxy S III model with any sort of NFC-related mobile payment service built in. This may change as soon as ISIS is ready to kick off, but we won't hold our breath just yet. If NFC is on every version of the GS3, however, how in the world is it going to be used? Fortunately, mobile payments will just scratch the surface of NFC functionality; there's plenty more to take advantage of, such as S-Beam and as TecTiles (more on that later).
Starting with S-Beam, this feature uses NFC in conjunction with the phone's built-in WiFi Direct feature, giving you the ability to share movies, music, web pages and plenty of other information from one phone to another. It works nearly the same way as Android Beam, but the main difference is that you don't have to leave the two devices touching as you finish transferring a file -- you touch to initiate the process, and then you can set the two down. Samsung claims that it only takes three minutes to push a 1GB file from one phone to another; in our tests, a 400MB movie made the journey in roughly five. Still, this concept is worthy of a nod; emphasis on the word concept. In other words, it's a great idea, but the feature has essentially taken two open source standards and combined them into one proprietary piece of programming that won't do you much good if your entourage of friends and associates don't use Galaxy S IIIs. Despite the fact that HTC's One X has both features, you won't be able to use it to do S-Beam's bidding. Another key point when deciding between these two devices could well be the amount of gratis Dropbox storage. On AT&T, not only are you deprived of a 32GB internal storage option, you also will not be able to take advantage of the additional 48GB of space that the global counterpart promises. (For reference, Verizon has also opted out of this.) Sprint and T-Mobile, on the other hand, are sticking to a more generous policy. This may be a factor to consider when comparing the AT&T Galaxy S III with the HTC One X -- which offers 25GB memory -- or the Sprint version versus the HTC EVO 4G LTE (Sammy's 50GB versus HTC's 25).
Samsung fans definitely aren't strangers to the company's reputation for pushing out camera sensors with a high amount of quality. We loved the 8-megapixel rear camera on the Galaxy S II, and we're treated to even a better deal with its successor -- not when it comes to quality, per se, but certainly when it comes to speed. Shutter lag is completely negligible and equals, if not barely edges out, what we've seen on the One X. As we mentioned in our original review, this means what you see on the screen as you take the picture is what you'll get in the end result.
As we have already covered the camera's performance ad nauseam, we won't take much extra time to focus on the ins and outs here. We can say, however, that in comparing the two devices with the international iteration, we couldn't find any disparities in UI or performance. We've compiled a gauntlet of sample images for you below to take a look at and compare, in order to offer some assistance in the difficult purchasing decision (GS3 vs One X) that lies ahead. Feel free to peruse our pictures and videos taken by both Galaxy S III units as well as the HTC One X from AT&T.