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Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Galaxy S3

Andrew Williams


Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Galaxy S3

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is here, and it is on track to become one of the top-selling phones, ever. But is it really that much better than the Galaxy S3?

We've compared the two phones to see if this is an upgrade worth spending money on.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Galaxy S3 – Video Comparison

If you want a closer look at these phones without having to read a bunch of text, have a watch of our video comparison below, complete with a side-by-side look at these mobiles.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Galaxy S3 – Design

Galaxy S4 – Plastic rear, Gorilla Glass 3 front, removable rear cover

Galaxy S3 – Plastic rear, Gorilla Glass 2 front, removable rear cover

Like its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S4 features a plastic body, rather than the ceramic and metal bods you’ll find on some rivals.

However, clever improvements to the design let the phone fit in a larger screen while making the Galaxy S4’s bod smaller. It’s the same height as the Galaxy S3, a teeny bit less wide and almost 1mm thinner. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is a fair old amount when you’re slimming down from under 9mm to under 8mm.

The S4 is super-slim

The feel of the phone is not a massive improvement, though. The glossy plastic rear of these Galaxy phones isn’t super high-end, and neither phone feels quite as snazzy as the aluminium-bodied HTC One.

A key benefit of using a slim battery cover rather than featuring a unibody design is that you get access to the battery – with both these phones.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 originally shipped in black and white finishes. However, Samsung has just announced a bunch more. Blue, purple, red, brown and pink versions are on their way – although as yet we’ll have to wait to see how many actually make it to shops in the UK.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 has shipped in a wide variety of shades, including blue, red, black and white. However, we wouldn’t be surprised if Samsung started making other colours further down the line.

Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Galaxy S3 – Storage

Galaxy S4 – 16/32/64GB, with microSD

Galaxy S3 – 16/32/64GB, with microSD

One of the most geek-friendly aspects of the top Galaxy phones is their continued use of microSD memory card slots throughout the range. This lets you cheaply and easily expand the memory of both the Galaxy S4 and S3. You’ll find the microSD slot under the battery cover, by the SIM slot.

Having a memory card slot ensures that the higher-capacity versions of the Galaxy S4 aren’t very popular, though. Samsung makes up to 64GB versions of both the S4 and S3, but most places in the UK sell the 16GB edition exclusively. The extra cost of that internal storage just isn’t attractive when a microSD card doing more-or-less the same job is available for a fraction of the price.

The S3, naked

At present, these phones won’t let you install apps directly to the memory card slot, but Samsung has confirmed it’ll come to the Galaxy S4 in an update.

Galaxy S4 1

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Galaxy S3 – CPU

Galaxy S4 – Snapdragon 600 quad-core 1.9GHz CPU, 2GB RAM

Galaxy S3 – Exynos 4212 quad-core 1.4GHz CPU, 1GB RAM

Before the Galaxy S4 was released, we believed it would use an eight-core processor. However, the version we have in the UK is a plain old quad-core edition.

It has a Snapdragon 600 quad-core chip, which uses the Krait architecture, and is clocked at 1.9GHz. From a pure numbers perspective, it doesn’t sound all that much more powerful than the quad-core Exynos 4212 1.4GHz processor of the Galaxy S3.

However, there is quite a gap between the two, largely down to the generational shift in processor architecture. The Cortex-A9 cores of the Galaxy S3 are 32nm in construction, the Krait cores of the S4 28nm. This enables the Krait processor to be more efficient.

Samsung Galaxy S3

The Galaxy S4 much more RAM than its predecessor, with 1GB instead of 2GB. The difference in day-to-day operation isn’t hugely obvious, as both phones are snappy, but the benchmarks show the true gap between them.

In the AnTuTu bench, the Galaxy S4 scores around 23,000 points, the Galaxy S3 around 12,000. This separation will become all the more obvious as time goes by, and the older Galaxy phone begins to age – struggling with the latest snazzy games. We’re not quite there yet, though.

Galaxy S4 2

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Galaxy S3 - Screen

Galaxy S4 – 1080p 5-inch Super AMOLED screen

Galaxy S3 – 720p 4.8-inch Super AMOLED screen

The Galaxy S4 screen sounds like a pretty simple upgrade of the S3’s, but in person it’s a huge one. And all without any negative hardware hit, too. The Galaxy S4 squeezes-in an extra 0.2 inches of screen without making the phone any wider – by cutting down the screen bezel.

The Galaxy S3’s display – despite being ‘HD’ 720p – is visibly a little blocky thanks to the kind of display used. It has a PenTile AMOLED screen, which has an uneven pixel structure that reduces how sharp images and, in particular, text looks. There’s a fuzziness to text in the S3, which is disappointing given how much fuss was made over the phone’s screen at launch.

Is this all better in the Galaxy S4? The phone continues to use the PenTile sub-pixel array – which is at the root of the problem – but as the resolution is no much higher, it’s not noticeable. If you get your eyeball right up close to the screen, you may notice it’s a tiny bit less sharp than the non-PenTile HTC One, but in day-to-day use the S4 seems perfectly sharp.

The problem has effectively been solved.

The two Galaxy phones do tend to oversaturate colours a tad – common to many OLED-based displays, but this can be solved using a feature within Settings that reduces colour vividness. We recommend setting these phones to ‘natural’ mode.

Galaxy S4 3

TouchWizSamsung Galaxy S4 vs Galaxy S3 – Software

Galaxy S4 – Android 4.2 with TouchWiz

Galaxy S3 – Android 4.1 with TouchWiz

Samsung has introduced a bunch of new features with the Samsung Galaxy S4. These include, but are not limited to, Air Gestures, Smart Scroll, WatchON, S Translator, a redesigned camera app and Group Play.

These are gadgety extras that let you interact with the phone without touching the screen, let you replace your remote controls with an app, translate emails and texts on the fly and let you scroll through text by tilting your phone.

However, in time the Samsung Galaxy S3 will get most of these features, just as it’ll get the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean core OS that the S4 will launch with. You just need a bit of patience. The Galaxy S3 currently runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and a slightly earlier version of Samsung’s custom UI.

Galaxy S4 4

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Galaxy S3 - Camera

Galaxy S4 – 13-megapixel main camera, LED flash, 2-megapixel front camera

Galaxy S3 – 8-megapixel main camera, LED flash, 1.9-megapixel front camera

Samsung has given the Galaxy S4 a solid camera upgrade. It features a 13-megapixel sensor. This is in-line with the Sony Xperia Z’s snapper, but represents a big upgrade from the 8MP sensor of the Samsung Galaxy S3.

In good lighting conditions, the Galaxy S4 should produce shots with more detail than the Samsung Galaxy S3. However, as the sensor size isn’t a great deal larger than the smartphone average, it’ll struggle in low-light conditions just like most phones.

Galaxy S3#

A sample shot taken with the Galaxy S3

The Samsung Galaxy S4 features a live HDR video mode, though. HDR involves merging two exposures, taking the image detail from both to create a slightly larger-than-life looking image. It’s a fantastic way to mitigate the limited photo capabilities of a phone camera when shooting stills, and should hopefully have the same effect with video.

Samsung has redesigned the interface of the camera app too, making it look a lot like the interface of the Samsung Galaxy Camera, based around feature dials you can flick around. Once again, though, the Samsung Galaxy S3 will get this at some point.

Galaxy S4 2

Samsung Galaxy S4 - Should You Upgrade?

The Samsung Galaxy S4 offers more power, a larger, more detailed screen and a higher megapixel-rated camera. It is a much better phone, in particular because of the higher-resolution screen. However, the Galaxy S3 is yet to age significantly so at present there’s no rush to upgrade. If you’re only entering the Galaxy series right now, though, we recommend spending the extra on an S4.


January 29, 2013, 7:35 am

I'd really like to see a black phone available at launch. I was disappointed about not being able to get one with the S3. I'd also really like to see a phone with no buttons at all, like one of the online rumors suggested. It'd be something new, and aesthetically pleasing.

The rounded design of the S3 is my personal preference, but either way, I'm sure Samsung will make a very good looking, thin, light smartphone.

I'll really appreciate the phone not increasing in size if the screen does. I think the S3 is about as big as I'd be happy with. The Notes are definitely two-handed devices at times.

All in all, I'm very excited about the launch of the S4 - can't wait for the dates to be confirmed. I think as it stands, anyone waiting for the S4 as opposed to getting the S3 is making a good choice.


February 18, 2013, 6:23 am

Totally agree on wanting it in black - or even other colors (*gasp!*)


February 18, 2013, 5:09 pm

It was available in such overseas. Just another reason it's shite being in SA.


March 15, 2013, 9:10 am

lumia 920 is still better..and wp8 is beating the hell out of android (Y)


March 15, 2013, 10:37 am

WP trolls are not the most numerous, but are certainly the loudest...
Every single freaking blog the same shit about wp.


June 25, 2013, 7:00 pm

I'm a huge fan of Samsung, have a Galaxy S3 together with a Galaxy Note 2, both are great machines but to be honest I think that the HTC One is a better quality machine, a beautifully crafted piece o aluminium tech as apposed to over priced plastic, it just seem that Samsung have fallen into he Apple trap of constantly introducing updates to existing ranges or entirely new machines across the product range with very little content updates for a premium price.


June 25, 2013, 9:15 pm

This article came out months ago! Will you still be recycling it when the next Galaxy comes out? At least humour us with a change log.


June 26, 2013, 7:00 am

We pretty much completely re-wrote it yesterday in order to make it better - it was written from the perspective of a fair few months ago!


June 27, 2013, 7:28 pm

Currently an S3 owner, I tend to buy phones outright rather than on contract. I think I'll wait for the S5 or maybe the S6.


August 16, 2013, 1:41 am

I have to disagree with you. I have a HTC ONE V and I am not pleased with it. Yes I love that it is made with aluminium, but it's performance is nothing compared to the Galaxy phones. It's been less than a year and most of my storage is gone. The pictures are not good quality. The phone is very slow now. When I bought it, I thought I wouldn't replace it for maybe two years, but I was wrong. My mom and dad have the Galaxy s3 and I am in love with it. It maybe plastic, but the picture quality is much better, it is faster, and they have way more memory. I cannot wait to get the Galaxy s4. I just need to save some money, but it will be worth it.


August 24, 2013, 12:53 am

I think both are great points and I will be considering the s4


August 31, 2013, 7:41 pm

Lumia 920? What a pathetic joke!!


September 6, 2013, 9:49 pm

What's the benefit of doing that other than having no contract?


September 12, 2013, 1:04 pm

I don't like windows phones at all. I don't like the set up or how it operates. I bought one and soon returned it for a galaxy. I prefer android over wp and iPhone.


September 12, 2013, 3:21 pm

not the brightest person, it costs alot less money overtime


September 13, 2013, 6:10 pm

you didn't have to say I'm not bright though, that wasn't necessary

Kim Jong-Il

September 15, 2013, 3:45 am

It actually depends on quite a few things- your contract, usage, how often you upgrade, etc.
And you're calling someone else "not the brightest"?

Alan Weatherly

September 20, 2013, 7:14 am

do the math Willis. Buy the phone outright. Get square trade insurance. You'll save over 1500 bucks using a month to month plan vs a 2 yr contract. You could purchase at least 2 new additional phones for that amount of savings. Why od you think they lock you into s 2 yr agreement. It's not to benefit you or save you money


September 20, 2013, 7:14 pm

I just got the S3 here in the UK on Vodafone instead of the S4. Over 18 months it will cost me a total of £342 including 600 minutes, 500mb data and unlimited text. To buy the handset here at the moment is around £250 and then I have to pay a tariff on top. So on that basis, I would be no better off over 18 months paying for the handset outright.


September 20, 2013, 7:15 pm

I just got the S3 here in the UK on Vodafone instead of the S4. Over 18 months it will cost me a total of £342 including 600 minutes, 500mb data and unlimited text.
To buy the handset here at the moment is around £250 and then I have to
pay a tariff on top. So on that basis, I would be no better off over 18
months paying for the handset outright.

Whilst the S4 is an improvement, the S3 is still an excellent handset and very capable. It also has an excellent camera.


November 27, 2013, 12:14 am

Just picked up an S4 today, loving it so far. Though I am sad I don't get access to 8 cores.

Marble Shark

February 27, 2014, 1:29 pm

Not as sad as you would be if you did and subsequently fried its CPU...

Marble Shark

February 27, 2014, 1:31 pm

What you doing here?? Get back to your formaldehyde tank!

John Peters

June 21, 2014, 7:40 am

Interesting that the only way Microsoft could get anyone to put their cr@p o/s on ANY phone is to buy a controlling stake in the company, and install their own man with the Microsoft agenda. So now Nokia has gone from being the biggest smart phone company in the world, to being the a remenant and dying company. Why don't they get it? No one wants their cr@p operating system - the world wants android.

pete robertson

November 30, 2014, 4:11 pm

I'm happy with my s-4

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