Sam­sung Galaxy Tab S3

The world’s first tablet with HDR video... that you can’t re­ally use — yet.

APC Australia - - Contents - Matt Swider

This is An­droid’s first wor­thy com­peti­tor to the iPad Pro 9.7, with top-of-the-line specs to match. The Tab S3 is eas­ily the best An­droid tablet you can buy right now thanks to its all-glass de­sign up­grade, fu­ture­proofed HDR-ready dis­play and in­cluded S Pen.

It costs $949, and while it comes with the im­proved S Pen in the box, the key­board-case at­tach­ment is sep­a­rate, cost­ing an ad­di­tional $189. Be­sides the Wi-Fi-only model, there’s also a Wi-Fi + cel­lu­lar op­tion, which goes for $150 more at $1,099. When you add it all up, it bor­ders on cheap lap­top prices, and un­like its pre­de­ces­sor, there’s no cheaper 8-inch ver­sion to give you a more af­ford­able en­try-level op­tion. The S3 has also taken quite a while to ar­rive Down Un­der, land­ing some four months af­ter its orig­i­nal US re­lease date back in late March.

So was it worth the wait? Well, the Tab S3 touts a small but like­able de­sign up­grade over the Tab S2. The best changes hap­pen round the back, where the Tab S3 sports a new glass back panel in ei­ther black or sil­ver, which looks and feels bet­ter than the rub­berised plas­tic cover of the S2. HDR gives the same 2,048 x 1,536 Quad HD res­o­lu­tion higher con­trast ra­tios and brighter high­lights. How­ever, there’s a prob­lem: there’s not a lot of HDR video con­tent cur­rently avail­able. It’s be­ing rolled out with streaming video ser­vices like Ama­zon Video and Net­flix, but we weren’t able to find any at launch — leav­ing us re­liant on Sam­sung’s HDR demos. It’s def­i­nitely a jump in qual­ity, but at the mo­ment, you’d be pay­ing for some­thing only avail­able fur­ther down the line — a hard sell for the av­er­age con­sumer.

The S Pen is an up­grade from the thin sty­lus we’ve been us­ing on Sam­sung’s Note phones and the Chrome­book Pro. At 9.4mm thick, it’s big­ger and eas­ier to hold than the pre­vi­ous S Pen and boasts four times as many pres­sure lev­els as the Ap­ple Pen­cil. The key­board at­tach­ment is a bit cramped but still use­able, with de­cent travel when you hit the plas­tic keys. It has no func­tion keys and is sorely miss­ing a home but­ton, but it folds up nicely, en­velop­ing the tablet in a soft plas­tic cover on both sides.

At the heart of the S3 is the Snap­dragon 820. This Qual­comm SoC is pow­er­ful enough to run all the lat­est 3D games, and it’ll re­main com­pat­i­ble with newer ti­tles for some time yet.

Its 6,000mAh bat­tery is slightly big­ger than the S2’s, but it’s still un­der­sized next to the 7,300mAh power pack in the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Sam­sung says the S3 has enough juice for 12 hours of video play­back, which is just about backed up by our test­ing. We ran a 90-minute HD video at nearly full bright­ness and the bat­tery drained to only 87%. Plus, it took just un­der three hours to charge from zero to 100%.

The S3 has a 13MP rear cam­era that you’ll hardly use. The qual­ity is good for a tablet but your phone is al­ways go­ing to be bet­ter. More im­por­tant to po­ten­tial buy­ers is the front-fac­ing 5MP cam­era for video chats, but this is merely ad­e­quate, and its low-light per­for­mance leaves some­thing to be de­sired.

While Sam­sung may have closed the gap on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro with this solid en­ter­tain­ment-fo­cused An­droid tablet, Ap­ple still has bet­ter soft­ware and app sup­port, mean­ing if pro­duc­tiv­ity is your goal, you may want to opt in­stead for a slightly thicker lap­top for around the same price.


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