Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
The world’s first tablet with HDR video... that you can’t really use — yet.
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.
ANDROID TABLET $949 WI-FI, 32GB | WWW.SAMSUNG.COM/AU