Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
£599 inc VAT from tinyurl.com/n2t62an
The tablet market may have petered-out somewhat but Samsung hasn’t give up on it, even if it seems the likes of Sony, HTC and Google have. The Korean firm’s latest offering is the Galaxy Tab S3.
If you were hoping for a price of around £399, then we have bad news. The Galaxy Tab S3 is even more expensive than the iPad Pro at £599. That’s a heft amount for a tablet, although it’s worth pointing out that Samsung includes the new S Pen stylus in the box. If you want the 4G LTE model it will set you back £669.
The Korean tech giant has become a master of design and build with its Galaxy products (and others), forming a distinct style emerging since the Galaxy S6. This design language has now made its way across a number of products and the Galaxy Tab S3 is no exception.
For starters, it’s astonishingly thin at just 6mm. Although this is actually a tiny bit thicker than the Tab S2 (and it’s also heavier at 429g) it’s still impressive (better than the iPad Pro on both counts still) and can be, we think, attributed to some of the innovations found in the device. It feels more premium than its predecessor too, but it does look a little odd with the USB port off-centre. This is made slightly better by the headphone port being the other side of the home button.
Although it feels premium because of the sleek combination of glass and metal. The back being glass makes the Tab S3 a slippery customer, so you can’t put it on something that isn’t flat without fear of it sliding off.
You’ll probably keep it in a cover most of the time, though, as the tablet has Pogo metal contacts (below) to easily connect to the keyboard case. You can get the official Book Cover for £32 (tinyurl.com/n5meywu), while the Keyboard Cover is available for £119 (fave.co/2qAlNA1).
Unlike Samsung’s Galaxy S7 the Tab S3 isn’t waterproof, so you’ll have to look to Sony for that on a tablet (not that the firm has anything new so far this year on that front).
As you’d expect it has USB-C and also four speakers much like the iPad Pro.
The tablet has a home button once again, as per the launch event invitation hint, and this contains a fingerprint scanner. The usual navigation buttons sit either side.
It’s available in black or silver, both of which are attractive, though the latter model hides fingerprints slightly, just like with a car.
New tablets, especially high-end devices, are a rare thing these days. Apple is one of the only companies regularly releasing new models. However, the iPad Pro has some new competition from the Tab S3.
Moving on from a similar design, the Tab S3 cements itself as an iPad Pro rival with its 9.7in screen that has a 4:3 aspect ratio. It’s still got a 2048x1536 resolution and Super AMOLED display technology but now supports high dynamic range (HDR). We’re really impressed with the superbly detailed screen which has bags of colour
and brightness. The HDR support means better colours and contrast, in theory, but it’s worth pointing out that only selected titles on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix offer this and at the time of writing, the respective mobile apps don’t support HDR.
While the screen is impressive in specs, it’s let down a little because the tablet is a little too reflective to be great in all conditions. It’s also worth noting that there’s no equivalent to the iPad Pro’s True Tone display which alters colour temperature for a more comfortable experience. All you can do is optionally switch on the blue light filter.
Core specs start off with the decent with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor. Even though we’d like to see the newer 835 model, the quad-core chip (dual 2.15GHz Kryo and dual 1.6GHz Kryo) is still up to the job.
You can see the benchmark results below and opposite, compared to the iPad Pro. Although the numbers aren’t as impressive as Apple’s offering, the performance of Samsung’s tablet is still impressively
smooth. It’s capable of running intensive apps and offer the ability to use two side-by-side with Multi-Window.
Storage and connectivity
When it comes to memory and storage, the Tab S3 has a combination of 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. You can always add up to 256GB more if needed via the microSD card slot. It also comes with Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, 11ac dualband Wi-Fi with 2x2 MIMO and optional LTE Cat 6. There’s no features such as NFC or an infrared sensor here.
What there is, once again, is a fingerprint scanner that sits traditionally on the front with capacitive buttons either side for navigation. The sensor is fast and reliable as you would hope and can be used to unlock the device, verify your Samsung account instead of a password and sign into websites.
The Tab S3 comes with a 13Mp rear camera and a 5Mp front camera. Even though the rear camera has an LED flash and an f/1.9 aperture, the results are nothing special. You could, if you’re happy to shoot with a large tablet, post reasonable quality content on social media but you wouldn’t want to use it for anything more serious.
The front camera is distinctly average and will serve as way to video call and the like. However, its placement means holding the tablet naturally means you’re not quite framed right in the picture.
Inside is a 6,000mAh battery that’s about twice the size of a typical smartphone. However, that’s a fair chunk smaller
than the 9,240mAh found on the Google Pixel C. That said, we’re pretty impressed with the battery life on offer here. The Tab S3 will almost give you the advertised 12 hours of video playback and holds the charge very well on standby.
As mentioned, the tablet charges via the USB-C port and although there’s no wireless charging, the supplied fast charger will get you to 100 percent in around two and a half hours which is pretty good.
Another key feature is the inclusion of a new S Pen. The refined stylus has a smaller 0.7mm tip and improved
pressure sensitivity – four times that of the Apple Pencil. This reviewer is no artist but it seems decent, although we did accidentally push the button on the side a few times. The preinstalled Pen.Up app is a sort of social networking app for artists and you can create various things in Notes, but there are better apps out there.
You also get the usual Air Command menu for doing things like creating note, smart select, screen write, translate, magnify, and more.
Annoyingly, like the iPad Pro, there’s nowhere to keep the S Pen. It doesn’t attach to or slide into the tablet.
While the Galaxy Book tablets run on Windows 10, the Galaxy Tab S3 comes with Android 7.0 Nougat. That’s great, but Android still doesn’t translate to tablets as well as iOS. Generally, apps on the platform aren’t optimized for larger screens so can look a bit rubbish on the 9.7in display here. There’s more subtle things like icons not looking their best, too.
Everything is pretty smooth and simple with preinstalled apps from, as usual, Google, Microsoft and Samsung itself. These include Samsung Flow, which allows you to wirelessly tether compatible devices to transfer documents and sync messages.
It’s easy to do what you want with the software in terms of apps or even a different launcher (if you don’t want Briefing next to the homescreen, for example), but you can’t change everything.
For example, Multi Window is a handy feature but it doesn’t always run nicely, requiring you to tap on one to bring it to life. That’s especially annoying if it’s a messenger app and you’re not getting new messages through while using the other app.
There’s no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is the best Android tablet to be launched in years. If you’re looking for a high-end device to rival the iPad Pro running Google’s software then this is it. However, it’s not without downsides. The price will be too high for many and doesn’t include the Keyboard Cover, the software isn’t the best for a tablet and that glass back isn’t the best choice for multiple reasons.