The Good: The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is an elegantly designed tablet that comes with a capable stylus. It has a stunning AMOLED screen, fingerprint sensor for extra security and satisfyingly loud quad speakers. It’s also the first HDR-ready tablet.
The Bad: Despite the hype, HDR content is not available on the tablet yet. Large games take time to load. The keyboard add-on is an expensive extra.
Snapdragon 820 CPU
9.7-inch QXGA, Super AMOLED display
13-megapixel, 5-megapixel front cameras
Android 7.0 with Samsung UI
Review Price: £599.99
WHAT IS THE SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB S3?
A new top-end Android tablet is a rare occurrence these days, and after using Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S3, I can sort of see why.
This iPad Pro-chasing tablet is good-looking, fast and has a gorgeous screen, but I can’t fully recommend it because the Android user experience on a tablet still isn’t quite up to scratch. Samsung has tried its best, but the future for high-end Android tablets isn’t looking too rosy.
SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB S3 – DESIGN
The Galaxy Tab S3 is a mixture of the very best and the very worst of Samsung’s industrial design. It’s thinner than an iPhone 7, with a flat back and slightly curved sides that make it a pleasure to hold. Weighing in at just 429g it’s also noticeably lighter than the latest iteration of the regular iPad.
SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB S3 – DISPLAY AND SPEAKERS
Samsung has knocked it out of the park with the display on the Galaxy Tab S3. The screen is so good that it sits in the same league and in some ways surpasses the iPad Pro 9.7-inch’s True Tone panel, which is one of the best I’ve ever seen on a tablet.
The thing that really gives it the edge over Apple’s tab is the screen tech used. While Apple uses IPS LCD panels, Samsung uses AMOLED, which allows for much richer colours, deeper blacks and a more immersive screen for bingeing on media.
The tablet packs the same 2048 x 1536 resolution as the Tab S2, but it’s now HDR-enabled when you’re watching supported content either through Netflix or Amazon Prime. HDR (high dynamic range) gives much greater peak brightness, with blacks appearing deeper and more natural as a result.
SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB S3 – PERFORMANCE AND S PEN
Another headline feature of the Galaxy Tab S3 is the S Pen stylus, which comes in the box rather than as a pricey add-on (listen up, Apple). It’s a squat, plastic pen that matches the colour of the tablet and feels nice to hold. It’s noticeably smaller than both the Apple Pencil and Microsoft’s Surface Pen. I’m also a fan of the fact that it has flat sides, to stop it rolling away when you place it down on the table.
The S Pen offers four times the pressure-sensitivity of Apple’s Pencil and can tell whether you’re shading or putting more pressure on the nib, which makes it very effective for everything from jotting down notes to doodling and digital painting.
Samsung provides a couple of pre-installed apps: Notes and an odd social network for sharing drawings called Pen.UP that seems to crash every time I try to use it. You can download Sketchbook Pro for free from Samsung’s app store, which is a far better app for making the most of the S Pen.
SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB S3 – CAMERA
The camera on the back of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is pretty terrible, but then I wouldn’t expect much else from a tablet snapper. Considering it’s got a 13-megapixel sensor, a lens with an f/1.9 aperture, and a flash, it’s actually somewhat surprising pictures lack detail and depth.
But you really shouldn’t be using a tablet for taking pictures and I am going to hazard a guess that the phone sitting in your pocket has a much better camera.
The front-facing camera is more important on a tablet, and I would’ve liked Samsung to try a bit harder with the one here. It’s 5-megapixel, with an f/2.2 aperture, and it’s fine for video chats and not much else.
The camera app, plucked straight from the Note 7, is very good, and has a great UI and lots of options.
SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB S3 – BATTERY LIFE
Whenever you mention batteries and Samsung, the exploding Note 7 will probably come into the conversation. And considering the Tab S3 is one of the first big releases since that phablet was pulled from sale, it’s very important for Samsung that nothing goes wrong here.
That whole battery controversy might be one of the reasons why the Tab S3 has a slightly conservative 6000mAh cell inside, which is much smaller than the 9000mAh cell that keeps the Pixel C motoring along. It’s still larger than the Tab S2’s, but that display and all those speakers are power hogs.
Considering the size, I am actually quite impressed by the stamina of the Tab S3 and in my tests it managed to just about match the 12 hours of video playback Samsung is advertising. This could all change when HDR content becomes more prominent, though.
The Bottom Line: Samsung packs buzz-worthy features like S Pen and HDR support into its new premium Galaxy Tab S3, but without a keyboard packed in, it’s still more about content consumption than creation.
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