Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review: Better but not the best

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There never has been a real tablet market — there’s an iPad market and then there are the rest of them. Windows sure has produced some impressive devices in the 2-in-1 and high-end segment, and most of the Android tablets fall under the lower-end category. And thanks to the big screened phablets, tablets are becoming less attractive each passing day.

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An Android tablet with top of the line features is a rare occurrence these days, and the Galaxy Tab S3 is another example why. Samsung’s latest tablet is premium looking, zippy and comes with a great display, but the Android experience on a tablet still isn’t up to the mark. The Tab S3 is without a doubt a great device, but do we really need this tablet at all? Let’s find out.

Design

In terms of design, the Galaxy Tab S3 resembles the iPad Pro (review) featuring nearly same dimensions but in a lighter form. Both devices have the same display size and the pixel resolution.

The tablet is extremely slim, at just 6mm, however, it slightly thicker than its predecessor Tab S2 (also heavier at 429g). It also feels more premium than the Tab S2, but it looks a bit odd with unusual USB port placement. Both headphone jack and the charging USB port are placed off-centre.

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The noticeable changes happened on the rear end, where the Tab S3 boasts a new glass panel. Although, glass makes the tablet look stunning, it acts as a smudge and grime magnet too. Sweat marks, fingerprints and smudges are clearly visible, making it look unappealing. However, the silver colour variant hides the fingerprints slightly better than the black variant.

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The Galaxy Tab S3 has an advantage when it comes to the stylus S-Pen that comes bundled with the device. Unlike the iPad’s Apple Pencil costs users a separate $99, users here don’t have to shell out extra money for the S-Pen. Samsung has worked well on the S-Pen this time around and made it more intuitive and impressive. It can work with third party app as well and hovering the pen over the edges will provide quick access to shortcuts for screen shots, notes and others. The shortcuts can also be customised according to the user’s needs.

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The S-Pen offers four times pressure sensitivity similar to Apple’s Pencil. It is capable of recognising whether a user is shading or putting more pressure on the nib, making it a useful and effective tool for jotting down notes or doodling and digital painting.

Display

The Galaxy Tab S3 comes with a 9.7-inch Super AMOLED panel with a 2048 x 1536-pixel resolution. The screen now supports HDR content and has some serious brightness, making it an excellent tool for media consumption. Colours on the display look crisp and images are filled with good amount of detail. But the downside is that there is not a lot of HDR content as of now. It’s surely an upgrade in quality, but since the content isn’t available yet, it’s like paying in advance for something that will deliver the improved quality later.

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While the display is impressive, it fails to look good in all conditions — it’s too reflective. It is nothing compared to the display on the iPad — Apple’s True Tone display is capable of changing colour temperature for a more comfortable viewing experience, and has an anti-reflective surface too. The Tab S3 only allows user to optionally switch on the blue light filter.

Performance

The Galaxy Tab S3 uses the dated Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor paired with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, which is a let down since most of the users expect more storage on a media-focused tablet. But at least it offers a microSD card slot for storage expansion. Although the chip used here is older, the quad-core chip does a good job and handles almost every task with ease. Performance wise, the device is smooth and is capable of running intensive apps easily.

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The tablet runs on the company’s TouchWiz UI wrapped under Android 7.0 Nougat. At its core, the software largely borrows from the Galaxy S8, with similar interface and the pre-loaded apps of course.

The tablet comes equipped with a 13MP rear camera which performs below par, but then again you shouldn’t expect much from a tablet camera. The pictures lack detail and depth and the colour reproduction isn’t impressive. It sports a 5MP front facing snapper with an f/2.2 aperture and it is good enough for video calling.

On the connectivity front, the Tab S3 offers Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi with 2×2 MIMO and optional LTE Cat 6, but misses out on the NFC or an infrared sensor. For added security, the company has added a fingerprint sensor incorporated under the home button. The sensor is fast and responsive as one would expect and also comes in handy for unlocking the Samsung account.

Battery

The Galaxy Tab S3 draws power from a massive 6000mAh battery, which is bigger than the one seen on the Tab S2. The tab is capable of providing 12 hours of video playback, but that can change in case of the HDR content. The standby time on the device is brilliant; you might go without using the device for days and it will still have enough fuel to power the device for moderate usage.

The tablet charges using the USB Type-C port, but there is no option for wireless charging. The bundled fast charger will fully charge the device in about two and a half hours, which is pretty good for a 6000mAh battery.

Verdict

There’s no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is one of the best Android tablets amidst those launched recently. If you are looking for a device that can go against the likes of the iPad Pro but runs on Android, then this is it. Performance on the tablet is great, even though it looks more like an early 2016 flagship phone on the paper. If you have Rs 47,990 and want a tablet only to get the best video-watching experience, then it highly recommended. Also it comes bundled with the S-Pen which is good for creativity and productivity and is fun to play around with. However, if you are ready to shell out more money, then the iPad Pro is the go-to tablet for you. The 10.5-inch iPad Pro (WiFi + Cellular) is priced at Rs 61,400 for the 64GB. The keyboard will cost you another Rs 14,000, and the Pencil for around Rs 9,000.

But it seems the Korean giant is pushing the limits of the tablet too far. The software is not well-optimised, multitasking options are limited and the UI is buggy at times. The tablet almost checks every box a tablet can, but sadly all those high-end features come at a hefty price.

Had the device been Rs 10k cheaper, it would have been a genuine challenger to the iPad Pro, in fact it would have been hard to argue in the iPad’s support but being offered at the same cost makes it hard to recommend over the iPad Pro.

The Review

8 Score

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The Good

The Bad

Breakdown

  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 80%
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