Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review: Great hardware in a dying form factor

Posted:  July 5, 2017   By:    18 comments   


There was a time where I seriously considered the merits of getting an Android tablet. In my head I had my desktop in my work room, my laptop in my bedroom and my phone with me on the can. But I didn’t have a device in my living room and that’s where I thought the tablet would fit perfectly.

Talk about #firstworldproblems, amirite? Every now and again, this small part of my mind begins to entertain the idea of a tablet again and I start to think that maybe it was time for me to get one.

And then I got my hands on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 — a powerful Android tablet with a beautiful screen, and a nice set of speakers. Theoretically, this is exactly what I needed but after spending some time with it, the Tab S3 only served to prove that nobody really needs an Android tablet.

Now, I won’t say that this is because the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 does anything very poorly. In fact, it’s an excellent piece of technology that can deliver a stunning performance. It’s got a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM inside with 32GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD).

Needless to say that performance was buttery. It’s basically a really big S7 and there’s really nothing wrong with that. Especially when it’s got such a beautiful display.

The 9.7-inch Super AMOLED screen pushes a tantalising 2048×1536 pixels which makes everything look really good. In fact, the screen is so crisp that the usual icons Android uses in its UI actually appear a little pixelated when stretched on this display. What’s more, this screen also supports HDR10 but according to Samsung, HDR streaming only works with the Amazon Prime Video app. Even so, regular videos still look great on this screen.

Adding to its strength as a media consumption tool, the Tab S3 also has quad speakers tuned by AKG by Harman. They fire out of the sides of the display and sound pretty darn good for a tablet. However, I think the iPad Pro’s speakers edge these out just a little more when it comes to volume.

Keeping the device powered is a fat and juicy 6,000 mAh battery. This translates to what is practically an entire day of YouTube video watching (on data because this is a 4G LTE-capable tablet and takes a nanoSIM) with over 8 hours of screen-on-time.

Although I noticed that the tablet doesn’t idle as well as an iPad does (thanks to Android) the Tab S3 certainly charges quickly. With the included Adaptive Fast Charger (same as the one Samsung uses on their phones) I was able to top up the Tab S3’s power cell from 5% charge in just 2.5 hours.

The more you look at and use the Tab S3 the more you can draw similarities between it and an S7. Its body is also that reassuring concoction of glass and metal that just oozes premium. I’m still not a big fan of glass bodies because of the hideous amount of fingerprints that can get on them and the fingerprint problem only gets worse on a bigger body.

One thing worth noting is that the Tab S3 isn’t water resistant no matter how much it feels like the S7. That’s a shame because spills can happen and it’d make me feel a lot more confident with it if it was also IP68 water and dust resistant.

Samsung did, however, include a 13-megapixel primary camera and a 5-megapixel selfie shooter with beautification features. The primary camera takes decent shots though you will be severely judged if you’re one of those “tablet photographers”. Still, it’s there when you need it and that’s OK I suppose.

Click for full resolution

Left: Front camera + beauty filter, Right: Front camera


Main camera

What is nice, though, is that Samsung includes an S Pen with the device. It’s not exactly the same as the one you’d find in the Note phablets because it’s a lot chunkier which gives it a nice grip in the hand. I still think it’s a little too thin but that’s probably down to personal preference. One thing I would have liked to see is an easy way to store the pen.

Anyone who has seen my doodles will be able to figure out that drawing isn’t my thing so I wouldn’t be the best person to tell you how it’s like to draw on the tablet. However, I did consult my colleague who does draw and his impressions were that the S Pen plus Tab S3 combo simply isn’t as nice to draw on as an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. He did say that the latency was pretty good but the overall experience just doesn’t compare to Apple’s.

As an Android tablet, then, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is excellent. It’s powerful, well-built, got a great screen and a nice set of speakers. However, there are two really big issues that I have with it that would stop me from buying one.

The first is the fact that it’s an Android tablet. The whole time I spent using it, there was really rarely anything I could do on it that I couldn’t also do on a smartphone and get a similar if not identical experience. The Android operating system for tablets is just so similar to a smartphone’s that you’re realistically only ever going to look at your tablet for a bigger screen. I don’t find myself being more productive nor do I find myself being unable to perform certain tasks because I don’t have my tablet with me. And that’s not just true of the Tab S3, it’s true for practically every single Android tablet out there.

Secondly, we come to the price. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S3 is priced at RM2,999 which is RM1,000 more than its predecessor. That’s a lot of money. In fact, that’s iPad Pro 10.5-inch money. Yeah, the base model 64GB iPad Pro doesn’t have cellular capabilities, but there’s no denying that the iOS on the iPad is a lot better to use than Android on a tablet especially with iOS 11.

When it comes to that, I think the Samsung Tab S3 is a bit of a miss. Yes, it’s a great Android tablet but the truth is that most of you won’t need a great Android tablet. Just a good one that’s more affordable — like the Huawei MediaPad M3 — will give you pretty much the same experience, and if you wanted more productivity you can also get a Windows 10 tablet for a similar price.

So the big issue with the Tab S3 is that it wasn’t designed to succeed since the day it was launched. There’s a reason why iPads are pretty much the only tablets people buy anymore and even then, iPad sales aren’t what they used to be.

The tablet as a format is in dire need of reinventing and unfortunately for the Tab S3, it does none of that. In the past, this traditional tablet form-factor made sense because it was supposed to sit between the phone and the laptop. However, after Lenovo showed us what could be done with the tablet as we know it, this current form-factor just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Lenovo’s solution isn’t any bulkier than a traditional tablet nor is it any more difficult to use in the same way as a traditional tablet. It is, however, a lot more practical than a traditional tablet because it comes with a fully functional keyboard attached and it has the ability to run full Windows 10. I firmly believe that that is the future for the tablet and that makes it very hard for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 to be anything more than a reminder of the past.


Android, Mobile Devices, Mobile OS, Product review, Samsung
, , , , , , , , , , ,
Wanna say something?






 

18 Comments for Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review: Great hardware in a dying form factor

BS

Phone is doing everything a tablet can do. To me tablet is just an extra piece of accessories. Can’t do most of wat a laptop does, can’t out perform a phone either

    YKK

    Phone can read eBooks, but it doesn’t feel like one due to its dinky size.

    I read NatGeo magazine and Star ePaper with both 10 and 12.9 ipad – I feel like reading megazine and papers.

    We can’t imagine if they are useful or useless, have to experience it.

    They have different use cases.

wtf!

iPad pro 10.5" is the only way to go.

    YKK

    I still occasional charge my first gen Galaxy Tab to preserve its battery life span. It has been sitting in the drawers for years after 3 months of use.

    No more tab from Sam.

    crAPPLE

    U mean the useless super big screen iphone with non productive OS?? yup, way to go.

      YKK

      I develop apps for iPhone and iPad, they are different.

      The operates and works the same in OS level. The similarity makes them easier to use for all types of users. But the apps that run on both different screen sizes and form factors need to be optimized and designed differently (if the developer cares).

      If you still think that phone and tablets just differs in screen size, then ya, way to go for you.

      wtf!

      where u hiding man???

      TLT

      Obviously you never try an iPad before. iOS11 is the biggest update for iPad and their side by side app window is better executed than other tablet. Totally different from iPhone.

Gayi

U just simply don’t need a tablet if u plan to use the tablet just like u use ur smartphone. For me, i do use my tablet to read papers & ebooks. When i read papers, i need to highlight, make a note etc, so it’s good to have a pen. Besides, i do my paperworks using word app. Therefore, for tablet i much prefer android since it’s easier for me to transfer the files between the tablet & pc using usb-otg. So no need to depend on internet connection to transfer the files. I also use it to watch movie while running on treadmill.. I do agree though that galaxy tab s3 price is quite high but to say that ios is a lot better… as an iphone user myself, i doubt it.

    Oic

    Wait till you see ios11 on iPads.

    Btw, usb-otg? Go get on for the ios!

    YKK

    I transfer files between Macs , iPhone and iPad using AirDrop primarily. With my Windows 10, I have got OneDrive from Office 365 subscription where I sync files across different platforms and collaborating with colleagues.

    With Instant Hotspot in both my iPad and iPhone, I have no issue connecting to internet even from my Windows laptop.

    Subcribing to both DimSum,Netflix and Spotify, I download and store movies and music for offline consumption.

    Only in extreme cases, I will use my Sandisk WIFI USB sticks to transfer files btw all these devices (which I rarely need).

KYS

This article is like "The pros of Ipad vs cons of Tab S3". If you want to do a comparison please do it in a fair manner. This review is a shitty kind piece of work.

    TLT

    This review accurately described the Tab S3. It is good but iPad pro is more worth. If don’t agree then state why. Else you are giving nothing but shit comment.

      KYS

      Didnt I clearly state that to do a fair comparison? If you cant read properly, pls clean your shitty eyes.

        TLT

        You have cataract or something? This is review not comparison. If u think unfair then explain why? Anyone can sit and bitch everything is unfair and wrong but don’t state the reason.

kyliewhite

If the tab doesn't running window, the function not much different with your phone except bigger view only. Just buy 1k plus enough lah generally use for browsing and playing clash royale only. Marshmallow above can straight connect to external hardisk with otg maybe ios11 also can ?? Ipad ios "easier" to use than android, but 4g need to add a few hundred, more capacity add a few hundred, otg drive 3x price of the normal, cannot whatsapp without jailbreak…

    YKK

    Have a few Samsung Win 8 and Win RT tablets in office since the early days and they are still sitting in the drawers like hyper hibernating white elephants. Upgraded those 8 to Win 10 and they are still not feelin right.

    Handed out many times to colleagues for testing, all returned them shaking their heads.

    With such an experience, not really confident in going out for others anymore, even Microsoft Surface. Many still hold on to regular Win notebook and iPad combo.

    Win 10 being a hybrid OS, keep switching back to desktop mode where a mouse is needed (not optimized for touch). We just can’t pinch to zoom in files explorer.

    With both IE and Edge, it confuses a lot of people.

    Naturally, many still reach for an iPad if both are placed on the table.

    Win hybrid may look very promising, but the force is just not as strong. Will not be exploring anymore within these 2 years.

    Windows may be productive but iPad is seductive.

Faerie Thompson

I love my Android tablets. I use my huge media one at home for everything. My smaller tablet goes with me. I prefer a bigger form factor.