Galaxy Tab S3 has a beautiful screen and is a solid ‘prosumer’ tablet.
Tablet usage has been on the rise for the past several years and with an estimated 286 million tablets planned to be shipped by 2018, it’s fair to say that they hold a substantial piece of the mobile technology market. This week the two powerhouses — Apple and Samsung — both released their newest models of tablets. Apple’s model is a simple clean iPad for the casual tablet user. Samsung, however, has released a fantastic competitor to the iPad Pro — the Galaxy Tab S3.
The Galaxy Tab S3 comes nearly 2 years after its predecessor — the Galaxy Tab S2. It was unveiled at Mobile World Congress in late February and will be available for sale starting March 24. I was able to have my hands on the Tab S3 this week and in my opinion, it’s what I would consider a ‘prosumer’ tablet. There are a lot of high-powered specs to it that professionals will be able to use to their full capabilities and basic tablet consumers will marvel at the speed and clarity of the screen they get with it. I’ve been an iPad user for many years and I was very impressed with the Tab S3 specs and performance.
The first thing you notice when you open the package with your new Tab S3 is its gorgeous glass visage. It’s got a glossy look and feel, which unfortunately can lead to a lot of fingerprints, but it’s smooth and feels great in your hands. The display itself is probably the most impressive part of the tablet to me. It’s a 9.7 inch super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen with a 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution. The screen supports HDR video and displays 16 million colors. In short, the screen produces a bright, brilliant, awesome picture.
Watching videos on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is a fantastic experience. Most of the media I watch these days is streamed from apps. My tests included watching a trailer for Beauty and the Beast on YouTube and the other was to watch part of Finding Dory on Netflix. I did this for two reasons. First, I know that CGI and animated features can sometimes lose their integrity and quality on a poor screen. And secondly, I knew that streaming media can also lose quality easily even on the highest resolution displays. The Tab S3 passed with flying colors. Finding Dory, just like Finding Nemo, has some of the most vibrant colors and Beauty and the Beast really showed how real people in animated environments would look. I honestly would love to have a TV that looked this good.
As is becoming a standard for most mobile devices these days, the Tab S3 sports a fingerprint sensor on the front, which also doubles as the home button. Upon startup, I set up a single fingerprint and I’ve not had any issues with it being read. I think the Touch ID on iOS devices is a bit more responsive, but my finger only rested on the sensor for about 2 seconds and the tablet came to life.
The S3 comes with 32GB of onboard storage and can be expanded to up to 256GB with the Micro SD card slot. So far, I’ve not had any limitations with the onboard storage, but I like having the option to expand if needed. This is something you don’t get with the Apple iPad series.
The Tab S3 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with 4GB of RAM. It is a quad-core CPU and has an Adreno 530 GPU. The Tab S3 runs Android OS and is shipped with Nougat (v7.0). As an iOS user with a moderate knowledge of Android OS, I found the system to be very peppy and reactive. I haven’t done a lot with customizing the interface for my personal tastes, but I did use a couple of apps that were resource intensive and found that it zooms through most tasks, videos, and games. So far, I haven’t had any lag issues or major operating system meltdowns.
I haven’t used the camera too much, but that’s kind of standard for me and tablets. I really only use the camera on my iPad Air 2 when my phone isn’t available. Let’s face is, the camera on a tablet is most used for video conferencing. That said, the Tab S3 has a pretty nice camera on it. It’s a 13MP camera with autofocus and flash capabilities on the rear and a 5MP forward-facing one. It will capture 4K video (2160p) at 30 fps. One thing to really caution though is storage space if you plan on shooting 4K video often with this tablet.
The Tab S3 comes with quad speakers (like the iPad Pro) that have been tuned by AKG/Harman. The sound quality is pretty great, but I was actually disappointed by the volume level. I didn’t have an issue with volume when I used headphones — you can connect headphones through Bluetooth or by using the 3.5mm headphone jack — but when I just used the speakers, I thought they were a little lacking.
Battery life has been pretty good. The Tab S3 has a 6000 mAh battery and Samsung boasts a 12-hour battery lifespan for video playback. I don’t think I got quite the same results as Samsung though. Since I’ve had it, the tablet has actually died on my twice. The first time was about a day after I pulled it from the box. I don’t know if it had a full charge when I unpacked it, but after I gave it a full charge, the battery lasted two days with moderate use. I haven’t watched a movie marathon since I’ve had it so I can’t dispute the 12-hour video playback timing, but I do notice that it drains very quickly when the keyboard is connected. The Tab S3 charges and syncs through a USB-C connection.
The Galaxy Tab S3 ships with its very own stylus — the S Pen. It’s lightweight, doesn’t require recharging, and has a pressure sensitivity level of 4,096. You can write and draw naturally with the S Pen. This was not foreign to me because of the Apple Pencil, but I have to admit that the S Pen actually feels better in my hand than the Apple Pencil does. The shape is similar to an ink pen. I actually spent some time handwriting on the Tab S3 and found that the pen/tablet combo works very well. It takes a little getting used to because the surface of the screen is so smooth, but the responsiveness of the pen and the screen is so precise that it really is like writing on paper.
There is one more detail on the Tab S3 I want to mention — the keyboard case. It’s important to note that the keyboard case does not ship with the Tab S3 — it’s sold separately for around $130 — but it is a very important accessory. The keyboard connects and automatically pairs to the keyboard through the Pogo port/connectors. The cover magnetizes to the back of the Tab S3 — this covers the camera — and you can lift it to a sitting angle where it’s comfortable to view the screen. This keyboard is very similar in style to the Apple Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro. When the keyboard is connected, it’s very responsive and even though it can take a little while to get used to the smaller keyboard real estate, the keys are soft and have a gentle click to them. I have really enjoyed typing on it and think some people would love using the keyboard/tablet combo as a temporary computer replacement.
I am an accomplished tablet user and I was really looking forward to trying out the Galaxy Tab S3. My tablet of choice has been the iPad, but I have used other operating systems and really enjoyed using the Tab S3. This was my first foray into using a Samsung Galaxy Tab and I must say, it’s quite impressive. With it being a 9.7-inch tablet, it’s the same size as the iPad Air 2, iPad Pro 9.7, and the brand new iPad 9.7. So, for me, it was an easy transition — style wise — to the Tab S3.
As far as utility goes, the Tab S3 works like a charm. I didn’t use it a lot for presentations or the like, but I did do a lot of typing on it and some basic tablet tasks. It’s very quick and responsive to commands. The keyboard/tablet/stylus work really well together and I recommend the entire package as a bundle. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is a really solid tablet. It’s going to be great for professional or personal use. If you aren’t an iOS user and you want a solid tablet, the Tab S3 would be my top pick.