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Apple is still dominating the tablet market, but Samsung is taking aim at the iPad Pro with their new Galaxy Tab S3. It’s about the same size and weight as an iPad Pro, it’s the same price, and it comes with a free stylus (unlike Apple’s tablet).
And there really aren’t many Android tablets competing for this spot. While the Android smartphone market has exploded with high quality offerings, your options for a tablet are still quite limited.
So is the Galaxy Tab S3 really the iPad Pro competitor to beat? Read on to find out – and at the end of this review, we’re giving ours away to one lucky reader!
- Color: Silver
- Price: $500 on Amazon, plus optional $130 keyboard cover
- Dimensions: 237.3mm x 169.0mm x 6.0mm (9.34in x 6.65in x 0.24in)
- Weight: 429g (15.1oz)
- Processor: Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
- RAM: 4GB
- Storage: 32GB
- Screen: 9.7″ (2048 x 1536) AMOLED display
- Cameras: 13MP rear-facing camera and 5MP front-facing camera
- Speakers: Quad speakers, two on the top and two on the bottom
- Battery: 6,000mAh battery, charged using USB Type-C
- Operating System: Android 7.0 Nougat with Samsung’s custom interface
- Extras: Fingerprint scanner, microSD card slot, included stylus, optional keyboard
Put simply, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is a gorgeous tablet. By hardware alone, it has to be the best Android tablet currently available. The only possible exception to this is the Google Pixel C, but it’s well over a year old now.
So until Google updates their tablet offering, Samsung can claim the title of best Android tablet hardware.
The Tab S3 has a glass back and aluminum sides that give it a premium feel. You’ll find the volume rocker, power button, and microSD card slot on the right side of the device, while the USB Type-C port and headphone jack are along the bottom. The left side has connectors for the optional keyboard cover.
There are four speakers total on the Tab S3 — two on the bottom and two on the top. Thanks to this quad speaker setup, audio played from the tablet is more than sufficiently loud and immersive.
Oddly, Samsung has decided to stick with a physical home button for the Tab S3. After dropping it on the Galaxy S8 in favor of software keys, it’s bizarre that Samsung’s flagship tablet would keep the tradition alive.
The physical home button is also a fingerprint scanner, and it’s flanked by the Recents and Back keys. That setup is probably the Tab S3’s biggest weakness. Navigation with the small physical and capacitive buttons is just a hassle on a tablet, especially in landscape since the buttons are clearly oriented for portrait.
The screen is a gorgeous AMOLED panel that has vibrant colors and wonderful contrast. It has a resolution of 2048px by 1536px, which means that text and images are sharp (this is the same resolution as the iPad Pro’s screen).
All of this, by the way, is packed into a frame that’s only 6mm thin.
On the back of the Tab S3, you’ll find a 13MP camera that sits flush against the device. It’s definitely not as good as the camera on Samsung’s Galaxy S8, but it’s better than pretty much any other Android tablet. The front-facing camera is 5MP, and it’s similarly just above average.
The glass back of the tablet does attract fingerprints, but that won’t be a problem if you purchase the optional $130 keyboard.
It attaches magnetically to the Tab S3 in a way that’s both sturdy and convenient. It’s then easy to prop the tablet up into work mode — though, unfortunately, you can’t adjust the angle at which it sits.
The keyboard cover holds strong; you can easily lift the tablet into the air by the keyboard, and it doesn’t detach. But it’s easy enough to pry off with your fingers.
It’s powered by connectors that run along the side of the tablet, so there’s no worrying about keyboard batteries or Bluetooth connections. Somewhat annoyingly, though, if you remove the tablet from work mode, the tablet senses it and automatically turns off the screen. That can make switching from work mode to tablet mode a little annoying. Even weirder is that shutting the keyboard case over the tablet doesn’t turn off the screen.
The keyboard’s keys are clicky, and it didn’t take me long to get used to typing on them. That being said, it is a small keyboard constrained by the fact that this is only a 9.7″ device.
If you don’t like small keyboards, you won’t like this one. But for what it is, it’s great.
And to top it all off, the Tab S3 comes with an active stylus out of the box. It’s a full-sized pen that feels fantastic in the hand and has a skinny 0.7mm rubber tip. It also has 4,096 pressure sensitivity levels, meaning you can use all sorts of apps to draw, illustrate, or just take notes.
Internally, the Tab S3 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage — making it plenty powerful. It also has a 6,000mAh battery that easily kept it chugging along all day in my testing. It can even get back to a full charge in less than three hours.
So the Galaxy Tab S3 undoubtedly has some great hardware, but is the software just as good?
This tablet is running Android 7.0 Nougat, but it looks very much like a Samsung device. App icons are rounded and colorful (though this can be adjusted in the settings), there are splashes of color throughout the design, some menu icons are replaced by text, and there is a good number of Samsung-specific apps.
Some of these apps include: a file explorer called My Files, a proprietary browser called Internet, Kids Mode, Samsung Kids, Samsung’s own app store called Galaxy Apps, Samsung Flow, PEN.UP, and Samsung+. I imagine a lot of people will see these as bloatware, but some of the them can be uninstalled, and the others can be disabled.
As far as features go, there’s a built-in blue light filter to help you sleep, Smart Stay (which keeps the screen on while you’re looking at it), Game Launcher for organizing your games, Game Tools for adjusting your games while playing, Smart Capture (which gives you better screenshot options, like scrolling to get a long screenshot), and more.
You can even change the screen zoom, font size, and font style from within the Settings app.
There’s a lot going on in terms of customization, but once you have your tablet setup the way you like it, it’s a breeze to use. If you buy the optional keyboard, you can navigate around menus using the arrow keys and the enter key. If you use the stylus, you can easily jot down notes or scribble over screenshots.
And that stylus is a dream to use. It’s smooth and natural to write with, and the pressure sensitivity is fun to play around with when doodling. Thanks to the built-in Multi-Window feature, you can even jot notes on one half of the screen while watching a video on the other half.
Win a Galaxy Tab S3!
That right, we’re giving ours away to one lucky reader. Enter below for your chance to win!
Should You Buy It?
It’s hard to be critical of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 mostly because it doesn’t have any competition. Android hardware manufacturers have essentially given up on tablets and focused all their energy on smartphones. So you don’t have a lot of options in the 10″ tablet range.
However, that didn’t stop Samsung from pushing the limits with this tablet. It may be expensive at $550, but it comes with a pen, which already makes it a better value than the iPad Pro.
If you want a 10″ Android tablet, this is the best option currently out there. It’s not perfect, though. It’s expensive, its physical and capacitive keys are awkward, and it’s loaded with too many Samsung apps, but aside from that, it’s a solid choice.