Review: Samsung Tab S3

The Samsung Tab S3 ($1099) is comparably priced to a similarly specified iPad Pro.
Samsung

The Samsung Tab S3 ($1099) is comparably priced to a similarly specified iPad Pro.

There's a lot of Android tablets out there and some are better than others.

One of the better ones is Samsung's Tab S3 with its slim design, HDR capable display, bundled stylus, and optional keyboard.

An optional keyboard has Samsung following the iPad Pro. It sells as a separate accessory which, when paired with Android versions of Microsoft Office, transforms the Tab S3 into a portable yet potent productivity tool.

Then there's the display. It is HDR ready and bright enough to be used at a tanning clinic. Colours are vivid and contrast levels pop. If watching TV on a smaller screen is your thing, the Tab S3 may be the tablet you're looking for.

Priced from $1099, the Tab S3 is comparably priced to a similarly specified iPad Pro. Although the S Pen is included whereas the Apple Pencil is extra.

LOOK AND FEEL

The Tab S3 looks almost identical to Samsung's previous model, the Tab S2. A closer look reveals that unlike last year's model, it has a glass back panel which lends it a premium feel over the plastic cover used on the S2.

The S3's redesign also gives it bragging rights over the iPad Pro. The Tab 3 is 237.3 x 169 x 6mm and weighs just of 429g (the iPad Pro is marginally thicker and slightly heavier). These specs may get fan boys worked up, but the difference is barely noticeable. 

BELLS AND WHISTLES

Samsung has gone to considerable lengths to deliver a standout display as well as decent speakers. As you'd expect from the world's largest TV makers, the S3's 9.7-inch display is bright, crisp and vivid, thanks to the use of Super AMOLED. It also has High Dynamic Range (HDR) capable, which means that content with that feature has more detail in darker scenes.

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Samsung could've added more pixels and gone down the 4K route to appease certain buyers, but the reality is that more pixels impacts battery life and the visual difference isn't noticeable on a smaller screen. By supporting HDR, the Tab S3 does more with existing pixels to deliver an improved viewing experience.

The Tab S3 also delivers good audio thanks to a quad speaker configuration. Equally nice, the speaker arrangement is movement sensitive so when you reorienting it from landscape to portrait its speaker orientation changes. It's a small but nice feature.

The Tab S3's speakers won't get noise control knocking on your door, nor will they shake any plaster off your walls, but audio is still good. In a not too subtle nod to their arch competitor, Apple, Samsung has also included a 3.5mm headphone jack on Tab S3's bottom (there's also support for Bluetooth 4.2).

The bundled S Pen is sensibly designed. Samsung has chosen to make the S Pen flat with a clip which handily means it won't roll away and can be attached to the optional keyboard so it doesn't get lost. If only there was a hole or slot to stow it on the Tab S3.

Unlike the Apple Pencil, the S Pen doesn't need charging and has four times as many pressure levels.

While the Tab S3's keyboard is an optional extra, the sheer boost it brings to productivity makes it a worthwhile investment. It's probably not going to be ideal for typing out your next novel, but it's adequate for writing emails and quick documents.

Nicest of all, however, the keyboard uses a physical connection to the Tab S3 so there's no Bluetooth pairing or charging any additional batteries. The keyboard attaches magnetically.

IN USE

Like with their smartphones, Samsung has used Android 7.0 Nougat with their own user interface. 

The effect is an intuitive and smooth user experience. Icons are logically grouped and everything is searchable, including the settings menu. There's also a Secure Folder to store apps, photos, and videos.

Samsung Flow is also available. It allows you to wirelessly share data, notifications, and documents on the Tab S3 and your Samsung phone (you can also make/receive calls and send/receive SMS).

Android 7 also includes split-screen multitasking, which makes using the Tab S3's bigger screen for multi-tasking a more doable proposition.

UNDER THE HOOD

The Tab S3 is powerful enough to so just about anything you're likely to need including games, media, and productivity. It delivered a stutter and lag-free performance.

Along with 4GB of RAM, Samsung has kitted out the Tab S3 with 32GB of internal storage, which is expandable via a microSD card slot.

The Tab S3 has a 6000mAh battery. This is slightly larger than the Tab S2 but smaller than the iPad Pro 9.7.

Samsung claims the Tab S3 will deliver 12 hours of video playback (give or take 20-30 minutes depending on screen brightness levels and apps running in the background). In practice, I got just over this which makes the Tab S3 ideal for long haul flights.  

Samsung also includes an Adaptive Fast Charger. Going from zero to 100 per cent charge takes just a shade under two hours.

The Tab S3 comes with a decent 13MP rear camera. Its autofocus is quick and accurate and a f/1.9 aperture also makes low light shooting doable too. It's also capable of 4K video. Its front camera has a 5MP camera.

VERDICT

The Tab S3 is one of the better Android tablet currently available. It feels solidly built and looks great. The bundled S Pen and optional keyboard also give it some serious productivity ability. Its gorgeous HDR capable screen and quad speaker configuration make it a great media device too.

 - Stuff

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