The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is the successor to the popular Galaxy Tab S2, which released in 2015. The Galaxy Tab S3 is a high-end tablet – for someone not interested in a pro tablet, such as the one they released last year. Like all Samsung devices, it’s beautifully designed, looks good from all angles and has some of the latest features. Yet, despite the fact it is the best Android tablet on the market, it also has some problems. Those problems hurt the experience of such a pricey tablet. So I’m left to ask: “Do I want the best tablet with problems? Or a good tablet that’s affordable?”
Galaxy Tab S3 Design
There’s a lot to love about the design of the Galaxy Tab S3. The tablet measures in at 237mm x 169mm x 6mm, with a 9.7″ screen (245.8 mm), features an all-black design and a Gorilla Glass back. That glass back is a mixed bag. It feels nicer in your hand, but the tradeoff is every smudge and fingerprint collect there. I also worry about the durability. The bottom of the device features a 3.5mm audio jack and a USB-C port, which are split apart from the home button on the front. The home button also includes a fingerprint scanner. Capacitive ‘recent’ and ‘back’ buttons flank the home button as expected. The right side features the power button and volume control.
Despite this being a newer model, they have added 40 grams to the total weight from the Tab S2, now weighing 429g. The Galaxy Tab S3 manages to add in more speakers though, bringing the total to 4. As such the sound quality is good. A little extra weight won’t make or break the device, but my fear as it relates to the glass back does sit on my mind.
Galaxy Tab S3 Display
It’s hard to ever criticize Samsung for their display. It’s the one thing they do an exceptional job on every single time. The Galaxy Tab S3 is no exception. The 9.7″ AMOLED screen is more immersive than other tablets on the market. The colours are stunning and the blacks are deep. They’ve also enabled HDR (high dynamic range) on the tablet, which adds further brightness and contrast. That said, while HDR is great, it’s not all that useful right now as there isn’t much HDR content out there. So, you pay more for future proofing. The resolution hasn’t changed since the S2, coming in at 2048 x 1536. While there are no bad viewing angles on it, it doesn’t do very well in bright light, unfortunately. You get a lot of reflection. Still, it’s a quality screen.
Galaxy Tab S3 Performance
One major new addition to the Galaxy Tab S3 is the S Pen. The thin, four-sided pen is smaller than a lot of other stylus pens on the market. That said, it’s also more responsive to pressure than some others. Its fine tip makes writing very easy. The only major drawback is the lack of spot to slide into or clip to on the Galaxy Tab S3. You can loop it to a keyboard cover, but the keyboard costs extra (a lot extra!). For now, you’ll have to not misplace it. Seems like a bit of an oversight.
Running the show is a Snapdragon 820 processor, which is a little unusual. I mean, it’s a popular chip in smartphones in 2016 – but this is a high-end tablet. It should be running the Snapdragon 835. That said, it responds well and should be able to handle all your tasks or gaming for the next year or two. There’s also 4GB of RAM, but only 32GB of internal storage (23.1 usable). That’s again, a little unusual. For a device with a futureproofed HDR screen, to only include 32GB of onboard storage is too little for a media tablet. However, you can use the MicroSD slot for up to 256GB of additional storage – but it really should have more built in.
Running Android 7.0, it responds well for most tasks. Netflix sometimes experienced some issues and I had a few crashes on apps using the S Pen for unknown reasons. I’ll chalk it up to software errors that I’m sure will be remedied over time. Also, while multi-tasking is something they talk about… it’s a god awful experience. You can get it to work okay, but it’s just not very good.
Galaxy Tab S3 Battery + Camera
The battery in the device is 6000mAh, which seems small compared to other high-end tablets (iPad Pro has 7300mAh.) However, battery life seems to be pretty good. Samsung lists the battery life for up to 12 hours of video playback. After an average days use, the battery is in the 40-60% range, so it’s pretty solid. The back camera is 13MP, autofocus, f/1.9 and shoots 4K video. But I’ve never found myself to ever use a tablet camera for anything except video calls. That brings us to the front camera, a 5MP f/2.2… it does an okay job.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is definitely the best Android tablet on the market and for $800, you’d hope so. The screen is fantastic, with futureproofing HDR. The battery is decent, the cameras are good, and the S Pen is a nice addition. The processor and storage are weak spots on the device. If you have a Tab S2 or any other tablet from the last year, I see no reason to upgrade. That said, if you’re on anything pre-2015, then it’s worth considering.