With smartphone screens getting bigger every year, manufacturers have been slow to announce new tablets. Thankfully, Samsung has ended the drought with the Galaxy Tab S3, the successor to the Tab S2 which was announced in 2015.
Interestingly, Samsung has released the Tab S3 in only one size instead of two (like with the Tab S2). So the Tab S3 is only available with a 9.7in screen which is better suited for media consumption and work.
One of Samsung’s strengths is the screen and it shows on the Tab S3. The screen is stunning and great for watching videos and viewing images, and it now even supports HDR (high dynamic range).
However, some may find the colours too punchy but there is an option to tone it down under display settings.
Mainly made of glass, the Tab S3 deserves the premium label. It’s comfortable to hold, as it has curved edges and an ample bezel. At just 6mm thick and weighing 429g, you will not have problems holding the tablet for extended periods.
The review unit came with Samsung’s Book Cover which is sold separately for RM199. The flip case attaches to the back of the device with magnets, so it is hassle-free to use. Even with the casing on, the device does not gain much in terms of weight or thickness.
There is also an optional keyboard cover for those who are thinking of using the device for productivity purposes.
In typical Samsung fashion, the Tab S3 has a physical home button that doubles as a fingerprint sensor for security purposes. With the move away from the physical button in the recently launched Galaxy S8 smartphone, this could possibly be Samsung’s last flagship tablet with a physical Home button.
In the audio department, the Tab S3 is equipped with “quad stereo” AKG speakers tuned by Harman. When held in landscape mode, you’ll have two speakers on each side – I had no issues with the volume and clarity, but I would have preferred the speakers to be front facing.
The Tab S3 comes with 32GB of internal storage which is decent. If that isn’t enough, you can always add a microSD card (up to 256GB supported) for more space.
Under the hood
The Tab S3 comes with a quad-core Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB RAM, and runs on Android 7.0 (Nougat). Samsung has, of course, included its TouchWiz user interface, which has steadily improved over the years and is now user friendly and useful.
Samsung has also cut down on the number of pre-installed apps to reduce the bloat. Aside from a few essentials and customary Google apps, you will only find some Microsoft apps and a handful of Samsung apps upon first booting up the device.
We tested the Tab S3’s gaming capabilities with a variety of popular games, including Super Mario Run, Subway Surfers and Temple Run 2. It handled all the games with ease and did not exhibit any slowdowns at all, not even when I tried the graphics- intensive War Machines Tank Shooter Game.
The device heated up slightly after extended gameplay, but never to the point where it became a cause for concern.
Samsung has a floating gaming tool that appears when playing games that can, among other things, silence all notifications, disable the soft keys and record a video of the game. It will also compile all your games in one folder for easy access.
With a 6,000mAh battery, the Tab S3 should be able to give you a full day’s worth of usage with ease. I managed to get about 20 hours of standby time with six hours of actively using the tablet, including over four hours of heavy gaming.
The Tab S3 has a USB Type C port that supports fast charging – the Tab S3 reached full charge from 15% before two hours.
The S Pen stylus that comes in the box with the Tab S3 is bigger and thicker than the past versions found on the Galaxy Note series. It’s about the size of a regular pen so it feels natural to hold and is comfortable to use for prolonged periods.
The only drawback is that you can’t attach the stylus to the tablet, so you need to carry it around separately. This should not be a problem for those who use Samsung’s official casings, as they have a holder for the stylus.
It may not look pretty and it does take away some of the casing’s flexibility, but it does a commendable job of keeping the stylus safe as you move about.
The tip of the S Pen is only 0.7mm thick which makes it more precise for writing. The pre-installed Samsung Notes app is a great way to show off the S Pen’s capabilities.
I was particularly impressed with the option to use a brush as the input method. I felt like a kid who has just discovered watercolour painting again, as overlapping different colours in the app will cause them to mix, just like the actual thing.
For someone like me who has not touched a brush ever since art class in secondary school, this was fun, but in the hands of a more artistic person, the S Pen could prove to be a valuable tool.
Also, as the tablet is capable of recognising 4,096 levels of pressure from the S Pen, different strokes will give different results.
Multitasking capabilities is usually an important factor for those who purchase a tablet, especially if it is for productivity purposes. The Tab S3 achieves this using the multi-window feature that has been a tradition with Samsung devices ever since the Note 2.
The Tab S3 boasts a 13-megapixel main camera. However, as with most tablets, the pictures didn’t turn out too great as they were a bit soft. The 5-megapixel front-facing camera, on the other hand, is good for video calls and the occasional selfie.
Like its predecessors, the Tab S3 is a great option for those who want an Android tablet with a lot of firepower. It’s great for leisure and work, and is more versatile than ever as it comes with an S Pen.
If you are getting the tablet, we also recommend buying the Book Case for keeping the S Pen safe.
Pros: Feature-packed; amazing screen; gets the handy S Pen.
Cons: Camera could be better; no holder for S Pen without casing.
Galaxy Tab S3
Network: 4G LTE
Operating system: Android 7.0 (Nougat)
Processor: Quad-core Snapdragon 820 (2 x 2.15GHz Kryo + 2 x 1.6GHz Kryo)
Display: 9.7in (1,536 x 2,048 pixels)
Camera: 13 megapixels (rear), 5 megapixels (front)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, dual-band Wireless 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Memory: 32GB internal memory; 4GB RAM
Expansion slot: MicroSD (up to 256GB supported)
Features: S Pen, GPS, multi window; fingerprint sensor
Dimensions (W x D x H): 237.3 x 169 x 6mm
Rating: Four stars