The Android world has been patiently waiting for the Next Great Android Tablet. Samsung's third-gen Galaxy Tab S3 may very well be it.
The quick take
The Galaxy Tab S3 is a solid Android tablet with a high definition 9.7-inch display, a stylish metal-and-glass body, and a robust pressure-sensitive stylus that proves — yet again — what a fantastic piece of technology the S Pen really is. If only its battery life were a bit better for those of you planning to multitask the heck out of life with this tablet device in tow.
- A bevy of multitasking software features
- The S Pen is everything
- Stylish hardware
- Available with an optional, comfortable keyboard
- Battery life is fine when the screen isn't on
- No water resistance
- It's not a replacement for a laptop
Tablets are making a comeback
Galaxy Tab S3 Full review
Android tablets aren't really a thing anymore, and though some manufacturers have produced devices worth owning over the years, there hasn't been a particular Android-powered tablet that's managed to move the needle in the industry. Frankly, this is why the Galaxy Tab S3 stands out in the first place. Despite the fact that it looks so much like its predecessor, it's equipped with enough added oomph, more than we've seen from any Android tablet in a long time, that makes it just as worthy of fanfare as its competition — namely the Microsoft Surface and Apple iPad Pro.
The Galaxy Tab S3 is a fantastic package. It's equipped with a capable processor, a vivid Super AMOLED display, and a few other subtle hardware features that add to the Tab S3's premium tablet experience. The best part of the tablet is its included accessory, however: the patented S Pen. This pressure sensitive stylus proves again why it was a major selling point for the Galaxy Note series. If you've always wanted the Note functionality on a larger screen, now is your chance, as long as you're willing to drop $600 for the Galaxy Tab S3.
About this review
I (Florence Ion) am writing this review after four days using the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. The tablet arrived with Android 7.0 and was not updated during the course of review. The Tab S3 was provided by Samsung for review by Android Central.
Come at me pro
All the specs
|Operating System||Android 7.0 Nougat|
|Display||9.7-inch Super AMOLED, 2048x1536|
Quad Core 2.15GHz + 1.6GHz
|Rear Camera||13MP, Auto-focus, Flash|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11ac dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, USB Type-C 3.1, GPS
4096-level pressure sensitivity
|Security||One-touch fingerprint sensor|
|Dimensions||237.3 x 169 x 6 mm|
Metal and glass
Galaxy Tab S3 Hardware
It's a though Samsung took the Galaxy S7 and flattened it out with a mallet.
The Galaxy Tab S3 is ostensibly the premium evolution of its predecessor, the Galaxy Tab S2, which debuted nearly two-years-ago and was covered in plastic. Like the rest of Samsung's device family, the Tab S3 follows along with the company's overall design paradigm. So much so, that it's as if Samsung took the Galaxy S7 and flattened it out with a mallet. And while the Tab S3's metal-and-class chassis exudes a poshness of its own, it's a fingerprint magnet — one you'll find yourself constant cleaning.
The Tab S3 sports a power button and volume rocker on its right side; a fingerprint sensor slash home button on the front; and it charges by USB Type-C. I've been able to charge my Pixel, my Chromebook, and the Tab S3 all with the same power adapter and really appreciate the convenience. The tablet also has four self-orienting stereo speakers placed around the chassis. They adjust as you rotate the tablet, and while the sound output is decidedly boomier with the Tab S3 in landscape mode, you'll hardly notice any difference unless the volume is turned all the way up.
I've always thought that Samsung's pressure-sensitive S Pen would be better suited for a tablet.
The 9.7-inch Galaxy Tab S3 is HDR-ready, which means its Snapdragon 820 processor and 4:3 aspect ratio Quad HD Super AMOLED display have been souped up to display compatible content, though there aren't too many HDR titles to brag about just yet. The Tab S3's display is certainly TV-like — the blacks are black, the whites are bright, and the blues and red are depicted deeper than they were on the Tab S2 — but that Quad HD display takes quite a bit of energy to power up. Though the Tab S3 is carrying a 6000 mAh battery, it's not enough to make it through an entire day of full usage without requiring a charge. At the very least, it employs Quick Charge 3.0, so you won't have to wait too long by the outlet.
The best part
Galaxy Tab S3 S Pen
As much as I've lauded the Galaxy Note phone series and its companion S Pen, and often as I've implied its usefulness to other people, I've always thought that Samsung's pressure-sensitive stylus would be better suited for a tablet device — especially considering that we're at the age where a stylus is often the only reason to buy a tablet.
The Galaxy Tab S3's S Pen is certainly reason enough. Like the Galaxy Note 7 (RIP), the S Pen is equipped with an easy-to-press shortcut button that brings up the Air Command menu. From here, you can choose from several oft-used actions, whatever those might mean for you. There's even a feature that lets you easily make animated GIFs from any video on the screen—a remnant of the Galaxy Note 7.
Using the S Pen is a pleasant experience. It's like an extension of your finger, if it had a 0.7mm tip and 4,096 points of pressure sensitivity. The stylus is compatible with a variety of apps, too, including Samsung's own S Note app, and Microsoft OneNote. And though I'm not much of an artist, I am a fervent note taker, and S Pen felt just as natural to use as a BIC ballpoint pen to a piece of paper. Perhaps the S Pen's only flaw in this particular case is that it doesn't physically attach to the Galaxy Tab S3. You will need a pencil pouch to keep tabs on the stylus, or you'll need to get into the habit of clipping it onto your shirt. Like the old days.
Galaxy Tab S3 Software
If you aren't a fan of Samsung's take on Android, then I've got some bad news for you: the Galaxy Tab S3 is all about it. The good news is that this isn't the Samsung interface you're used to. It's cleaner, brighter, and easier to navigate. It's packed with features you'll actually find helpful, including multi-window capabilities and a blue light filter that's accessible from the notification shade.
This isn't the (bad) Samsung interface you're used to. It's cleaner, brighter, and easier to navigate.
There's also Samsung Flow, which enables ease of access between the Tab S3 and your Samsung smartphone, as well as the debut of Samsung's Game Tools on a tablet, which enable you to record gameplay or amp up the processing on the device's Qualcomm Snapdragon 820. In the Android world, a third-party version of Android typically fares better on the tablet, anyway, since stock Android isn't exactly the poster child for tablet interfaces.
Galaxy Tab S3 Keyboard
I'm normally dubious when companies claim its tablet's companion keyboard is as accurate as a full-size laptop, but if you don't mind the extra bulk that keyboard folio adds to the Tab S3 (or the extra $130 it costs) and your aim is to be productive, Samsung's keyboard folio case is a worthy buy. It doesn't require batteries, the keys are backlit, and there is enough space between them that your fingers feel free to roam rampantly.
Though I often had to backspace to fix punctuation, I was still able to get into a decent writing flow. I even wrote some of this review with the Tab S3 and a Bluetooth-connected mouse. The only bummer is that you can't use this keyboard with other devices.
The best costs a bit
Galaxy Tab S3 Bottom line
Samsung's been chipping away at its tablet game for some time now and as a result, it's had time to refine its interpretation of what works and what doesn't for the tablet market. The Galaxy Tab S3 is an outstanding device for getting some work done. I did quite a bit of writing with the tablet in my few days with it and found that I could be just a productive as sitting at my desk in front of a docked MacBook Pro. For the most part, what you get out of a tablet is what you set it up for.
The Galaxy Tab S3 is malleable enough that you could utilize it for working, gaming, reading, binge-watching, and almost everything else your little laptop can do. The only issue you might have is that Android itself is still figuring out multitasking, and even with the Tab S3's native multi-window functionality, I'd much rather have the freedom of a desktop to spread out my work than be confined to a finicky task switcher.
The Galaxy Tab S3 isn't much more prohibitive in price than its competition, either, and if you're truly committed to staying within the Google Play ecosystem, the Galaxy Tab S3 is a worthy consideration. But if you're looking for something more casual, or perhaps a tablet you wouldn't feel bad about tossing around, the discounted Galaxy Tab S2 will remain available for a while longer.