Instead of new smartphones, Samsung revealed new tablets this week at the Mobile World Congress tradeshow, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. This is a 9.7-inch device that comes with S Pen and includes several impressive specifications, like a Super AMOLED display at the same resolution as the similarly-sized iPad Pro, Qualcomm’s quite powerful quad-core Snapdragon 820 chipset, an above-average 13-megapixel rear camera, a 6000 mAh battery, and a glass finish.
We did some preliminary testing on the Galaxy Tab S3 in Barcelona and present our first thoughts.
Build and Design
It is clear at first touch that this is a premium device. It boasts a all-glass rear panel, along with the all-glass front, of course. These are separated by a metal rim, and this arrangement seems exceptionally solid and modern.
Unlike some previous Samsung models, the Galaxy Tab S3 does not have a bulging rear-facing camera lens, something that contributes to its elegance. It is fairly light, despite having a bigger battery than its predecessor. While, this isn’t the slimmest Samsung tablet we seen, it’s still less than 7 millimeters thick.
The 9.7-inch screen is one of the better aspects of the Galaxy Tab S3. This has a 1536 by 2048 pixel resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 264 ppi. This is enough for exceptionally sharp imaging, without individual pixels being evident, The Super AMOLED panel contributes to its strong contrast and its high readability in direct sunlight.
Samsung didn’t forget to ‘turn up’ the colors, so the imaging is over-saturated, but this also contributes to the display’s premium effect, as purchasers generally prefer vivid colors. Everything seems opulent when playing games or consuming multimedia, but color over-saturation isn’t noticeable when more serious work is being performed.
S Pen and Keyboard
Interestingly, the Tab S3 is Samsung’s first flagship device which comes with the S Pen active stylus but isn’t part of the “Galaxy Note” line of handsets or a tablets. Nevertheless, users can rest assured that the S Pen is equally functional as it was on all of those devices; it has even been improved to a certain degree. Now, its tip is just 0.77 millimeters thick, which increases its precision, while its barrel is larger, making it more practical to hold. This version of the S Pen supports 4096 different levels of pressure — proof that this is a technically polished addition.
Samsung clearly wanted to help consumers see the S Pen as being useful as the Apple Pencil or Surface Pen. This is why the the Galaxy Tab S3 comes bundled with several useful apps and S Pen applications – many are identical to those already seen on Galaxy Note 8.
The keyboard that was being shown off with this tablet at Mobile World Congress is sold separately. Typing is exceptionally comfortable because a good amount of key travel is designed in, and the space between keys is wide enough to enable fast typing without any mistakes. This folio case also serves as a cover and a backrest for the tablet.
Like the Apple Smart Keyboard and the Microsoft Surface Type, this Samsung accessory is charged directly from the tablet; however, it will only need an insignificant amount of power, given that it does not have a trackpad or a similar navigational interface – just mechanical keys. Still, a Bluetooth or USB mouse can be connected to Galaxy Tab S3.
At the center of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is a Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon 820 processor with two economical Kyro cores running at 1.6 GHz and another pair running at 2.15 GHz. These are not record-breaking figures, but the chip has proved to be almost as quick in other devices as a Snapdragon 821, yet is more energy savvy.
A generous 4 GB of RAM contributes to the speedy performance of Android OS 7.0 (Nougat), with Samsung’s Grace UX user interface layered on top,. Internal storage totals just 32 GB, a humble amount for a flagship model, but this can be expanded by up to 256 GB with a microSD card.
The Galaxy Tab S3’s rear-facing camera has a 13 megapixel resolution and an f/1.9 aperture, and is one of the best cameras offered on a tablet. That said, compared to smartphone cameras, the results are just average, judging from my experience at MWC.
The 5 MP selfie-camera has an f/2.2 aperture — a combination which is just fine for Skype video calls.
With a 6000 mAh battery and hardware components that aren’t known for being power hogs, the Galaxy Tab S3 could offer above average time between recharges.
As I was testing the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, the feeling of speed, appearance of the display, as well as the tablet’s craftsmanship reminded me of the latest two flagship smartphones from the South Korean giant: the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S7.
If Samsung sets its price for less than the Apple 9.7-inch iPad Pro, this tablet will surely draw plenty of attention from buyers.