Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review

The tablet market may have petered out somewhat but Samsung hasn’t give up on it, even if it seems the likes of Sony, HTC and Google have. At MWC 2017 it exclusively launched tablets, one of which is an iPad Pro rival running Android Nougat. Here’s our Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review. Also see: Best tablets 2017.

While we waited for the Galaxy S8 launch, Samsung has some new tablets to keep us entertained. We finally have the Tab S3 alongside two new Galaxy Books running Windows 10 – these seem to be a follow up to the Galaxy TabPro S but with a different naming system.

Galaxy Tab S3: Price and where to buy

The Galaxy Tab S3 is now available in the UK following its 31 March release date.

If you were hoping for a price of around £399 then we have bad news. The Galaxy Tab S3 is even more expensive than the the iPad Pro at £599. You can buy it from Samsung, John Lewis or Currys. In the US it's the same amount but in dollars, $599.

That's a heft price for a tablet, although it's worth pointing out that Samsung includes the new S Pen stylus in the box. If you want the 4G LTE model it will set you back £669.

While that helps ease the pain of the price, not all potential buys will want the stylus so it's a shame not to have an option to buy the tablet alone or bundled with the keyboard as an alternative.

Galaxy Tab S3 design

Galaxy Tab S3: Design and build

The Korean tech giant has become a master of design and build with its Galaxy products (and others), forming a distinct style emerging since the Galaxy S6. This design language has now made its way across a number of products and the Galaxy Tab S3 is no exception.

For starters it’s astonishingly thin at just 6mm. Although this is actually a tiny bit thicker than the Tab S2 (and it’s also heavier at 429g) it’s still impressive (better than the iPad Pro on both counts still) and can be, we think, attributed to some of the innovations found in the device.

It feels more premium than its predecessor but it does look a little odd with the USB port off-centre. This is made slightly better by the headphone port being the other side of the home button.

Galaxy Tab S3 pogo pin

Although it feels premium because of the sleek combination of glass and metal. The back being glass makes the Tab S3 a slippery customer so you can't put it down on something that isn't flat without fear of it sliding off.

You’ll probably keep it in a cover most of the time, though, as the tablet has Pogo metal contacts (below) to easily connect to the keyboard case. You can get the official Book Cover for £32 from Amazon while the Keyboard Cover is available for £119.

It’s not waterproof like the Galaxy S7 which is a shame so you’ll have to look to Sony for that on a tablet (not that the firm has anything new so far this year on that front).

As you’d expect the Galaxy Tab S3 has USB-C and also four speakers much like the iPad Pro.

Galaxy Tab S3 fingerprints

The tablet has a home button once again, as per the launch event invitation hint, and this contains a fingerprint scanner. The usual navigation buttons sit either side.

It comes in two colours - black and silver - and both are attractive. However, the silver option hides fingerprints slightly better than the black, just like with a car.

Galaxy Tab S3: Specs and features

New tablets, especially high-end devices, are a rare thing these days. Apple is one of the only companies regularly releasing new models. However, the iPad Pro has some new competition from the specced up Tab S3.

Screen

Moving on from a similar design, the Galaxy Tab S3 cements itself as an iPad Pro rival with its 9.7in screen that has a 4:3 aspect ratio. It’s still got a 2048x1536 resolution and Super AMOLED display technology but now supports high dynamic range (HDR).

We’re really impressed with the superbly detailed screen which has bags of colour and brightness. The HDR support means better colours and contrast, in theory, but it’s worth pointing out that only selected titles on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix offer this and at the time of writing, the respective mobile apps don't support HDR.

While the screen is impressive in specs, it's let down a little because the tablet is a little too reflective to be great in all conditions.It's also worth noting that there's no equivalent to the iPad Pro's True Tone display which alters colour temperature for a more comfortable experience. All you can do is optionally switch on the blue light filter.

Galaxy Tab S3 screen

Processor and performance

Core specs start off with the decent with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor. Even though we'd like to see the newer 835 model, the quad-core chip (dual 2.15GHz Kryo and dual 1.6 GHz Kryo) is still up to the job.

You can see the benchmark results below, compared to the iPad Pro. Although the numbers aren't as impressive as Apple's rival, the performance of the Galaxy Tab S3 is still impressively smooth.

It's perfectly capable of running intensive apps and offer the ability to use two side-by-side with Multi-Window.

Storage and connectivity

When it comes to memory and storage, the Tab S3 has a combination of 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. You can always add up to 256GB more if needed via the Micro-SD card slot.

It’s also got features likes Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi with 2x2 MIMO and optional LTE Cat 6. There's no features such as NFC or an infrared sensor here.

What there is, once again, is a fingerprint scanner which sits traditionally on the front with capacitive buttons either side for navigation. The sensor is fast and reliable as you would hope and can be used to to unlock the device, verify your Samsung account instead of a password and sign into websites.

Galaxy Tab S3 features

Cameras

Not that cameras are especially important on tablets but the Galaxy Tab S3 comes with a 13Mp rear camera and a 5Mp front camera.

Although the rear camera has an LED flash and an f/1.9 aperture, the results from it are nothing special. You could, if you're happy to shoot with a large tablet, post reasonable quality content on social media but you wouldn't want to use it for anything more serious.

The front camera is about average and will serve as way to video call and the like. However, the placement means holding the tablet naturally means you're not quite framed right in the picture.

Galaxy Tab S3 keyboard case

Battery life

Inside is a 6000mAh battery that’s about twice the size of a typical smartphone. However, that's a fair chunk smaller than the 9240mAh found on the Google Pixel C.

That said, we're pretty impressed with the battery life on offer here. The Galaxy Tab S3 will almost give you the advertised 12 hours of video playback and holds the charge very well on standby. 

As mentioned, the tablet charges via the USB-C port and although there's no wireless charging, the supplied fast charger will get you to 100 percent in around two and a half hours which is pretty good.

Galaxy Tab S3 S Pen

S Pen

Another key feature is the inclusion of a new S Pen. The refined stylus has a smaller 0.7mm tip and improved pressure sensitivity - four times that of the Apple Pencil.

This reviewer is no artist but it seems decent, although we did accidentally push the button on the side a few times. The pre-installed Pen.Up app is a sort of social networking app for artists and you can create various things in Notes but there are better apps out there if you look.

You also get the usual Air Command menu for doing things like creating note, smart select, screen write, translate, magnify and more.

The most annoying thing, like the iPad Pro, is that there's nowhere to keep the S Pen. It doesn’t attach to, or slide into the tablet - hence why it’s not called a ‘Note’ device.

Galaxy Tab S3 software

Galaxy Tab S3: Software

While the Galaxy Book tablets run on Windows 10, the Galaxy Tab S3 comes with Android 7.0 Nougat.

That's good but Android still doesn't translate to tablets as well as iOS. Generally, apps on the platform aren't optimised for larger screens so can look a bit rubbish on the 9.7in display here. There's more subtle things like icons not looking their best, too.

Everything is pretty smooth and simple with pre-installed apps from, as usual, Google, Microsoft and Samsung itself. These include Samsung Flow which allows you to wirelessly tether compatible devices to transfer documents and sync messages.

Galaxy Tab S3 Multi Window

It's easy to do what you want with the software in terms of apps or even a different launcher (if you don't want Briefing next to the homescreen, for example), but you can't change everything.

For example, Multi Window is a handy feature but it doesn't always run nicely, requiring you to tap on one to bring it to life. That's especially annoying if it's a messenger app and you're not getting new messages through while using the other app.

Also see: Best new tablets coming in 2017.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3: Specs

  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 9.7in Super AMOLED screen with HDR
  • 2048x1536
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB storage
  • Micro-SD card slot
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • GPS
  • 11ac Wi-Fi with 2x2 MIMO
  • LTE Cat 6
  • USB-C
  • 6000mAh battery
  • Fast Charging
  • 13Mp rear camera
  • 5Mp front camera
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • Four speakers
  • 237x169x6mm
  • 429g(Wi-Fi)/434g(LTE)
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 9.7in Super AMOLED screen with HDR
  • 2048x1536
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB storage
  • Micro-SD card slot
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • GPS
  • 11ac Wi-Fi with 2x2 MIMO
  • LTE Cat 6
  • USB-C
  • 6000mAh battery
  • Fast Charging
  • 13Mp rear camera
  • 5Mp front camera
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • Four speakers
  • 237x169x6mm
  • 429g(Wi-Fi)/434g(LTE)

OUR VERDICT

There's no doubt the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is the best Android tablet to be launched in years. If you're looking for a high-end device to rival the iPad Pro running Google's software then this is it. However, it's not without downsides. The price will be too high for many and doesn't include the Keyboard Cover, the software isn't the best for a tablet and that glass back isn't the best choice for multiple reasons.