Hs-on with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S3: A tablet that works as hard as it plays

BY GreenBot Staff

Published 26 Feb 2017

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S has always felt like a me-too device, an Android tablet built more out of necessity than love. On the surface, it might seem like the Galaxy Tab S3 continues this trend, but this update to the 18-month-old Galaxy Tab S2 doesn’t merely bring Samsung’s flagship tablet up to speed.

Indeed, with a new improved S n in tow an optional keyboard, the Tab S3 is also a bid to fill the sizeable productivity hole left behind by the Note7.

And it just might work. ile we’re all waiting to get our hs on the Galaxy S8— possibly the most anticipated Android phone of all time—Samsung has borrowed some of the best features from the Note 7 to create a tablet truly worthy of the Galaxy name. 

Glorious glass

Nearly every other Android tablet on the market is a plastic, budget offering, so holding the Galaxy Tab S3 is somewhat startling at first. ere the S2 had a polycarbonate back that made it feel cheaper than it should, the S3 brings a premium glass enclosure that rivals the id o’s build quality.

galaxy tab s3 6

The back of the Galaxy Tab S3 is made of glass— it feels wonderful.

It’s ever-so-slightly thicker than its predecessor a touch heavier—which Samsung attributes more to a quad speaker system than the materials it used—but I barely noticed the extra weight while holding the tablet for several minutes. The case attracts the multitude of fingerprints you’d expect from such a glossy, smooth surface, but the higher-end materials make the S3 feel like a true premium Android tablet.

The front of the device is nearly identical to the S2, with a home button/fingerprint sensor flanked by a pair of capacitive navigation buttons. There’s a B-C port instead of microB, but, really, the only noticeable thing that’s changed is the color. ile the tablet comes in black silver varieties, that only applies to the back plate. The front of both models are black, so if you’re a fan of the white frame you’re out of luck.

galaxy tab s3 8

You can get the Tab S3 in any color so long as it’s black.

Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with Samsung’s design choices, though the off-center placement of the B port still bothers me, as does the sideways Samsung logo when the S3 is docked. But in this age of edge-to-edge screens skinny bezels, it’s a little surprising that Samsung went with a years-old design for a flagship Galaxy tablet. It feels a little like the Galaxy S5 did back in 2015—serviceable but a little stale.

Fast loud

Samsung is clearly positioning the Tab S3 as a premium device—the Galaxy response to the id o. Under the hood, the S3 is powered by a Snapdragon 820 chip, a move away from Samsung’s own Exynos processors. But Qualcomm is more than up to the task, everything about the S3 felt snappy, from changing apps to scrubbing through HD movies. And support for the Vulcan A will benefit gaming as well.

galaxy tab s3 9

The Galaxy Tab S3 includes a 13Mcamera, just like the one on the Galaxy S7.

Four stereo speakers are tuned by AKG Acoustics auto-calibrated based on the way you’re holding the device. Samsung’s demo room didn’t have the greatest acoustics, but the sound coming from the speakers was still rich, should provide a stellar movie-watching experience, especially if coupled with the display’s HDR support. There’s a 13Mcamera on the back a 5Mon the front—so take note if you use your tablets for videoconferencing or (yikes) still photography.

Unlike the Galaxy Tab S2, there’s no smaller 8-inch version for the S3. Samsung said it wanted to emphasize the tablet’s productivity story, but I see no reason why its various productivity features wouldn’t work on an 8-inch device (after all, the Note is only 5.7 inches). But for now, it’s all about the larger model, while pricing wasn’t released, you don’t have to spend much time with it to see that it will likely cost upwards of $500 or $600.

rking class hero

For all its inevitable premium pricing, the Tab S3 includes a new improved S n, you can also buy an optional go pin keyboard, both firsts for the Galaxy Tab S series. However, you’re going to need to keep tabs on your stylus, as there isn’t a Note-style slot on the tablet to store it. Samsung has added a clip to the top of the writing implement, like what you’d find on a stard ball-point pen, but it’s not designed to attach to the S3 in any way.

galaxy tab s3 2

Samsung’s keyboard attaches via a magnetic port on the side of the device.

It’s a bit of a bummer, because the Galaxy Tab S3 is the tablet version of the Note7 in nearly every other way. Most notably, its 9.7-inch 2048×1536 AMOD screen features the High Dynamic Range support that was first introduced on the phablet, allowing for a wider color gamut when watching compatible movies TV shows. I watched some scenes from A Million ys to Die in the st in both stard HD HDR, the differences between the colors in a sunset sunlight illuminating faces were striking.

But while entertainment features might still be the primary drivers behind tablet purchases, the S3 is far from a consumption-only device. The keyboard is pretty stard, attaching via a magnetic connector on the edge holding the tablet at a fixed angle. It’s just as comfortable to use as Apple’s Smart Keyboard or Microsoft’s Surface Touch Cover, but it’s mainly a typing instrument, doesn’t offer any tricks to help with navigation or multitasking.

ite side up

That’s where Samsung’s S n comes in. The S3 runs Android 7.0, adopts all of the Note’s stylus tricks, including the Air Comm action panel, the ability to jot down memos when the display is off. Samsung has improved the look build of the S n for the S3 as well, giving it more of a traditional feel.

galaxy tab s3 3

The screen-off memos feature is cool, but I don’t see it being all that useful on a tablet.

It has the same 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity as the Note 7’s S n, the rubber tip glided smoothly across the screen whether the tablet was resting flat on a table or propped in the keyboard dock. It felt like a ball-point would across a sheet of paper. It’s light enough to hold for extended periods of time, since it doesn’t depend on Bluetooth, you can use it without any concern for pairing or charging.

galaxy tab s pen

The S n is a great addition to the Galaxy Tab S3, even without a way to attach it to the device.

The Air Comm menu, summoned by hovering the S n over the screen, is the same as the one on the Note 7. It includes shortcuts to note GIF creation, screenshot capture, annotation, translation, magnification, it adds a level of multitasking to the tablet that wasn’t there before. There’s also support for the off-screen memos feature (which lets you take hwritten notes without needing to turn on the screen), but it seems more suited to an on-the-go phone feature than a tablet one. Still, though, it’s great to see Samsung properly implement S n support into a high-end Android tablet.

Does it matter?

The question remains whether Samsung can convince Android users that they need to buy a tablet. The Galaxy Tab S3 might be the best tablet you can buy, but that’s not saying a whole lot in a market littered with devices that are often given away with new phone purchases.

galaxy tab s3 7

The Galaxy Tab S3 is a great package that Samsung has to convince people to buy.

The S3 will almost certainly be marketed alongside the S8 once it’s released, but in my time with the tablet, I got the feeling that it’s less of a companion this time around, more of a stalone device with its own story to tell. I’m not currently using a Galaxy phone as my daily driver, but I could definitely see myself using a Galaxy Tab S3 for working at my desk for long stretches. Samsung just has to convince a few million more people that they should, too.