UPDATE: Samsung has finally unveiled pricing for its new tablet. The Tab S3 will be priced at £599, with the keyboard adding £119. It'll go on sale March 31 with pre-orders starting March 17.Android fans on the market for a tablet have had a tough time of it in recent years. Outside of the Pixel C, and now slightly dated Nvidia Shield K1, they’ve had woefully little choice. Enter the Galaxy Tab S3, a premium Android Nougat tablet that Samsung claims will meet everyone's needs.
The Galaxy Tab S3 is the follow-up to Samsung’s older Galaxy Tab S2, but it looks more like an enlarged Galaxy S7. The tablet has a glass back and front that’s neatly contained within a metal frame. Round the sides you’ll find four speakers plus a microSD slot and USB Type-C. The only design similarity between it and the S2 is the appearance of a physical home button on the tablet’s front.
This combination of features gives the Tab S3 a premium feel and makes it better looking than its arch-rival, the Pixel C. Build quality felt solid but, as with all glass-back devices, I’m not 100% convinced it would survive anything more than a slight accidental drop or bump unscathed.
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The addition of an S Pen stylus with the Galaxy Tab S3 is another welcome change. S Pens have been a staple inclusion with he Samsung Note-series phablets and Windows tablets, and in my mind are a key selling point. From what I’ve seen this remains the case on the Tab S3.
Doodling in one of Samsung’s TouchWiz painting apps, I found that the S Pen was suitably reactive to changes in pressure and angle, and enacted commands with minimal latency. The use of a rubber – as opposed to plastic – tip also meant the stylus felt far more like a traditional pen or pencil when taking notes in S Note.
Although I didn’t manage to get an exact quote of how much of the Adobe RGB colour gamut – often used by artists and photographers – the screen covers, my impressions with the naked eye were positive.
The 9.7-inch QXGA resolution display looked super-sharp during my hands-on, and the Super AMOLED tech ensured blacks were wonderfully inky. Colours looked a little warm, but not annoyingly so, and the inclusion of screen colour calibration options in the Settings menu should make it easy enough to fix the issue.
The screen also ticks all the right boxes for those looking for an entertainment device, being capable of playing HDR content. Although the amount of HDR content available for streaming is limited, it's a welcome addition that will help future-proof the Tab S3.
Samsung claims the Tab S3’s quad speaker setup will further aid the tablet’s entertainment offering and is “one of the loudest and clearest seen on a tablet”. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to check this out during my demo.
Excited? You should be, but be warned – I do have a few concerns about the S3. For starters, it runs on an older Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chip. Paired with 4GB of RAM, this means the device should be more than powerful enough for regular use and gaming – especially with support for the new Vulkan API – but it will impact its power efficiency.
This, plus the tablet’s slightly undersized 6,000mAh battery, leaves me concerned that the Tab S3 may not offer the best battery life. The Pixel C has a 9,243mAh battery, by comparison.
I’m also not completely sold on the tablet’s software. TouchWiz has come on leaps and bounds since it was first introduced, and now has significantly less needless UI changes and bloatware apps than competing skins, such as Huawei’s Emotion UI – but I still prefer a clean Android install.
This is mainly because it makes it easier for companies to quickly release updates to new versions of Android and, despite Samsung saying otherwise, I can’t help but think TouchWiz is the reason the tablet will launch running the 7.0, not the latest 7.1, version of Android Nougat.
The optional keyboard cover was also a little bit of a mixed bag during my hands-on. The cover was comfortable to type on, had nicely spread-out reactive keys and, unlike the Pixel C’s, doesn’t require charging. However, I’m not a fan of the magnetic connection.
Using magnets on a stand and tablet's rear to set the sitting angle has never worked particularly well on any device I’ve tested – the Huawei MateBook, a prime example – and I wish more companies would invest in creating decent hinged systems, such as that of the Pixel C.
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The Galaxy Tab S3 is one of the first exciting Android tablets I’ve seen in a long time. The device plays to Samsung’s strengths and has a great-looking display, alluring design and solid set of extra features – the best of which is the S Pen stylus.
My only concern is that it may also be repeating a couple of Samsung’s past mistakes. The biggest of which are its slightly undersized battery and use of Samsung’s TouchWiz skin.