Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is nearly upon us, so here’s what we already know about Samsung’s next flagship tablet, including the Galaxy Tab S3 release date, specs, features, and price.
Update (18 November 2016): A batch of very expensive Samsung tablets have been shipped into India for testing purposes, sporting a model number not currently attributed to any existing Samsung tablet. Read on to find out more.
Samsung is due to launch a new tablet any day now, and history has taught us to expect good things from the Galaxy Tab S series. The good news is that we’re expecting a release within the next few months.
The tablet is likely to borrow plenty from the Samsung Galaxy S7, and that’s a good thing. The Galaxy S7 is brilliant – we gave it a 10/10 score – so we’re hoping Samsung’s next tablet follows suit and can make a serious dent in iPad Air 2 sales.
Unfortunately, aside from a smattering of leaks and rumours, we’ve heard very little about the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. That’s no surprise: Samsung has successfully kept its tablets largely under wraps in previous years. Nevertheless, as we approach the launch date, we’re sure to see more solid information trickling out.
We’re expecting to see the Galaxy Tab S3 featuring the powerful Exynos 8890 chip that's in the S7, which is good news. You can read on for more in-depth information about the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 specs.
Here’s all the latest Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 news...
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Latest Galaxy Tab S3 News
When does the Galaxy Tab S3 come out? Soon (maybe)
What’s new about the Galaxy Tab S3? New chip, screen, USB-C?
How much will the Galaxy Tab S3 cost? £319/£399 (probably)
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Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Release Date UK & US – When will the new Galaxy Tab S3 come out?
Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S devices always arrive a few months after a given year’s Galaxy S smartphone launch:
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 release date – July 20, 2015 (via press release)
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S release date – June 12, 2014 (via press event)
Based on that (not so extensive) history, we’d have expected to see the Galaxy Tab S3 arrive in either June or July – unfortunately, neither happened. Now 2016 is nearly over, and there's still no sign of the Tab S3. Samsung needs to make sure its tablets arrive while all of the specs still feel relevant, and because the Galaxy Tab S3 is likely to borrow many of the Galaxy S7’s innards, delaying the launch much further could leave the tablet feeling stale.
Rumours suggested that the new Galaxy Tab S3 would be unveiled at Samsung's IFA 2016 press conference. That didn't transpire unfortunately. That's left us completely bewildered, and largely clueless as to the true Galaxy Tab S3 release date.
It's also worth noting that the Galaxy Tab S3 made a recent trip through the FCC, the USA's main certification board for telecommunications devices. Every smartphone or tablet sold in the US goes through the FCC, so it was only a matter of time that the Tab S3 would appear. What's more, devices aren't usually certified until they're close to launch, so this appears to be ample evidence that a Tab S3 release is imminent.
The best we have to go on right now is a Sammobile report that says Samsung is planning to debut the new tablet in the first quarter of 2017, although an exact date isn’t given. Unfortunately, most of the information we've seen on the Galaxy Tab S3 release so far has been inaccurate.
Then in November, a batch of Samsung tablets earmarked for ‘research and development’ purposes was shipped into India, as revealed by local import/export tracker Zauba. What’s interesting is that the model number of the tablets is SM-T825, which doesn’t match up with any existing Samsung tablet.
According to Zauba, each Samsung SM-T825 tablet is valued at 34,138 Indian Rupees, which translates to around £400 – that marks the devices as high-end. All units were shipped from Samsung’s home turf of South Korea, and there were eight tablets in total.
There are a number of prime opportunities to launch a new tablet next year, although two stand out particularly. The first is CES 2017, the Las Vegas tradeshow that will run from January 5 to January 8 next year. The second is MWC 2017, a Barcelona-based conference scheduled for February 27 to March 2. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a new Galaxy Tab launch at either event.
Unfortunately, until we see some more concrete leaks, it’s too difficult to pin down an exact release date at this point.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Leaks and Images
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 leaks have been in short supply, but we’re not entirely in the dark. That’s mostly thanks to prolific tipster and journalist Evan Blass (codename: @Evleaks) who posted three possible Galaxy Tab S3 design renders to Twitter:
The design appears to be mostly unchanged from the Galaxy Tab S2, but there appears to be at least one modification: it looks like the display’s aspect ratio has switched back to 16:10 from 4:3. We're not so sure that's a good thing. Most of the TrustedReviews office thinks that a squarer tablet works better.
It also looks like there will be at least two colour options for the Galaxy Tab S3 – white and black. The Tab S2 also shipped with a gold option, so count that as a third possible variant.
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Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Screen
Last year’s Galaxy Tab S2 featured an AMOLED screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio and a 2,048 x 1,536 pixel resolution. It was available in two variants – 8-inches and 9.7-inches. The Galaxy Tab S, meanwhile, shipped in 8.4-inch and 10.5-inch variants, featuring a 16:10 aspect ratio display with a 2,560 x 1,600 screen resolution.
So what can we expect to see from the Galaxy Tab S3 screen? Well, the render leak we mentioned earlier appeared to show a 16:10 screen, which would be a departure from last year’s display. Most of the rumours we’ve seen also point to Samsung retaining last year’s form factors – 8-inch and 9.7-inch models – and it's almost certain to be AMOLED rather than IPS.
Unfortunately, we’ve heard nothing on resolution. Previous Galaxy Tab S devices have shipped with at least QHD resolutions, so we’d expect nothing less this time around. If anything, the Galaxy Tab S3 could give Samsung a chance to finally show off a 4K display. Ultra HD tablet screens built by Samsung have been spotted in the wild as far back as 2014, and the company recently showed off a 4K smartphone display at San Francisco’s Display Week.
But does a tablet really need a 4K display? The 4K screen that Samsung revealed in May was intended to promote virtual reality. After all, when phones are just inches away from your eyes, high pixel density suddenly seems really important. But tablets aren’t used for virtual reality, and 4K panels are seriously power-hungry. As such, we’re more convinced by the argument for 4K phones than 4K tablets. Unless you’re planning to strap a tablet to your face, mind.
Anyway, moving on. The other contentious theory about the Galaxy Tab S3 is the possibility of a curved-edge display. Samsung hasn’t been shy about its ‘Edge’ smartphone – like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge – marketing them heavily as an new and innovative design. While it wouldn’t be surprising to see Samsung unveil an ‘Edge’ version of the Galaxy Tab S3, we’ve seen no hard evidence suggesting that’s the case. Don’t count on this one.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Specs
There are two possible options for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 processor. The first is that it borrows the Galaxy S7’s processor. The second is that it doesn’t.
Last year, the Galaxy Tab S2 came equipped with Samsung’s own custom-built Exynos 7 Octa 5433 chip, which is the one that featured in the Galaxy S6 smartphone. That means we’d expect to see the Galaxy S7 processor – the Exynos 8890 – featuring in the Galaxy Tab S3. It’s also worth noting that some Galaxy S7 models didn’t use Samsung’s own chip, instead featuring Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820. There’s a good chance that chip may also feature in the Galaxy Tab S3.
Both the Exynos 8890 and the Snapdragon 820 are formidable chips in their own right. The Exynos 8890 is an octa-core chip with a clock-rate of 2.3GHz, built on a highly efficient 14nm manufacturing process. It uses fast LPDDR4 dual-channel memory, and has a LTE Cat.12 modem for a theoretical maximum download speed of 600Mbps.
The Snapdragon 820 is very similar, because it’s also built on Samsung’s own 14nm FinFET processor. The 820, however, is a quad-core chip – not necessarily better nor worse than an octa-core chip. It also features Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X12 modem, with a 600Mbps maximum download speed.
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Both chips are top of the range right now, but there’s another option we haven’t mentioned: the Snapdragon 652. We’ve seen plenty of rumours online that suggest Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 652 might feature. This chip was actually announced as the Snapdragon 620 back in February 2015, but has since been renamed. It’s not as powerful as the Snapdragon 820, but its Adreno 510 GPU can support graphics on a QHD display, which would suit the Galaxy Tab S3 just fine. Samsung has also used the chip already, featuring it on the Galaxy A9 and Galaxy A9 Pro.
We’d hope that Samsung would spring for the more powerful processors for the Galaxy Tab S3, but a lower-class CPU will be less power-hungry, and could win Samsung over on power efficiency alone.
Storage, RAM, Camera
Unfortunately, we don’t know a great deal about other possible Galaxy Tab S3 specs.
Regarding storage, the Galaxy Tab S came in 16/32GB storage options, while the Galaxy Tab S2 came in 32/64GB storage options. We’ve seen rumours that the Galaxy Tab S3 will ship with 32GB of storage, although we’d expect to see 64GB again too. Could there be a massive 128GB option? Well Apple’s iPad Pro offers this, so maybe. But remember that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S devices have always offered Micro SD slots, so expandable storage reduces the need for built-in memory.
On the matter of RAM, the rumour is that we’ll see a 3GB module. Both the Galaxy Tab S and Galaxy Tab S2 featured 3GB of RAM, so it would be very surprising if the Galaxy Tab S3 had anything less. Samsung recently unveiled a 10nm 6GB RAM chip that’s expected to debut in devices later this year, but that seems too large an upgrade. Honestly, we’d expect nothing greater than 4GB of RAM.
Finally, the Galaxy Tab S3 is rumoured to feature an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and 2-megapixel front-facing camera. Samsung’s Galaxy S7 received critical acclaim for its impressive 12-megapixel DualPixel camera, but tablets tend to feature less powerful cameras than their smartphone equivalents. We’ll have to wait for more solid leaks before we can say anything for certain, but don’t expect an incredible snapper on the Galaxy Tab S3.
USB Type C is the next big thing in mobile connection ports. That’s hardly the sexiest accolade, but the industry’s gradual transition from Micro USB to USB-C is an important one.
Samsung has already made the the switch to USB-C with the Galaxy Note 7. That's why we’re convinced the Galaxy Tab S3 will make the switch too.
After all, USB-C is picking up momentum. Many Samsung rivals have adopted the tech, most notably in the case of Apple with its 12-inch MacBook, or the HTC 10 and LG G5 when it comes to phones. In any case, there haven’t been any rumours for a USB-C Galaxy Tab S3 however, so you can keep those Micro USB cables...for now, anyway.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Battery Life
To work out the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 battery life, our best bet is to look to the past. In our original review for the Galaxy Tab S2, we wrote: “With regular use I generally achieved between two or three days’ use from the Galaxy Tab S2”. The Galaxy Tab S, meanwhile, managed a very impressive 14.2 hours SOT (screen-on time) while playing high-quality BBC iPlayer video. As such, we’d expect great things from the Galaxy Tab S3.
Here are previous Galaxy Tab S battery capacities:
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 – 4,900mAh battery
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 – 7,900mAh battery
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 – 4,000mAh battery
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 – 5,870mAh battery
You’ve probably noticed that the battery capacities seem to have shrunk over time. That’s because optimisations to processors, software, and screens all reduce the power consumption of a device. That meant that the Tab S2 didn’t need a battery as big as the Tab S to last as long. And by downgrading the battery capacity, Samsung can make sure that its tablets are svelte and light.
So what should we expect from the Galaxy Tab S3? Leaked benchmarks tipped a 4,000mAh battery for the 8-inch model and a 5,870mAh battery for the 9.7-inch model, just like last year. Until other evidence arrives, we can’t say whether this will happen or not. But it seems likely.
There’s also a chance that Samsung may offer fast- and wireless-charging for the Galaxy Tab S3, just like the Galaxy S7. There’s been no evidence for this so far, of course. But the Galaxy S7 was well received by critics, so it makes sense that Samsung would want to emulate its design as closely as possible. Fast-charging is especially important with tablets, due to the increased battery capacity and consequently slower charging times. Stay tuned.
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Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Waterproof
Will the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 be waterproof? We’re not sure, but we’d say it’s likely. That’s because the Tab S series generally bases its design on the Galaxy S devices launching in the same year. One of the best features of the Galaxy S7 was its waterproof chassis, so we’re hoping that the Tab S3 is similarly hydrophobic.
Unfortunately, none of the previous Galaxy Tab S tablets have been waterproof, but that doesn’t mean it’s a no-go area for Samsung. The Galaxy S7 was a real hit, and waterproofing was a big part of that. Being able to get a tablet wet is a big pull, after all. Maybe you’re watching videos while doing the washing up or showering, or perhaps you get caught in a sudden summer shower? There are plenty of good reasons to waterproof a tablet, and the Galaxy S7 shows Samsung that consumers are willing to pay for it.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Software – Android Marshmallow or Android N?
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 will almost certainly arrive before the autumn launch of Android N (Android Nutella, anyone?). As such, we’d be very surprised if the device landed with a copy of Android N on board.
What’s much more likely is that the Galaxy Tab S3 will follow the Galaxy S7’s suit and ship featuring Android Marshmallow (6.0.1). The Google-built operating system has been available publicly for about nine months, so it’s not exactly old.
Perhaps the bigger question is whether the Galaxy Tab S3 will ever get the upgrade to Android N during its lifespan? The good news is that the Galaxy Tab S2 began receiving the Marshmallow update back in April this year. So while you might be waiting a while for Android N on the Galaxy Tab S3, we’d be very surprised if it never arrived.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Price – How much will it cost?
Normally, this is where we’d say that pricing is really hard to predict for unreleased devices, and that it takes a lot of educated guesswork. But it’s a little easier with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. That’s because historic Galaxy Tab S devices have maintained consistent pricing since their inception. Thanks, Samsung:
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 price – £319
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 price – £399
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 price – £319
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 price – £399
As such, we’d once again expect to see two Galaxy Tab S variants – small and big – pricing at £319 and £399 respectively. Of course, Samsung could switch up its pricing strategy this year, but it’s unlikely that this year’s R.R.P will stray too far from its forebears.
Don’t forget that Samsung usually offers 4G/LTE versions of its Tab S devices too. You can probably expect an additional £100(-ish) premium for that luxury, mind.
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Should I wait for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3?
The Galaxy Tab S3 is (probably) nearly here, which means we already have a good idea of what its rivals will be. That said, until we know the exact details – like specs and pricing – we can’t make any definitive comparisons.
The obvious competition comes in the form of Apple tablets. Apple’s powerhouse iPad Pro now caters for multiple use-cases with its 9.7-inch (2016) and 12.9-inch (2015) form factors. There’s also the 7.9-inch iPad Mini 4, released in September last year. All of these are formidable tablets, but if you prefer Android, then iOS simply won’t do.
So who are the big contenders running alternative operating systems? You might like some of these:
- Amazon Fire HD 10 – £169.99 – 5/10
- Google Pixel C – £399 – 8/10
- Microsoft Surface Pro 4 – £749 – 9/10
- Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro – £360 – 8/10
- Nvidia Shield Tablet K1 – £149.99 – 9/10
Of course, we’re also expecting new tablets later this year. Apple will almost certainly give us some new goodies, and there’s a good chance we’ll see something new from Google too.
What tablet are you most excited for in the coming year? Let us know in the comments.
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