Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review: Hands-on with the best Android tablet since the Google Pixel C

It’s been a while since I’ve been excited by an Android tablet launch, but the new Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, launched at the big Samsung event on the first day at MWC2017 has most brought that fallow period crashing to an end. 

It looks to be the most significant development in the category since the iPad Pro 9.7in and a strong competitor to the Googe Pixel C, which is the only 2-in-1 Android tablet I’d currently recommend.

Just like Samsung’s last premium tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 has a gloriously colourful 9.7in AMOLED display and it’s incredibly thin and light. As a tablet on it’s own, it’s a truly beautiful thing; what makes the biggest difference this time around, though, is that it comes with an enhanced S Pen stylus for making notes, annotating documents and sketching and painting onscreen, as well as an optional iPad Pro-style “Pogo” keyboard.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review: Key specifications and release date

9.7in 2,048 x 1,536 AMOLED display with support for HDR and blue light filter
Quad-core, 2.15GHz Qualcomm® Snapdragon 820 processor
4GB RAM
32GB storage
microSD card slot (up to 256GB)
Optional 4G with up to Cat6 300Mbits/sec download speed
Enhanced S Pen included
AKG-branded quad-stereo speaker array
“Pogo” physically connected keyboard (optional)
6,000mAh battery
Android 7 Nougat

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review: Key features and first impressions

Pick it up, however, and the first two things that strike you are the vibrant 2,048 x 1,536 AMOLED screen and the Galaxy Tab S3’s incredible slimness and light weight. This tablet measures a mere 6mm from the glass at the front to its metal rear backplate, and it weighs a ludicrously light 429g. Those are stats that rival the iPad Pro 9.7in; no word of a lie, this is an absolutely gorgeous tablet.

The attraction of this tablet, however, is it’s optional keyboard and bundled S-Pen stylus. The keyboard (for which we have no price yet) attaches via a magnetic pogo-pin connection on one of the long edges of the tablet, folding over and propping up the tablet just like the iPad Pro 9.7in’s. For the most part it’s a pretty darned good keyboard, too, with a good positive click to each and every key stroke and sizeable keys for the most part. The case props the tablet up at a usable angle and doubles as a case when it’s not in use.

” title=”<–wysiwyg_see-related_plugin–>”>I do, however, have issues with the layout. While it’s possible to get up to a decent speed, even while touch-typing, the various function and navigational keys surrounding the keyboard are simply too small. Specifically, the left Tab and Shift keys, the Enter and Backspace are all too fiddly and squashed in. Now, you’d probably get used to this over time, but only if you use the keyboard frequently and often. If it’s for casual use, this could become a serious irritation.   

As for the stylus, it’s Samsung’s most advanced S-Pen yet, with a smaller tip than ever, measuring 0.7mm across. It felt lovely to write with on the Galaxy Tab S3’s screen in the short time I had with it at the launch event, but my favourite thing about it is a new feature called Screen Off Memo, which allows you to jot quick notes on the screen without having to unlock it or even turn it on.

That’s not all, though. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is also kitted out with an AKG-branded “quad-stereo” speaker array, which automatically detects the orientation you’re holding it in so you get a proper stereo image whether the tablet is in portrait or landscape.

It’s impossible to tell quite how good tablet speakers are in the hubbub of a big technology launch, so we’ll have to hold fire on passing any kind of judgement just yet. However, the quad-speaker tablets we’ve seen so far – the iPad Pro 12.9in, the iPad Pro 9.7in and the Huawei M2 10 – have sounded great, so I have high hopes of these.

As for the camera, that looks promising too, with a 13-megapixel autofocus snapper on the rear capable of shooting 4K video and a 5-megapixel shooter on the front. There’s also a front-mounted fingerprint reader, and you’ll almost certainly be pleased to discover that Samsung isn’t dropping the 3.5mm headphone jack. There’s one on the bottom edge right next to the USB Type-C connector.

And how about the internal specifications? Well, they look decent if not cutting edge. The Tab S3 has a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor running the show – a little behind the times in smartphone terms, perhaps, but it should be plenty quick enough to power this little beauty – and it felt lightning quick when I tried it out.

READ NEXT: The best tablets of 2017

There’s also 4GB of RAM, 32GB of built-in storage and a microSD slot for expansion, which will take cards up to 256GB in size. Plus, Samsung will also sell a 4G/LTE model with download speeds of up to 300Mbits/sec for road warriors. Finally, a 6,000mAh battery promises to deliver up to 12 hours of video playback per charge.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review: Early verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 looks to be a very nice tablet indeed, but then the Tab S2 was great as well. The key factor will be the price, and we don’t know what that is just yet.

I’d imagine that, given its past record, Samsung will probably set the price at a similar level to the iPad Pro 9.7in, which would make it £549, but with the S Pen thrown in. I’d love it to be cheaper, but I can’t see it happening.

The big problem Samsung faces with the Tab S3, though, is that no matter how good the hardware, Android still doesn’t make a very good tablet operating system. Aside from that, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 looks very nice indeed

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