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Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 hands-on review: a well-deserved Tab S2 upgrade

As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait. The Samsung Tab S2 was introduced at the end of 2015 and now, only 18 months later, comes the release of the Samsung Tab S3. Could this be the tablet which finally hits the iPad on the head? Here are our first impressions of latest release from the South Korean manufacturer.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 release date and price

Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy Tab S3 almost 18 months after the Tab S2 was released in September 2015. Again, the tablet comes in variants either with or without a SIM card slot for independent LTE connection. The capacitive S-Pen is also included in the price for the first time ever, but the keyboard will only be free for those who pre-order the tablet. The keyboard will come at an extra charge. Exact price and availability for the US to be confirmed, though it will be available in Europe in the coming weeks for 679 and 769 Euros.

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The expensive keyboard up-close. / © AndroidPIT

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 design and build quality

The design of the Galaxy Tab S3 is virtually unchanged compared to the Galaxy Tab S2, measuring in at 9.7-inches. The new tablet continues to stick to the iPad 4:3 ratio format. This proves to be equally practical in landscape-format and portrait-format applications. The frame is made of metal and the rest of the housing is made of glass. It's important to note that the tablet is not waterproof.

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The Tab S3, the MWC 2017 highlight from Samsung. / © AndroidPIT

The home button is still mechanical, not capacitative. The fingerprint sensor is still located here. The Galaxy Tab S3 finally combines all the key strengths of the Samsung tablets: both the S-Pen and the Bluetooth keyboard are included in the overall package. This means you can use it as a graphics tablet with 2,048 printable levels or as a digital notepad, as well as converting into a small netbook. Thanks to the new software adjustments, which I will discuss later, the tablet is great at handling multitasking.

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The device is elegant. / © AndroidPIT

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 display

Why try to improve on what is already perfect? The high-resolution display has been retained and includes 2,048 x 1,536 pixels to 9.7-inches means 264 ppi. Super AMOLED stands for maximum contrast and crisp colors. The 4:3 format provides for black bars at the top and bottom when watching movies. In portrait display format, however, it is an eBook page.

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The sharp display can now be used with a pen. / © AndroidPIT

The tab S-Pen is attached to the Tab S3. If you choose to use this, you can adjust the sensitivity of the contact response on the tablet. The Wacom stylus itself supports 4,096 pressure stages. In the drawing app, calligraphy is possible and complex drawings worked rather well in our hands-on. 

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All put-together: the tablet, S Pen and keyboard. / © AndroidPIT

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 software

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 comes equipped with Android 7.0 Nougat with the Grace UX software interface. Since it runs Nougat, core features such as multi-window mode have, of course, been added. The former was already available in previous Samsung tablets, but this has now been optimized. So we can now expect a better user experience, but we'll have to wait for a more detailed review of the Tab S3 before we know any more on that.

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 Will the Tab S3 be a hit?/ © AndroidPIT

Samsung has placed Samsung Flow on this tablet. You can easily share your LTE connection with your computer, if you have also installed Flow on it. SMS and other notifications are then also displayed on the PC. In addition, you can unlock Windows 10 with the fingerprint reader on your tablet. This is all theoretical, of course, because it remains to be tested.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 performance

The hardware that has been installed on the Galaxy Tab S3 promises to provide a level of performance akin to that of the Galaxy S7. The former was regarded as an ideal device for gamers, as it supported graphically rich games well and did not heat up to a critical level. The Tab S3 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad core processor ticking at 2.15 and 1.6 GHz.

Therefore, it makes complete sense that Samsung continues to appeal to the gamers out there as the S3 comes with both the game mode and Game Explorer pre-installed. These optimizations improve the gaming experience by suppressing notifications and providing additional features such as screen recording and simultaneous recording with the Selfie Cam, which makes the Tab S3 the ideal "Let's Play" tablet.

As for RAM, the tablet will have 4 GB. The Tab S3 will have 32 GB of internal storage, expandable up to 256 GB via microSD.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 audio

The purchase of Harman & Kardon bears fruit with the S3 Tab. The four built-in loudspeakers of the H & K subsidiary AKG ensure full sound, which sounded reasonably good in our hands-on. If you rotate the screen, the stereo distribution of the speakers follows accordingly. In our full review, we will want to play our own audio with it and see how the AKG speakers in the Tab S3 really beat.

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Great sound thanks to Harmon & Kardon. / © AndroidPIT

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 camera

Even if the camera is not one of the main arguments for buying a tablet, Samsung has installed pretty good hardware to the photo enthusiasts out there. At the rear, there is now a 12 MP camera instead of the 8 MP one included in the Tab S2. The shutter opens again with f / 1.9. In front of us looks a 4.7 megapixel camera, which enables Skype calls in Full HD.

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The 13 MP main camera on the Galaxy Tab S3. / © AndroidPIT

Whether the cameras are actually suitable for simple snapshots inside or outdoors, or if video calls are possible even in difficult light conditions, we will find out when we do a more comprehensive review of the tablet in the near future. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 battery

The Tab S3 includes a 6,000 mAh battery, which should be able to withstand 12 hours of heavy use and can be recharged quickly thanks to Adaptive Fast Charge and USB Type-C connection. For us to really determine how the Tab S3 really performs it should, ideally, be submitted to a minimum test period of one week. We'll come back with that soon.

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Behind the backside hides the 6,000 mAh battery. / © AndroidPIT

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 technical specifications

    • Type:
    • Tablet
    • Manufacturer:
    • Samsung
    • Dimensions:
    • 237.3 x 169 x 6 mm
    • Weight:
    • 434 g
    • Battery size:
    • 6000 mAh
    • Screen size:
    • 9.7 in
    • Display technology:
    • AMOLED
    • Screen:
    • 2048 x 1536 pixels (264 ppi)
    • Front camera:
    • 5 megapixels
    • Rear camera:
    • 13 megapixels
    • Flashlight:
    • LED
    • Android version:
    • 7.0 - Nougat
    • User interface:
    • TouchWiz
    • RAM:
    • 4 GB
    • Internal storage:
    • 32 GB
    • Removable storage:
    • microSD
    • Chipset:
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
    • Number of cores:
    • 4
    • Max. clock speed:
    • 2.15 GHz
    • Connectivity:
    • HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2

Early Verdict

Thanks to the inclusion of some key features, especially Samsung's decision to (finally!) include the S-Pen and the reworked software, the Tab S3 promises to become the well-deserved but also expected upgrade to the Tab S2. The better speakers mean it might be the ideal device for watching a movie in bed. When we get a chance to undertake a more detailed test we'll be able to get a better idea on the S-Pen functions and how well the Tab S3 works as a netbook replacement for everyday use. 

7 comments

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  • Yesterday I purchased the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. I absolutely love it, although the pen having no official storage is absolutely irritating. I am curious to know your opinions on WIFI vs. LTE. The Best Buy associate and the Tmobile associates said they had no idea on release date. I hate having to depend on someone elses WIFI if I'm not at home. Thoughts?

  • Andy 1 week ago Link to comment

    Too Little Too Late Samsung. I had to go over to Apple for the Ipad Pro 12.9", because you stopped the Note Line of Tablets. I had the Note 8 and the Original Note10.1 tablets and you stopped updates and making them. Since you left me as a consumer when I needed a new Tablet, I had to go elsewhere. I just tried the Tab S3 at Best Buy tonight and wasn't impressed. The size is too small for me as an artist, maybe if you came out with a 12" S3 with an S Pen, then I'll consider. I'm a Die hard Android Fan for phones and Tablets, but your decision to leave behind people who loved the Note Tablets, made me leave you. I'm quite happy with the Ipad Pro, though I miss the floating windows on Android. That's about it though.

    • I'd say the S3 is superior to the IPad Pro in every way "except" size. You have a valid point in terms of sheer screen size. Mind you if I were going into the 12" tablet territory, I'd go for the Surface Pro over the IPad Pro. IOS is terrible. Mind you the IPad Pro Pen supports 1024 levels of pressure while the Surface Pro pen supports 256 levels, the new Samsung S-Pen supports 4000 levels. I guess if size is your main concern though, the Pro 12" makes sense. I had one for awhile and it was like holding up a cookie tray :)

      • Andy 5 days ago Link to comment

        Yeah, but I'm able to do art like I never did on my Note Tablets with the IPad Pro. Procreate is an amazing app to use. On Android they had a variety of options to use for Art and Drawing, but I have really improved my art since working with the IPP and Procreate. I wasn't liking Sketchbook Pro on Android or IOS. Artflow was good, but not as easy to use. I still think Android is better in many ways, but this tablet falls short for my needs. I do think it's a bit overpriced too for the size. The only other thing I miss is the smaller tip on the S Pens, took me awhile to get use to the nib on the Apple Pencil, but not a problem once I got use to it.

  • You indicated in your article that the keyboard is Bluetooth. While the device supports Bluetooth, the Samsung keyboard is actually connected via pogo pins and does not need to be charged.

  • Mark 4 weeks ago Link to comment

    Your review say the tablet is metal and plastic. Others reviews are saying it is glass not plastic on the back.

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