Starting back in 2011, Samsung decided it would enter the tablet market with its Galaxy Tab 10.1, which was a great Android tablet at the time. Then, Samsung upped its tablet game by coming out with the Galaxy Tab 2, which was slightly thicker, although it also was lighter than its predecessor and offered improved internal specs. Now, Samsung is introducing the next step in its popular tablet series, the Galaxy Tab 3, which are available in three separate sizes: 10.1”, 8” and 7”.
Samsung’s Galaxy series of smartphones, such as the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note, have all sold exceptionally well, with its Galaxy Tab tablets also doing well for the company, although there’s some serious competition in the Android tablet space. Can Samsung deliver an Android tablet that will give its owner the kind of experience that will have you running to your local consumer electronics retailer to pick up a Galaxy Tab 3? There’s only one way to find out, so let’s get on with our review.
We all use our tablets for different reasons, but for the most part, I think it’s safe to assume a good majority of us use it to watch streaming videos, correspond through email or instant messengers, and maybe read an article or two. In my opinion, the purpose of a tablet is to give the user a lite computer experience as you can perform many tasks you’d be able to with a laptop, but in a much smaller and more portable way.
One of the most important aspects of a tablet is its battery power, which, to be honest, is also true for the majority of portable electronics. Having a portable device that has terrible battery life can certainly be considered a deal breaker in some cases. Its portability and raw power are also important, especially if you tend to play games that can only run on more powerful devices or even want a multitasking experience that doesn’t result in your tablet crawling to complete your requests.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 Specs
Display Size: 10.1
Display Resolution: 1280 x 800
Display Type: TFT LCD
Processor: Intel Atom Z2560 1.6GHz dual-core CPU
MicroSD: Yes > up to 64GB
Battery Capacity: 6800mAh
Rear-Facing Camera: 3.2MP
Front-Facing Camera: 1.3MP
Dimensions: 243.1mm x 176.1mm x 7.95mm
Industrial Design (very good)
The design of the Samsung Galaxy Tab hasn’t changed much since the first tablet was introduced in 2011, although the majority of tablets have a similar design anyways. With the Galaxy Tab 3, Samsung streamlined the look of its tablet that would place its speakers on both sides of the device without having two thin pieces of plastic jetting out from the Tab. Samsung made some additional tweaks to the layout of the Tab 3, which we’ll be taking a look at in this portion of our review."WITH THE GALAXY TAB 3, SAMSUNG STREAMLINED THE LOOK OF ITS TABLET"
The first thing you’ll be looking at when you pick up the Galaxy Tab 3 is its 10.1-inch TFT LCD display, which produces a resolution of 1280 x 800. Surrounding the display is its white bezel, since we were lent the white version of the Galaxy Tab 3 for the purposes of our review. The side bezels measure around 1 inch, while the upper and lower bezels are a little thicker measuring 2 inches. The bottom bezel houses the Tab 3’s physical home button and a capacitive menu and back buttons that sit on either side of the home button. The upper bezel is where the Tab 3’s 1.3MP front-facing camera is found, an ambient light sensor and Samsung’s logo.
The rear of the Galaxy Tab 3 is made of plastic, just like the company’s line of smartphones. In fact, if you look closely at the rear, the small mesh coating that can be found in the Galaxy S4 can also be found in the Tab 3, making it feel very familiar. At the top of the rear you’ll find the Tab 3’s 3.2MP rear-facing camera, and below it is where another Sasmung logo can be found.
The outline of the Galaxy Tab 3 also borrows from the design of Samsung’s smartphones as a thin piece of metal is placed along the outer rim of the tablet. The bottom of the Tab 3 is where its microUSB port is located, and as I mentioned earlier, its speakers can now be found at the left and right sides towards the top of the tablet. Above the left speaker is where you’ll find the tablet’s 3.5mm headphone jack. The top of the Tab 3 is where it’s at as you’ll find its power button, volume rocker, microSD slot and an IR blaster port, which allows the tablet to be used as a universal remote control.
Display (very good)
Samsung has yet to introduce a tablet that features an OLED display, which if you’re a Galaxy S4 owner, you know just how crisp and detailed it can look. The Galaxy Tab 3 keeps this tradition of OLED-less tablets going strong as it features a 10.1-inch TFT LCD at a resolution of 1280 x 800. The TFT LCD offers improved visuals over standard LCDs, and you can certainly tell as there’s a nice amount of details in images, videos and even articles when looking at the Tab 3’s display.
Unfortunately, in a world that’s filled with OLED displays and smartphones that feature Full HD displays, we can’t say the Galaxy Tab 3’s display blew our socks off, but we definitely did notice our socks were lowered a bit from their original location. In other words, the display will get the job done, and offer nice visuals, but it isn’t anything amazing.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 Custom Apps
Samsung introduced a rather large number of applications as well as features in its Galaxy S4, and a number of those apps and features have made their way to the Galaxy Tab 3.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 introduced the company’s latest proprietary application called Group Play, which allows other Galaxy owners to play songs located on one device onto the speakers of other devices. Group Play also allows these Galaxy owners share photos, documents and play games with one another and adding new devices to the experience by either scanning for Group Play sessions that are currently active, or by using NFC.
The Galaxy Tab 3 includes Samsung’s answer to Apple’s Siri and Google Now, called S Voice. S Voice was also another application first introduced in the Galaxy S4 that has made its way to the Galaxy Tab 3. The software allows you to speak a number of messages to your Galaxy Tab 3 that will allow it to perform a number of actions. You can either get weather updates, find a local business, open applications, play music and much more straight from S Voice. S Voice can be activated by either opening the application, or by simply saying “Hi Galaxy.”
Peel Smart Remote
In our industrial design section of our review, we mentioned the Galaxy Tab 3 has an IR blaster located at its top. Samsung could just include a universal remote control app and call it a day, but instead, they included the Peel Smart Remote app that makes the experience much better. Yes – you can change channels through the app, but you can also treat it like a second screen as you’ll be able to view what’s being shown right now as well as receive reminders later on tonight if there’s a show you want to catch. The app will also learn your likes and dislikes, and will recommend additional shows and movies based on that feedback.
Virtual Keyboard (excellent)
The virtual keyboard on the Samsung Galaxy Tabs has gone through some serious changes ever since the original Tab was released. The keyboard on the Galaxy Tab 3 offers an experience that is very similar to what is currently available on the Galaxy Note II and Galaxy S4, which of course means not only do you have a very responsive and adaptive keyboard, but it also comes with Swiftkey support. This means you’ll be able to move your finger around the screen to input your key presses without having to lift a finger, which if you’ve perfected this method, results in a much quicker experience.
The Facebook application for the Galaxy Tab 3 reflects much of what we experienced in Android tablets of this size. For the most part, it’s an oversized version of the smartphone application, although photos, videos, and yes, even ads take up the majority of the screen when you’re scrolling through your news feed while in landscape mode. While holding the tablet in portrait mode, content doesn’t take as much of the screen, making it a little more comfortable to scroll through.
Unfortunately, Facebook has yet to fine tune its tablet applications as when viewing photos, the images look to be a lower resolution that is originally intended. This leads to there being some noticeable pixelation when zooming in on images. Videos also suffer from this slight degradation of quality, but it isn’t as noticeable as still images.
Google Maps (excellent)
Google Maps has really been a fantastic application to use on mobile devices as it’s extremely useful and continues to improve itself on a regular basis. As you’d expect, the Google Maps experience on the Tab 3 is pretty much standard when compared to other tablets of this size, and that’s a very good thing considering how great it is. You’ll be able to look at live traffic information, public transit routes, bicycle friendly routes and a satellite image.
Google Maps also has turn-by-turn navigation, although we didn’t see an option to download map information, which would help in making this feature usable if you don’t have a constant Wi-Fi connection while you’re driving. Aside from that minor issue, Google Maps will still give you the experience you expect it to on the Galaxy Tab 3.
Video Playback (very good)
The video player the Galaxy Tab 3 uses is a standard video player with oversized controls, making it easier to pause, rewind or fast forward on its 10.1-inch display. While a video is playing, you can perform a number of different options, such as improving the sound quality using Dolby technology, wirelessly playing it on supported devices and launching the video in a picture-in-picture mode that allows you to multitask while it plays over whatever else you like to do.
Gaming (very good)
For our gaming test, we ran some games that pushed the Galaxy Tab 3 to its limits while at the same time playing games that are less demanding of its hardware. The games we played were Candy Crush Saga and Death Rally. Both games performed as you would expect them to, with no noticeable lag while playing either game. Specifically when playing Death Rally, the graphics, special effects and explosions all looked great on the Tab 3. We’re confident the Tab 3’s internal specs will be able to keep up with your Android game of choice.
Speaker Quality (good)
Samsung introduced the two-speaker layout for its 10.1-inch tablets with its previous Galaxy Tab 2. The Galaxy Tab 3 continues this tradition by having both speakers placed at the sides of the tablet. Because of this layout, you’re able to get a richer sound that isn’t degraded when you have the tablet in your lap or while it’s laying down on a table.
The quality of the speakers favor higher ranges over mid and low ranges, making songs sound more tinny than they should. If you watch YouTube videos or don’t take your music so serious, you’ll be able to make due with the Galaxy Tab 3’s speakers, but if you really want to get into your music, we recommend you use a bluetooth speaker or headphones when listening.
Digital Imaging (good)
We think it’s safe to say we absolutely gushed over the camera on the Samsung Galaxy S4 in our review. The reason why we enjoyed our experience so much was a combination of the hardware as well as the software which gives the user a ton of options to give them the shot they’ve been looking for. With that said, the Galaxy Tab 3 features a 3.2MP main camera, which is already a huge dropoff from the 13MP camera the Galaxy S4 has. Tablets have been known to not have the best cameras, so let’s see exactly how good the experience is on the Galaxy Tab 3.
Camera Application (good)
If you’re used to using the camera on recently released Galaxy smartphones or the Galaxy Camera, you’re going to be rather disappointed with the offerings Samsung has delivered with the Galaxy Tab 3 camera. You’ll be able to take photos and videos, but you won’t be able to do much else outside of shooting in either single shot, panorama, buddy photo share and smile shot as much of what made the camera application in recently released Galaxy devices just isn’t here. The camera app featured in the Galaxy Tab 3 will get the job done, but don’t expect any extravagant bells and whistles.
Photo and Video Quality (good)
For the purpose of our review, we pit the camera on the Galaxy Tab 3 against the camera on the iPhone 5 on an overcast day indoors. As you can see in our comparison image above, the 3.2MP camera on the Galaxy Tab 3 is able to capture a decent amount of detail and the amount of color looks a bit washed out, but it isn’t as bad as we’ve seen from other tablet cameras. When compared with the iPhone 5’s camera, we can see just how washed out the colors are as well as how much detail was missing from the Galaxy Tab 3’s image."MUCH OF WHAT MADE THE CAMERA APPLICATION IN RECENTLY RELEASED GALAXY DEVICES JUST ISN’T HERE"
The Galaxy Tab 3’s camera won’t be winning any awards any time soon, but it serves as a good last resort if all you have is the tablet when a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity comes passing by you. Just be sure to tweak the photo a bit after you take it to help make it look better than how it actually looks.
Performance (very good)
Samsung is known for creating consumer products with some of the best internal specs currently available. In the case of the Galaxy Tab 3, Samsung has decided to have Intel power the tablet with their Atom Z2560 processor, which is a dual-core CPU clocked at 1.6GHz. The Intel Atom CPU is nearly twice as powerful as the dual-core processor included in the Galaxy Tab 2, so let’s see how well it performs in our performance benchmarks.
Antutu 3.x is an overall system performance benchmark which takes into account everything an Android device has to offer, including its CPU, GPU, and storage. The majority of Android devices tend to fall into a comparable performance footprint, which means unless you need to do something very specific with your device, like gaming, then you can expect a similar performance across the board.
The Galaxy Tab 3 performed very well in our Antutu benchmark as it scored a 20861. The tablet isn’t as powerful as the Galaxy S4, but it’s certainly a powerful tablet as its score is pretty much within the range of what competing tablets, such as the Sony Xperia Z Tablet and the Nexus 7 (2013), are capable of these days. Since it performs as well as recently released tablets, what would help differentiate each tablet is based on what they can offer the user, so keep that in mind when considering purchasing any of the tablets we’ve reviewed that have similar performance benchmark results.
GLBenchmark 2.7 was designed to stress the Android device’s graphics processor by running a game-like demo which features a fight between various characters in a number of different environments.
The Galaxy Tab 3 performed as well as we expected it to in our GLBenchmark 2.7 test as it scored a total of 25fps. In our gaming test, there weren’t any noticeable hiccups or lag in the performance of games we tested, which this scores only solidifies just how well the tablet will perform when playing games. It won’t be as flawless as the Nexus 10 or fourth-generation iPad, but it’ll still be able to perform well with a good majority of games and other applications that are more demanding of the tablet’s GPU.
Benchmarks are one thing, but being able to gauge just how well a tablet performs based on what the user will perceive is important considering most users won’t reference benchmarks while using their Galaxy Tab 3. When opening applications or web pages, there’s a noticeable lag from the moment you click the app to when it’s actually available to use. Some programs lag a little bit longer than others, while some apps pop much quicker. Once in an application, apps tend to perform at the speed you’d expect them to, although we did notice there was a hiccup or two depending on the application while it was in use, such as Google Chrome.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 features a 6800mAh battery, which is a pretty nice-sized battery compared to other 10.1 tablets. For our mobile battery tests, we run our devices through three separate tests that not only tests the battery’s drain, but also its charging ability.
Moderate usage (average)
For our moderate usage test, I recorded the battery drain of the Galaxy Tab 3 while I performed some light work on the tablet for an hour, which included interacting with Facebook, taking photos, reading articles and chatting through Google Hangouts. I also had the tablet’s brightness set to 50% without the assistance of its automatic dimming, and after an hour of light work, I noticed the battery drained by 16%, which means you can expect over 6 hours of battery life during moderate usage under these conditions. If you use the Tab 3’s automatic dimming feature, you could probably squeeze some more life out of the battery
Intense usage (average)
Our intense usage battery test pushed the Galaxy Tab 3 to its limits as we streamed a 1080p YouTube video for an hour with the tablet’s display set to 50% without the assistance of automatic dimming. At the end of our test, we noticed a drop in the battery’s charge by 20%. This means you should expect a total of 5 hours of battery life during intense usage, such as streaming 1080p videos.
Charging time (poor)
As important as rating the battery of the Galaxy Tab 3 based on how fast it drains, we also like to see just how long it takes for our devices to charge their battery since you’ll be doing it often. For this test, we had our Tab 3 charging for one hour with its display turned off. At the end of an hour, we noticed only an increase of 14% in the battery’s charge. This means to recharge your Tab 3 from a completely dead battery, you’ll need set aside a little over 7 hours for it to completely charge itself. This is a pretty slow rate, so keep this in mind if you need to have your Tab 3 charged ASAP, which we recommend you have it charging overnight if its battery is completely drained.
The Galaxy Tab line has always been one that we perceive to be a good choice, but nothing outstanding. Samsung has once again delivered a tablet that is good, but not amazing. The Galaxy Tab 3 is a competent enough tablet that will perform many of the tasks you want it to, although some of the noticeable lag when opening applications may turn off some owners. "SAMSUNG HAS ONCE AGAIN DELIVERED A TABLET THAT IS GOOD, BUT NOT AMAZING"
Samsung certainly improved the look of the Galaxy Tab 3 to reflect its smartphone Galaxy devices, which may be a hit or miss to some users depending on how you feel about either device’s plastic exterior. We just wish Samsung would put as much effort into the internal specs and overall performance of the Galaxy Tab 3 to help make it a must-have tablet, but at this point, it’s full of more disappointment than