I ordered the Galaxy Tab S3 the moment it became available back in May but couldn’t really get around to writing this review, up until now. Before purchasing the tablet I knew exactly what I was buying, I didn’t really expect much out of this device. It comes with a stunning screen, so it was perfect for my media consumption, and an S-Pen, which really got me excited as I was looking for a stylus for note taking. After using the device for the past 2 months, it is safe to say that the Tab S3 has exceeded my expectations.
The main thing movers from the Tab S (like me) would realize, is that Samsung has forgone its main tablet landscape mode, for a portrait one. But this isn’t really news, as this was done when the Tab S2 was introduced. Unlike other devices in the market, the stylus (S-Pen) is included in the box with the device. Comparing this with the iPad Pro, that’s a huge money saver. But let’s not compare this tablet with the iPad Pro, as the Galaxy Book 10/12 inch tablets would make a better comparison.
The Tab S3 has an all metal and glass design, which at the beginning feels absolutely great and premium, and later becomes a source of worry. Since Samsung (Lebanon) still has no cases to offer for the tablet, any user will surely be scared to scratch/break it.
Okay, let’s dig in deeper.
The Tab S3 has a great 9.7 inch super AMOLED (HDR-ready) display with a resolution of 1536 x 2048 (264 ppi). Resolution wise, it’s the same as the previous Tab S2, but with the screen being actually brighter. I’ve enjoyed this display to the extent that the tablet has actually become my main media consumption device, replacing my desktop, laptop, and mobile phone. The brightness level on this device makes it easy to watch videos on, even when you’re outside in the sun, with one drawback being the annoying reflection you might experience every now and then.
A great addition to the Tab S3 is its AKG tuned quad-speakers. I have to say, audio on the Tab S3 isn’t that bad, but it could have been even better. Audio is clear and loud, but not as loud as one would expect. The whole idea that the left and right speakers change as the tablet is turned, giving the user a great audio experience, was enough for me to overlook the fact that the speakers weren’t as loud as I’d expect them to be.
Let’s start by mentioning that Android Assistant hasn’t rolled out on tablets yet and so only Google now is available. Google Now can be activated by long pressing on the home button.
The S-Pen was one of the main reasons why I was interested in owning this tablet. Apps such as OneNote are great for note taking as it simply syncs on all your devices; therefore, for example, your meeting notes will be immediately available on your laptop.
But of course, I didn’t get this tablet for OneNote… So what are the S-Pen features available? Well, when you first hover the S-Pen over the screen you will realize two things that appear. The first is a cursor that is telling you exactly where the S-Pen is pointing, and the second is an air command button that appears to the right of the screen. Tapping the air commanding button will give the user access to the following features (which can be edited and rearranged):
S-Pen features include:
- Create a Note: Opens the new note section of the Samsung Notes app.
- View all Notes: Allows users to view all notes previously saved on the Samsung Notes App.
- Smart Select: Allows you to make a selection of what you are viewing to write notes on it, draw, extract text from the image (text is copied automatically to your clipboard), or create GIFs.
- Screen write: This feature will automatically take a screenshot of your screen, allowing users to jot down notes/draw on the screenshot.
- Translation: hovering over a word with the pen would show you its translation.
- Magnify: Moving the S-Pen’s cursor over words to magnify them.
- Glance: Minimizes the window you’re working on which is then maximized every time you place the pen above its window.
Another S-Pen feature available that isn’t mentioned above is that users are able to take notes on the black screen display when the tablet is locked. This is done by simply bringing the S-Pen close to the display and clicking the S-Pen’s button. Since I received the tablet, I’ve been regularly using the S-Pen, mainly for note taking during classes and meetings. Palm rejection on the Tab S3 isn’t great but it is good enough not to irritate users.
Turning this tablet into a “laptop” is actually quite easy with Samsung’s keyboard cover. The tablet is simply connected to the keyboard via POGO connectors; therefore, the keyboard doesn’t need to be charged as it’s powered by the tablet itself. Unfortunately, the keyboard cover isn’t available in Lebanon to date. To fix this, I have made use of my Tab S Bluetooth keyboard, that really works fine with the Tab S3, but isn’t perfect…
The multi-window feature is definitely not a Tab S3 exclusive feature, but it deserves a mention. Most apps available (including Google apps) work perfectly in the multi-window feature. This includes apps you will definitely be using for work, or perhaps personally, such as Samsung Notes, Gmail, Chrome/Internet, Microsoft office apps and much more. The multi-window or split-screen feature is activated by holding the recent apps button. I mention this because working on Microsoft office while watching a video on the Tab S3 is great!
Other Features and Apps
Of course, Briefing By Flipboard is available on the Tab S3, as it is on many other Samsung devices. For those who are unaware of what this is, Briefing is a “news” type app that organizes all the news topics that are of interest to you.
The blue light filter is another feature that is not a Tab S3 exclusive feature, as many tablets/smartphone offer this feature, but I do believe I still had to mention it. A lot of my readings are done at night, before bed, and the blue light filter is just great to make sure the tablet’s display light doesn’t actually irritate your eyes. The main reason I’m mentioning this is that users should know that the feature can be automated to switch on between certain hours. This is done by following these steps:
Settings > Display > Blue Light Filter > Turn on as scheduled > Custom schedule
Overall, the tablet exceeded my expectations but I believe it could have done even better. The only thing remaining to fully experience the tablet’s capabilities is its keyboard cover. My main reason for frustration with Samsung is the unavailability of accessories for the Tab S3. I will offer a brief review of the keyboard cover when it is made available in Lebanon. On the other hand, what I found disappointing is the tablets price tag along with the price of its keyboard. The Tab S3 is being sold for $650 (wifi version, $700+ for the LTE version), while the keyboard cover will cost somewhere around $120.