Manufacturer: Samsung Electronics
Release Date: 03/24/2017
MSRP: $599.99 (wifi), $649.99 (4G)
The Galaxy Tab S2 was the best tablet I have ever owned. It’s sleek, powerful, includes a familiar Samsung Android OS, had a beautiful screen, and I never had a single issue with the tablet. That was 3 years ago, and I felt it was time to upgrade. While I understand the Tab S3 isn’t the dramatic change that the S2 was from the original Tab S to me at least, it’s a marginal difference to justify an upgrade, especially if you are growing tired of your S2 or realize, like I did, that Samsung is no longer supporting it.
When I took the tablet out of the box the differences were noticeable right away. While it’s shaped the same way, is the same size, and looks familiar, it’s made completely out of glass so that plastic feeling is gone. It’s also half the weight and thickness of the S2 which is insane as the S2 was the thinnest tablet around for the longest time. The Tab S3 also includes the S Pen for the first time since the Note 10.1 tablet. The S Pen is large and full-sized unlike the pens for the Note phone series, and it doesn’t go into the tablet. This is a bit of an issue because you always have a loose pen floating around unless you buy a case for the tablet that can hold the pen.
Once I turned on the tablet, it was a familiar experience. The Nougat OS is exactly like the S2 with a few added features. Sadly, I noticed that Samsung Themes is absent from this tablet as well and seems to be exclusive to the newer Samsung phones. I did notice that everything ran a bit smoother and was more responsive overall.
The biggest change of all would be the sound and screen. The S3 features four speakers for surround sound by AKG which sounds fantastic. As I was playing games or watching videos I could hear the sound differential change with each speaker which was a huge change from the S2’s stereo speakers. The screen features HDR which was the first tablet to do so. Watching HDR videos on Netflix or just high res videos, in general, look fantastic on this screen and almost looks better than on Samsung’s high-end phones. I can’t stress enough how great everything looks on this tablet, these two features alone are worth the upgrade.
Let’s get under the hood of this beast. While there are more powerful tablets on the market, the Tab S3 is one of them. The S3 boasts the Snapdragon 820 SOC with a quad-core CPU running at 2.15Ghz. We get 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM and an Adreno 530 GPU. It’s not the biggest leap over the S2 and disappointed a lot of people, but as a whole, it’s a worthy upgrade and still more powerful than the S2. It has a 13MP rear camera and a 5MP front-facing which is just fine. Who really takes photos with their tablet? I took maybe a dozen with my S2 over the last 2 and a half years and it never got used. Thankfully the S3 has a flash on the back this time so your photos will turn out a bit better.
I benchmarked the S3 with 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme, and it did fairly well with the Vulkan and OpenGLES 3.1 API. As you can see when the system is pushed fairly hard it can maintain a solid 30FPS so it’s ready for games for the next few years.
Overall, the Tab S3 is a fantastically powerful and feature-packed tablet. It’s a worthy upgrade from the S2 or if you want an all-new tablet this is a great one to jump into. With a gorgeous screen, HDR support, a versatile S Pen, quad speakers, and a slim design, there’s nothing wrong here at all. While the SOC isn’t as powerful as I’d have hoped, it’s not enough to deter me from recommending this.