I’ve had an opportunity to play with a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 for a few months now. Overall, it is a very impressive tablet, but whether or not it provides enough bang for the buck depends on what you’re buying a tablet for, and what model Galaxy Tab 3 you choose.
The device I have is an 8-inch, gold and brown, Wi-Fi only model. It’s a good size for a tablet—about the same size as the iPad Mini, and slightly larger than competing tablets like the Kindle Fire HDX and Google Nexus 7.
I don’t want to spend too much time diving into a feature-by-feature breakdown of the device. The 8-inch Galaxy Tab 3 has been around since July of 2013, and there are already a plethora of such reviews online if that’s what you’re looking for. Instead, I want to share a more narrative review based on my personal experience, and then talk about how this tablet stacks up against the competition today, and what we should expect next from Samsung.
I was late to the party when it comes to appreciating the smaller tablets. I am still anti-phablet—I’m not a fan of the Galaxy Note and I wince at speculation that Apple might pander to that crowd by introducing a new iPhone with a similar thyroid issue. If I have to choose just one, I still prefer a full-size tablet, but I have learned to appreciate the unique benefits of a smaller tablet as well.
The 8-inch Galaxy Tab 3 fits comfortably in my hand. I don’t have to stretch my hand like I’m trying to palm a basketball. I can just hold it in one hand. The glossy plastic back feels a bit cheap to me, but the device is light enough to use one-handed for an extended period of time without much fatigue.
The app I use most on a smaller tablet like the Galaxy Tab 3 is the Kindle app. Basically, one of the things I like about these smaller tablets is that they can replace my Kindle for all intents and purposes, while also enabling me to install and run thousands of other apps—like browsing social networks or playing some Angry Birds when I’m done reading.
As a “Kindle”, the Galaxy Tab 3 display is more than adequate. It’s no Kindle Paperwhite—but, then again, nothing is. Compared with other small tablets, however, the Galaxy Tab 3 has a brightness and resolution sufficient to read comfortably without any undue eye strain.
The Galaxy Tab takes good pictures. Neither the front nor rear-facing cameras are the highest megapixel, or best cameras mobile devices have to offer, but it does the trick if you find yourself in the position of needing to take a picture with your tablet. The camera modes are pretty cool. You can add a sound clip to a static photo, or choose modes specifically tailored for night shots, sports or action shots, or up close headshots.
Suffice it to say that the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 is a great, solidly built tablet. I did not find any significant deficiencies, and I have no major complaints about my experience with the device.
That said, I’m not sure this is the device I would buy if I were shopping for a smaller tablet. At $270, the 8-inch 16GB Wi-Fi Galaxy Tab 3 is a bit pricey. By comparison, the Kindle Fire HDX is only $214 (or $199 for one subsidized by ads), and the Google Nexus 7 is only $227. It doesn’t help any that the rival tablets have more powerful processors, and better displays, and beat the Galaxy Tab in other key areas as well for less money.
To be fair, both the Kindle Fire HDX and the Galaxy Nexus 7 are smaller 7-inch tablets, and the 7-inch Galaxy Tab 3 is only $150. The smaller Galaxy Tab 3 also has a less powerful processor, about half the pixel density, less RAM, and half the storage capacity, though, so even that $150 isn’t much of a bargain.
If I were shopping for a small Android tablet right now, I’d invest in the Google Nexus 7, and wouldn’t give the Galaxy Tab 3 a second thought. I like the Samsung Galaxy Tab line, but Samsung needs to refresh the brand with new models soon, and/or dramatically slash the price of the existing models. With its next generation—ostensibly Galaxy Tab 4—Samsung needs to leapfrog Amazon and Google in specs, or at least match the specs and match or undercut the pricing.
I have faith in Samsung, though. Samsung is a major player in the mobile device arena, and I’m confident it doesn’t plan to sit idly on the sidelines and watch the competition leave it in the dust.