Sep 11, 2013 Nick Rego
The Samsung Galaxy series has certainly been going strong for a while now, and it certainly shows no signs of stopping. It seems that every other month there’s a new ‘Galaxy’ branded device to talk about, and this month is no different. I’m talking about the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, an 8.0 inch Android tablet that Samsung feels will be perfect for anyone who’s stuck with choosing between a 7 inch or a 10 inch tablet. But does this mid-range size also reflect on mid-range performance? Read on to find out more.
At first glance, the Galaxy Tab 3 really does look like an overblown Galaxy S4. The Tab 3 features the same plastic look and feel as seen in some of Samsung’s previous devices, and while the Tab 3 does feel lightweight and fairly sturdy, you tend to hold it somewhat gingerly, lest it fall from your grasp.
Around the edges you’ve got the headphone jack, power button, volume rocker, IR blaster, microUSB port, microSD and microSIM card slots. At the bottom of the device you’ve got the single home button with the menu and back buttons on either side. There’s little else to admire about the Tab 3 from a design standpoint, so let’s hope that what’s under the hood will impress.
Given that Samsung has more than enough tablets and phablets under its brand, it’s truly puzzling why they would bother churning out the 8-inch Tab 3, when the impressive Galaxy Note 8.0 is already on the market. The Tab 3 isn’t nearly as fast as the Note 8.0, and this was easily noticeable just from doing basic tasks on the device. One of my favorite Android games, “Super Monsters Ate My Condo” contains plenty of animations and effects, so it was a perfect test for the Tab 3. Unfortunately the game’s animations brought the Tab 3 to its knees, and it wasn’t capable of playing the game smoothly. Even when switching through apps the Tab 3 occasionally hiccupped, taking a few precious seconds to think to itself before launching the desired app. When surfing buzzfeed.com in Chrome, once again the Tab 3 didn’t want to play nice, and regularly made me force-quit Chrome in frustration. For very basic apps the Tab 3 might be fine, but crank things up even a little bit and the cracks start to show.
The Tab 3 runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, and of course comes with Samsung’s own TouchWiz UI. Anyone familiar with Samsung’s devices will feel right at home, but I still personally feel it’s a bit of an overkill at times. In addition to the custom UI, Samsung bundles a number of different apps, such as WatchON, S Planner, S Translator, S Voice, ChatON, and a few others. There’s also features such as Group Play, as well as Samsung’s slightly creepy Smart Stay feature, which detects when you’re not looking at the screen to automatically pause and resume video content. The bundled WatchON app lets you use the Tab 3 as a remote control for your TV, but sadly isn’t available in this region. However you can still run Peel Smart Remote from the Play store which will work with almost any TV.
The screen on the Tab 3 is a TFT LCD panel, with a resolution of 1,280 x 800. It’s mostly very good and bright, displaying sharp colors and comfortable viewing angles. It is however, highly reflective, so prepare to be shielding your screen if you want to view the Tab 3 outdoors.
Camera-wise you’ll get a rear-facing 5 megapixel camera, which oddly enough is set to a default resolution of 3.6 megapixels. If you’re one of those crazy people who take photos with their tablets, then you’ll be fine with the Tab 3. You just need to make sure that there’s plenty of light around or you’ll get really noisy pictures. Video recording is decent, though not as smooth as we would like it to be.
Hidden all the way at the bottom of the Tab 3 are the two speaker grilles. These are sufficiently loud for watching videos or listening to music, but if you’re holding the tablet horizontally with both hands, chances are your hands will muffle the noise a bit. Speaking of which, one of my biggest peeves with the Tab 3 was trying to figure out what was the best way to hold it. The Tab 3’s bezel is narrower on the longer side, so holding it by those edges results in some unnecessary screen taps. Holding it by the thicker bottom bezel is almost impossible, as the capacitive buttons are so sensitive that I nearly always found myself accidentally tapping the back or menu buttons. It’s frustrating to be browsing a website or reading something when your finger barely grazes the back button and you’re back on your home screen.
The Tab 3 is a peculiar device simply because there are much better 8-inch tablets in the market, not just from Samsung. The newly announced Nexus 7 and the iPad mini are two tough contenders, along with Samsung’s own Note 8.0. While the Tab 3 is a fairly decent Android tablet, its sluggish performance and frustratingly sensitive buttons might sway you to splurge for a slightly better option.
A former IT & Marketing Manager turned full time Editor, Nick enjoys playing videogames during work hours and tinkering with the latest gadgets.
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