It's fast, looks great and is definitely a superior tablet but it all comes at a price.
It’s a seriously strong contender for the Google Pixel C’s crown. The Galaxy Tab S3 doesn’t look much different to the Galaxy Tab S2. It’s still got that gorgeous 9.7in AMOLED display and it’s still very thin and lightweight. The big difference this year? Samsung includes its enhanced S Pen in the box for free and that’s a serious incentive.
For the Galaxy Tab S3, on the other hand, it costs £549. That’s £260 more than Apple’s newest iPad: there’s a decent set of improvements inside to justify that price bump.
Display and sound
The stunning 9.7in screen completely dominates the front of the Tab S3, despite those reasonably chunky side bezels. The resolution remains the same at 2,048 x 1,536, but the screen does now support HDR content. It’s seriously bright to and as it’s an AMOLED display, its contrast and colour coverage are both excellent.
What does that mean in practice? The Tab S3 is well suited to outdoor use, even in near direct sunlight, and anything you watch on it - from Netflix to YouTube - will look spot on. Colours are remarkably crisp, and images are filled with punchy detail.
Sound, meanwhile, is provided by a four-speaker arrangement. All of the quad-speaker tablets we’ve seen so far have sounded great, and Samsung Tab S3 is no exception. Audio quality is excellent, and thanks to an AKG-branded “quad-stereo” array, which automatically detects the orientation you’re holding the tablet in, you get a proper stereo image in both landscape and portrait modes.
S-pen and keyboard
The attraction of this tablet lies partly in its optional keyboard and bundled S-Pen stylus. The keyboard attaches via a magnetic pogo-pin connection on the left edge of the tablet, folding over and propping up the tablet. It also doubles as a case when it's not in use; it’s a neat accessory, but it's not cheap at £119.
As for the stylus, it’s the most advanced S-Pen yet, with a smaller tip than ever, measuring just 0.7mm across. While I’m certainly no artist, I found it lovely to write with on the Galaxy Tab S3's screen. My favourite thing about it is a new feature called Screen Off Memo, which allows you to scribble quick notes on the screen without having to unlock the tablet.
Performance and battery life
The Galaxy Tab S3 gets an improved spec that’s decent by today’s standards, but nothing exceptional. Samsung have added a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor which is a little behind the times perhaps, but the overall experience is seriously quick.
The Tab S3 is much better than Google’s Pixel C and the older Tab S2, but is marginally beaten by Apple’s new iPad.
There’s also 4GB of RAM, 32GB of built-in storage and a microSD slot for expansion, which will take cards up to 256GB in size. A 4G/LTE model is available too, promising download speeds of up to 300Mbits/sec.
While the battery is slightly larger than the Tab S2’s. The S3 lasted 11hrs 47mins in our continuous video playback test with the screen set to 170cd/m2 - that’s nearly three hours short of the Tab S2’s 14hrs 38mins. That Snapdragon 830 must be pretty power-hungry; on the upside, it recharges speedily via the USB-C port on the bottom.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review: Price and competition
The Tab S3’s obvious competition is Apple’s new iPad. It’s Apple’s cheapest tablet offering, with prices starting at £339 - yet there’s no sacrifice in performance, and its battery life is far superior.
The Galaxy Tab S2 was a great tablet, but the S3 really blows it out of the water. With its speedy performance, bundled S-Pen and pixel-perfect display, it’s a very nice tablet indeed.
Unfortunately, that absurdly high price has to be taken into consideration. Expecting customers to pay £260 more than the cost of a new iPad feels is a little much.
Even so, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S3 is undeniably an impressive device. If you want to stick with Android, rather than following the Apple iPad root, the Tab S3 is definitely the right choice.