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Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 review

HardwareReviews
7/10
by Eugene Kim, 21 Jul 2013Reviews
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 review

Samsung tries to make a product for everyone: every size, every price, every feature. The Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 tries to hit the sweet spot for small tablets, and it’s a very good slate, buoyed by its multitasking and universal remote capabilities, but it's outflanked by competitors. The price tag – particularly in the UK – gives pause for thought, as it’s much dearer than the Google Nexus 7, and even a tad more expensive than the very capable and app-rich iPad mini.

Design

The Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 looks like a comically large Galaxy S4 – you get the same all-plastic construction, glazed finish, and faux-metal accents around a strikingly similar silhouette. Fortunately, the Tab 3 8.0 also mimics the S4's thin bezels and slim dimensions, measuring 123 x 7.4 x 209mm (WxDxH) and weighing 310 grams. That's right in line with the iPad mini and a good deal thinner and lighter than the 10.45mm thick and 340 grams Nexus 7. This tablet is eminently comfortable to hold, despite packing a larger screen than most Android competitors.

The 8in LCD with a resolution of 1,280 x 800 is excellent. It's sharper than the iPad mini's display, appears brighter side by side, and has really high contrast. The contrast isn't quite as high as Samsung's OLED displays, but you also get far more accurate colour reproduction here.

Below the display is a physical Home button flanked by capacitive Menu and Back buttons. Along the left edge is a flap covering the microSD card slot, while the opposite side houses the Volume and Power buttons, as well as an IR-emitter for remote control functions. Along the bottom edge are two speaker grilles and, thankfully, a microUSB port in lieu of Samsung's older proprietary port.

This is a Wi-Fi only tablet that connects to 802.11b/g/n networks on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. I had no trouble connecting to multiple routers in our lab, and where many tablets only have a weak signal from my desk, the Tab 3 8.0 consistently held onto a strong connection. Also on board is Bluetooth 4.0 along with satellite GPS, but not NFC. Samsung offers the Tab 3 8.0 in a single 16GB model, and our 32 and 64GB SanDisk microSD cards worked without issue.

Performance and Android

The Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 isn't a speed demon like its pen-wielding stable mate the Note 8.0, but it gets the job done. Powering the Tab 3 is Samsung's dual-core 1.5GHz Exynos 4212 processor, Mali 400 GPU, and 1.5GB of RAM. In our overall system benchmarks, the Tab 3 turned in numbers just shy of the Nexus 7, but gained ground in our graphics tests, outpacing the aging Tegra 3-powered tablet.

Anecdotally, the Tab 3 8.0 felt very smooth in operation, whether it was flicking through heavily populated home screens, switching between running apps, or scrolling through various websites. There was the occasional stutter when opening more resource hungry apps, but that's the case with nearly every Android tablet. My biggest complaint here is the somewhat finicky touch input. The slim bezels are great for keeping this portable, but the palm rejection that worked so well on the Note 8.0 seems to be less effective here. I noticed errant touches, zooms instead of scrolls, and other inconsistencies when I wasn’t being careful with my hand placement.

In our battery test, which loops a video with screen brightness set to maximum and Wi-Fi switched on, the Tab 3 lasted 6 hours and 48 minutes. That's close to the Kindle Fire HD's 7 hours, but falls well short of the Nexus 7's 10 hours and 50 minutes on the same test. Battery life shouldn't be an issue, but it's not a strong point here.

Camera performance is pretty basic – you get the same lacklustre 5-megapixel rear-facing and 1.3-megapixel front-facing cameras found on the Note 8.0. Images looked flat and devoid of finer detail, regardless of lighting conditions. Exposure is a problem for stills and video, as the Tab 3 tends to overexpose scenes. Video maxes out at 720p and looks pretty mediocre even in good lighting, and pretty bad in low light scenarios. The front-facing camera is serviceable for video chats, and that's all I'd recommend it for.

The Tab 3 8.0 is running the latest Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, which already gives it a leg up on most tablets that are still stuck on 4.1.2. Samsung is relentless when it comes to its Android skin TouchWiz, and while purists might cry foul here, the modifications don't really get in the way and are, for the most part, pretty useful. You get the usual bevy of pre-loaded apps and Samsung tie-ins. These include ChatOn, Samsung's chat service; Samsung's app, game, and music stores; Group Play and Samsung Link for sharing between Samsung devices; S Planner, S Translator, and S Voice; not to mention various other apps and services.

The great pen support of the Note is missing, but there are still a number of useful modifications to Android itself. You get Samsung features like Smart Stay that keeps the screen on when you're looking at it and voice commands for easily pausing videos or snoozing alarms. Even the excellent Multi Window multitasking support is here, letting you run two apps side by side in split-screen mode. Not every app is supported, but there's a good selection of Samsung apps and Google apps like Chrome and Gmail that make this a pretty useful feature.

Multimedia

Samsung has done a good job with multimedia support and features for its Galaxy tablets. For video, the Tab 3 8.0 supports MP4, H.264, DivX, Xvid, and WMV files at up to 1080p resolution. For audio you get MP3, AAC, FLAC, OGG, WAV, and WMA support. You can also mirror your screen using DLNA with supported HDTVs, or use an MHL adapter to connect the Tab 3 with an HDMI cable.

IR emitters are becoming the norm for Galaxy devices, and the Tab 3 8.0 benefits from the same universal remote control features found on the Galaxy Note 8.0. You can use the preloaded WatchON app from Samsung or Peel Smart Remote app to browse local TV listings and control a variety of home entertainment devices, from HDTVs to set top boxes. Both apps worked in my tests, but neither can schedule recordings for DVR boxes.

Verdict

The Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 gets so much right, from the thin and light design, through the multitasking to the built-in remote control features. However, it's amazingly forgettable. There's just something utterly bland about this tablet, and it just doesn’t seem all that desirable.

Also, it's priced much higher than capable Android competitors like the Nexus 7, and indeed it’s a touch dearer than even the iPad mini (which boasts all the great tablet apps that come with iOS). As we’ve said, there are good points here, but ultimately the Tab 3 8.0 fills a void that may not exist – most folks will be better off with an iPad mini or the much cheaper Nexus 7.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0

Screen Resolution

1280 x 800 pixels

Operating System

Android 4.2.2

Dimensions

123 x 7.4 x 209mm (WxDxH)

Weight

310g

Screen Type

TFT LCD

Graphics Card

ARM Mali 400

Video Camera Resolution

720p

Camera Resolution

5-megapixel rear

Storage Capacity

16GB

Battery Life

6 hours and 48 minutes

Screen Pixels Per Inch

189 ppi

Additional Storage

MicroSD

Processor Speed

1.5GHz

Bluetooth Version

4.0

Screen Size

8in

CPU

Samsung Exynos 4212

Ports

MicroUSB

Wi-Fi Compatibility

2.4Ghz/5Ghz

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