Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 – light and lovely (review)

Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab S3 is an evolution of the world’s best Android tablet. There is no competitor in this space with a beautiful AMOLED screen, S Pen support, great AKG speakers and fast charge.And to be fair you expect that of a premium device and its price reflects that – A$949 for the Wi-Fi version and $1099 for LTE/Wi-Fi.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 model SMT825Y (LTE/Wi-Fi version)

It is good that Samsung includes the S Pen and makes the $189 Book cover/keyboard and option. After all, this is primarily a content consumption device and many will just want the tablet.
It includes
• Tablet
• Fast charger 9V/1.67A or 5V/2A
• USB-C to USB-A cable
• S Pen 4096 pressure levels (the same as used on the Windows 10 Galaxy Book)

It is black with a rear glass panel and front Gorilla Glass screen. But fire it up you will appreciate why the superb AMOLED screen high dynamic range (HDR10) is the only choice for premium mobile devices.


 Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
OS Android 7.x
Screen to body
Gorilla Glass
9.7 2048x 1536, 264ppi
72.7% slim side bezels
339/439 nits
Processor Qualcomm 820
2-core 2.15GHz
2-core 1.6GHz
GPU Adreno 530
Vulkan Graphics and OpenGL ES 3.2
32GB (23 GB free at first use)
up to 256GB
Camera front 5MP, f/2.2, 23mm, fixed focus
Camera rear 13MP, f/1.9, 27mm wide angle
Autofocus, LED Flash, 8x digital zoomAuto, Pro, HDR, food, hyper-lapse, panorama modes and various filter effects
Wi-Fi/Wi-Di (cast)
Wi-Fi AC, dual band, 2 x 2 MIMO
Cat 6 Option at purchase

3.5mm combo jack

4 speakers
86dB maximum low distortion
24-bit Hi-Res aptX DAC2 x Near fiedd and 2 x far field
Battery 6000mAh
Adaptive fast charge USB-C
Up to 12 hours
Ports 1 USB-C 3.1 for charge and data
Dimensions 237.3 x 169.0 x 6.0mm
Weight Wi-Fi/LTE 429/434g
Colour Black
OS Android 7.0

Samsung Grace UX

Security 4 x Fingerprint sensor
Password or Pin
Knox secure folder
Inclusions in Box S Pen stylus (Wacom developed)
USB-C cable
Fast charger
What’s missing Keyboard optionalz
IP rating
Australian URL
Price A$949 for 4/32GB Wi-Fi
$1099 for 4/32GB Wi-Fi and LTE

AMOLED is brilliant

The QXGA – 2048 x 1536 – comprises 3.2 million intelligent, self-illuminating, individually switchable pixels. Add Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 engine and it has the power to display High Dynamic Range (HDR10) streamed video content – a first for a tablet.

The 4:3 screen ratio (many tablets are 16:9) suits A4 paper size in portrait. It will screen cast in 16:9 to another device.

Crisp details, vibrant colours, pure blacks, and when you can get the content, the HDR difference of enhanced colour gamut, definition in shadows and highlights.

How does it sound?

Four AKG tuned speakers sound amazing. It is clear and will fill a 12m2 room with 86dB at very low distortion. They change orientation from left to right as you move or charge from portrait to landscape.

These speakers tend toward the mid-upper range but it adapts to the content – with vocals it is clear and with bass it is solid down to 100Hz.

There is basic EQ adjustment under Settings, Sound quality and Effects, that allow you to adjust from bass to treble and from instrumental to vocal. It has presets for surround sound, tube amp and concert hall. There is also an advanced EQ setting for total customisation. The inbuilt speakers have a range of 100Hz to 16kHz. Output via Bluetooth and 3.5mm audio was clean, 20Hz-20kHz.

How is the camera?

The f/1.9, 13MP (4:3) and 9.6MP (16:9) autofocus rear camera is surprisingly good for daylight use and has a flash to boost its low light use. But low light and digital zoom induce noise so use it sparingly.

Video is from UHD (3840 x 2160) down to VGA (640 x 480) with electronic image video stabilisation and various video effects kick in at HD or lower.

Sound recording comes from two mics on the “right” long side and it is too easy to put your hands over them in portrait mode while recording.

Front camera

It is f/2.2, 5MP (4:3) and 3.7MP (16:9). It takes creditable selfies and is perfect as a Skype camera. It will record FHD down to VGA. It has palm shutter control and a self-timer.

Field of view is narrow – it is a personal camera only and remember that it is located on the right of the Samsung logo at the “top” in portrait mode – not on the side in landscape mode.

What is Samsung Flow?

If you have a Galaxy class phone It allows you to wirelessly share files, sort through notifications, take calls on the tablet and auto-hotspot link. It really extends the smartphone functionality to the tablet and vice versa.

S Pen – write-on!

The S Pen is a major improvement with 4096 pressure levels making it more useful for editing, marking up, cropping, signing documents, word translation and artistic pursuits.

It is a passive (no battery) pen – it draws power from screen induction (think wireless charging) to operate air hover commands and the erase button.

Designed with Wacom it has perfect palm rejection and fits very comfortably in your writing hand. The whole aim is to reproduce the “pencil on paper” feel and to this end the .7mm tip feels a little more like a fountain pen – silky smooth, just the right resistance, and a good feel.

It will also work in Soundcamp (music composition app supplied) and PEN.UP – a social media sharing app and for annotation on pictures and web sites.

It will “screen write” when the tablet is in sleep more – a digital blackboard great for midnight jottings.


The $189 Cover/keyboard is usable but the keys have around 1mm throw and are closely spaced.

It is more a convenience keyboard to better handle emails and short documents – lack of a trackpad and bezel mounted home/back keys means it is a two-handed job to type and edit.

The magnetic vinyl cover acts as a stand giving about a 130° layback. It lacks a “Surface” like kickstand.

Added value – Galaxy Apps

Samsung has unique Galaxy Apps including a music player, ArtCanvas, Colouring Book, Movie Maker, a version of Autodesk SketchBook and more. These add value to the Galaxy brand.

How does it perform?

The Qualcomm 820 is a flagship class processor and has plenty of power for a content consumption device. 32GB storage is not a lot and after you download maps, music and a few apps you can find yourself left with less than 10GB. The 256GB capable microSD slot is necessary.

Wi-Fi performance is 780Mbps rock solid at 20 metres of the test bed (867Mbps theoretical maximum).

Battery life

Samsung claim 12 hours in a video loop test and I was able to replicate that. Wi-Fi streaming HD video at 75% brightness gave over eight hours.

In typical use expect to use about 10% battery per hour. Recharge time was quick – fast charge gave 23% in 30 minutes and a full charge in 55 minutes.


• Best tablet screen ever and HDR10 ready
• Great battery life
• Great build
• Amazing four speaker sound for a small device
• Silky smooth fountain style S Pen and screen-off notes
• Screen cast is excellent for TVs
• LTE can be used as a phone too
• GPS makes it a great travel companion
• Perfect companion for a Galaxy smartphone – Samsung Flow
• Uses Google Voice
• Knox adds private folders and device has been certified by the US government (and many others) as safe for classified use Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) list


• The screen is a fingerprint magnet.
• Cover/keyboard is adequate but lacks trackpad – it is not a mandatory buy however without it, there is no stand and no S Pen holder.
• No notification LED.
• Android is not a good desktop system e.g. multitasking, and many apps only work in portrait mode.

Who is it for?

Someone who simply wants the best Android tablet and does not care what it costs. Use it as a couch companion to do quick searches and to cast audio and video content. Use it as an ultralight travel companion as a connection to the world – email, maps, GPS, the internet, research and more.


There can only be one number one and this is that by a huge margin. It does everything right.

It has the all-important S Pen and it does it very well – there is scope for Samsung to do more with the S Pen enabled apps too.

It is not a Surface clone – it is an Android tablet and while it has Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Skype and OneDrive it is not meant to be a laptop replacement.

And then that brings up the rise of larger Windows 10 hybrids – Surface-like – where content consumption and production can occur on them so it is not a big stretch to understand why slates are on the decline.


• Overall: 4.3 out of 5
• Features: 5 out of 5 – fully featured plus LTE if you need it
• Value for money: 3 out of 5 – sorry the optional keyboard is eye-watering expensive
• Performance: 4 out of 5 – no issues but last year’s flagship processor
• Ease of Use: 5 out of 5 – Android is institutive and simple
• Design: 4.5 out 5 – nice and thin but not “sexy as it’s a glass slab


Wi-Fi $949
Wi-Fi and 4G $1099

Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
Simply the best Android tablet, HDR10 AMOLED screen, S Pen
Android is not yet a desktop system