Samsung’s third-gen Tabs hit Australia, we go hands-on

Nearly everyone has a smartphone, but if representatives for Samsung are to be believed, tablets are beginning to sell as highly as handsets, with more of the flat 7 to 10 inch computers in every home. With that in mind, three newbies will be hitting Australia in the coming weeks, and we’ve gone hands-on with all of them.

Initially launched back in June during Computex in Taipei, the next tablets as part of Samsung’s long running Galaxy Tab line-up will cover three sizes, with a Tab 3 7 inch, a Tab 3 8 inch, and a Tab 3 10.1 inch.

“To cater to the diverse needs of Australians, the Galaxy Tab 3 represents the next evolution of our highly successful Galaxy Tab 2 range, offering consumers more of what they have come to expect from the Galaxy brand, with an array of options in terms of size, local content and features,” said Tyler McGee, Samsung’s Vice President of Telecommunications in Australia.

First there’s the Galaxy Tab 3 8 which, despite it’s confusing name, brings the size and screen from the Galaxy Note 8 (which we just recently reviewed) to a slightly cheaper price point, removing the S Pen in the process. Inside is a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, Android 4.2.2, WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, 16GB storage, with a microSD slot for more room.

The 8 inch screen even supports the same resolution as the Note 8 (1280×800), but sadly none of that Wacom pen technology, making this new tablet all tablet and less digital note-taker.

A $100 price differences does separate them, however, with the Galaxy Tab 3 8 coming in for $349, while the Note 8 sits at $449.

Then there’s the all new 10.1 inch, which changes the look of the previous 10.1, keeps the same screen res (10.1 inches at 1280×800), while upgrading the insides marginally.

You’ll find a 1.6GHz dual-core processor using what we suspect is an Intel Atom, 16GB storage, microSD, Bluetooth 4.0, Wifi, GPS, and a weight under that of the iPad.

This model will come in at $399, rounding out the most expensive of the range.

At the least expensive, however, is an all new 7 inch model, what is effectively Samsung’s budget tablet.

This model – the Galaxy Tab 3 7 inch – might not have the most imaginative name, but it will come with a 7 inch 1024×600 screen, a slightly older Android 4.1.2 installation, 8GB internal memory, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0, microSD slot, and a weight of around 300 grams.

It also comes with a price of $249, making it the budget Android tablet for Samsung this year.

The three devices follow the design style constantly being evolved by Samsung’s smartphone handsets, such as the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note II, while still including many of the features that makes these devices in demand, such as the various hubs for entertainment and reading, an interface closer to that of Android on the phone than Android on other tablets, and support for infrared effectively turning each of these tablets into big remote controls.

Going hands-on with them today, it’s clear that Samsung is following in the footsteps of its popular smartphones, as the operating systems now feel closer to that of what you get on a Samsung phone, and less like that of regular Android tablets.

We’re guessing that will make the experience across Samsung’s range of devices far better and easier to adapt to, but it also means that your regular icon dock at the bottom is locked, something we found when trying to move shortcuts out of the dock on the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1.

In the hands, the tablets retain that plasticky feel Samsung’s mobile phones currently feel like, but it’s not a bad result. In fact, the 7 inch model (above) is quite comfortable, especially since it’s easy to hold in one hand.

Some things concern us slightly, such as Reading Mode, which is a feature that Samsung first implemented in the Galaxy Note 8. This feature changes the colour temperature of the screen slightly when reading books so as to make your eyes hurt less during long bouts of reading off an LCD screen.

Interestingly, Reading Mode is only present in one of Samsung’s devices launched today, appearing only in the 8 inch (as seen above), but not the 10.1 or  7 inch(missing in the drop down below), even though they’re just as well suited for reading as the 8.

One positive change has come from the power port, however, and this is present across all three devices, with a microUSB charge port now here instead of the proprietary dock connector Samsung has previously used on tablet devices.

That’s great news for people who only want to carry one charge cable with them and already rely on microUSB to power their smartphone, but also possibly bad news for anyone who needs to send the screen from their tablet out to a projector or monitor source, as microUSB doesn’t always work in this way.

Regardless, the new devices will be available for pre-sale in Australia from July 18, with a release likely in the weeks after, first in WiFi only variants, but with 4G models on the way in the months to come.

UPDATE (3.57pm): We’ve updated availability info, as it’s only pre-sales on July 18, though the release shouldn’t be too long after.