Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 hands-on preview: The ghost of the Note 7 lives on in this tablet

This svelte tablet is not only a performer, but it comes bundled with the software tricks and S Pen that made its phablet predecessor so popular.

I always say that the last great, fully-featured Android tablet was Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2 because it fulfilled all the right criteria: it was stylish, thin, extremely light and came equipped with a vibrant Super AMOLED display that was really quite perfect for binge watching video.

That was nearly two years ago. Now we have the Galaxy Tab S3, Samsung’s third-generation premium tablet. It’s heftier, comes with an S Pen, and is covered in a premium glass finish that hearkens back to the Note 7 release that went terribly, terribly wrong. In this way, Samsung keeps its design prowess lingering on, as if to remind us that it’s still innovating. And that’s what the Tab S3 is anyway, right? A holdover launch to keep us salivating until the next eventual Galaxy smartphone release?

Let’s get acquainted with Samsung’s latest big tablet.

Galaxy Tab S3 Hands-on video

We have yet to spend too much time with the Galaxy Tab S3, but if you want to see it in action we have a great preview video for your enjoyment. Watch above, then read on for further impressions of the new tablet!

Galaxy Tab S3 Specs

Operating SystemAndroid 7.0 Nougat
Display9.7-inch Super AMOLED, 2048×1536
ProcessorSnapdragon 820
Quad Core 2.15GHz + 1.6GHz
Storage32GB (U.S.)
ExpandablemicroSD card
Rear Camera13MP, Auto-focus, Flash
Front Camera5MP
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11ac dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, USB Type-C 3.1, GPS
LTE (optional)
Fast charging
Water resistanceNo
InputS Pen
4096-levcel pressure sensitivity
SecurityOne-touch fingerprint sensor
Dimensions237.3 x 169 x 6 mm
Weight429g (Wi-Fi)
434g (LTE)
ColorsSilver, black

Galaxy Tab S3 Fundamentals

As far as premium Android tablets go, the Galaxy Tab S3 is one of the first truly worthy competitors against the iPad. Too bad it’s like three years too late, though. Seriously, where have Android manufacturers been? We saw an influx of plastic tablets hit the market (and one decent metal one) in the last couple of years, but none carried the kind of design aesthetic that would compel someone looking for a premium tablet to look for an Android-based one.

The Tab S3 brings Samsung’s tablets up to speed with its phones.

The Galaxy Tab S3 is pretty compelling, though, enough that you might even warrant its version of Android over what Google offers with the Pixel C. Remember how the Note 7 made you feel? Like cradling a metal-and-glass laden work of art? This doesn’t feel exactly like that, but it’s close enough that you’ll be reminded of the kind of design that Samsung is capable of. It’s got a few of the phablet’s famed bells and whistles, too, like a fingerprint sensor built into the physical home button on the front of the device, and an S Pen, which comes in the box though it’s not attached to the device in any way. It looks different, too, but we’ll get to that in a second.

These are the magnetic pins that connect to the Tab S3’s optional keyboard.

The Tab S3 features a physical home button and capacitive navigation buttons.

The Tab S3’s optional keyboard.

The Tab S3 will be available in two colors: silver and black. You can choose to equip it with an attachable keyboard, which binds to the Tab S3 with magnets. It’s sort of awkward to mount the keyboard, but once you have it on there it pairs nicely with the tablet hardware. I am still not convinced that something like this can be a worthy replacement for a laptop, though, just like I wasn’t convinced by the Pixel C, or the iPad Pro for that matter. But since the Galaxy Tab S3 comes with an S Pen in tow, there is an element of productivity that’s part of its identity, which is why you might want the keyboard.

There’s plenty of appropriate hardware for entertainment here, too.

Samsung equipped its new tablet with the appropriate hardware for entertainment, too. In addition to its 9.7-inch QXGA Super AMOLED display, which Samsung boasts is the “first tablet to be HDR ready,” the Tab S3 is equipped with quad speakers tuned by AKG. There are two speakers on the top and two on the bottom, and all four are equipped with an auto calibration feature that adjusts the direction of the sound based on the orientation of the tablet. The Tab S3 is indeed louder than its predecessors, too, and though you won’t want to blast music with this thing, you can prop it up in front of a bunch of kids to entrance ’em with whatever they haven’t already seen on Netflix. (Actually, you might want to avoid the kids when you learn the Tab S3 is not water resistant like its smartphone counterparts.)

Galaxy Tab S3 S Pen

The S Pen is back and though its original host has retired to rehab, it’s reinvented itself as a thicker, almost crayon-like peripheral capable of doing truly wonderful things. On the Tab S3, those things include the same actions you may have seen exhibited on the Galaxy Note 7 when it was around, like the Air Command launcher with shortcuts to oft-used tasks. These tasks are fully customizable, but by default they feature shortcuts to specific features previously reserved for the Note series of devices, including Smart select and Screen write. The Tab S3 has the same quick Screen write feature when the screen is off, too, just like its Note brethren.

I’m happy to see that Samsung revived the idea of bundling in its impressive, effective S Pen with its tablets.

I’m happy to see that Samsung revived the idea of bundling in its impressive, effective S Pen with one of its tablet models, but it’s a bummer there’s no way to actually dock the stylus. Unlike the Note 10.1 tablet launched three years back, the S Pen that comes with the Tab S3 requires its own … pencil pouch? Or something like that if you’re planning to bring it with you on the go. Once you feel the realistic drag of the S Pen on the Tab S3’s screen, though, you may not think of is as such a burden. The thicker pen is also better for prolonged stylus use, which is what Samsung hopes to encourage.

Galaxy Tab S3 Final thoughts

In terms of both design and functionality, the Tab S3 is a valid of reminder of what Samsung is capable of, and that’s manufacturing an attractive, well-made device that’s equipped with all the right stuff, including the capacitive S Pen stylus, a great high-resolution display, and stereo speakers that turn the tablet into a veritable little entertainment system. Its biggest selling point will be whether it releases for the right price, however. If Samsung can transform the Tab S3 into an attainable alternative to what’s being concocted in Cupertino, maybe consumers can be swayed. Or maybe they can’t, because is anyone really buying tablets anymore?

Check Also

Download the OnePlus 5T Wallpapers by Hampus Olsson

The OnePlus 5T was finally launched last week after months of speculation, and it didn’t disappoint. Perhaps the …