Samsung certainly wins the award for the most tablets released since late 2010. It’s pretty hard to keep track of all of them, but they have simplified things with the Tab and Note lines. The Galaxy Tab was introduced in late 2010 as the first Android tablet. It sported the 7-inch form factor, but the following year, they launched both 8.9 and 10.1 inch versions. Then last year, they launched the Galaxy Tab 2 in both 7-inch and 10.1-inch varieties. For 2013, it’s now the Galaxy Tab 3, but the just like the Note line, they added a third size: 8-inches. This size is for those that think the 7-inch form factor is just a little too small and 10.1-inches is just too big. Priced at $299, it’s $70 higher than the Nexus 7 and it has lower specs. Of course specs isn’t everything as we learned from Motorola. Is the Galaxy Tab 3 worth your hard earned dollars or just another tablet that will be quickly forgotten? Hit the break to get started.
As soon as you take the Galaxy Tab 3 out of the box, there is no mistaking it’s a Samsung product. It resembles a very large Galaxy S III, and it sports the usual Home button along with capacitive menu and back buttons. The only real difference is the faux chrome trim is bronze on the Gold Brown version (silver finish on the white version) and the camera lens moves to the back left corner. The feel is the usual glossy plastic that is synonymous with Samsung, but it’s lightweight and pretty thin. At 309.1 grams and 7.36mm thick, it’s a little heavier than the new Nexus 7, but much thinner (290 grams / 8.65mm). As far as size goes, it’s obviously bigger than the Nexus 7, but to give you a perspective, the Tab 8.0 is 8.26-inches by 4.87-inches and the new Nexus 7 is 7.9-inches by 4.5-inches. The 8-inch form factor experience is going to be different for everyone. For me, if I am going to get a tablet bigger than 7-inches, I would rather just go ahead an get a 10-incher rather than get something that is somewhat bulky.
As far as buttons and ports go, the top has the microphone jack. The right side has the power button towards the top and the volume rocker just below. At the center is the IR blaster. The bottom has the microUSB port and two stereo speakers (one to the right and the other to the left). The left side has the microSD slot just a little lower than the middle.
The Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 features an 8-inch WXGA (1200 x 800) TFT display at 189 ppi, a 1.5GHz dual-core Exynos 4212 Dual SoC processor, a Mali 400MP GPU, 1.5GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, microSDXC slot for up to 64GB of expanded storage, 5MP rear camera, 1.3MP front-facing camera, and 4,450mAh battery, and IR blaster. It’s offered in WiFi only, 3G & WiFi, and 4G/LTE & WiFi models.
Motorola proved to everyone that you don’t need a quad-core and I would agree. A dual-core is going to allow your battery to last longer and most people won’t notice a difference in speed. It’s similar to PCs. How many people need a quad-core CPU in their desktops or laptops? The bottomline is that unless you plan on playing some really intense hardcore games, the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 will satisfy your needs. I’m not a benchmark fan, but I always run the AnTuTu. For this device it came in at 17,546, which isn’t too shabby.
The display isn’t going have a wow factor like the Nexus 7, but it does have a good color representation and large viewing angles. You would have to be a display nerd in order to have any complaints.
The speakers are stereo, but they are both placed at the bottom of the display. The 10.1-inch version sports a more stereo approach with one speaker on the left side and one to the right (in portrait mode). With the 8.0, you get sound on one side of the device (right side) when watching a video in landscape mode. The sound is good enough, but could have been much better with proper placement of the speakers.
Battery life wasn’t as good as I was expecting. In my usual rundown test in which I loop video with WiFi on, Bluetooth on (not connected), GPS on, and the display turned up to 2/3′s, I was able to get just about 7 hours. Granted, normal use won’t be playing videos all day, but it gives us a general guide. For everyday use, you can expect to get about 11 to 13 hours out of it.
The Tab 3 8.0 features Android 4.2.2, which is just one tick under the latest, Android 4.3. As with any Samsung product other than a Google Edition, you will find TouchWiz as the main interface. However, there are some slight differences from the versions that you find on the phones. For example, the settings menu has a more tablet-friendly split screen. You won’t find features like Smart Pause or Air View, but you will find Smart Stay, Multi Window, S Voice and so on. The camera sports a similar interface as the Galaxy S 4, but you won’t find a lot of the features such as Eraser Mode, Animated Photos, or Dual Camera. You will find Sound & Shot however.
Since an IR blaster is onboard, you will find both the Peel Smart Remote and Samsung WatchOn app. The Galaxy S 4 has the WatchOn app only, so I’m not sure why Samsung included both, especially since WatchOn is based on Peel. Both apps allow you to control your home theater devices via IR, find out what’s on TV, and even get recommendations.
I don’t get into any major tests when it comes to tablet cameras. It’s there if you need it, but it should never be relied upon as your only camera. However, if you find yourself in a pinch. The Tab 3 should get the job done providing it isn’t too dark or there isn’t too much action in the shot.
Priced at $299, I am having a hard time coming up with a reason to buy the 8.0. Unless you really feel you need an extra inch, you would be better off spending $70 less on a new Nexus 7 or $100 less on the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0. I would opt for the Nexus 7 because it has a better design, display, and performance. However the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 has one advantage, and that’s a microSDXC slot for up to an additional 64GB. If you haven’t found your way to the cloud, you might go that route, but if you don’t need all that storage, grab the new Nexus 7 for $229/16GB or $269/32GB and enjoy.