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Galaxy Tab S3: Five features we love about Samsung’s iPad competitor

by Brandon Russell | March 22, 2017March 22, 2017 6:00 am PDT

Samsung may be releasing fewer tablets these days, but the company hasn’t abandoned the market completely. Alongside two intriguing Windows 10 slates, the company also introduced the Android 7.0-equipped Galaxy Tab S3, a powerful tablet aimed at productivity.

With the Galaxy S8 on the horizon, a new tablet may not be at the top of your priority list. But look more closely at the Tab S3, and you’ll realize the device has a lot to offer. If you’re looking for an iPad Pro alternative, Samsung’s Tab S3 makes a compelling option.

We’ve been playing with the device for the past few days and came up with five things to know about Samsung’s high-end Android tablet.

HDR video

Samsung screens are always great, and the Tab S3’s 9.7-inch Super AMOLED display is no different. Better still, the device supports High Dynamic Range (HDR) playback, promising to offer viewers a more true-to-life picture.

To our eyes, HDR content on the device looks fabulous, providing an overall more vivid picture. Unfortunately, finding HDR content is another matter entirely. You can currently stream HDR content through Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, and even then only select movies and TV shows support the feature.

Four speakers tuned by AKG

The Galaxy Tab S3 sports four speakers, which Samsung promises will automatically follow the direction mode of the screen. So, whether you’re in portrait or landscape, the audio should be loud, crisp, and clear. What’s more, Samsung says the speakers have been tuned by AKG. Audiophiles should appreciate that extra detail.

Having four speakers makes the Tab S3 a flexible, media-consuming machine. Since the speakers shoot out from the frame of the device, however, it’s pretty easy to cover them up. Even still, if a speaker is covered, audio never sounds muffled. The speakers do indeed sound terrific, but are they better than other tablets on the market? That’s debatable.

S Pen is included

Tablets are no longer just for consuming content, but creating content, too. As such, the Tab S3 comes with an S Pen, which the company has redesigned to feel like a ballpoint pen. It features over 4,000 levels of pressure sensitivity and a tip that’s just 0.7mm, which feels great when put to the tab S3’s screen.

The pen has a nice heft to it and supports a lot of the same Air Command features Samsung fans are familiar with, including the ability to jot down notes, translate text, and annotate screenshots.

The S Pen wasn’t quite as precise as the Apple Pen, and it was super easy to accidentally press the Air Command button, which can be a huge disruption to productivity. And, unlike Samsung’s Galaxy Note line, there’s no enclave to store it, making it susceptible to being misplaced.

But, hey, at least you never have to charge it.

Keyboard case support

Although it’s billed as optional, the Tab S3’s Pogo keyboard is a must-have accessory if you plan on using the device for school or work. It magnetically connects to the tablet, and features “an optimized layout with keys strategically built for efficient, fast and error-free typing.”

It’s a tiny keyboard, to be sure, but I found it pretty comfortable to type on—even for long periods of time. The keys feature a satisfying travel and they’re spaced out far enough (but not too far) so typos remain at a minimum. You’ll prefer a larger keyboard, of course, but the Tab S3’s Pogo keyboard is pretty fantastic for its size—and it protects the device, too.

Design

If you’ve used a Samsung device in the past few years, the Tab S3 will look mighty familiar. Featuring a solid aluminum frame and all-glass construction, the tablet is a premium addition to Samsung’s lineup. The Korean company’s portfolio features some of the industry most beautiful gadgets, and its approach to design shines through with the Tab S3, giving the iPad Pro a run for its money.

That being said, the all-glass construction attracts fingerprints. One minute the device will look shiny and clean; the next, it’ll be a greasy, smudged mess. Even still, the all-glass design looks sleek, while the aluminum frame feels solid and sturdy. It’s easily among the more attractive slates we’ve ever seen.


There are far fewer Android tablets these days, so your choices are limited. As far as iPad alternatives go, however, the Tab S3 is a great option, offering up an excellent design, productivity features, and a beautiful display. It also features a ginormous 6,000mAh battery and Android 7.0 out of the box.

At $599, the Tab S3 is a tough sell compared to Apple’s similarly priced 9.7-inch iPad Pro, although Apple’s device doesn’t include the Apple Pencil, which is another $99.

Samsung’s new Chromebook devices may be the way to go if you’re after a new productivity machine. But if the smaller, lighter tablet form factor is what you’re after, there’s a lot to like about the Tab S3.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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