Sprint is still selling the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 for $50 with a 2yr contract commitment. But how much value is there for the tab with the dated design and form factor? At first glance it looks like an oversized Galaxy S4–or S3 considering that design has gone unchanged in the last two iterations. But the innards are a wide departure from the S4. So how does it perform? Sprint’s marketing hyperbole would have you believe this…”You love your Galaxy smartphone. Now enjoy the same Galaxy Experience on a tablet.” I’m not the biggest fan of the Galaxy S4 yet I fully recognize the allure. But the Galaxy Note 3 is the crown jewel of smartphone offerings right now and the absolute best mobile product in the Samsung arsenal. Unfortunately the Galaxy Tab 3 user experience is unlike either of these premium high end mobile devices.
The 7 inch Tab 3 is housed in a form factor virtually identical to the Galaxy S4, albeit much larger. It does feel more solid in hand than the S4. But it has the same overly smooth plastic back. So I recommend a good protective case. But all the same design is there. The edges are rounded. The physical Home button is sandwiched between the touch-sensitive–Back button on the right and Menu button to the left. The other two physical keys include the volume rocker and the Power/Lock key found along the right side of the device. On the opposite side we have the SIM card slot at top and the MicroSD card slot toward the bottom left-hand side. The two speakers are positioned at the bottom of the Tab 3. They bookend the miniUSB charging port set between them. A lone audio 3.5mm port is found at the very top of the device offset to the right. It’s modest and very familiar design.
Samsung has opted for low-end to middle-of-the road display option. We have a 7-inch WSVGA TFT touch screen display. This window is only capable of hitting 1024 x 600 display resolution. That’s pretty low. Achieving 1600 x 1200 would have been more graphically pleasing. So don’t expect a great deal of color saturation or rich clarity. After all, pixel density is only 169ppi, which is about half that of the competing Nexus 7 (capable of 1280 x 800). That said it’s not bad for 1024 x 600. Viewing angles are great. But let be honest here, Samsung used this same resolution on the original Galaxy Tab from several years back. It works but is horribly unforgivable considering the current advances in display tech.
The processor, however, has a dash more modernity. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 dual-core is not the most current silicon. But it’s pedigree is that of a formidable line of mobile processor. This one is clocked at 1.7ghz. It’s responsive but noticeably slower than the Snapdragon 600 in the Galaxy S4 and definitely can’t hold a candle to the 800 found powering the Note 3. To be fair, this processor is not for the big leagues and is often found in consumer level or midrange devices, which the Tab 3 is through and through. So no harm no foul. Just don’t expect Galaxy S4 speeds from this larger doppelganger.
The memory capacity sits at 1.5gb of RAM. Internal storage drive is 16gb. But this can be expanded up to 64gb using a MicroSD card. There are WiFi and Bluetooth radios. Bluetooth supports all the current reception standard including A2DP, SBC, AVRCP, GAVDP, HSP and HID.
Finally the battery used is a 4000 mAh Lithium Ion battery. This little number is not bad at all for the tablet’s position in the market. Bluetooth on and Wifi cranking–I could get about 8.5-9hrs out this little sucker. That’s pretty good stamina for a $50 tablet. We should be thankful too. The back panel is irremovable so the battery cannot be accessed.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 is rocking Android 4.2 for its operating software. That brings the now-familiar actionable notifications slider. The one that like from 4.2 is the swipe typing where you can drag your finger from lettered key to lettered key to form words for your text, emails and more. Multiwindow is cool in some use scenarios. It allows you to run two apps on the Tab 3 display simultaneously. You share media with other devices via DLNA. But there is no NFC functionality (near field communication).
The skin draped over Android 4.2 is a neutered version of the ever-annoying TouchWiz interface. This is a mainstay for all current Samsung mobile devices. Several features found on higher end Samsung devices were pulled. There is no S Beam, Screen Mirroring, AirView, Air Gesture and others. I know TouchWiz is liked by some and is fitting on friendlier consumer level devices, just like this Galaxy Tab 3. It stands out like a festering thumb on the more regal and distinguished business class Note 3. But here in this form, it works. Regardless, I find it no more appealing. All the bloops and blips and overlaping interfaces are just a nuisance. Again here you can opt for a simpler ease-or-use interface. But even the consumer level customer base the Tab 3 its aimed at is more sophisticated than a playground of Fisher Price pundits. Time for something different, Samsung.
Bloatware thankfully is not overwhelming. Most of the additional app such as Samsung’s WatchON (media remote), S Translator (language translation), VPN Client and Trip Advisor make obvious and relevant cases for themselves. Other apps with little obvious efficacy are merely freeloading stowaways–not fully installed. Click the quite-possibly-unneeded CBS Sports or Sprint Music apps and you’re tossed over to the Play Store to install them.
Both clickers on the Galaxy Tab 3 are probably its least appealing features. The rear-facing camera is is 3.2mp fixed focus camera and boy does it show. Yet beyond the pixel density, the images are riddled with noise, even in the most well-lit or naturally lit settings. The lack of clarity and repletion of blurry images is really surprising. Viewing snapped photos on the low-res screen does them little justice. So things only get worse when imported to a computer for full-size viewing. There is no flash, so good luck in capturing even a slightly clear image in low-light settings.
While all this may sound excessively negative, there two things you should understand. This is all true. But it’s not all bad. This is a midrange unit that performs like such. The camera is just rubbish but we’re not big fans of dinner plate-sized cameras anyway. That’s not why you buy a tablet. Where the Galaxy Tab excels is in media digestion. It’s a great little slab for watching movies, listening to music, streaming either or browsing the internet and/or conducting a little business. The 4000mAh battery is solid for 9 hours (some are reporting 10hrs). The native Sprint connectivity ups the appeal since you don’t need a WiFi connection. This adds a great deal of mobility and makes the Tab 3 more versatile. General functions and handling are familiar to Galaxy S4 and S3 users. Although it is much larger so holding it in a single hand is plausible, but not advisable–especially since the back is just as slick as the S4.
Still, at $50 with a 2yr contract…? That’s a tough call. The unit is worth about $99 + monthly service and NO contract. That would be a great value point. But $50 plus a 2yr commitment and monthly service charge… That’s just too much. You can dump $300 for it without the 2yr commitment. But somethings tells me you’re all smarter than that. Being a solid 7-inch movie player is not enough to shackle me to this thing for 2 whole years. If you receive it as a gift, embrace it. It has its merits. But you will get more out of your hard earned coin from the Google Nexus 7 or Asus MeMO Pad.
Great media player. Low cost of entry. Midrange price for midrange performance. Sprint connectivity service adds mobility and functionality.
Camera is one of the worst in the business with excessive noise and blurry images. Low-res display. TouchWiz again?! Reduced features on TouchWiz. Not the latest iteration of Android. Noticeably slower processor. Dated and unappealing form factor.
Shawn loves gadgets, literature, history and games. For 10yrs+ he's straddled both the comic book & video game industries, as a writer, editor, marketing officer & producer. Shawn got his start in tech & games as an editor & Hardware Director for GameRevolution.com. More notable accomplishments include Executive Producer on mobile games Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved & The Shroud.