Ease of Learning: 4 / 5
Ease of Use: 4 / 5
Enjoyment: 3 / 5
Design: 2.5 / 5
Value for Money: 3 / 5
Tablets have yet to take peter off since hitting the market a few short years back. In fact, the tablet market is still on the up, and, for the first time in its existence, is predicted to outsell PCs and laptops by the end of 2013. Samsung hit the stores relatively earlier in the game, with their original 7” Galaxy Tab in 2010. The original 10.1” launched soon after in Q1 of 2011 to relative success behind the Apple iPad. What came next, though, confused many tech experts as Samsung released the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 as something of a reissue, with very little difference to the original. 2013 sees yet another edition of the 10.1 tablet, the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1. As in 2012, we again find ourselves asking the question: “what’s different with the Galaxy Tab 3 over the Galaxy Tab 2?”
On the design front, Samsung has kept the same basic shape and build of the Tab 2 and added a sprinkling of minor changes, just so you know that there has been some change, and it wasn’t a straight copy/paste procedure. The Tab 2 migrated the stereo speakers from the rear to the front. This time around, the speakers are now mounted on the sides of the Tab 3. Samsung has removed the onscreen buttons from the OS, and instead opted for three physical buttons; a centre menu button, and two capacitive buttons on either side. The design, then, is more in line with what you find on Samsung’s smartphones.
Although it may look very similar, the build has been slightly improved, with a weight of 510g (down by 78g), and scraping in under 8mm in thickness (down by 1.8mm). This lends itself to more prolonged usage over its predecessor, ideal for watching movies and reading a few eBooks. To further emphasise this point, the edges are rounder than before, making it easier to rest in your hands or on your abdomen without any uncomfortable jabs from sharper edged devices. One thing that hampers the progress, however, is the reduced bevel on the sides. Previously, you could easily rest your thumbs on either side of the device without any trouble, but with narrower bezels, you would have to get used to holding your thumbs on the sides, otherwise you’ll end up blocking parts of the display.
Although we have witnessed Samsung’s prowess in terms of display on some of their other devices, the Tab 3 settles for the same 1280x800px TFT LCD as its precursor. This is truly unfortunate for prospective buyers, especially if they’ve witnessed the 2560x1600px Super Clear LCD on the Galaxy Note 10.1. All said, though, the screen suffices for watching movies and series, and is only really called into question when viewing some photos and playing games.
Under the hood, there is only one change to make note of, and that’s the change in processing power. Samsung has swapped out their Cortex-A9 CPU for Intel’s Atom Z2560 Dual-Core 1.6GHz CPU, which is said to offer more performance with a reduced strain on the battery. While I can attest to the longevity of the battery over the previous model for normal usage, the performance isn’t quite what is to be expected. Although I can’t state outright that it’s worse off than the Tab 2, having observed performances from other hardware, especially on modern smartphones, it doesn’t quite compete. Back to those battery stats: For everyday usage, which includes browsing, messages, and a few YouTube clips here and there, you can easily eke out a few days (sometimes a week) from the 6,800mAh battery. For heavy usage, however, the performances drop somewhat, even below that of last year’s Tab 2, which packed a larger 7,000mAh battery.
You may have thought that at a higher price point than the Tab 2, there would be a great improvement in some way or the other. This isn’t quite the case. Other similarities in terms of its hardware of the Tab 2 are the 3MP rear-facing camera, 1.3MP front-facing camera, 1GB RAM, 16/32GB storage options, and 21Mbps data connectivity. There are, however, two differences to pick out, that being the included infrared support for remote capabilities, and the OS upgrade.
While you won’t get the same feature-rich TouchWiz version running on the Note tablets, there are some Samsung apps and features thrown in. The lighter version of TouchWiz (thankfully) has the Smart Stay and Smart Orientation features enabled, along with Power Saving Mode, Voice Control, Blocking Mode and Driving Mode. The apps included are ChatON, Game Hub, Group Play, Memo, Music Hub, Music Player, Paper Artist, S Planner, S Voice, Samsung Apps, Screen Saver, Story Album, and WatchON. Other third-party apps include Dropbox, Flipboard, Polaris Office and Peel Smart Remote, apart from the pre-installed Google apps.
There are many instances in the design world where you find little design change between iterations, with companies actually succeeding with the approach. Porsche, for example, is one such company, but while their designs are based on what the fans have come to know and love, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 leaves fans scratching their heads. It is fair to point out that this isn’t Samsung’s flagship tablet, after the Galaxy Note 10.1 took over those reigns last year. The Tab 3, then, is now something of a mid-range tablet. Even still, consumers would have expected something more in terms of an upgrade, as you often find with the company’s other devices such as the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note ranges.
If you already own the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, you may need to look toward getting your hands on the Galaxy Note 10.1 for more of an update. For those looking to make the purchase over the festive season, it would be of interest to look toward deals on the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, which will definitely be more affordable. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 isn’t a bad device, it just feels a little dated.
You can find the full specifications here.