Look and feel
The white, high-gloss plastic outer shell looks like it’s here to stay on Samsung’s high-end devices, and whilst it mightn’t have the same premium sheen as Apple’s slates, it’s certainly well put together and is far from unwieldy.
Ease of Use
Android Jelly Bean and TouchWiz combine to make general use a breeze for the casual user and everyday tasks such as web browsing, calendar checking, note making (there’s no stylus mind) present no problems at all.
Most of the ‘lifestyle’ features found on the Galaxy S4 have made the jump here including the multi-window mode and inherently useful WatchOn TV remote that utilises the IR blaster. There’s no NFC or Air Gesture support though.
Like almost every other aspect of this tablet, the Tab 3 8.0 offers a decidedly middle of the road level of performance. It copes with most things you ask of it but lag can be detected within the OS from time to time, especially when multitasking.
Longevity offered by the 4450mAh power cell packed into the Tab 3 8.0 is, you guessed it, distinctly average. A day of web surfing, responding to emails and the odd spot of light gaming will see the juice discharge to almost zero and an overnight charge will be required.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,8/15/2013 2:17:24 PM
Ease of use
Light and slim form-factor, decent screen, Samsung native apps
stylus, occasionally laggy performance, suspect wireless sharing functionality
Samsung eh? You’ve gotta admire its ambition. Not content with annexing the Android space with its unassailable Galaxy S4 and myriad of spin-offs, the Korean mobile giant looks to be taking the same approach with its tablet devices, releasing a slate at every price point and in every size imaginable. Ok, so not every size imaginable, but it’s got the 10-inch and 8-inchers covered with both high-end and mid-range efforts, the latest of which is the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 (not to be confused with the Galaxy Tab 2. Or the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0. Or the Galaxy Note 8.0).
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 Design: Glossing it off
Straight from the off it’s evident that this device forms part of Samsung’s fast becoming ubiquitous Galaxy range – it looks like a massive comedy approximation of the current Galaxy S4 flagship. That means that the same high-gloss white plastic bodywork is in place, as is the faux-aluminium bezel that envelops the perimeter.
Like its name would suggest, the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 is 8-inches in size with an 800x1280 pixel resolution TFT screen taking front and centre. The display itself hugs the perimeter of the device and although it’s not of the quite edge-to-edge variety (there’s a three quarter inch no-man’s land between the top and bottom edges of the screen and the device’s frame), it makes use of the space available well.
Round the back, an expanse of super-shiny plastic is on hand to greet you yet again with only the camera mount in the top right hand corner and centrally positioned Samsung logo punctuating the mass of polycarbonate. As with other Galaxy Tabs, connectivity ports are shared out across the device’s perimeter bezel with the 3.5mm audio jack taking the top edge, miniUSB the bottom, microSD card slot the left hand side.
The Tab 3 8.0 also sports a feature that is enjoying quite a resurgence at the moment; the infra-red blaster. This made an appearance on both the S4 and recent Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet and is incorporated into right hand side of the faux- aluminium band, just beneath the volume rocker and power-on button. More on this later, but a slight ripple of applause is due to Samsung for including it here when it could have jettisoned it and the TV remote app it powers just as easily as it has Air View and an S-Pen stylus.
All of this is rather deftly crammed into a shell that is remarkably thin at just 7.4mm thick and that tips the scales at a paltry 314g, so you’ll not struggle in the slightest when using it on the move. It easily slips into a bag or even a back pocket (if your kecks are big enough) and won’t weigh you down at all.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 Display: Screen with envy?
Screen performance is not quite up there with Samsung’s Super AMOLED or OLED displays but more than holds its own and outdoes the likes the iPad Mini thanks to the high levels of contrast and sharp image reproduction (and a higher pixel density). Viewing angles are decent and brightness is ok if not anything particular to write home about.
Where the consummate display performance falls down however is when viewing websites. Yes, the 16:10 aspect ratio is a boon for those who like to watch movies without two dirty great black bars across the top and bottom of the picture, but it does have the effect of making certain websites appear stretched and too narrow when viewed in portrait mode.
Due to the glossiness, you’ll also struggle to use it in direct sunlight without deflecting a shaft of light into your eye, but other than that, there isn’t anything to significantly detract from a middle-of-the-road viewing experience.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 OS and features: Bean there, done that...
Android Jelly Bean is the operating system of choice on the Tab 3 8.0, with Samsung’s own TouchWiz UI adding a bit of the manufacturer’s own sparkle to proceedings. To be honest, TouchWiz itself is probably one of the less intrusive of Android overlays but the little touches it does bring – quick access settings in the notifications centre, multi-window and SmartStay screen management – do add massively to the overall user experience. It’s testament to Samsung’s considerate approach to design that you don’t really notice that you use features like these every day – they just sort of creep their way into your routine.
Elsewhere, cross-device sharing is a major aspect of both this device and those that came in the wake of the flagship Galaxy S4, and that means you’ll find the Samsung Link cloud sharing feature that allows digital content to be seamlessly and wirelessly pinged between similarly enabled Samsung devices.
Also on hand is Samsung’s Group Play functionality, which allows users to stream music and video to other Samsung devices by making a Wi-Fi hotspot and setting up a group to share with. This worked particularly well when we tested it with a bunch of Galaxy S4s but for some reason, the app on the Tab 3 8.0 is slightly different and had difficulty connecting to the spare S4 we had knocking about the office, let alone a whole group. We can see this feature coming in handy should you want to use the Tab 3 as a media centre – streaming to wireless speakers is where we’d employ it – but sketchy performance might put paid to this.
Most of the the other bells and whistles introduced with the Galaxy S4 are present, so you can expect to have hours of fun trying to get S-Voice to understand what you’re asking of it, and while away your commute by jotting down your appointments in S-Planner. As we mentioned though, there’s no S-Pen stylus here as there is on the Note 8.0, so any hope of doodling and annotating important notes are dashed, and there’s no Quick Command gestures to be had either. Samsung has also chucked in its own native browser, even though Chrome comes as standard and both are almost identical in terms of performance. Strange decision.
One feature that has thankfully made the jump however is the WatchOn remote control app. Designed and powered by ‘Second Screen’ technology firm, Peel, the WatchOn app uses the in-built IR blaster and works as a universal remote and allow you to control your TV from the tablet, regardless of make of model. Not only that, it will also serve extra information including comprehensive viewing schedules and program data, as well as social media integration, all in a clean and easily navigable interface. If only Group Play worked properly, then this could be a comprehensive media centre device.
Performance across the board is fine although there are some jitters to be had when navigating around the OS. Processor-intensive gaming can see frame rates slow to a crawl and there can be a bit of hang when opening certain apps if you’ve got several open in the background – it’s particularly prevalent when jumping into another app whilst using the WatchOn remote. So long as you don’t push it too hard though, the dual-core 1.5GHz chip copes just fine.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 camera: Smiles all round?
The main camera on the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 is a 5-megapixel number and, in keeping with the rest of this slate, is as average as can be. It’ll do for quick snaps to post on social media, but resulting images are a tad on the fuzzy side and lack definition, regardless of lighting conditions.
You also get Samsung’s ‘Beauty Face’ mode as well as the weird ‘Sound & Shot’ functionality that lets users add an audio clip to stills for reasons that are yet to become apparent. On the front there’s a 1.3-megapixel lens that is reasonably competent at video calling but nothing else.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0: The verdict
If you’ve read this far, you’ll have noticed that the overriding theme of this review is one of distinct average-ness. This device isn’t so nondescript per se that it’ll sink without trace, but it’s hard to see why anyone would opt for this over the likes of the Nexus 7. Yes, the scaling down of functionality manages to shave a few pounds off the retail price of the Note 8.0, but at £300 it’s still not that cheap and there are other tablets in a similar bracket that offer more. However, if you absolutely have to have a Samsung tablet but don’t want to pay through the nose, this will see you right. Just.