Tablets have been experiencing something of a drought. In 2016 there were few Android tablet launches, as the segment appeared to stumble: not just Android either, Apple also slowed down on the iPad, switching direction to offer Pro models.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, then, isn't just A N Other tablet, the sort of thing that was churned out by the dozen in 2015. The Galaxy Tab S3 plays to the segment of tablet that is still making growth and that's tablets that offer something more, doing something that your phone won't do.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is designed to be a hardcore entertainment tablet, packed with potency to give you an experience that sets it in a position that's slightly better than the rest.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 preview: Design and build
- Metal core with glass back
- 237.3 x 169 x 6mm, 429g
- 4:3 aspect ratio
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 offers immediately recognisable design. This is a Galaxy tablet and the general layout of controls and home button matches that which you'll find on the company's smartphones, from the front at least.
However, flip this tablet over and things are a little different. This isn't all metal, although there's a metal core to the Tab S3 that fuses the front and rear together, but the back is glass.
There's a quality fit and finish to this tablet, matching its premium positioning. It is not the lightest tablet around, weighing in at 429g (Wi-Fi, 434g LTE), but it's a typical weight for a 9.7-inch device, fractionally lighter than the iPad Pro.
It is a slim tablet, however, and at 6mm, it's about as skinny as you want to go. Measuring 237.3 x 169mm, Samsung hasn't removed the bezels, so there's still space to grip your tablet when using it, especially at the to and bottom (in portrait) giving good handholdability when gaming or watching movies in landscape.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 preview: Hardware and display
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, 4GB RAM, 32GB storage + microSD
- 6000mAh battery
- 9.7-inch, 2048 x 1536 AMOLED HDR display
- AKG quad stereo speakers
- Wi-Fi and LTE versions
Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset, the Tab S3 isn't a watered down tablet. It's powered by the chipset that most of 2016's flagship smartphones carry, and it's backed up by 4GB RAM and 32GB of storage. There's also microSD card support, so you'll be able to add plenty of your own content.
Samsung told us that the Tab S3 was built for entertainment without compromise, so not only is this a hugely powerful tablet, capable of playing the latest games, it's also equipped with a stunning display.
The 2048 x 1536 resolution is perhaps to be expected, and Samsung sticks to its favoured AMOLED technology, meaning it's plenty vibrant too. We only had the chance to have a brief look at the new Tab S3, but we've seen Samsung pull off this trick before: the display looks great.
What's perhaps more unique - and fits the notion of "going beyond" is the support for HDR. HDR has been tearing through the TV industry, the big trend of 2016 and 2017, with widening the colour gamut available on screens and giving greater contrast, pushing peak brightness to make games and movies even more engaging.
This was something that Samsung started with the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7, but now we're looking at a great HDR display on a tablet, ready to serve you content from the likes of Amazon Video. We watched a brief trailer and have to say this is an exciting step, perfect for those who want to watch TV or movies in bed, but not forego the latest tech trend.
We didn't have the chance to test the performance of this tablet in the time we've spent with it, but with a number of Snapdragon 820 smartphones having passed through our hands, we're confident the experience will be a good one.
Then there's the 6000mAh battery. It's big, as you'd expect for a tablet, but if there's one thing we know about HDR tech on TVs, it's a bigger power consumer than regular SDR (standard dynamic range). Of course, we'll put this all to the test closer to launch.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 preview: Software and S Pen
- Android Nougat with TouchWiz
- Samsung Flow
- S Pen included
As you might expect, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 comes with the full TouchWiz working, sitting over the top of Android Nougat, giving you the latest of Android, enhanced by the many additions that Samsung makes.
We haven't had the chance to fully explore everything that's on offer, but a quick glance through the apps and menus reveals that this is about as far removed visually from the stock Android. That's what we expect from Samsung and we have to say that if anyone has mastered the Android reworking, it's Samsung.
New to the collection is a new feature called Samsung Flow. This is a new system that's designed to bridge devices, making it easier to work across platforms. It makes perfect sense, as Samsung has Android, Windows and Tizen devices. The idea of Flow is to let you get your notifications from your Android phone on your Windows tablet - like the new Galaxy Book - and so on. We've not had a chance to fully explore its offerings, but it looks like a convenient solution for those working within an ecosystem of different software platforms.
One of the big additions to the Tab S3 is S Pen. This isn't the old faithful from the Note family, it's a new device like the Apple Pencil. The new S Pen is included in the box and takes a form factor that's very like a pen, rather than the integrated stylus you'll know from the Galaxy Note.
It boasts some impressive specs too, offering a wide range of pressure sensitivity, tilt detection, as well as all those software functions offered on the Note too. You can draw on the standby screen, you can smart select, copy, paste and a whole lot more.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 preview: Cases and keyboards
- Book covers
- Keyboard covers
There's also a range of accessories for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. There is a choice of three colours of book covers, which magnetically attach to the Tab S3 and give you a range of position options, so that you can watch or write on the display of your tablet using the new S Pen.
Then there is the new keyboard cover. This will give you a full keyboard so that you can get to work and be a little more productive with your tablet. This is an optional extra, but if you're looking for an Android tablet to cross over into work too - perhaps as an alternative to the Google Pixel C - then the Tab S3 has you covered.
The keyboard has been designed to give you a good typing feeling, with good travel to the keys. It's not as nice as the keyboard on the Windows alternative, the Galaxy Book, but it's a great addition for those who need to work and travel light.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 looks like a welcome addition to a sector of the market that's been feeling a little neglected lately. This is a premium Android tablet, designed to be a performance powerhouse, whether that's gaming, watching the latest movies - in the latest formats - or just getting productive with your Android tablet.
Samsung has added loads of functionality to this tablet and packed it into a package that's slim and well build, if a little predictably designed. The price is £599, or $599.
Pre-orders opened on 17 March in the UK and it will be available from 31 March. You can pre-order now on Samsung.com.