The Android tablet market is getting pretty crowded. From ultra-bargain models from China to high-end shiny ones like Sony's Xperia Tablet Z, consumers are already spoiled for choice so why go for the Samsung Tab 3 10.1 then? Here's our impressions from our (limited) time with the device.
Design: Simple, no-frills
For its size, the Samsung Tab 3 is pretty light, weighing only 510g and also managing to be as thin as 7.95mm. Overall construction is decent, with no ugly bits sticking out from poor finishing and it generally feels solid.
Only thing is, for the price tag (RM1599 for the LTE version and RM1299 for Wi-Fi only), you would think it would feel slightly more premium? Sure, it's nice how they neatly tuck in the metal buttons and ports along the sides but the white plastic back cover as compared to the burnished metalic surfaces of most competing devices is a bit of a letdown.
There are nice additions, though, like the existence of a physical 'home' button as opposed to the software buttons of Android. You can easily press the buttons to return to the home screen or go back a screen to a previous app.
One thing though: why the horizontal orientation as opposed to the iPad's vertical skew? Does Samsung find more of its 10-inch tablet consumers prefering to use their tablets in the wider mode as opposed to the opposite? But for users who intend to watch video or mostly consume media, the horizontal skew makes sense.
Screen: Bright and lucid
The screen on the 10.1 inch screen can be filed under the category: 'satisfactory'. It is bright enough indoors and its 1280 x 800 WXGA TFT LCD screen has good colour saturation. We weren't able to take it outdoors to see how it would fare under the sun, though we suspect it would probably need a bit of help.
But if you're spoiled by the rash of IPS screens available on even budget devices like the Asus Fonepad, then you might find the screen less compelling. It is certainly not a bad screen, nor is it a cheap-looking screen. The problem is that there are so many better ones that can be had for this price range. Still, it's not like the icons and graphics aren't sharp (though the text could be more defined) but Samsung could do better than this resolution, surely?
Power and Keyboard:Capable but not amazing
On paper, the Tab 3's innards look pretty all right. A 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Z2560 processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage space, microSD support and of course that LTE magic. It also comes with a sizable Li-ion 6,800 mAh battery, which Samsung claims can give you around 1200 hours of standby time.
Flipping through screens and trying out the various apps was fairly zippy, though to be honest we weren't able to really give it as much of a stress test. 2GB of RAM is fast enough (and should be the minimum, really) for most apps but what we'd really like to see is if the Intel processor and graphics can take the load of more graphics-intensive games though Samsung's TouchWiz also comes with several 'floating apps', which are the next best thing to real split-screen multitasking.
Typing on the keyboard is a pretty nice experience, though, with great spacing and responsiveness of the keys though we did not have time to try out the Swyping function on the Tab 3.
Camera: Awkward placement
Taking pictures with the Tab 3, though, is decidedly not fun. No one-handed pictures for you, mate; you'll need both hands for this one! If you think taking photos with a vertical-aligned tablet is awkward, a horizontal-one is even more so. Maybe it's Samsung's good deed to the world: discouraging people from taking pictures with their tablets.
As far as the 3.0MP back camera goes, you wish Samsung would have at least bumped it up to 5.0MP. Of course asking for an LED flash would be a tad presumptious though lovers of video chat will like that this time around there's a 1.3MP front-facing camera.
Initial verdict: Good if you want an affordable big screen
The Samsung Tab 3 10.1 is not a bad device. Not at all. It's got a nice screen, decent innards, performs admirably under ordinary conditions and is a decent contender in the 10-inch tablet category. But what would make someone choose this over another competing one from Sony, Asus or Apple? Overall, this is likely to appeal to Samsung users looking for a TouchWiz experience on a tablet and those wanting to use the S-pen on a larger screen.