Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 vs Apple iPad Pro 9.7: which is best?

Can the new king of the Android slabs topple Apple's top tablet?

Time was, picking a tablet meant rifling through a range of mid-range Android slabs - or buying an iPad.

Things haven’t changed all that much, save for the fact that far fewer Android tablets can hold a candle to Apple’s iPad range - particularly the stellar iPad Pro.

Finally, though, there’s some competition - in the shape of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S3. A 9.7in slate wrapped in metal and glass, it’s very much a premium piece of kit, and one that just might topple the identically-sized iPad Pro.

Which one is better, then? And which one should you buy? Read on for a blow-by-blow battle between the Apple iPad Pro 9.7 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3.

Design: Glass to go around

Sure, there have been a few tweaks and adjustments over the last few years, but Apple has essentially stuck to the same recipe when making the iPad. It’s all slim aluminium and sleek lines, in a build that’s both gorgeous and lightweight.

No, it’s not reinventing the wheel - in fact, the iPad Pro 9.7 looks very similar to the iPad Air 2 - but, when that wheel is really, really pretty that’s no bad thing. And, look carefully: those speakers on the top and bottom and the Smart Connector give away that it’s a Pro.

Can the Tab S3 compete? Well, Samsung has finally put away the plastic and served up a slate that’s wrapped in the metal and glass befitting a machine that costs £600 (RM3380). A black finish makes the glass rear a fingerprint magnet, but it’s all distinctively Galaxy - from the slim bezels to the home button to the rounded corners.

Holding the S3 in one hand doesn’t feel quite as natural as with the iPad Pro, due to the latter’s more agreeable curves, though at 6mm thin and 429g light it won’t weigh you down any more than the 437g Pro.

When it comes down to it, preference will be the ultimate decider here and, impartially, there’s very little between these two slabs on looks and build alone.

Winner: draw

Screen: Resolution repetition

Most of your time using either of these devices will be spent ogling at the screen and, given that both have 9.7 diagonals, the quality of the panel could be a key decider.

Apple’s iPad Pro 9.7 serves up a 2048x1536 display resolution (that’s 264ppi). Without getting deep into comparative resolutions and the 4K fight, suffice it to say that the iPad Pro’s display won’t disappoint on sharpness or detail.

True Tone tech helps, too, which sees the Pro utilising invisible sensors to monitor ambient light and adjust the white balance to suit; you can disable it if you find it annoying, but it’s a subtle way in which Apple delivers a more comfortable viewing experience, whatever lighting situation you’re in.

As for the Tab S3, its screen resolution is identical to that of the Pro - but it packs an OLED panel, rather than the iPad’s LCD. That means deep blacks, excellent contrast and a general boost in clarity. Viewing angles are superb on the Tab S3 and brightness is astounding, too.

Oh, and it also supports HDR, so you can stream Netflix and Amazon with even more realism. Bundle in AKG-tuned speakers and the S3 begins to seem like the complete entertainment package. You won’t notice it on paper, but put the two tablets in front of you and, while the Pro’s panel is stellar, the S3’s OLED delivers a display that’s just that much punchier.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

Camera: One-sided competition

If you’re buying a tablet for its camera quality, you should probably go and have a hard think about your life. That said, if you’re out and about and it’s a tablet in your hand when that viral moment rears its head, you want to know you can rely on the camera.

Oddly, despite being able to deliver excellent lenses on its smartphones (just look at the Galaxy S8), Samsung struggles to find its form on tablets - and that’s very much the case with the Tab S3.

Yes, the 13MP, f/1.9 rear snapper will shoot quickly enough, but the results are simply mediocre. Images lack detail, with a general softness that disappoints, given the S3’s price tag.

The iPad Pro 9.7, meanwhile, offers the same camera that you’ll find on the iPhone 6s - which means it’s excellent. A 12MP rear lens pairs with True Tone flash to serve up sharp, detailed and natural shots, with Live Photos functionality available, too.

While no self-respecting human should use a tablet as their go-to camera, if the need arises there’s no question which is the winner here.

Winner: Apple iPad Pro 9.7