Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review

The world’s first tablet running HDR video you can’t watch – yet

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Battery life

  • Smaller than expected battery still lasts long-haul flights
  • HD video playback can go 12 hours with the right settings
  • Adaptive Fast Charger juices it up to 23% in just 30 minutes

Yes, this is the first important Samsung device to launch since the recalled Galaxy Note 7. No, it didn’t catch fire or blow up – that’s the first question we’ve heard when mentioning that we’re reviewing the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3.

Its 6,000mAh battery is slightly bigger than the Tab S2’s 5,870mAh, but it’s still undersized next to the power packs in the iPad Pro 9.7 (around 7,300 mAh) and Google Pixel C (around 9,200mAh).

In our testing we felt like the Tab S3 had above-average battery life, enough to last a long-haul flight across the US if you wanted to watch a couple of movies and do some work. Running a 90-minute HD video at nearly full brightness drained the battery by 13%, leaving us with 87%.

Samsung says the Tab S3 has enough juice for 12 hours of video playback, and that claim is just about backed up by our testing, with 30 minutes difference between what we saw and the official estimate. There’s a battery saver mode that can help the Tab S3 reach this benchmark, which could make all the difference when you’re not next an outlet.

You can recharge the Tab S3 quickly (for a tablet) when using Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charger, which comes in the box (it’s the same one that comes with newer Samsung flagship phones, so you may soon have two; +1 for brand loyalty). It took two hours and 55 minutes to go from 0% to 100%, beating Samsung’s 165 minutes claim by 10 minutes.

Camera

  • Tablet photography quality leaves something to be desired
  • 13MP rear / 5MP front cameras are adequate for reference photos
  • Includes the same excellent camera interface of the Note 7

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 has a 13MP rear camera that you’ll hardly use. It has autofocus, an f/1.9 aperture and a flash in case you want to attract more attention to yourself… a tablet-camera user.

The quality is good for a tablet, complete with gesture control and 4K video recording, although your smartphone camera is always going to be better. We’ve mostly seen people use tablet cameras for references shots, where the quality isn’t necessarily important.

More important to potential buyers is the front-facing camera for video chats. Here, Samsung has gone with an adequate 5MP camera with a f/2.2 aperture. As expected, its low-light performance leave something to be desired – just don’t log in to video conference meetings from dim restaurants.

What we do like is that the Tab S3 borrows the improved camera interface of the recalled Samsung Galaxy Note 7. Flipping between the two cameras is done with a swipe up or down directly on the screen (much better than trying to find the tiny camera switch button). Menus are one swipe to the left, and effects are one swipe to the right.