Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G review

A robust but punchy tablet

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G
(Image: © Mark Pickavance)

TechRadar Verdict

This tablet is a curious combination of massive processing power with a small battery and a low-resolution camera. With the promised accessories, this could be a useful device, but the asking price is way too high for the memory and storage Samsung gave it.

Pros

  • +

    Lighter than many rugged phones

  • +

    Replaceable battery

  • +

    Samsung Exynos 1380 SoC

  • +

    5G

Cons

  • -

    Price is high for small RAM and storage

  • -

    Camera is underwhelming

  • -

    Battery is relatively small

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Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G: 30-second review

Samsung launched its Galaxy Tab S5e predecessor back in 2019, so the arrival of the Galaxy Tab Active5 5G is long overdue. As the ‘Active’ moniker reveals, this is a reworking of the smaller Galaxy Tab design to provide a lightweight and punchy tablet in a 9-inch form factor.

This device's feature set is impressive, and it is pitched as Samsung’s toughest tablet yet. Built around the Samsung Exynos 1380 SoC, it is a powerful device that makes many of the MediaTek-powered rugged tablets we’ve seen in the past year seem distinctly sedentary in comparison.

With Wi-Fi 6e and 5G comms, the Active5 can stream video and data smoothly. It also has a 13MP rear camera for still image and video capture.

However, the single feature that diverges Active5 from most alternatives is its user-replaceable battery. This allows the limited capacity of the internal battery to be augmented, and this design will even work without a battery if powered directly by a vehicle or other power source.

This enables the Active5 to offer a relatively lightweight design that can function over successive working days with sufficient additional batteries or a suitable power source.

The weaknesses of this design are that the 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage seem modest for a tablet that costs in excess of $500, although you can expand that storage using a MicroSD card up to 1TB. There isn’t a model with more memory or space, and at the time of writing, Samsung hasn’t released any accessories or spare batteries.

To be truly useful, the Active5 requires these plus an external charger and a power cradle when Samsung can be bothered to make these available.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G: price and availability

  • How much does it cost? From £510/$550
  • When is it out? Now
  • Where can you get it? From online retailers

What’s slightly different about this Samsung tablet is that. for whatever reason, it isn’t currently sold through the direct Samsung portal.

It’s exclusive to 3rd-party vendors, and they also are the only source for the accessories.

According to Samsung, this tablet comes in Green, but the hue is so subtle that we thought it was black on the underside, like elsewhere.

In Europe, only one version of the Active5 is available, and that’s the 5G capable model, which sells for £509 direct from Samsung in the UK and for £515 from Amazon.co.uk.

American customers get the option of a WiFi-only model and the 5G option, presumably since most of that country doesn’t have 5G comms.

The US cost is $547.29 for the Wi-Fi model direct from Amazon.com, and $639.77 for the 5GB option.

To put that in perspective, Ulefone sells the Armor Pad 8 for around $180, Oukitel the RT6 for $300 and Doogee the R10 for $290. Therefore, if you want a rugged tablet, there are significantly cheaper options.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
  • Value score: 2.5/5

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G: Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CPU:Samsung Exynos 1380
GPU:Mali-G68 MP5
RAM:6GB LPDDR4X
Storage:128GB UFS 3.1
Screen(s):8.0-inch IPS 120Hz 450nits
Resolution:1920 x 1200
SIM:Nano SIM and MicroSD
Weight:433g
Dimensions:213.8 x 126.8 x 10.1 mm (8.42 x 4.99 x 0.40 in)
Rugged Spec:IP68/IP69K, MIL-STD-810H compliant
Rear cameras:13MP Main
Front camera:5MP
Networking:5G/4G, WiFi 6e, Bluetooth 5.3
OS:Android 14, One UI 6
Battery:Li-Po 5050 mAh (Max charge 33W)
Colours:Green

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G: design

  • Elegant
  • Removable battery
  • Pogo pins

This design is a reminder that Samsung has made one or two tablets in the past, and the Active5 presents a polished solution that’s the result of all that experience.

If this were an ordinary Android tablet, we’d mention its by-the-numbers power button and volume rocker ensemble combined with an industry-standard USB-C charging port. The only divergence from the familiar path here is that it does have a SIM card slot, a 3.5mm audio jack and a custom user-definable button.

The SIM card takes a single Nano SIM and a MicroSD card, and this hardware also supports eSIM technology, avoiding the need to access this tray.

What is also very thoughtful is that neither the 3.5mm jack or the USB port are covered by a rubber plug, so they have electronics that won’t be fried if water enters these ports.

These environmental protections do have limits, and while the Active5 has a replaceable battery, it's covered with a thin panel that includes a rubber gasket to stop any water or dust from getting into that location.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

While swapping batteries is generally a good thing, the cover panel doesn’t seem very strongly made, and it has several retaining clips around the edge that might ultimately break if repeatedly stressed. This can’t be removed when the protective rubber bumper that comes with the tablet is in place. Getting that off and back on can be a struggle, though it helpfully provides a carry location for the passive stylus that Samsung included.

What is a slight surprise is that the battery isn’t wirelessly chargeable, but there are pogo pins on one side that look destined for a cradle, enabling charging without physically connecting it.

Overall, while it has a few annoyances, the Active5 is a tablet that most people will almost immediately understand and work with. The only issue we had was that the custom button was next to the power button, and it was easy to mix them up when handling it.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Design score: 4/5

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G: hardware

  • Samsung Exynos 1380
  • Modest battery
  • No battery mode

The hardware in this tablet falls neatly into two distinct categories. One we’ll call wonderful, and another that is far from that.

At the top of the list of things about this tablet that we adored is the Samsung Exynos 1380, an impressively punchy SoC that makes most of the MediaTek chips used by Chinese phone and tablet makers look decidedly bargain basement.

We’ll cover this chip's capabilities in the performance section, but it is next-level for most tablet owners, and with its inclusive 5G comms, it's certainly the star of this show.

What isn’t even second billing is that Samsung gave this machine just 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. And, that 128GB of store is cut to only 105GiB before the owner has installed their first application. Considering the cost of this tablet, it should have more RAM and more storage by default.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Another area where the tablet seems underspecified is its battery capacity. Where a Li-Po cell with 5050 mAh might seem fine for a phone, it’s decidedly on a small scale for a tablet.

As this design is designed for the great outdoors, where each tree doesn’t come with a power port, the battery capacity provided here might not take you far without some external means to recharge.

The only good aspect of powering the Active5 is that it supports a no-battery mode where it can be powered by an external source, like a vehicle, without the need for any battery.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
  • Hardware score: 4/5

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G: cameras

  • Rear camera: 12.8MP f/1.9
  • Front camera: 5MP f/2.2

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G has two cameras:

We’re unsure why tablet makers have decided that tablets deserve significantly inferior camera sensors to phones, even if they have technology like 5G.

The Active5 is no exception, and if anything, Samsung has gone even further than most to make the cameras on this device genuinely sub-standard.

There are only two sensors, one each for the front or back. The rear sensor is only a 12.8MP one, and the front has a 5MP selfie. That’s exactly the same spec as the 2016 Galaxy A5 phone, a budget device that was replaced in 2017 by a new version that Samsung still sells for around £80 or $70.

I could go into painful detail about the limitations of both these cameras, but it’s boring. All you need to know is that without the pixel-binning modes that the current sensors offer, the low light capability of these sensors isn’t great.

That said, in good lighting, it can take reasonable quality pictures, even if the resolution is below what we’d typically consider ideal.

A couple of positives that you can take from these sensors are that the rear 12.8MP camera will record 4K video at 30fps, and the video sub-system has Widevine L1 encryption, allowing it to get the best streaming quality from the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Disney+.

Most phones these days have better cameras and more shooting modes than this, and it makes little sense why Samsung wouldn’t give it something better.

The cheapest Samsung Galaxy phone is the Galaxy A05s, which has a 50MP primary sensor and two other macro and ultrawide shooting sensors. But the Active5 doesn’t match even that $150 phone.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G Camera samples

  • Camera score: 3/5

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G: performance

  • Blistering fast SoC
  • Limited battery life
Swipe to scroll horizontally
BenchmarkTestSamsung Tab Active5 5GAGM PAD P1
SoCRow 0 - Cell 1 Samsung Exynos 1380MediaTek Helio G99
MemRow 1 - Cell 1 6GB/128GB8GB/256GB
GeekbenchSingle785548
Row 3 - Cell 0 Multi26681834
Row 4 - Cell 0 OpenCL31491493
Row 5 - Cell 0 Vulkan32031488
GFXAztec Open Normal3315
Row 7 - Cell 0 Aztec Vulkan Normal3313
Row 8 - Cell 0 Car Chase2814
Row 9 - Cell 0 Manhattan 3.15124
PCMark3.0 Score120668983
Row 11 - Cell 0 Battery9h 38m15h 21m
PassmarkScore138849831
Row 13 - Cell 0 CPU66014703
3DMarkSlingshot OGL58973513
Row 15 - Cell 0 Slingshot Ex. OGL47502647
Row 16 - Cell 0 Slingshot Ex. Vulkan47582457
Row 17 - Cell 0 Wildlife29911243

It might have a small battery and a retro camera, but this tablet's outstanding feature is the Samsung Exynos 1380 SoC.

To get a flavour of just how good this chip is, we present it against the MediaTek Helio G99, an SoC that we’ve seen used in plenty of rugged tablets. In short, ouch.

In most processing tests, the Exynos SoC is at least 50% faster and nearly double the speed in a few instances. And when it comes to graphics, it's more than twice the speed.

This would make the Active5 ideal for anyone who games on a regular basis or has graphically intensive tasks, such as drone flying.

There is one area of weakness, and that’s battery life. While the system is power efficient and extracts over 9 hours of running time using the PCMark Work 3.0 battery test, it’s far short of the AGM Pad P1 and all the rugged tablets we’ve tested recently.

While the battery is swappable and the tablet can run from mains power directly, more internal capacity might have made doing these things less likely.

To highlight the quality of this build, Samsung is one of the few tablet and phone makers that supports Widevine L1 encryption. With this facility, the Active5 can show the best-quality streams from Amazon, Netflix, and Disney+, a feature often missing from Chinese-made rugged tablets.

  • Performance score: 4.5/5

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G: verdict

There are some great things about the Active5, specifically the Samsung Exynos 1380 SoC and the replaceable battery. That chip makes this tablet suitable for those who need extra processing oomph to locally process images and data.

Swapping out the battery is also handy, although repeatedly prising the back off will ultimately undermine its rugged credentials.

However, there are a few issues here that are difficult to ignore. The first is that Samsung didn’t offer wireless charging when it was an obvious means to charge the internal battery and spares. On the subject of supporting accessories, the Active5 was launched in January. However, many of the official Samsung websites don’t carry this model, and therefore, it's challenging to find replacement batteries or charging cradles to utilise the Pogo pins. We’re unsure why this is the case, and when I asked Samsung for an explanation, we got the following reply,

“We do have lots of accessories for the Tab Active5. For Power, there is a spare battery and 5 slot battery charger, and then there are docks for single tablet or 5 slots/tablets chargers which use the pogo pin charging. For Cradles we have stands/stations for use in retail environments and docks for vehicle mounting. The device can also operate in a "no battery mode" whereby you can remove the battery and just power the device from the mains.”

At nearly $640 for the 5G model in the States, the Active5 is more than double the cost of some competitor designs and triple that of a few. It comes with less RAM and storage than most, and it only achieves its full rugged mode when an included bumper is installed—a bumper that makes swapping the battery impossible until it is removed.

If the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G were closer to $400, then some of these points might be less of an issue for some customers.

Should I buy a Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G?

Swipe to scroll horizontally
AttributesNotesRating
ValueA powerful CPU, 6GB RAM and 128GB of storage and 5G comms doesn’t cost this much.2.5/5
DesignLight and easy to handle, though the custom button is way too easy to hit unintentionally.4/5
HardwareExcellent processor, but the battery is small, and there should have been a 256GB storage option.45
CameraTwo low-resolution cameras, neither is wonderful3/5
PerformanceExcellent CPU that makes it twice the speed of a G99-based tablet.4.5/5
OverallThe SoC is probably overpowered, and the price is excessive.4/5

Buy it if...

Are travelling light
At just 433g, we’ve reviewed phones that weigh more than the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G. That could be useful if you are hiking and need it to occasionally record images or navigate.

You want a 5G tablet
Most of the rugged tablets use MediaTek SoCs that are 4G only, so the Active5 does offer something superior for mobile comms. However, there are regions of the globe, like Japan and most of the USA, where 5G isn’t an option, however useful it might be.

Don't buy it if...

You are on a budget
Much cheaper ruggedised tablets with more memory and storage are available from other brands. If you just need an Android tablet that can handle being outdoors, then you could get two of three alternatives for the price of a single Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 5G.

You need more than 128GB of storage
Most phones have 256GB or even 512GB these days, so finding one with just 128GB is something of a culture shock. You can add a MicroSD card, but that won’t be as quick as the internal storage.

Also consider

Image

Doogee R10
One of the many tablets using the Helio G99 SoC, this one is a much cheaper option at close to just $200 for this 4G tablet.
The R10 is a larger 10-inch option with greater battery life, 8GB of RAM, but the same 128GB of storage. Critically, but you can buy three of these for every Active5.
It's a highly affordable option for those less interested in photography and battery life.

Read our <a href="https://www.techradar.com/pro/phone-communications/doogee-r10-review" data-link-merchant="techradar.com"" target="_blank">Doogee R10 rugged Android tablet review for more information.

 


Image

AGM PAD P1

Another inexpensive, rugged tablet using the ever-popular Helio G99 processor.

Like the R10 at roughly $200, this is a cheaper option where you might be less concerned about what ultimately happens to it.

The weaknesses of this design are that the battery isn’t that much bigger than the Active5 phone battery at just 7,000mAh, and the camera sensors aren’t as good as we might expect from a $200 phone.

The primary camera can take reasonable pictures, but only in good lighting conditions, and those looking for a tablet with photo abilities should look elsewhere.

The real selling point is the price, but other tablets with better specs aren’t much more.

Read our <a href="https://www.techradar.com/pro/phone-communications/agm-pad-p1-review" data-link-merchant="techradar.com"" target="_blank">AGM PAD P1 review for more information.


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Mark Pickavance

Mark is an expert on 3D printers, drones and phones. He also covers storage, including SSDs, NAS drives and portable hard drives. He started writing in 1986 and has contributed to MicroMart, PC Format, 3D World, among others.