Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 review

Standing still means moving back in the 7-inch tablet race

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0
Samsung's fallen off the 7-inch pace

TechRadar Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 is a deeply unremarkable tablet with underwhelming performance and a low-res display that remains ostensibly unchanged since the launch of the original Galaxy Tab. It's a deeply average tablet that's been way over-priced by Samsung.


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    Solidly built

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    Light, easy to handle

  • +

    Intuitive UI

  • +

    MicroSD slot


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    Dated design

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    Poor value

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    Mediocre performance

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    Screen not up to scratch

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What a difference a year makes. Last May we reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 at a time when the compact tablet market remained in the shadow of the iPad and a legion of 10-inch imitators.

There was no Google Nexus 7, no iPad mini, and no Amazon Kindle Fire HD. In such an environment, the keenly priced if modestly specced Samsung 7-incher was a respectable choice.

Since then the aforementioned devices have sent the compact tablet market into the stratosphere, offering potent combinations of price, performance and unique features. As such, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 needs to do a heck of a lot more to impress us here in 2013.

Samsung has once again hit a pretty sweet sub-$200/£200 price point. At the time of writing you can pick this unassuming 7-inch tablet up for $179.99 (£180) - that's less than the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 hit the market for, and more pertinently it's slightly less than a brand new second generation Google Nexus 7.

The trouble is, when it comes down to it, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 isn't even in the same league as the first generation Google Nexus 7 in terms of specs and performance. But we'll come onto that later.

We'll start with a typical piece of Samsung design. The Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 follows the same visual template as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and, by extension, the Samsung Galaxy S4. This means it's a functional, solid, yet plasticy piece of kit.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 review

It lacks the understated class of the latest Nexus 7 and the sheer premium feel of the iPad mini, with details such as a glossy white plastic back panel and silver plastic rim feeling dated and unappealing.

As ever with Samsung's designs, though, the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 somehow feels sturdy and well built despite its cheap appearance. You can imagine it surviving a fair few drops with scarcely a scratch to show for it - though we didn't put this to the test.

This 7-inch tablet is clearly intended to be held and used in portrait mode first and foremost. The orientation of the Samsung branding and of its two capacitive hardware buttons tells you as much, as does the way the tablet sits comfortably in a single handed grips when aligned this way.

At 300 grams the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 is 44g lighter than the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, 8g lighter than the iPad mini and just 10g heavier than the 2013 Nexus 7. It's pretty much average for the modern 7-inch tablet, in other words, and while it doesn't exactly feel light in the hand it was undoubtedly comfortable to hold for extended web browsing and gaming sessions throughout our test period.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 review

As mentioned, the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 adheres to the established Samsung design manual, which extends to its hardware controls. Whilst other manufacturers are ditching or stripping back this element in keeping with Google's reference Nexus designs, Samsung continues to supply its devices with three core controls.

Central to these is a physical lozenge-shaped home button, which is also used for bringing up the multitasking menu (through a long press) and Samsung's Siri-like S Voice feature (through a double press).

Either side of this you have two capacitive buttons. On the left is a contextual menu button, whilst on the right is a back button. Whether you prefer this approach to the virtual commands included in stock Android is a matter of personal preference, but there's certainly something to be said for the consistency and familiarity of Samsung's approach.

On the right of the device you have some reliably clicky buttons for power and volume, which are ideally placed for that aforementioned single-handed grip, and up top you have a standard 3.5mm headphone port.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 review

Flip over to the bottom of the device and you'll find the expected microUSB slot and two small speaker grilles, emphasizing that this is device that's meant to be operated in portrait. Movie watchers and landscape gamers will need to employ a set of headphones to get proper stereo sound, but we'd always recommend that anyway.

Our issues really begin with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 when you move beyond its conservative external design, though. Powering the tablet is a dual-core 1.2GHz Marvell Armada PXA986 CPU. Hardly a cutting edge component, and certainly well off the pace of the quad-core chips found in both generations of Nexus 7.

1GB of RAM is respectable, but again half that found in the new Nexus 7 and other modern Android devices.

There's a choice of 8GB or 16GB of internal storage, and once again you can opt to expand this by up to 32GB via a welcome microSD slot, which is readily accessible behind a somewhat flimsy plastic door on the lower left-hand side.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 review

If the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0's internal specs are underwhelming, wait until you lay your eyes on its 7-inch LCD display. Viewing angles are good thanks to IPS technology, but its 1024 x 600 resolution feels woefully out of date next to the 1280 x 800 offered by last year's Nexus 7, let alone the 1920 x 1200 display featured in this year's model.

With a deeply unimpressive pixel density of 169ppi, text and images have that fuzzy non-descript appearance that we thought we'd left behind with the advent of HD displays.

Testing Ubisoft's vibrant Rayman Jungle Run game on the device resulted in decent performance and a clear enough picture, but those luscious 2D worlds that burst with so much color and detail on other modern devices simply felt muted and indistinct.

Frankly, we can't see any meaningful improvement over the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 screen - and even that felt below par more than a year ago.

On the plus side, while we wouldn't call it razor-sharp we didn't notice any of the outstanding responsiveness issues that we found with last year's model, and we had little problem hitting links and other small command prompts on the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0's 7-inch display. Thank goodness for small mercies.