The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 is a middle child, but one that stands out. Launched as part of Samsung’s mid-range tablet lineup (the premium tablets are marketed under the Galaxy Note product line with that range supporting inking through Samsung’s S Pen), the Galaxy Note 8.0 occupies the middle spot in the range, with the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 at the entry level end and the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 being a larger and less portable tablet.
The Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 is also Samsung’s second attempt at taking on the competing, lower priced iPad mini from rival Apple; the first effort was made with the Galaxy Note 8.0. Both tablets are similar enough, especially since they share the same industrial design introduced on Samsung’s recent phones, like the Galaxy S4 flagship. Under the hood, there are some differences between the two, but priced more competitively, the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 may be a bigger threat to the iPad mini’s dominance than the more premium priced Note 8.0.
So how does the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 stack up against others in the growing 8-inch tablet space? Join me in this review to see if the middle child gets any love.
The Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 bears more of a resemblance to the Galaxy S4 smartphone than it does to the first generation Galaxy Tab 7.0 and the outgoing Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 tablets. Like its slightly smaller sized fore-bearers, the 8-incher is designed primarily to be used in portrait orientation.
New with this generation is that Samsung took the Android navigation keys off of the display screen, which frees up the bottom of your display for added real estate. Now, the Android navigation keys occupy some space at the bottom bezel, with a trio of keys similar to that on the Galaxy S4 series
You’ll have a hardware-based home button, flanked on either side by a single capacitive touch button. From left to right, you’ll have a capacitive touch menu button, a hardware home button, and a capacitive touch back button.
Up top, you have the usual suspects–an ambient light sensor and a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera.
And like the Galaxy S4, Samsung had managed to slim down the side bezels on the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0. So while the device may have a screen that measures an inch larger diagonally than the 7-inch version, the overall dimensions aren’t too much larger than the current or outgoing 7-inch Tabs.
And when compared against the iPad mini, the more narrow 16:10 aspect ratio of the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 means that the device is quite a bit less wide, or more arrow, when stacked against the mini in portrait orientation. Additionally, the narrow screen means that the display will be at the same time elongated when compared against the mini, so while it’s more narrow, it’s also more tall.
When compared to the Galaxy Note 8.0, the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 is just as tall, but is less wide. The 8-inch LCD display still has a 1280 X 800-pixel resolution, which has more pixels packed in than the 7-inch sibling and the iPad mini. This isn’t the most high resolution display, but compares well against the iPad mini and has become the standard resolution for Android tablets today.
Still, with Apple anticipated to introduce a Retina Display on its smaller screen tablet, it’s unclear how much longer the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 will be able to hold its ground solely based on screen resolution.
The more narrow display may be beneficial to users in that it will be more natural for videos and 16:9 aspect ratio photos. It also is easier to fit inside a coat pocket, for example, if you’re taking this thing with you on the road. You can also grip the tablet more easily in one hand as well.
On the left spine of the device, you have a micro SD card slot to augment the 16 GB of storage that’s built into the tablet.
The top is clean, save for a 3.5 mm headphone jack.
On the right hand side, you have the power button and the volume button. This is a different design approach than the Galaxy S4 phone, which has the power button on one side and volume button on the other side of the device. You also have an infrared blaster on the center right spine, which is used as a remote control to control your living room TV.
And lastly, on the bottom, Samsung is moving away from its proprietary dock connector. Instead, you’ll find an MHL-compatible micro USB port centered on the bottom, like on the Galaxy S4. This makes it easier for customers to travel as they can bring standard micro USB cables and not have to worry about bringing a Galaxy Tab 3 8.0-specific cable for charging, as with prior tablet generations. The other benefit is that the port is smaller, like the Lightning port on Apple’s iPad and iPad mini, meaning a more elegant enclosure.
And finally, on the rear of the tablet, you do have a very capable 5-megapixel camera on the upper left corner. The camera placement is similar to the position of the rear camera on the iPhone 5 and iPad mini as Samsung’s own Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 8.0 both have their cameras placed at the upper center portion of the devices.
Performance & Software
As a mid-range slate, the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 won’t be blazing through any benchmarks, but it will still handle most tasks fluidly. Powered by a dual-core 1.5 GHz Exynos chipset and 1.5 GB of RAM, the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 runs Android 4.2.2 with Samsung’s custom TouchWiz user interface.
The 5-megapixel camera isn’t anything to write home about. Despite incorporating a consistent hardware design now across many of its mobile product lines, the software is still somewhat inconsistent. Such is the case of the camera app.