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Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 review (video)

Mid-range device for a mid-range price.
August 5, 2013
samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa featured

Samsung’s newest tablet is finally here — the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0. The first question that comes to mind, of course, is just how much better it is than last year’s model?

While it’s no high-end device, it does do very well in the mid-range category. Nonetheless, we’re giving the device the full review treatment, and it’s up to you to decide just how much better it is than last year’s tablet.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa design

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 takes on the same plastic look that many of Samsung’s products employ. While this is a tried and true design, some are hoping for a change in these aesthetic choices, but that’s just not what you get here, unfortunately. And it doesn’t seem like things will be changing anytime soon, either.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa design top back

However, the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 does employ some enhancements that supplement what we’ve come to expect. You still get the rather slippery, plastic feel with the 8-inch screen, with Samsung’s usual bevy of buttons. There is a significantly thinner bezel now, which definitely helps make the screen handling better.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa hardware microsd

Looking at the back, we have a 5-megapixel camera placed on the unremovable back, along the somewhat golden sides, there’re a power button and volume rocker on the same plane as the IR blaster. Opposite of this is a most welcome microSD card slot.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa display bottom front half

So that’s all good and unsurprising until you hold it in your hand. The aforementioned thinner bezels do a nice job of improving the handling of this 8 inch tablet, but a lighter weight very much helps as well.

Weighing in at 314 grams, the Galaxy Tab 3 is pretty easy to maneuver and throw around as you need. While it is just outside the comfort of a one handed grip, you can pretty comfortably rest the entire device on your fingers and reach what you can with your thumb. In the end this is a no-frills design that actually somewhat surprises with its ease of handling.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa display

You’d hope for a good display on any 8-inch tablet. While the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 isn’t capable of any 1080p qualities like many devices in 2013, it still sports a nice, TFT capacitive screen capable of 1,280 x 800 resolution, rated at an understandable 189ppi. It’s understandable because with this large screen, the device will be far enough away from your face so that pixelation in text and whatnot isn’t that noticeable or bad to look at.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa display specs

And it really isn’t, though some of the software enhancements for text certainly help with that. Nonetheless, you’re not going to be getting the most cutting edge or sharpest experience here. However, colors are actually quite vibrant, and viewing angles are impressive.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa display text

The more bloated elements of TouchWiz elements work on a screen this size and keeps things easy on the eyes. While I would’ve wished for a 1080p display on a tablet like this, I did have an enjoyable time with it.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa performance

Looking at performance, Samsung outfitted the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 with its in-house processing package, a dual-core Exynos 4212, clocked at 1.5GHz. It’s backed bya Mali-400MP GPU and 1.5GB of RAM. As you can see, this isn’t a high end product by any means, and benchmark tests support this.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa performance specs

In practice, the tablet performs quite well; apps run very smoothly, but as you load more and more apps, it does begin to stutter a little, as resources are increasingly being used in the background.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa performance antutu score

For the power user, this might not be an optimal tablet, but for the general user, web browsing, occasional, casual gaming, and YouTube viewing is easy enough for the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa hardware

If you were thinking that the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 would have a lot of the same bits and features as the Galaxy S4, stop right there! Samsung’s tablets often don’t get the flagship treatment the same way its phones do.

With that said, you don’t get any extra sensors in this tablet, aside from the typical accellerometer, along with an IR Blaster for WatchON capabilities. Finally, we have one of the most sought after features — a microSD card slot on the side. Unfortunately, there’s no NFC to take advantage of S Beam.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa design landscape

It’s also worth mentioning that a version of the Tab 3 capable of cellular connectivity is available, but, as usual, it’s not likely to come to States. 3G and 4G LTE versions are available overseas, but this one is simply made for Wi-Fi, along with the usual Bluetooth and GPS featues.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa battery

As I said before, the back cover is not removable, but the 4,450 mAh unit found underneath provides a good level of juice. Straight usage of either web browsing or a heavy amount of video will get you about 8 hours of life out of the battery.

For the general user that doesn’t have their eyes glued to the screen all day can probably eek out a few days of usage.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa camera

We never really expect cameras on tablets to be exceptionally good. On the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0, you get a 5-megapixel camera, along with a camera app, which has a startling lack of modes, compared to Samsung’s newer products. Nonetheless, you get a few modes to play around with, and picture quality is decent, for a tablet.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa camera modes

It’s becomes a necessity to put cameras on just about anything now, but that doesn’t mean they’ll blow you away.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa camera 1

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa software

Those familiar with Samsung products will be familiar with the general user experience. TouchWiz with Android 4.2.2 makes a return to the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 with little changes. The only real difference here is the few, minor changes to make things more tablet friendly.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa software power widget

WatchON and Group Play are the only app inclusions as far as navigation goes, and you do get a few motion capabilities, but not much else. You also have Google Now and S Voice for voice commands. When it comes down to it, this is the same TouchWiz that everyone is already familiar with, and it works as expected.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa battery

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 comes in at $299, a pretty middle price range for a device that is, well, very middle. It’s really not too bad, though, if you want to get more bang for your buck, a Nexus 7 (2013) may be more up your alley.

Put frankly, the Galaxy Tab 3 is an enjoyable device. The lighter form and thinner bezels make for a much easier to handle tablet and that’s always a plus. The screen is actually quite good and is as easy on the eyes it can get. But these enhancements all just feel like ways of trying to detract from the truth – that we’ve seen all of this before.

samsung galaxy tab 3 8 aa boxed

The plastic body, the all-too-familiar TouchWiz, and these middle of the road specifications can all be had in plenty of other devices, not to mention ones that are cheaper than the Tab 3. If you think what the Tab 3 offers will please you, I’m sure it will. But for me, it’s an experience I’ve had all too many times before, not to mention with a ton of other Samsung products. And in the end, it’s far from unforgettable.

Brad Ward contributed to this post.