Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1-inch Review
Why does this tablet exist? We're not sure, but buyers beware.
Time is a funny thing: What once was incredible can become commonplace in a few short years. This tablet would have been almost fantastical to imagine 5 years ago, but the industry has progressed so much that it seems more of a modern-day dinosaur than a flagship product. Such is the nature of the beast: No-one told this tablet when to run; it missed the starting gun.
Stuck in 2010
I'll come right out and say it: This is a notably bad screen in comparison to the vast majority of competing devices. It's worse than phones, worse than TVs, and worse than other tablets by a lot.
While it's true that resolution matters at a set distance away from your eye, it's also true that the higher the resolution, the less perceptible the individual pixels. In this regard, the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1" fares poorly, even in comparison to year-old tablets. A resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels at a 10.1-inch screen size leaves it with 150 pixels-per-inch (PPI) which is noticeably blocky.
Contrast is very disappointing as well. Though the gamma is passable at 2.4 (ideal is somewhere around 2.1 to 2.2), the contrast is abysmal. To put it into harder terms: the black level of 0.55 cd/m2 and the peak brightness of 387.8 cd/m2 only nets it a ratio of about 705:1. That means this tablet can't display a picture as accurate as most bargain-bin televisions from a couple years ago—pictures will look washed out and be poorly defined.
The screen brightness is just a bit weak to stave off the annoyance of reflections, as the tablet does a mighty fine job of acting as a mirror. Reflecting about 21.6% of all light shone on the screen and 5.6% directly right back at you, expect super-annoying glare and a sharp reflection pattern. Really this is more common than you'd expect, and not simply a failing of this particular tablet.
In fairness to this device, the color isn't all that bad—it's better than most of the low-scorers in the Android kingdom. However, compared to the top dogs it still lags behind, even with its multiple color modes. Like it is on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8" model, the "Movie" mode is the most accurate. There's also little discernible difference between the other two color profiles. All profiles have shifted blues, and undersaturated reds and greens.
Not much under the hood.
It should come as no surprise by now that the Achilles' heel of this device is the use of outdated components, and it really shows with the processor. Getting outpaced in many regards by the $129 Hisense Sero 7 Pro, it's hard to see a universe in which you'd pick this instead of another tablet. I mean really, pick just about any other new one, and you're looking at better processor performance.
Our Galaxy Tab 3 unit scored a mere 1217 in Geekbench (averaged over multiple tests), which places its hardware performance at somewhere behind last year's Nexus 7 (1479). In comparison to other more modern tablets, this unit lags behind all the market leaders: The Sony Xperia Z (2029), Apple iPad, and Google Nexus 10 (2433) all outclass it by an enormous margin. Even the aforementioned Hisense Sero 7 Pro does a slightly better job handling tasks (1345).
I'm struggling to explain away what this could be caused by, but it's very obvious that this unit just has outdated hardware. There's nothing more to it. Despite the fact that ARM-based devices typically do not handle large jobs well, this processor lags far behind the competition—it was so problematic in our labs that it couldn't handle even our most basic graphics tests. If you like games and other graphics apps, this will make your experience intolerable. You can expect stuttering, low frame rates, and slowdown in spots—even in games like Angry Birds.
The little engine that can't.
So we figured at one point that the "clipped wings" of the tablet had something to do with trying to boost battery life. However, the assumption that Samsung eschewed performance for enabling users to have an indefatigable battery is false.
In all respects, a battery life this mediocre would be just that, but in context? Yeesh. Reading an eBook will kill the battery in just 5 hours and 33 minutes, and a movie does the job in 4 hours and 58 minutes.
To its credit, the tablet's relatively small battery does charge at an acceptable speed, but the advantage is lost on travelers if you need to constantly find outlets. Trying to boost your battery life is tough as well, given that turning down the screen's brightness won't get you much without making the picture difficult to see in bright light.
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