Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (8-inch) Review
Great screen or not, this Samsung is outpaced by last year's machines.
By the Numbers
Guts: Do you have it?
The answer is no. By many respects this is a decent tablet, but by the numbers it falls short of the mark in everything but screen performance. While that's probably the most important thing for most devices, it's tough to explain away the lack of other hardware performance points when there isn't much of a benefit to having underpowered hardware.
Great performance, not-so-great resolution
By far and away, the most impressive part of this table is its screen: Not only is it fairly decent when it comes to color performance, but it also has good contrast, as well as a screen that isn't as reflective as a mirror. To wit, the screen only reflects 5.7% of all light shone on it. Because of this, it'll do fairly well outside, but it still isn't ideal for bright sunlight.
Using a TFT display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, the 8" screen has a pixel density of 188 pixels per inch (PPI). Though adequate, nitpicky people will absolutely key in on the fact that this is a low resolution for a tablet to have nowadays, and be a poor choice to watch anything with a resolution of 720p and up.
However, that's really the only "dark spot" in the screen performance here. The screen has a mediocre black level of 0.48cd/m2, but a peak brightness of 421.77cd/m2 gives the screen a contrast ratio of 879:1, which is above-average for a tablet.
Color performance is actually quite good on the Galaxy Tab 3—there are three different color modes to suit your liking, but we suggest using the "Movie" mode in the settings. This mode has the best color performance of the bunch—though each gamut is not that different in terms of range, the white balance is most accurate in "Movie" mode.
Samsung, your tablet: Woof.
On paper, the Galaxy Tab 3 seems to do okay as far as hardware is concerned. That 1.5GB of DDR3 RAM should be able to handle a heavy load even if the processor behind the scenes is a 1.5GHz dual-core. However, in practice that isn't the case.
Its score on our benchmark tests was absolutely appalling. If the Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone from two Decembers ago is nipping at its heels, there's a problem. When Tegra 3 chipset tablets are routinely punking a brand new one, there's an enormous problem. While this performance is good enough for media consumption, it's terrible for games and resource-intensive functions. Even last year's iteration of the Nexus 7 is better in this department—if you want a tablet that can keep up with the latest apps and features, this is not it.
So, initially I thought to myself: "Oh, Samsung is using less-powerful components to boost battery life—that's an interesting strategy." That may have been the intent, but it's not the result. Clocking in at 6 hours and 47 minutes playing back a campy tale of Santa Claus' abduction by martians, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 is not all that amazing in terms of battery life at full brightness and on airplane mode.
Reading eBooks seems to be easier for it to handle, however, as the 8-inch slate was able to thumb through War and Peace for a hair under 8 hours—7 hours, 52 minutes, to be exact. This is perfect for an intracontinental flight, but travelers with a longer sojourn ahead of them may want to pick up a supplementary power source.
All said and done, this is a perfectly respectable battery life when you consider that the screen does actually get quite bright (and the fact that you're not likely to ever need it at maximum), so your mileage may vary in your day-to-day use. Not the best, but certainly not bad at all: You could do a lot worse.
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