Review by Andrew Kameka on Thursday August 01, 2013.
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Samsung seems destined to have a tablet of every size and value for every person. The company has multiple 7-inch models for those most concerned with portability, and 10-inch models for those who crave a large and illustrious display. Then there are the multiple 8-inch models that provide that sweet spot between the two.
The Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 is one of Samsung's 8-inch Android tablets that are small enough to be portable and light enough to hold with one hand. It's also big enough to create more distinction between Samsung's large smartphones and really take advantage of its larger screen. The Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 is the perfect balance between portability and screen space. Is the rest of the tablet worthy of such praise?
Hardware and Design
Imagine what the Samsung Galaxy S 4 would like were it designed for a giant. No, not the mythical giants, but the super-sized humans like Shaquille O'Neal or Yao Ming. Were the Galaxy S 4 to scale up a few more deviations, it would look an awfully lot like the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0. The tablet has a thin physical home button between capacitive Menu and Back buttons. It also follows the Samsung path of having a thin profile with an outer rim that looks like brushed metal but is really just a hard plastic. The back of the Tab is also plastic but has a much glossier finish. That naturally means that it has the same coating that is prone to build-up fingerprints and slide across someone's hands.
Thankfully, the Galaxy Tab 3 is friendly for one-handed operations. It's rare that someone can say that about a tablet, but the design of the Tab 3 8.0 is slender for its category. The 314g (11.08oz) device is light enough to stay put with someone wedges it between the thumb and palms along the lower corner. It's also slim enough for someone with big hands to hold it up with one hand, though not for long periods of time. There's also an uncharacteristically thin bezel that allows the 8-inch screen to take up more room and provide some room for the thumb to grip the edge of the device. Some users might actually wish that there was more room to place their thumb.
A microUSB port and dual speakers rest at the bottom of the Galaxy Tab 3. The speakers actually have good sound quality at a high volume. The placement is disappointing because hands will naturally cover the ports when held in landscape. It would have been wiser for Samsung to move the speakers to one of the longer sides of the Tab 3 8.0. The right side is out of the question because that's where Samsung placed power and volume buttons, as well as the IR blaster that lets users control their televisions.
Though Samsung typically uses Super AMOLED for its phones, the company opted for a TFT LCD screen for its latest tablet. The 8-inch display is a letdown because it has a resolution of 1280x800. The high-resolution bar set by other devices is sadly out of reach as the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 lacks any crystal-clear imagery to excite viewers. This is not a problem when watching video or doing normal activities because the 189 pixels per inch are more than adequate. However, display aficionados will not be wow when looking at stationary icons or graphics
On the bright side, pun intended, brightness levels and viewing angles are more than satisfactory. Samsung includes a Reading Mode that lowers the brightness in order to make eyes more comfortable when staring at the LCD screen for extended periods of time. It's easy to hold the tablet in one hand or two and get a good look without having to stare at the screen with hands positioned at the perfect angle. The 16:10 aspect ratio of the display also means that video displays in a more familiar format. The screen is not awe-inspiring but it is acceptable.
Performance and Key Specs
The Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 is an enlarged Galaxy S 4 in shape only. Many of the sensors and hardware features that were selling points of the phone are absent on the tablet. Eye-tracking software enables Smart Stay, but Smart Scroll and Smart Pause are not available. AirView and Air Gesture are also missing.
Gone too are the limit-pushing internal specs. The Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 has a 1.5 dual-core processor and 1.5 GB of RAM. This 1.5/1.5 combo doesn't make the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 feel like it's accomplishing much. I found that it did well when reading eBooks and playing high-end video games, but it never felt particularly fast in the browser or when navigating between apps. The gap in response between pressing a button and seeing an app load or a screen transition brought me back to earlier days of Android tablet usage that I'd rather not revisit.
Samsung's Touchwiz UI is likely to blame for the slower response time. The added weight of Samsung's software has been known to slow progress and the lag is most noticeable when using Touchwiz apps like the Gallery. Samsung has until now been smart enough to utilize high-powered chipsets that could handle the heavy lifting, but the dual-core Tab 3 8.0 isn't as strong or as swift as it could be with a better processor.
- 8-inch display WXGA resolution (1280x800, 189ppi)
- 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, 1.5GB RAM
- 16 or 32GB of internal storage, 64GB microSD slot
- 4,450 mAh battery
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
- Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, MHL
- Dimensions: 209.8 x 123.8 x 7.4 mm (8.26 x 4.87 x 0.29 in)
- Weight: 314 g (11.08 oz)
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.