Samsung strikes again with the third generation of the Galaxy Tab series called as Samsung [amzlnk_replacer]?. It is the successor of last year’s largely demanded mid-segment tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, which now features changed hardware and all new design.
After a span of almost a year, Samsung resumes its next generation of Galaxy Tab, and this time in different screen size variants. Looking at the increasing love and craze for the mini tablets followed by the success stories of Galaxy Tab 2, Nexus 7 and iPad Mini, Samsung might have decided to keep intact the 7-inch variant.
The main reason behind the immense demands for [amzlnk_replacer]? was its price. It offered best of the features in affordable price and this is what Samsung focused on while designing the next generation tablet. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 is available in two variants – Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi + 4G. The Wi-Fi only model costs $150, which is a great steal according to me. The cellular data model is expensive and costs over $250.
Following the Galaxy family design pattern, Galaxy Tab 3 gets a similar plastic body build. It retains the same gloss, shine and the look of the company’s flagship smartphone ‘Galaxy S4’ as well as its predecessor ‘Galaxy S3’. The back is permanently fixed that makes it not too much flimsy and tenuous. Samsung has always made its tablets have uni-body design right from the first generation device.
The curvy edge gives solid grip to it and makes it is easy to handle, but if you have not used any modern Galaxy device (after Galaxy S3 debuted) prior to this, you may find it a bit uncomfortable and slippery in your hands. It is 10mm in thickness, which is a bit chunkier as compared to Nexus 7 (2013). Weighing just 300g, it is lighter and easy to handle by one hand. The mini form-factor makes it withstand in the race of small, compact and light tablets.
While talking about the design I must say that Samsung has made some major changes to its cosmetics (over the Galaxy Tab 2). The company is following the same design pattern that it introduced in Galaxy S3 in every other Galaxy series smartphone.
The new white variant is a little different from the previous versions of Galaxy Tab; it looks like a premium device (like the iPad Mini) with glossy body and edges designed in metallic silver color. After looking at the all-new Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 one will be confused to distinguish it from Samsung Galaxy Mega phablets. Although, a closer look will clear out the misconception.
The side bezels are made thinner than before that provides comfort to hand while holding the tab and also makes it easy to slide it in the pocket. It could have been even more serene if the company had eliminated its thick build.
It is available in three-color variants – white, golden brown and black. The one I have is the white one, which is prone to attracting your fingerprints on it. But, so is the golden brown and black color, but fingerprints are more visible on the white, especially if used with unclean hands.
While some manufacturers have started using metal bodies for their smartphones, Samsung still uses the same cheap plastic to make its devices. From the flagship smartphone to the flagship tablet all the devices have plastic body. The plastic looks classy if judged by the appearance, but at the same times feel too inelegant in hands. But, we shouldn’t forget, after all this is an entry-level device. The buttons follow the same design trend of Galaxy lineup. On the front there is a physical home button surrounded by two capacitive touch buttons, which are located just below the screen.
On the right edge of the phone reside the lock button and volume keys. They are clumsy and made out of plastic, which needs to be pressed hard to activate the volume control. One the left edge lays the microSD expansion slot and a SIM card slot. They are provided with a shutter that protects them from dust. The shutter also contributes to the device’s uniform edge look.
As the name says, Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 boasts a 7.0-inch screen. We are in favor of this screen size as it is ideal to perform most of the tasks. The screen on the Galaxy Tab 3 is not up to the mark and it fails to reach up to the expectation level even for an entry-level device.
Samsung used a TFT panel in Galaxy Tab 3, which in turn provides better viewing angles and high brightness that makes it easy to use it outdoors. Although this is good, the resolution cripples the display. The 7-inch display has a stock resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels, which is far, far lower as compared to other tablets. The low resolution affects the pixel density that turns out to be 169ppi.
A 7-inch display with low pixel density is a turn down. The tablet lacks in sharpness and the icons appear pixelated. This is the same resolution of the original Galaxy Tab that made its appearance in 2010. Samsung is carrying the poor thing over the next two generations of the device. The pixel density is comparatively lower than Nexus 7’s 323ppi and ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7’s 216ppi. This is a serious blunder by Samsung in spite of knowing technological advancements happened over the two years.
In addition to this, there is a bluish tint appearing over everything that is displayed. This imperfection in the display makes the colors appear inaccurate. In comparison with a decent tablet from other manufacturer one can easily spot these differences.
Along with the display quality, the response time of the display is also not that great. It is not easily noticeable, but is visible if you perform activities associated with fast gestures. Overall, the display performance is not that great, but the viewing angles and the brightness is worth a treat.
Performance wise also Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 is not a great device. After tremendous success of its predecessor, I expected a powerful processor into Galaxy Tab 3 that will make this next generation device a powerful beast.
Such a thing didn’t happen. Samsung includes a dual-core Marvell PXA986 Cortex A9-based chip into the Galaxy Tab 3. It runs at a clock speed of 1.2GHz, which is expected to provide above-average performance. In actual, the tablet struggled to perform smoothly when I was doing the multi-tasking test. Also, it would lag a bit while navigating through menus loaded with lots of files. The performance was poor, very poor and that too when I didn’t even touch the high-performance apps. The processor struggled to provide smooth performance even in the native TouchWiz interface.
Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 is powered by PowerVR SGX540 GPU (graphics processing unit). It is very good GPU that can handle many graphics hungry games. If you try to run more complex games that require fairly powerful graphics support, then PowerVR SGX540 will fail to provide smooth performance.
I tested some popular Android game titles and found out the performance to be well matched. After a disappointment from CPU, I didn’t expect any stable performance from the GPU as well, but surprisingly it turned out to be great. As said earlier, it will lag if you try to play some power hungry games, but for playing ‘Temple Run’ and ‘Subway Surfers’ it is a real sweet thing.
It comes with 1GB RAM that is ample to run many applications simultaneously. Ignoring the lag created due to CPU, I think 1GB is great to handle multi-tasking of apps. After all, an entry-level tablet like this cannot be expected to have more of RAM.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 comes with 8GB of internal storage of which around 4.2GB (in our case) is available for user. You can get additional storage by using a microSD card that can be up to 64GB in capacity.
The microSD card slot will be savior for most purposes, but it will still not install apps on it (unless you have rooted your device). As a partition to install applications, 4GB internal storage is too less and anyone will run out of it very soon.
OS and TouchWiz
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 runs Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean) out of the box. At this moment, Android 4.4 KitKat is already out, but it seems currently this device is not on the update roadmap. The Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean) running at the base is covered by Samsung’s TouchWiz user-interface. TouchWiz is nothing, but Samsung’s own identity for its device.
With TouchWiz, Samsung just changed the way original Android looks, and in turn providing its own system app icons, widgets, lock screen and the screen transitions. I personally feel TouchWiz is a shabbily designed makeover. It has a ponytail look with lots of unnecessary colors and images. I wonder, does Samsung think that only kids use their tablets?
In addition to this, TouchWiz adds unnecessary elements in the operating system, which in turn consumes ample amount of memory. Luckily, in Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 most of the higher-end TouchWiz elements are missing and that’s why it works pretty well. Among the useful elements missing here is the ‘Multi Window’, which made it possible to run two apps at a time.
On comparing it with Nexus 7 (2013) and Asus MeMo Pad HD, I clearly saw operations performing slightly slower. The performance lag is clearly visible when you hit the home button. Also, the virtual keyboard suffers latency sometimes. We totally blame the poorly performing CPU for this nuisance.
Sometimes I felt that TouchWiz UI is not properly baked. It had too many bugs and glitches that annoyed us. That includes an automatic brightness adjustment bug, which couldn’t understand the environment type, sometimes the lock screen refused to unlock and many times it would just freeze. In spite of the criticizing make, TouchWiz brings lot of functionality and optimizations to the tablet. The screen rotation, two-column layout for apps and other optimizations improve the user experience.
Additionally, TouchWiz adds its touch to the notification bar that brings together shortcuts for important and most-accessed settings. Samsung also adds some of its apps with the TouchWiz UI, they include – S Voice, S Memo, S Planner, ChatOn, Мusic/Learning/Video Hub, AllShare Play, Group Play and Samsung Apps.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 is equipped with two cameras – front and rear. The rear camera (main camera) has a 3.2-megapixel sensor and the front camera has a 1.2-megapixel sensor. Neither of it is any good and worth taking photographs. The rear camera lacks flash and has a fixed focus. With such poor camera specifications the camera performance is also crippled.
I was not that interested to test the camera after looking at the specifications, but still I decided to give a try. On tapping the camera app, it launched within a second and I was astonished by the quick act. The photos that I snapped where captured and saved very quickly. The camera lacks autofocus and that’s why there was no time lost in autofocusing the images. An object that appeared about 10-inches closer to the lens appeared blurred because of absence of autofocus.
In a lighted environment the camera performed quite well. It retained the exposure and reproduced the original colors, but lacked sharpness. There were less details and I did expect that from this camera. Low-light photographs were equivalent to a black screen with noise all over. The absence of flash makes it completely redundant for low light photography. It is a rubbish camera after all.
The camera is also able to record videos at 720p resolution. By default, the camera records video at 480 x 720, but it can be changed through settings. The video performance of the camera was drastically better than the photograph.
There is no video stabilization, so I had to use both my hands to hold the tablet while video recording to minimize the hand movements. Tablets are, as it is not made for taking photographs or recording videos. You may look like an idiot if you keep holding this tablet for this purpose.
This is the only department where Galaxy Tab 3 succeeds. This tablet is great for browsing Internet and watching movies or videos while you are travelling. It is not meant to use as a portable media player. I would personally use it for web browsing and watching movies only. A 7-inch tablet is ideal to do both these things.
Web browsing is easily possible on Galaxy Tab 3, thanks to the Wi-Fi and 4G HSPA+ connectivity options. It comes with two browsers pre-loaded – Mobile Chrome and Samsung’s custom browser. I used Samsung’s custom browser to read blogs on the web, and it was not so fluid, but a satisfactory experience.
Because of the low pixel density the text appeared rough along with sharp points protruding. I was still able to read everything properly. Zooming was very precise, but not so good for double tapping. I preferred the pinch to zoom method instead.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 is surely a great device to watch movies and videos. It comes with a pre-loaded Samsung made video player that supports almost all the video formats. In my case, it played all the video formats that I had. Not just that, it also supports 1080p videos with equal ease, although the screen resolution is just 1024 x 600. If you closely see, you will easily find an individual pixel. It is because of the low pixel density of the device.
While playing a 1080p video in MKV format, I noticed some strains when some fast motions were played on the screen. It happened because of the tinny display panel quality. It is not a major issue and usually goes unnoticed. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 comes with a pair of stereo speakers that are located at the bottom of the device. The sound quality is decorous and doesn’t distort the sound even when the volume is full. The sound is crisp when then volume is kept at half, then it starts loosing its sharpness.
Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 is available in two variants – Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi + 4G HSPA+. It does not support LTE, but 4G HSPA+ offers speed of 21Mbps at ease. The 4G HSPA+ variant is not only meant for data usage, but also for making voice calls over your usual mobile network.
There is a ‘Phone’ app that consists of a dialer to make voice calls and perform USSD operations. A ‘Messages’ app is also offered to send text messages. Other connectivity options include dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Bluetooth 3.0, A-GPS and GLONASS. It does not have an Infrared port that the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 is included with.
In addition to CPU, GPU, RAM, Camera and other components, battery capacity is also a vital component to be considered. Manufacturers are in a race to provide top-notch specifications and a powerful battery that will offer good amount of battery backup.
Generally, tablets these days are installed with high capacity batteries in order to sustain the battery backup that is necessary along with powerful hardware. Such batteries have their own drawbacks, but we will not consider them here.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 has a 4000-mAh battery, which is more than its competitor – Google Nexus 7. Nexus 7 (2013) has a 3950-mAh battery that is just 50 mAh less than Galaxy Tab 3. With such a great battery it is expected that Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 doesn’t disappoint. I decided to test the battery for its sustainability. Starting off with the stand-by test, I left it with all the connections turned off (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC and Cellular Data).
The battery lasted for 5 days until it was completely drainer. Samsung officially claims the standby time to be 17 days, but in real it was not even close to it. On video test, it proved what 4000-mAh actually possessed. I played series of 1080p movies (each having approximate 2 hours duration) in MKV format to test its battery performance for videos. The battery level came down to 50% after the end of second movie.
Surprisingly, it played series of all four movies and still 12% of the battery level was left. So the video playback time is set to 9 hours after full charged. Cellular data had an adverse affect on the battery life. I used it for web browsing using a 3G HSDPA+ connection and the battery just lasted for 4 hours. I have been using it for more than two weeks now and I am totally satisfied with the battery performance it offers.
There are lots of issues that include poor display quality, less resolution, ineffectual processor, buggy software, and dreadful camera, which I have already pointed out. Long battery backup and wide multimedia support are the only positive sides of it.
Ideally, Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 is just good for browsing the web, watching videos, listening to music and playing some popular game titles. The performance it offers with respect to all departments is mediocre, and is not worth the price we pay for it.
If you were planning to buy a 7-inch tablet, I would recommend you to look for its competitor products. There is Nexus 7 (2013) that gives much better performance, has a sharpest 7-inch screen, provides double storage options, and is priced only one third more than Galaxy Tab 3 7.0. Other alternatives are Kindle Fire HD and Asus MemoPad HD 7.
If you are not concerned about the poor quality performance offered by Galaxy Tab 3 7.0, and if multimedia is the only requirement, then I would definitely recommend the Wi-Fi only variant of Galaxy Tab 3 7.0. It is affordable and handles the multimedia content very well along with balanced battery life.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 (Key specifications)
- 7-inch TFT touchscreen display
- 1024 x 600 pixels screen resolution
- 169 ppi pixel density
- 1.2 GHz dual-core processor
- Standard Graphics
- 1 GB of RAM
- 8 GB of internal storage
- Up to 32 GB of expandable storage
- 3MP primary camera
- 1.3 MP secondary camera
- Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
- Samsung TouchWiz UI
- SIM card support for voice calling and data
- 4000 mAh Li-Ion battery
- Weight: 306 grams
- Dimensions: 188 x 111.1 x 9.9 mm