It does seem like the market for larger tablets is slowly dwindling, while demand for smaller tablets is on the rise. People seem far more interested in devices like the Nexus 7 and the Retina iPad Mini than they are in their larger counterparts, but some people still want a bigger screen and that's where the newest Galaxy Tab 3 10.1" could come into the picture. Aside from the Galaxy Note series, this is the newest generation of tablets from the people at Samsung.
The Return of the Tab
We got an early look at this range of tablets earlier this year. The Galaxy Tab 3 family consists of three tablets: 7.0-inch, 8.0-inch and this 10.1-inch. This isn't all that dissimilar to what Samsung has done in the past with its other tablets. Indeed, there was a 10.1-inch version of the Tab 2 and, if you scrouge around, you might be able to find used or refurbished models for as little as $230-$250 or so.
For the most part, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 (I really hate when companies put numbers next to one another like that, by the way) is an incremental improvement over the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 that it replaces. Indeed, Samsung even says that you get the "same Galaxy experience" here as your Galaxy smartphone.
Compared to the decidedly higher specs you'd get on a Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) though, the Galaxy Tab 3 isn't nearly as impressive. The 10.1-inch display is merely 1280 x 800, a lower resolution that the Galaxy S4 which has a screen one-quarter the size. Other specs include the 1.6GHz dual Core Intel Atom Z2560 processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB internal storage, microSD expansion, 3.2MP main camera and 1.3MP front-facing camera.
Day-to-Day Use and Abuse
The performance isn't a deal-breaker, per se, but it is noticeably sluggish at times. The automatic screen rotation, for example, can take up to a couple seconds sometimes and the loading of apps isn't as snappy as it could be. Perhaps we've become accustomed to the faster load times on flagship smartphones and anything slower than that becomes less acceptable. The far lower pixel density on this larger tablet adds to the less than stellar experience.
And this sense of "I guess it's good enough" continues with the camera. Smartphone cameras are getting far better all the time. The camera on the Galaxy S4 is pretty great, but that makes you wonder why this tablet only gets a 3MP shooter. It immediately makes the device feel dated and obsolete, even before you press that virtual shutter button.
The resulting photos are adequate, but we now have much higher standards for our mobile photography and this has to include tablets too. As you can see in the sample photo embedded above (you can click through to view larger versions), the image lacks a general sharpness to it. The details are on the fuzzy side. As I said, it's okay, but you'd expect better from a $399 MSRP device.
Quadrant Standard and AnTuTu Benchmark Scores
To provide a quantitative measure of performance, we ran the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 through a couple of common benchmarks. The first is Quadrant Standard, where the tablet scored in the 6,000 range. This is slightly lower than the Note 8.0 and well below the 10,000 achieved on the Galaxy S4.
On the AnTuTu Benchmark, the tablet scored in the 18,000 point range. This puts it above the Nexus 4 and Galaxy S3, but lower than the Samsung-produced Nexus 10 (just under 20,000) and far lower than 30,000+ range earned by the Galaxy Note 3, Sony Xperia Z1 and LG G2.
MEGATechie Third Time's the Charm or MEGATechie Three's a Crowd?
Yes, I suppose you could say that the Tab 3 generation from Samsung is an improvement over older tablets, but the differences may not be as big as you would think. The overall design language is largely the same, though the faux leather back on the new Note 3 could be indicative of a new direction. And the performance and specs, while generally improved, aren't really up to snuff with flagship devices anymore.
At first, I wondered if that was the point. I wondered if the Tab 3 series is meant to be more affordable, while the Galaxy Note series would be heralded as the top end. There may be some truth to that. You can find the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 for under $400 online, while the newer Galaxy Note 10.1 (32GB) is closer to $600. If you absolutely must have a 10-inch display, this Galaxy Tab 3 has to enter the conversation, but you shouldn't expect anything close to top-tier. It'll do the job, but it won't blow you away.