After almost a year without launching a new tablet into the market, Samsung returned earlier this year with the budget-friendly Galaxy Tab A series. As you might expect with any Android device, competition is intense, so how does the Galaxy Tab A stand up to its competitors? Let’s find out.
Design and build
The Tab A is available in two variants, the 8-inch and the 9.7-inch. The 9.7 version comes in at 9.6 x 6.6 x 0.3 inches, and 1.1 lbs, which means it is thin and light enough to use comfortably for hours on end.
With this model, Samsung switched to using a 4:3 aspect ratio meaning the device is closer to being a square than previous Galaxy Tab models making it easier to hold and use, whether held in landscape or portrait orientation. This tablet feels like a premium product and the build quality is of a very high standard, similar to that of the current range of Samsung phones – all the joints comes together tightly and it feels solid in your hand.
While the rear facing camera is sometimes useful, essentially it is a secondary function on most tablets.
Samsung understands this and has stuck with a simple 5MP in the Tab A which works well for taking the occasional shot when no better camera is available.
There is also a standard 2MP front facing camera, just enough to use for video chatting on apps such as Skype or Periscope.
A large 6000mAh battery – which Samsung claims will last for up to 14 hours of watching video or up to 15 hours of web surfing – combined with an undemanding processor, should enable this tablet to go for long periods of time on just one charge.
In ‘real world’ tests, using this tablet for anything up to eight hours at a time – constant internet browsing and using multiple programs – one charge lasted five working days before finally running out. The battery on this is just short of amazing; couple this with the sleek design it makes this tablet perfect for work purposes or accessing the web, social networking, and watching videos.
The Tab A comes with Android 5.0.2 Lollipop, and will have a system update to the latest Android 6.0 Marshmallow in the near future. Samsung, as standard, has made modifications so instead of the standard dual notifications that are part of Lollipop there is only one.
There is also a wide array of useful software, including the Google bundles that come with the operating systems, such as Chrome, email options, and E-book reader, navigation app and many, many more.
Samsung has also made agreements with a number of companies to include their software, although this falls into the category of bloatware because they can only be hidden not uninstalled. For example, if you’re not a Netflix subscriber the app will still take up some of your valuable storage space.
As I mentioned earlier in this review, the Tab A9.7 offers a 4:3 ratio rather than the standard 16:10, making it nowhere near as tall as its predecessors. Even though the tablet looks like a premium product, not all of its features are high-end, the best example being the screen resolution.
Using only 1024 x 768, the Tab A has a low pixel density of 132ppi meaning fonts and pictures aren’t as clear as they might be on a more expensive tablet but they’re still acceptable and what you might lose in resolution, the Tab A makes up for in its bright and vibrant colour display. Perfect for outdoors use, colours appear extremely vivid on the Tab A – this is done through the usage of a LED display a cheaper alternative to the AMOLED display found in higher-end Samsung product.
The Tab A runs Android 5.0.2 Lollipop on a 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm APQ 8016 processor, with 1.5GB of RAM. This gives it decent real world performance, so that it easily handles day-to-day tasks. The low-resolution display actually helps here, as there are fewer pixels to manage; but this isn’t a processor for running cutting-edge apps.
The model only offers 16GB of internal storage; however a microSD slot can bring up 128GB of additional capacity, which is perfect for storing files, pictures and apps.
Below the screen of the Tab A are a set of controls – the home screen button (physical button) and two touch sensitive areas on either side of this for recent apps and back controls. For most Android devices these are virtual onscreen buttons; however Samsung has always gone with the touch sensitive option as it makes the buttons immediately available and doesn’t take up space on the screen.
The speakers for this tab are located on the bottom edge, and although they are not front facing they are loud enough to be useful. Next to these speakers is the charging port a micro USB which can also be used for wired data.
The sleek and simple design; the immense battery life; and the decent screen size more than make up for the low resolution on the Tab A; all of which make this tablet the perfect option for anyone looking for a full-size Android tablet for general use at an affordable price.