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Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 review:

A suitable price for this simple tablet

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The Good The Samsung Galaxy Tab A is affordably priced and offers many premium app perks for free. Its microSD slot accommodates cards up to 128GB.

The Bad The plastic construction feels cheap, and the single speaker provides weak audio. The text often appears pixelated.

The Bottom Line The Samsung Galaxy Tab A is a simple tablet worth picking up for its low price, and its valuable extras sweeten the deal even more.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.0 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 7.0

The price is right for the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0. Starting at $229, the 8-inch model is the first Samsung budget tablet to boast a price as modest as its specs. (UK availability has yet to be announced, but the US price converts to around £230.)

Running the latest version of Android , Google's operating system, the Tab A features Samsung's robust and user-friendly TouchWiz interface and -- on top of that -- it offers a few useful and fun software perks. In addition to in-app bonuses for games like The Hobbit: Kingdoms and Pac-Man Friends, the Tab A includes free limited subscriptions to publications such as The New York Times, The Economist and many more. However, the value of the Tab A is on the inside, not the outside.

Like the standard budget tablet, the plastic-laden construction of the Samsung Tab A is unimpressively pedestrian. Plastic builds are Samsung's M.O., and the Tab A exudes this, managing to feel flimsy and cheap. Despite this, it's still comfortable, thin, lightweight and compact in size.

Samsung tends to overprice its entry-level tablet models, so the low price tag on the Galaxy Tab A 8.0 is an extremely welcome development. The Samsung Galaxy Tab A is a solid budget tablet that excels in giving you the most bang for your buck.

Design

The Samsung Tab A 8.0's design is on-trend. It's slim, lightweight and -- to the undiscerning eye -- it looks a bit like the iPad Mini . Unlike the Apple tablet, though, the Tab A 8.0 is wrapped in plastic.

Dimensions compared

Samsung Galaxy Tab A Acer Iconia Tab 8 Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0
Weight 0.69-pound (313g) 0.79-pound (360g) 0.70-pound (317g)
Width (landscape) 8.2 inches (208mm) 8.5 inches (216mm) 8.3 inches (211mm)
Height 5.4 inches (137mm) 5.5 inches (140mm) 4.5 inches (114mm)
Depth 0.29-inch (7.4mm) 0.33-inch (8.5mm) 0.31-inch (7.9mm)
Side bezel width (landscape) 0.75-inch (19mm) 0.8-inch (20mm) 0.5-inch (13mm)

Its smooth back panel is comfortable against your fingertips, and its rounded edges make it easy to grip, yet the quality of the plastic gives it a cheap feel. At 0.29-inch (7.4mm) thick and 0.69-pound (313g), it's not the slimmest or the lightest tablet, but it's definitely in the ballpark.

On the top-right edge you'll find a power button with a volume rocker and microSD card slot below it, while the bottom edge houses the Micro-USB port, headphone jack and single speaker.

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The bottom edge houses the sad, solitary speaker. Josh Miller/CNET

As an 8-inch tablet, the ability to hold it in one hand is a design benefit of its smaller build. I didn't have a big issue with this, though I can see how those with smaller hands could have problems comfortably gripping the Tab A.

Features

Running Android Lollipop 5.0, the Tab A features Samsung's TouchWiz overlay. The skin is user-friendly, easy to navigate, and chock full of software goodies.

screenshot2015-05-26-15-51-39.png
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Samsung's TouchWIz UI is easy to use and customize. Screenshot/Xiomara Blanco

It comes stocked with Microsoft Office apps, including Word, Excel and Powerpoint. It's a nice addition, especially for students and those interested in a portable workstation, however without a keyboard the software isn't convenient to utilize.

As an owner of a new Galaxy tablet, you get a few free perks. The "Galaxy Gifts" include 3-month trials of Evernote Premium , Audiobooks by Audible and The New York Times, as well as a 6-month trial subscription to The Economist and Blinkist. There's also in-app bonuses for a few games and select apps. These "gifts" are common for Samsung's high-end models, so it's nice to see them on the budget-friendly Galaxy Tab A 8.0.

screenshot2015-05-26-15-46-19.png
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Who doesn't like free stuff? Screenshot/Xiomara Blanco

If you're already entrenched in Samsung's Galaxy, the SideSync 3.0 app is useful for streamlining your devices. The app mirrors your phone's screen, so instead of taking out your phone to respond to a text message, you can simply do so using the tablet. It comes in handy whenever you're carrying around both devices, but only need to use one.

The Galaxy Tab A 8.0 also features a multi-window function. For a pretty basic tablet, it smoothly handles running two apps are once. Not all apps are capable of utilizing the function, but common, frequently used ones like the Google Play Store, Gmail and Chrome can. It won't replicate what your laptop can do by any means, but for basic multitasking, it's a nice convenience.

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It's easy to sync your Samsung phone to the Galaxy Tab A. Josh Miller/CNET

Hardware

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A houses a 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU, 1.5GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage, with a microSD card slot that's expandable up to 128GB.

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