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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.

7.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

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.

samsung-galaxy-tab-a-8-8026-004.jpg

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

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

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.

samsung-galaxy-tab-a-8-8034-006.jpg

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.

Other hardware features include Bluetooth 4.1 and GPS.

Performance

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 isn't a fast performer, but once settled into a task or activity, it tends to run without a hitch. Checking email, surfing the Web, streaming video and playing simple mobile games are all smooth sailing.

samsung-galaxy-tab-a-8-8024-003.jpg

Thin in size but not value.

Josh Miller/CNET

Large games and apps take awhile to load -- anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds -- and if downloading apps or updates, performance slows down and lag can occur -- though this is typical of most budget tablets.

The Galaxy Tab A 8.0 features a 1,024x768-pixel resolution screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio. Unfortunately, text can appear pixilated, though it doesn't make it hard to read -- it's just a stark reminder that you're not exactly rolling with the best.

samsung-galaxy-tab-a-8-8030-005.jpg

HD video looks as sharp as high-end cars on Car Tech.

Josh Miller/CNET

Fortunately, HD video still looks sharp and crisp. However, heavy video-watchers might want to think twice about picking up this Samsung model; the 4:3 aspect ratio adds to letterboxing (the thick black bars above and below the video), meaning the video doesn't fill the screen, and the solitary speaker provides lackluster audio quality. Also, since it's on the bottom edge, the speaker is easy to block -- though that might be for the best.

Gamers should also be weary of the Galaxy Tab A. In 3DMark benchmarks, it ranked the lowest in almost all tests against comparable models. I didn't have many hiccups while playing games with the Galaxy Tab A, however these benchmarks indicate that if you're heavy on the gaming, you can do better.

Specs compared

Device CPU GPU RAM
Samsung Galaxy Tab A 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ 8016 Adreno 306 1.5GB
Acer Iconia Tab 8 1.33GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3745 Intel HD Graphics for BayTrail 2GB
Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 1.2 GHz Snapdragon S5 Adreno 330 1.5GB
Asus MeMo Pad 8 1.33GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3745 Intel HD Graphics for BayTrail 1GB

3DMark Ice Storm (Unlimited)

Acer Iconia Tab 8
16,831
Asus MeMo Pad 8
14,025
Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0
4,614
Samsung Galaxy Tab A
4,391

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Graphics Score

Acer Iconia Tab 8
16,389
Asus MeMo Pad 8
13,309
Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0
4,136
Samsung Galaxy Tab A
3,834

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Physics Score

Acer Iconia Tab 8
18,584
Asus MeMo Pad 8
17,280
Samsung Galaxy Tab A
8,931
Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0
7,749

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

The standard pair of cameras on the Galaxy Tab A 8.0 are decent for a tablet. Both the rear 5-megapixel and front-facing 2-megapixel cameras produce clear, in-focus photos, but sharpness at full resolution looks soft around the edges and color saturation falls on the dull side.

According to Samsung, the Tab A should last around 13 hours, and based on my experience, I believe it. On a full charge, with moderate-to-heavy use, I got two days out of it. We tested it in the CNET Lab by looping a local video in airplane mode and the Tab A averaged 11 hours.


Battery test result
Samsung Tab A 8 11
samsung-galaxy-tab-a-8-8037-007.jpg

The rear camera disappoints with lackluster color saturation.

Josh Miller/CNET

Conclusion

Samsung releases more tablets per year than any other manufacturer, so it's nice to see it finally couple its low-end models with affordable prices to match.

In comparison, the Acer Iconia Tab 8 has a higher screen resolution at 1,920x1,200, and it packs a useful micro-HDMI port. Despite this, the Galaxy Tab A, (aside from gaming) consistently performs smoother for most tasks, rendering it a more practical choice for everyday use.

Samsung's own Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 can be currently found for $200, and it houses an IR blaster, meaning you can use it as a remote. Yet, the Galaxy Tab A still manages to one-up it with the latest version of Android OS and the included software perks.

Starting at $229, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A doesn't quite make the list for best tablets under $200, but once the price inevitably drops, it likely will. Until then, it still offers smooth performance and more software goodies than comparable models.

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