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Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 review: Pretty design suffers from subpar screen

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The Good The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 is thin, light and stylish. It has a long lasting battery and offers many premium app perks for free. Its microSD slot accommodates cards up to 128GB.

The Bad The screen's low resolution looks pixelated on the 9.7-inch screen. Given its average specs, its $299 price feels too expensive.

The Bottom Line The Samsung Galaxy Tab A is satisfyingly simple tablet, but its lackluster screen and relatively high price make it forgettable.

6.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6

In the case of the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7, bigger isn't better. Though the 9.7-inch model shares specs identical to the 8-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab A , the lackluster screen resolution looks better on the smaller model than on the 9.7-incher.

To its credit, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 is a fine tablet with steady performance and an earnestly modern design. It even comes with a few free software goodies, like trial subscriptions to The New York Times and The Economist, as well as in-game bonuses for a few select games, like The Hobbit: Kingdoms and Pac-Man Friends.

The downside, like many Samsung tablets, is its overreaching price tag. At $299 (UK availability has yet to be announced, but the US price converts to around £190), it's too expensive for what you're getting. However, the Galaxy Tab A 8.0, with the same amenities, is priced at a more reasonable $229/AU$299 (US price converts to around £148). If you don't mind a smaller screen, downsizing is a good idea.

Editors' note: The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 is similar to the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 and parts of their reviews are similar.


The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 sports a relevant and chic design that resembles a second-rate Galaxy Tab S . It's slim, thin, and lightweight.

Dimensions compared

Tested spec Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab S Apple iPad Air
Weight 1lb (450g) 1lb (450g) 1lb (450g) 1lb (450g)
Width (landscape) 9.5 inches (241.3mm) 9.6 inches (243.8mm) 9.7 inches (246.4mm) 9.4 inches (238.8mm)
Height 6.6 inches (167mm) 6.7 inches (170.2mm) 7 inches (178mm) 6.6 inches (167.6mm)
Depth 0.3 inch (7.5mm) 0.29 inch (7.4mm) 0.26 inch (7.4mm) 0.29 inch (6.6mm)
Side bezel width (landscape) 0.5 inch (12.7mm) 0.5 inch (12.7mm) 0.4 inch (10.2mm) 0.8 inch (20.3mm)

Its plastic construction gives it a bit of a cheap feel, however it doesn't look like an inexpensive piece hardware; the charcoal-gray backpanel slightly shimmers in the light and its smooth texture gives it a sleekly streamlined form.

The Galaxy Tab A 9.7's design is also comfortable. In addition to the smooth backpanel that feels pleasant on your fingertips, the rounded edges makes gripping that tablet comfortable.

Comfortable despite its thin profile. Josh Miller/CNET

On the right edge you'll find a power button with a volume rocker below it and a microSD card slot a few inches below that. On the bottom you'll find a Micro-USB port and headphone jack sitting in between two speakers.


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.

Who doesn't like free stuff? Screenshot by Xiomara Blanco/CNET

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.

Samsung's TouchWIz UI is easy to use and customize. Josh Miller/CNET

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 has a multiwindow 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 useful convenience.

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