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Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review: Samsung's best tablet screen is a sight to behold

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The Good The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is an elegantly designed tablet that comes with a capable stylus. It has a stunning AMOLED screen, fingerprint sensor for extra security and satisfyingly loud quad speakers. It's also the first HDR-ready tablet.

The Bad Despite the hype, HDR content is not available on the tablet yet. Large games take time to load. The keyboard add-on is an expensive extra.

The Bottom Line Samsung packs buzz-worthy features like S Pen and HDR support into its new premium Galaxy Tab S3, but without a keyboard packed in, it's still more about content consumption than creation.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7

If I had to pick one tablet to watch video on for the rest of my life, I would pick the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3.

It's a stylish, all-glass tablet with an impressively crisp and vibrant screen and four speakers, making it an excellent portable movie theater. It's also the first HDR-ready tablet, although there are a few asterisks to that bullet point. (HDR stands for high dynamic range, which means a spectacular, noticeable difference in contrast and color range in comparison to regular HD.)

That type of high-quality video content isn't even close to becoming as commonplace as HD content is today, yet Samsung is still flexing this future-forward feature as an advantage over high-end tablets such as the Apple iPad Pro 9.7, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and the Google Pixel C.

Included in the $600 base price is the revamped Samsung S-Pen stylus, a real treat for those who still relish good old-fashioned note-taking. The addition of the S-Pen adds a dash of productivity and creativity to a device that's otherwise best used for leisurely activities. Samsung hasn't announced official UK and Australian pricing and availability, but that base price directly converts to £480 and AU$790.

Using the S Pen with coloring apps is almost therapeutic.

Josh Miller/CNET

For a premium-priced Android tablet, there are a few missteps. Aside from the dearth of available and compatible HDR content, gaming performance isn't as snappy as it should be for a high-end tablet. The sold-separately keyboard case ($130; converts to £105 or AU$170) is an underwhelming performer. Though it costs the same amount as the Apple iPad Pro 9.7 and Google Pixel C, it's not at the front of the pack in performance.

But if a sharp screen, great audio and an excellent stylus is on your must-have features list, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is a top choice for indulging in binge-watching style, wherever you go.

This is a tablet worth binge-watching with.

Josh Miller/CNET

Cutting-edge video quality

The Galaxy Tab S3 shines best when watching video. HD content looks razor sharp, colorful and bright. The excellent picture quality is complemented by four speakers, featuring AKG by Harman Kardon's expert tuning. With one speaker at each corner, they sound satisfyingly loud and clear, though it's best to avoid cranking it to max volume as the audio tends to sound tinny when pushed to its limit.

According to Samsung, the tablet features positional audio, which rotates what comes through the four speakers as you turn the tablet. It's supposed to push the dialogue and vocals to the top two speakers, no matter whether you're holding it in portrait or landscape mode. But I didn't notice a difference in audio between one orientation and the other.

Four speakers, one on each corner.

Josh Miller/CNET

The Galaxy Tab S3 proudly claims the title of the first (and as of now, only) HDR-ready tablet. This means it's capable of playing HDR content, which is like HD content but on steroids. HDR video has increased range of color and enhanced contrast between highlights and shadows, resulting in sensationally vivid picture quality.

Display details

  • 9.7-inch Super AMOLED
  • 2,048x1,536-pixel resolution

Those with 4K TVs might be more familiar with HDR, because that's currently the only way to watch it. At the time of review, there's no Samsung native HDR content or easily accessible way to view HDR content on tablets. According to Netflix, it doesn't have any plans to support HDR on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. Amazon and FandangoNow both plan on supporting the feature, simply stating that HDR content will be available "soon." When reached for comment, VUDU did not clarify whether or not it would make its UHD content available for the tablet.


No HDR content means settling for HD -- for now.

Josh Miller/CNET

What's the point of buying an HDR-ready tablet if there are no HDR movies or TV shows to watch on it? Great question! Buying this tablet for HDR content is like showing up to the hottest new restaurant in town before it's even been furnished. While it's an impressive future-forward feature, it's too new for you to actually take advantage of and enjoy.

But even without a catalog of HDR content, you're still getting one of the best visual experiences on any screen, because this is an AMOLED display, which is a close cousin of the OLED displays found in the very best TVs, and starting to turn up in some phones and laptops.


The tablet's design is similar to the Galaxy S7 phone.

Josh Miller/CNET

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