At $298 for the Wi-Fi model, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 is certainly affordable, it feels nice, looks nice, performs pretty well and is from the largest Android device manufacturer: Samsung. They’ve had huge success with the Galaxy S6 phones as well as some quite successful mid range phones.
So is the Samsung Galaxy Tab A worth a look, or does it merely exist to nab some of the low – mid range tablet buyers money for Samsung?
Design & Specs
If you like Samsung phones and tablets you’re probably going to like the way this looks and feels. It fits well the in mold of their devices, and despite the new 4:3 aspect ratio of the screen, I feel I could hand this to anyone who has used a Samsung tablet in the past and they’d know immediately who made it.
Having said that its got a very sleek body (208.3 x 137.9 x 7.4 mm) which makes it a very thin tablet. The screen is a tad below par for my tastes though, running relatively low resolution of 768 x 1024 pixels at 160 ppi density. For a lot of users, those numbers just simply aren’t going to satisfy; the resolution is undoubtedly on the low side and the ppi is under half that of the Nexus 7 (2013) which is now 2 years old.
If you’re not necessarily driven by screen specs and want to progress further with this device it’s got a bit on offer for the average punter who wants web, email, messaging and bit of YouTube action. 2GB RAM, 5MP Rear facing and 2MP front facing cameras, 16GB Storage (about 11.5GB available out of the box) with SD Card slot allowing up to 128GB further storage to be added and a 4200mAh battery which gives some decent usage time.
Sometimes mid range devices are hit and miss with the OS version they come with. Some will be a generation old, with little chance of the update landing; others will get updates but slowly and I’m very pleased to say that the Galaxy Tab A comes out of the box with Lollipop (albeit 5.0.2) rather than Kitkat – but there’s no word on an Android 5.1.1 update yet.
I am also really pleased to see that Touchwiz seems to have been toned back a long way in its intrusion into the way your tablet behaves. In fact, aside from the dropdown menus and a few layout which are specific to Samsung you could forgiven for not immediately realising that it was a Samsung ROM because I haven’t seen the obvious Touchwiz behaviour we’ve come to know and despise.
4200mAh of battery is pretty good, but not earth shatteringly good. But the battery life out of the tablet is very good and no doubt a result of some of the software wizardry and hardware decisions they’ve made along the way.
AMOLED screens vs IPS are quite battery efficient and when you add the lower ppi density and resolution to this particular model, the requirement on the GPU to drive the screen is reduced to a level where the battery life is quite impressive. If thats not enough, Samsung also have some software settings specifically aimed to saving battery which can be turned on with “battery saving mode”.
Theres not really a delicate way to say this but if you’re buying a tablet for the camera; you’re doing it wrong! While the camera on the Galaxy Tab A is capable, its nothing special. The rear facing 5MP camera can grab some reasonable photos in fair to good lighting conditions. Beyond that if you’re looking for outstanding results you need to either take a lot of time to frame your stationary subject and take the shot or be prepared for disappointment.
The front facing/selfie camera is suitable for Skype, Hangouts and general video calls but not really much beyond that. Its only 2MP and runs at low resolution so don’t expect to be getting super high res duck face from this one.
So it was just over a week ago that my wife’s Nexus 7 had an unfortunate meeting with our slate floors at home. I did some hasty research and based on her usage wants and needs from a tablet purchased the Galaxy Tab A 8 inch for her to replace it. So far her experience has been very positive and the time I’ve managed to sneak with it has also been very good.
Don’t be fooled – despite slick presentation – into thinking this is a top shelf device, the specs are really only mid range at best and for users who really like a high res screen this one just isn’t going to satisfy that need. But if you’re on a budget, looking for a decent tablet that is going to perform reliably with basic functions such as web, email and basic communication apps: You might just want to put the Samsung Galaxy Tab A on your list to check out.
If you are looking at a mid range tablet at an affordable price, what do you expect to get and what compromises can’t you forgive from manufacturers?