Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 review: A solid, rugged Android tablet

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Techaeris Rated 9/10

While there is a slew of Android tablets out there, for the most part, they are subpar when it comes to performance. More often than not, cheaper components are used to make the devices affordable, but that comes at a sacrifice to performance. Fortunately, there are decent options out there that don’t skimp out on the features or performance.

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Our Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 review looks at an Android tablet with decent specifications and performance, as well as a rugged shell for added protection. Read on for our full review!

Specifications

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 has the following features and specifications:

  • Capture Everything: The 13MP rear camera provides excellent clarity for both taking pictures or scanning detailed documents and the 5MP front camera is suited to video or conference calls.
  • Augmented Reality: Google ARCore is now supported and enables new augmented reality services, such as remote training.
  • Programmable Key: The Programmable Key on the side of the device allows quick access to the apps or programs used most often, such as scanning or Push-to-Talk.
  • Retail Ready: Galaxy Tab Active3 features camera-based barcode scanning to help retailers easily manage inventory and scan products for purchase as a mobile point of sale (mPOS), thanks to NFC with EMV Level 1 certification.
  • Enhanced Touch: When turned on in the settings, enhanced touch capabilities allow professionals to continue using the Galaxy Tab Active3 while wearing gloves. No more time spent taking gloves on and off.
  • IP68 Certified S Pen: Ideal for signature capture and managing complex documents, the S Pen that accompanies the Galaxy Tab Active3 is also water and dust resistant.[
Display8.0” WUXGA (1920 x 1200) PLS TFT LCD
ChipsetSamsung Exynos 9810, Octa-core 2.7GHz + 1.7GHz
LTE Support4G FDD LTE, 4G TDD LTE
Memory4GB + 64GB, microSD up to 1TB
Camera13MP AF rear + 5.0MP front, Flash
PortUSB 3.1 Gen 1, Pogo Pin
SensorsAccelerometer, Fingerprint Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, RGB Light Sensor, Proximity Sensor
Wireless ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax 2.4G+5GHz, HE80, MIMO, 1024-QAMWi-Fi Direct
GPSGPS + Glonass + Beidou +Galileo
Battery Capacity5,050mAh, User Replaceable, up to 11 hours internet usage/video playback time
DurabilityIP68 Water and Dust Resistance, 1.5m Anti-shock with inbox protective cover,
MIL-STD-810H
PenS Pen (IP68 Certified)
SecurityKnox Suite, Biometric Authentication (Face Recognition, Fingerprint Scanner)
Operating systemAndroid 10.0
Dimensions126.8 x 213.8 x 9.9mm
Weight426g(Wi-Fi) / 429g(LTE)

What’s in the box

  • Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3
  • Rugged case
  • S Pen
  • Charging cable
  • Power adapter
  • User guide

Design

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 is a nice size tablet for optimal portability. The tablet itself is about 5 inches wide, just under 8 1/2 inches in height, and shy of 1/2 inch thick. The included rugged case does add a bit of heft to the tablet. When placed on the tablet, it brings the size up to about 5 1/8 inches wide, 9 inches in height, and 1/2 inch thick. The case gives the tablet a nice sturdy feeling with its thickness and rounded corners.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 Android tablet with included S Pen and rugged case
Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 Android tablet with included S Pen and rugged case.

When held in portrait orientation, the left side of the tablet has pogo connectors for an optional keyboard. The right side has a volume rocker, a side button, and a customizable active key. By default, the side button is set to launch the camera on double press and wake Bixby on press and hold. You can change the latter action to display the Power Off menu instead. Both the side button double press and the action button single or double press can be assigned to open a particular app.

The tablet’s bottom edge has a centred USB-C charging/data port with a 3.5mm audio jack and speaker to the left. A small microphone port sits to the right. The top of the rugged case has a slot into which the included S Pen slides, quite snuggly, I might add. The back of the cover has a cutout for the rear camera. The Samsung wordmark is centred on the textured back, and an NFC symbol is in the upper right to indicate where the NFC chip is. The case wraps nicely around the front of the tablet and holds it snug, and offers a nice lip over the display. In addition, the case offers 1.5m of anti-shock protection.

As for the actual tablet, there is a microSD/nano-SIM card slot on the left edge to the left of the pogo connector. On the tablet’s front are three physical buttons: recent apps, home/fingerprint scanner, and back. The front-facing camera is in the upper right corner of the front display screen. The tablet itself is also IP68 dust/water-resistant. This means you can use it by the pool, on the beach, or not have to worry about accidentally spilling coffee or other liquids on it.

The included S Pen is pretty basic. It’s about 4 3/4 inches long and has ridges along the stem for grip, a tip, and, single button on it. When hovering over the screen, pressing the button will bring up a customizable shortcut menu. You can also hold the Pen button and double-tap the screen to quickly launch the note application, and you can even create notes by tapping the screen when it’s off.

Display

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 has an 8.0” WUXGA (1920 x 1200) PLS TFT LCD. The display itself has some pretty thick bezels — about 1/4-inch on each side and almost an inch on the top and bottom. This is to house the front-facing camera on the top and the three physical buttons on the bottom. The display is not one of Samsung’s AMOLED panels as one would expect, but it is still pretty decent. You are stuck with the default colour settings, which are pretty vibrant and bright. That said, the display is crisp for its size, and I had no issues reading text or viewing content inside or out — even on brighter days.

The display on the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 Android tablet
The display on the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 Android tablet.

The touch display sensitivity settings can be adjusted as well, allowing you to use it with gloves. Not only is this great for colder days, but also work environments that require gloves. I did test the display out with a few different pairs of thinner gloves, and I had no issues with touch sensitivity. If it doesn’t work as intended, you can always use the included S Pen.

Software

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 Android tablet runs on Android 10 with Samsung’s One UI version 2.5 on top of it. Android 10 runs just fine, given the internal specifications of the tablet. One UI offers up several improvements to the stock Android experience. One such feature is the Edge panel which allows you to set up your commonly used apps in a panel. Once set up, you can swipe a thin bar on the right to access these apps or edit what displays in the list. Other features include Google ARCore, which can be used for augmented reality-based training, camera-based barcode scanning to help retailers easily manage inventory, and the ability to scan products for purchase as a mobile point of sale (mPOS), thanks to NFC with EMV Level 1 certification.

With Android, you get full access to the Google Play Store. In Samsung’s case, some apps are also available through the Galaxy Store. While this does offer users even more apps, it can create some confusion as everything isn’t available from the default, central Google Play Store. While there is a lot of crossover with games and apps, there are a few apps, specifically some Samsung ones, that are only available through the Galaxy Store.

A few default apps are installed, including the usual Google culprits like Gmail, YouTube, Chrome, and more. Microsoft Office, Outlook, and OneDrive are also preinstalled. Samsung has also pre-installed a few of its own apps, including Voice Recorder, Contacts, SmartThings, Bixby, Samsung Flow, PENUP, AR Zone, Galaxy Store, Gallery, Camera, Calendar, Calculator, Internet, Samsung Notes, Live Transcribe, and Samsung Members.

Samsung is usually pretty quick to update their software on their Android smartphones. However, when this review was published, the Galaxy Tab Active3 was running the April 2021 security patch, so it’s a few months behind. It does, however, run the company’s Knox software for added security as well.

The physical buttons on the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 Android tablet
The physical buttons on the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 Android tablet.

Performance

Powered by a Samsung Exynos 9810, Octa-core CPU running at 2.7GHz/1.7GHz with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage (expandable by up to 1TB with a microSD card), the Galaxy Tab Active3 performs rather well. Apps launch quickly, as does switching between open apps. The tablet had no issues keeping up with productivity apps, streaming videos, or listening to music.

Most games played decently as well, including more resource-intensive ones like Call of Duty: Mobile. It is a bit unwieldy holding a larger tablet and playing with touch controls, but the game didn’t stutter or lag up like other Android tablets I’ve recently tested. The tablet also makes a great display for playing games via Xbox Game Pass with a paired controller.

Sound Quality

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 has a single speaker located on the bottom left (or the bottom right when held in landscape mode). While it does get loud, it does distort a bit and doesn’t have much in the way of bass. As is the case with many devices, when you hold the tablet in landscape mode, your right hand covers the speaker, muffling it and further distorting the sound.

Camera

I’m not usually a fan of using tablets for photography. The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 has a rear 13MP shooter with autofocus and an LED flash. The front 5.0MP camera doesn’t have an LED flash but has a flash mode that uses the screen as a flash.

As far as image quality is concerned, I was impressed with the rear-facing camera in most conditions. Photos turned out pretty decently outside, as well as inside with the flash. Without the flash indoors was more hit and miss. Even though the Galaxy Tab Active3 has up to 8x digital zoom, you’re better off sticking to the default regular and wide-angle modes for clarity. The front camera is decent enough as well but is more suited for video calls than taking selfies.

Reception

Connectivity is offered via Wi-Fi 6 or LTE with a nano-SIM card when you’re on the go. During our speed tests on a Wi-Fi 6 network, speeds were as expected. When used on the go with LTE, I had no issues with reception, and speeds were, once again, as expected.

Battery Life

With its 5,050mAh, user-replaceable battery, Samsung claims you can get up to 11 hours of internet usage/video playback time on a single charge. During testing, I was able to get close to that on the Galaxy Tab Active3 when performing basic tasks like web browsing, word processing, and video or music streaming. When throwing some gaming into the mix, battery life really depended on what kind of games I played. Still, the battery life was as one would expect, given the content I was consuming.

As mentioned above, the battery is user-replaceable as well. This means that you can swap out the battery with a bit of effort due to the rugged case for longer battery life. Additionally, one can replace it once the battery starts to hold less of a charge after a couple of years.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 Android tablet with the back and replaceable battery removed
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 Android tablet with the back and replaceable battery removed.

Protection

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 lives up to its name with the included rugged case. With its MIL-STD-810H and anti-shock protective cover, the tablet is rated to survive falls of up to 1.5m (just under 5′). The cover is durable and solid feeling with rounded corners and a snug fit around the tablet itself.

The only thing that Samsung could have included is a screen protector. Other than that, though, the Galaxy Tab Active3 offers up some of the best protection I’ve seen on an Android tablet.

Price/Value

Of course, this level of performance, functionality, and protection isn’t cheap. The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 retails for CA$779.99. It is a far cry from the more affordable tablets, but it is worth shelling out the extra for a good Android tablet experience. In addition, you’re getting a rugged case, S Pen, mobile LTE connectivity, IP68 water/dust resistance, and the option to add on a mobile keyboard.

Wrap-up

When it comes to Android tablets, there are plenty of choices out there. If you want one with decent performance, do yourself a favour and pick up one that costs a bit more, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3. This tablet works well for most scenarios with its dual Wi-Fi 6 and LTE connectivity, decent performance, included S Pen, IP68 water/dust-resistance, and rugged case.

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Last Updated on July 4, 2021.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3

CA$779.99

Design

9.0/10

Display

9.0/10

Software

9.0/10

Performance

9.5/10

Sound Quality

8.0/10

Camera

8.0/10

Reception

9.5/10

Battery

9.0/10

Protection

9.5/10

Price/Value

9.0/10

Nailed it

  • Solid, rugged design
  • Excellent performance
  • Can be used with most gloves
  • Wi-Fi 6 and LTE connectivity
  • Programmable side button and active key
  • Decent battery life
  • Includes S Pen
  • Still sports physical buttons
  • IP68 rated
  • Decent camera for a tablet

Needs work

  • Not Samsung's AMOLED display
  • Can't adjust display colours/options
  • Speaker distorts at full volume, muffled when in landscape mode due to placement
  • Quite a few pre-installed apps
Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 rugged Android tablet with S Pen on rocks
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