Samsung makes a bunch of tablets, but its "S" models are always the best. The Galaxy Tab S3 follows last year's Galaxy Tab S2, which seemed to pass under most people's radars even though it was a solid slate.
This year's model kicks butt, and it's easily one of the best tablets you can buy right now. It even outclasses the iPad Pro 9.7 in a few important areas, though there are some other aspects that aren't as good.
First, the Galaxy Tab S3 has the same size 9.7-inch display as the smaller iPad Pro, and it's the same resolution, which means text and images are going to look just as sharp. It uses Samsung's high-end AMOLED panel, though, so you'll get much brighter colors. Your eyes sink right into the screen when viewing back really colourful images and movies. Like the iPad, the Galaxy Tab S3 is ideal not only for viewing content, but for creating it.
Samsung includes an S-Pen stylus that works really well and compares similarly to the Apple Pencil (which isn't included with the iPad Pro.) The S Pen can be used for drawing, painting and jotting down quick notes. There's even a feature that lets you jot down a quick note without having to unlock the tablet, which is super convenient.
The Tab S3 also supports a keyboard — a $129.99 accessory — and, like the iPad Pro, there's a smart connector on one side of the tablet that allows you to connect it without any sort of Bluetooth pairing. It just snaps right into place and starts working.
Four stereo speakers sit on each corner of the device, as they also do on the iPad Pro. The Tab S3's speakers got nice and loud when I put the tablet on my coffee table and played a 60s playlist on Spotify while tidying up the living room one Saturday, and I really liked the clear audio while watching "Caddy Shack" from the couch.
The similarities end there
The Galaxy Tab S3 runs Android Nougat, the latest version of Google's software. It allows you to run apps side-by-side, similar to what Apple allows on its iPad Pro products, and even pop-out video for picture-in-picture viewing while performing other tasks.
I'm worried about Android on tablets, though. Google frequently talks about Android for smartphones, but hasn't really discussed the OS for tablets recently. That makes me wonder how serious the future of Android tablets really is, and whether or not Google is putting its eggs into Chrome OS instead. Also, Samsung's updates are typically slow, so you might not get the latest version of Android for many months after it releases, if ever. Conversely, Apple updates its iPads frequently, and often supports individual models for many years. That's something to keep in mind.
Also, while developers have spent plenty of time optimising applications for Apple's iPad — since they sell millions of units a quarter — developers aren't doing the same for Android tablets. Don't expect to find a ton of applications that support Android tablets or larger screens, for example. Instead, you'll mostly be using regular smartphone apps that are just blown up to take up the whole screen.
Samsung includes one of Qualcomm's new processors under the hood, and it's nice and fast, allowing you to run multiple apps at once without running into hiccups. You can even upgrade the storage for more movies and apps, something Apple doesn't let you do with the iPad.
Speaking of movies, the Galaxy Tab S3's display supports full HDR viewing. HDR, if you're unfamiliar, is otherwise known as high dynamic range. The gist is that the image you're viewing is supposed to look more accurate, as Hollywood originally intended, thanks to a balance between the darkest colors on the screen and the brightest. There are a limited number of sources to actually view that content now – Amazon lets you stream HDR content for some of its shows - so that's not exactly a huge win over the iPad. You don't need to worry about movies hogging battery life, either.