Artist Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 with S Pen

Ever since my iPad Pro broke down (the battery died), I've been wondering which tablet to get next. I contemplated about getting the Samsung Tab S2 but I'm glad I held out until the Tab S3 came out.

This review, like my other drawing tablet reviews, will look at the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 from an artist's perspective where I'll talk about the S Pen and how it performs with selected drawing apps.

What's included


These are the things included in the small matte black box

  • 9.7-inch tablet
  • Charging adapter
  • USB type-C charging cable
  • Ear phones
  • S Pen
  • Nib remover and 5 replacement nibs

Specifications

  • Screen size: 9.7-inch
  • Resolution: 1536 x 2048
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Weight: 429g (wifi) 434g (LTE)
  • OS: Android 7
  • Chipset: Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 820
  • CPU: Quad-core (2x2.15 GHz Kryo & 2x1.6 GHz Kryo)
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • Storage: 32 GB
  • Card slot: microSD up to 256 GB
  • Speakers: 4
  • Audio jack: 3.5mm

Design and build quality

Galaxy Tab S3 looks sleek. The build quality is solid. It is a decent competitor to Apple's iPad, and because the Tab S3 comes with S Pen, it's a very worthy competitor to the iPad Pro.

The tablet is every bit as premium as it should be since it's quite pricey. But is there a market for such an high end Android device? You can get Android tablets for less than USD $200 easily nowadays, maybe even less than $100. It really depends on what your look for and expect.

The tablet is really lightweight at 429g. The front and back are glass. Corners are rounded off. I recommend getting a case to protect it, preferable one that can prop it up so that you can watch shows without holding it in hand.

At the bottom of the tablet is the physical Home button. On the left is a Multi-app button, and the right is the Back button. Most tablets that I've used have their Back button on the left so it feels weird to see arrangement like this.

Screen

The 9.7-inch screen sports a 3:2 aspect ratio with 1536 x 2048 resolution. That resolution means user interface and everything you see will be sharp, unless you're looking at a low res photo or video.

The screen uses AMOLED technology. Colours are exceptionally vibrant, darks are incredibly dark. Contrast level is better compared to LCD backlit screens. However, that heighten colour saturation really feels unnatural to me. There are other colour settings you can choose from, namely AMOLED Cinema, AMOLED Photo, and Basic. But those three settings make the colours slightly muted, and the white look like newsprint, so that's not the result I'm looking for too. To me, LCD backlit screens still produce more natural and pleasing colours.

I know of no other way to calibrate the colours. If you do, let me know.

The other thing about AMOLED screen is, there will be colour shift depending on your viewing angle. Tilt the screen slightly and you will be able to see a white screen turn slightly blue. That's the same observations I wrote about in my review for the Samsung TabPro S.

General performance

General performance of the tablet is very snappy. There's no lag at all with any of the apps that I've used.


Having 4 speakers is a major plus. There are two side facing speakers on each side of the tablet. Volume is more than adequate and very satisfactory. Speakers are best when they face forward. Their arrangement here is second best. I haven't found a tablet with front facing speakers yet.

S Pen



The S Pen is included with the tablet.

In the previous model, Galaxy Tab S2, there were two versions, the S Pen version and Non-S Pen version. The Non-S Pen version does not come with the S Pen, and even if you choose to buy the S Pen later, it will not be usable because the screen does not have built in digitizer.

With Galaxy Tab S3, I'm glad that Samsung has decided to remove the confusion. There's only one version of Tab S3 now and all Tab S3s support the S Pen.

The S Pen feels a bit small to me. But it's already bigger than previous design so that's a plus.

There's only one button on the stylus and by default it's mapped to open up this feature called Air Command. Air Command has quick shortcuts to let you create or view notes, translate words, screen capture, and perform other utility functions. As far as I know, there's no way to map that button to app shortcuts.



The pen tip looks kinda small, but it's quite strong. It glides rather smoothly on the screen. I wished it had a bit more friction. If you wear out the nib, there are 5 replacement nibs available. The white coloured nibs are slightly softer and has more friction. The grey nibs are the hard tips.

Drawing performance


In short, drawing performance is very good on most of the drawing apps I've used.


Pressure works well on Wacom Bamboo Paper. There's no diagonal line jitter. Lag is minimal. This is a great app for taking notes as it's able to capture my handwriting quite accurately.


Pressure does not work with the tools on Tayasui Sketches. That's just how that app was programmed. And there's this strange lag that happens whenever you try to close a loop while drawing. Weird.


Pressure sensitivity with Medibang Paint Pro is not turned on by default. So you have to get into the settings to turn that on.

After you're turned on pressure sensitivity, everything works fine on Medibang Paint Pro. This is basically the Photoshop alternative on Android, except it's made with comic drawing as its focus.


Pressure works with Adobe Photoshop Sketch, however that functionality is limited by the tools and how they are programmed.


Pressure works with Adobe Sketch. It lags quite significantly so it's not pleasant drawing with this app.


Sketchbook works fine. Pressure works.


There's slight lag with certain brushes in Artrage. Pressure works.


That's how my handwriting looks like with the note-taking app called Inkredible. It's able to capture my handwriting quite well, but it's still not as accurate compared to Lenovo Yoga Book. I would have preferred the tip to have a bit more friction when it comes to writing. Right now, it feels a bit too smooth. It's a small issue. Everyone has different preference.


Squid is another note-taking app. Here, my handwriting wasn't captured as well as Inkcredible. I think there's more software correction that changes my strokes slightly. Maybe that's why my handwriting looks a bit different from what I expect.

Ultimately, if you're looking for a tablet to take notes, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is a decent performer in that area. The best note taking tablet is still the Lenovo Yoga Book in terms of how accurately it can capture your handwriting.

Here's the summary. The S Pen works extremely well when it comes to drawing. There's usually no lag unless the app is poorly designed, palm rejection works almost flawlessly with the 1cm tip hovering distance and pressure sensitivity is very good.

There's no way to change the pressure curve but thankfully by default, the pressure settings is quite good. The S Pen is really sensitive. You can draw with the lightest of pressure on the screen and you'll be able to get a very thin line. Tap on the screen and dots appear easily. Every works as expected.

Another great thing about the S Pen is, there's no jitter when drawing diagonal lines slowly. The problem with wobbly diagonal lines is common with other tablets and styluses. Thankfully, that's not a problem here. Lines on the Tab S3 comes out exactly the way you want them to be.

iPad Pro vs Samsung Tab S3

It depends on what you want to do with your tablet.


As a portable drawing device, both are quite well matched in my opinion. iPad Pro has Procreate, Android has ArtFlow. Both platform has solid graphics app. iOS used to have the advantage but the variety of graphics app on Android is catching up very fast. And many graphics app on Android are also very good.

At the time of this review, the price of the Galaxy Tab S3 is USD $599 on Amazon USA. iPad Pro is selling at the same price, but the Apple Pencil is an extra USD $99.

The prices above are for the 32GB model. The 128GB model of the iPad Pro starts at USD $799. With the Galaxy Tab S3, you can get a 128GB MicroSD card for less than USD $70. That's the beauty of having expandable storage. Another thing I really like if you can connect Android tablets to any computer and it will function as an external storage for easy file transfer.

I used to think that Android tablets are behind the iPad and iPad Pro as portable devices for creating art. That's certainly not true for me anymore. With the Samsung Galaxy S3, I think Android devices are now perfectly capable of drawing whatever the iPad Pros can do. It's a huge step forward, and a great improvement to the earlier Tab S2.

Conclusion

If you have the budget for a high end tablet, you won't go wrong with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. It's a sleek looking tablet that is also a very capable digital sketchbook should you choose to use it as one. I wished there was an even larger option, like the 12.9 inch iPad Pro.

Is it worth the high price? It's up to you to decide.

Pros
+ Beautiful design
+ Solid build quality
+ Lightweight at 429g
+ 4 speakers
+ Very vibrant and bright screen
+ 3:2 aspect ratio screen
+ 2048 x 1536 resolution
+ Snappy performance
+ Android 7
+ S Pen is included
+ 5 replacement nibs are included
+ Excellent pressure sensitivity
+ Palm rejection works almost flawlessly
+ No jitter when drawing diagonal lines slowly
+ S Pen is very accurate
+ MicroSD card slot available
+ Good battery life
+ Lots of decent drawing apps on Android

Cons
- Slight colour shift occurs when viewing angle changes
- Screen colours are too vibrant, almost unnatural
- No way to change button function on S Pen
- Pricey

Availability

There are quite a lot of good bundles on Amazon. Some bundles have MicroSD card, cleaning fluid, case, USB Type C adapter.

Check out more reviews of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 at
Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de | Amazon.fr | Amazon.it | Amazon.es | Amazon.co.jp

If you decide to get the Tab S3, you can support the blog by getting it through the Amazon affiliate links which helps me earn some commission. The money is used to buy stuff to review. I lose money each time I put out a review like this as I buy to review, and sell afterwards as a loss. I'm not sponsored by the company and don't have so much money to keep making losses all the time. Or consider supporting me on Patreon.

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