Drawing performance and experience
Both the Galaxy Tab S3 and iPad Pro are powerful tablets. They are both fast and apps run very snappy on them. Both tablets have 4GB of RAM.
The S Pen on the Galaxy Tab S3 is an extremely accurate stylus. I can also same the same for the Apple Pencil. They are both very sensitive. You can just drag the tip along the glass screen without pressure and both will produce the thinnest of lines. Pressure sensitivity works well on both. Palm rejection is also almost flawless on both.
S Pen has a choice of nibs. 5 replacement nibs are included. Out of the 5, 3 are white and 2 are grey. The white ones are the software nibs with more friction and are more suitable for drawing. The grey ones are the hard tips which are more suitable for writing when you don't want friction. Apple Pencil comes with one replacement tip and that's the same hard tip. When drawing on glass, the Apple Pencil can make tapping sounds. Not a big deal though. After a while, regardless of what you use, I'm sure you'll be able to get used to the tip. You can apply a matte screen protector over the iPad Pro but that would affect the image quality.
While the performance of both are, in my opinion, indistinguishable.
When it comes to drawing experience though, I feel that it's more comfortable to draw with the Apple Pencil. The physical design of the Apple Pencil makes is slightly nicer to hold, and I really love the weight and length. The S Pen's physical design is quite good too, but I find myself hitting the side button accidentally too often.
Winner: iPad Pro
Variety and quality of graphic apps
I've always had the impression that there aren't as many quality graphics apps from the Google Play Store. Perhaps that's because I've been entrenched in the iOS ecosystem for too long. When my iPad Pro broke down (battery died), I wanted to wait and see who can create the next ultimate digital sketchpad. Since, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 entered the market earlier than the rumoured iPad Pro 2, I decided to get one to try.
After a few weeks of playing around with the various graphic apps from the Google Play Store, it's really difficult to say which platform has more apps. Anyway, the quality of the apps matter more than the variety. And for the few that I've tried, they are great.
Apps that are on both Android and iOS platforms are Adobe Draw, Adobe Sketch, Wacom Bamboo Paper, Tayasui Sketches, ArtRage, Autodesk Sketchbook, Medibang Paint. There are certainly some exclusive apps on iOS, such as Paper by FiftyThree, but I'm sure Android also have some exclusive apps.
Anyway, my point is, there's probably an graphics app on either platform that can do what you want. So in terms of variety and quality of apps, both platforms are evenly matched in my opinion.
Galaxy Tab S3 uses AMOLED technology while the iPad Pro uses LCD.
AMOLED screens are capable of really vibrant colours and intense blacks. If you're watching shows in the dark, you won't be able differentiate the blacked out areas against the black bezel. However, the vibrant colours may appear a bit unreal to some people. Think neon lights. AMOLED screens also can have colour shift when you view from any angle that's not perfectly straight on.
iPad Pro's LCD produces colours that are more natural looking to me. The iPad Pro 9.7-inch also uses ambient sensors to detect lighting conditions to adjust the colour balance of the tablet. They call this feature True Tone. In my opinion, True Tone's not really a big deal.
And of course, the iPad Pro is now available in 10.5 inches with a 2224 x 1668 resolution, and a 12.9-inch model with 2732 x 2048 resolution. The Tab S3's resolution is 2048 x 1536 (same as the 9.7-inch iPad Pro). The increased size and resolution gives you more screen real estate and this means even with the user interface of graphic apps included, you still have more working area to draw on.
The screen in the second generation of iPad Pro features 120Hz refresh rate, that's 120FPS. Animation effects, such as zoom, scroll and pan, look extremely smooth. Animation effect on the Tab S3 is decent and satisfactory but the new iPad Pro is on another level. Do note that the refresh rate look good but it doesn't really improve productivity by make task run faster.
Winner: iPad Pro. The screens are larger and have more resolution. I prefer the way LCD looks over AMOLED. For those who prefer the exuberance of colours, go for the Tab S3.
Winner: iPad Pro
Both look sleek and build quality is excellent. Both are evenly matched.
Both have battery life upwards of 9hr and more, depending on your screen brightness and what you do.
However, when it comes to charging, the Tab S3 has fast charging. iPad Pro 9.7-inch just charges at normal speed. It's not too bad. iPad Pro 12.9-inch has notorious charging speed to the point that people have to spend extra to buy the 29W charger to replace the included 12W one.
Strange thing is Apple can get fast charging into the Apple Pencil but not the iPad Pro. Hmmm.....
Winner: None, because both tablets have good battery life.
The Galaxy Tab S3 offers expandable storage via a microSD card slot. That's awesome because you can get 128GB microSD cards for around USD $70. So if you choose to spend that extra $70, you'll have a total of 160GB storage (less in real life because of format & OS installation files). With iPad Pro 9.7-inch, you have to pay and extra $100 to get 128GB of storage.
The really cool thing about the microSD card slot is, should you choose to sell away the Tab S3 in the future, you can keep the microSD card and use it in your next tablet, or even your phone (with microSD card slot of course).
And since the Tab S3 runs on Android, you can connect it to your computer and it would be recognised as an external storage. You can transfer files so easily like that. The file management system on the Android is very similar to desktop OS and I find that to be more productive when it comes to managing files.
Winner: Galaxy Tab S3
Here are the current pricing of the two tablets at the time of this review:
- Refurbished iPad Pro 9.7 (32GB Wifi) - USD $469
- Refurbished iPad Pro 12.9 1st Gen (128GB Wifi) - $659
- iPad Pro 10.5 (64GB Wifi) - $649
- iPad Pro 12.9 2nd Gen (64GB Wifi)- $799
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 - $599
If you're looking at current models, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is cheaper, and it includes the S Pen.
The Apple Pencil cost an extra USD $99. Storage size increase is also more pricey with Apple.
If we are compared the refurbished 9.7-inch iPad Pro (32gb) and the Tab S3, it's ~$569 vs $599. The price difference is small and that 1st gen iPad Pro 9.7 is the better deal in my opinion because of the drawing experience.
It's difficult to compare the 2nd generation iPad Pro with the Tab S3 because there are many differentiating factors. Even the smaller iPad Pro now has a larger 10.5-inch screen (with larger resolution too). The iPad Pro 10.5 with Apple Pencil is ~$150 more then Tab S3.
Get the device most appropriate for your work.
Currently, I think the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 offers more bang for the buck.
However, when it comes to drawing experience, I feel that the second generation Apple iPad Pro is unparalleled. Everything feels right when drawing on it.
The Tab S3 is also good device for drawing. The S Pen works great. I feel that the Tab S3 is worth its price, but so does the new iPad Pro. It's good to have choice. You can choose either one depending on your budget and preference.