Android tablets are rare birds. While there was once a time when consumers had an abundant choice in price and screen size, we now have a few yearly choices models from a handful of manufacturers. Samsung has been the consistent producer of Android tablets. With new models coming every year, like the one I am reviewing today, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A (2017), they have also figured out their offerings for different segments and sizes.
A Family Tab
The 8-inch Galaxy Tab A 2017 edition is aimed at families and is geared to cater to their needs. It’s the most portable tablet Samsung’s made with an 8-inch display. Galaxy Tab A blends a higher-end design aesthetic and premium materials rarely seen in this price point.
Combining a glass display but with an aluminum backplate, the Galaxy Tab A feels premium and less slippery. This is better than the previous all-glass or plastic designs we’ve seen. For 2017, we get some upgrades in camera specs as well as battery life.
Built to travel, the Tab A even has the option of adding a nanoSIM card for cellular data access for when Wi-Fi connectivity just isn’t an option.
The Tab A goes back to Samsung’s roots as a maker of highly portable 7-inch sized tablets.
Their very first Galaxy Tab, which came in 2010, it was a 7-inch device and was considered one of the premier Android devices. This year’s Tab A is an 8-inch device that fits in a 7-inch tablet’s form factor.
I like that this tablet isn’t as wide as other tablets in its class, and that it also tapers off on the sides. You can fit it in most ladies (or men’s) purses and even inside a jacket pocket.
So, while Samsung’s played around with different sizes, and even made an attempt to flirt with the larger 10-inch form factor. It realizes that 8-inches is the sweet spot for general users, specifically families.
Bigger than a Smartphone
This tablet is best for one-handed use as a reader, to watch videos, entertain adults and children with various games and apps. It can also handle more demanding applications but would require accessories like an external Bluetooth keyboard.
Featuring an 8-inch WXGA display with a 1280×800 resolution, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A has a quad-core Snapdragon processor running at 1.4 GHz, 2 GB of RAM and the requisite 16 GB of onboard storage. Android 7.1 was installed in our review unit.
Aside from the ubiquitous Samsung apps, there are also some pre-installed Google applications and even Microsoft Apps. The latter need to be unlocked for use with existing Office 365 accounts.
In comparison to the previous model, this year’s Tab A now features an 8-megapixel primary camera with f/1.9 aperture and flash. There’s also a 5-megapixel front-facing shooter for video calls and selfies.
Tablets are rarely the go-to device for taking photos or videos being large and clunky.
The Tab A has some serious photographic chops and will manage to make good photos in most conditions. If this is your only camera at a time you need to take a photo or a video, it will not disappoint.
The previous version shipped with a 5-megapixel rear camera but no flash and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. This was a 2015 model.
The tablet measures 212.1 x 124.1 x8.9 mm and weighs 364 grams which is slightly thicker and heavier than the 2015 model, likely due to a bigger 5000 mAh battery. The previous version had a 4000 mAh battery. These improvements do add a bit of bulk and weight, but most users might not even notice.
The Tab A also comes with USB Type-C port for charging, which puts it in good company with most Samsung devices and more forward-thinking products out there. This means you can easily plug in existing USB Type C chargers to charge it. An hour and a half is usually enough to get up to 80 percent charge.
The advantage of a tablet geared for families is that it is durable and can survive some rough treatment from younger children. Samsung has also included a Kids Mode app which adds security and safety features as well as more curated experiences for children.
I like the portability of the Galaxy Tab A, it is larger than a smartphone or phablet so it is great for watching video or for reading. It also makes a large GPS device combined with the right apps (i.e. Android Auto or Waze).
It plays all my son’s favourite apps and games from Toca Boca or Sago Mini and can also be used when traveling by downloading episodes of his favourite shows.
Content consumption device
It would have been nice to have S Pen stylus support on this tablet to draw or colour, but at this segment, the omission was clearly done to keep pricing affordable. There are various pens and third-party accessories for artists wanting more precise input on the Tab A.
If you are a serious annotator, artist or retoucher, it might be better to consider a tablet which is designed with a pen in mind.
The slim size also makes it a great ‘infinite scroll’ device for checking social media feeds, or for combing through the latest news and websites. For people who travel often, tablets of this size are easier on the eyes than smartphones and the Tab A can handle pretty much everything most modern smartphone can.
I found it to be an ideal companion while viewing TV shows or movies since I could quickly check on IMDB or Wikipedia pages for actors I thought I had seen somewhere else, and could also fire up RottenTomatoes.com to check ratings and reviews.
My wife liked the Tab A for use in the kitchen, to find recipes using ingredients we had available, or to look up cocktail mixology videos on YouTube.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab A is more than a refresh of models it replaces. With a larger display combined with a compact size, upgraded specs, premium materials and a larger battery plus camera make it a notable option.
Samsung has made the Tab A more portable and even more durable. Users will appreciate the improved metal case as well as the smartphone-like camera specs. An extra 1000 mAh of battery also ensures more longevity for what is already an outstanding all-around tablet offering.