For its latest Galaxy smartphones, Samsung finally ditched the plastic chassis and went all out with a premium all-metal design.
But the company is not quite ready to do the same with its Galaxy Tab A tablet. It looks like a typical Samsung device with a cheap-looking white plastic body that is easily stained.
To be fair, the Tab is not in the same league as its smartphones. It is a budget device that starts at $398 for the Wi-Fi version. The LTE model reviewed here is $498 with 16GB of internal storage.
Price: $498 (LTE), $398 (Wi-Fi)
Processor: Quad-core 1.2GHz
Display: 8-inch, 1,024 x 768 pixels
Camera: 5 megapixels (rear), 2 megapixels (front)
Storage: 16GB, microSD expandable up to 128GB
Value for money 3/5
Battery life 5/5
Its plastic chassis is slim and light (338g) but does not flex easily under pressure.
Its thin bezel and rounded corners remind me of the Apple iPad mini. But the Tab has one thing over its rival: It has a stylus concealed at the top right corner. Pull this S Pen from its slot and a radial-style menu with short cuts and commands pops up. For instance, you can use the stylus to highlight and save a portion of the screen.
Samsung SideSync lets users share content between the tablet and a computer when they are connected via a USB cable or Wi-Fi. You can also use the connected keyboard and mouse to type messages and documents in the tablet's apps.
New to Samsung's latest devices are Microsoft apps such as Office and Skype. You can uninstall them, but do so only after you take up the free 100GB OneDrive cloud storage (for two years) offer.
Surprisingly for a budget device, Samsung has included a number of freebies under its Galaxy Life bundle. They include a 65 per cent discount for a year's subscription to two magazine titles from SPH Magazines and a free Kindle e-book each month for a year.
Its battery life is excellent. The tablet managed almost 10 hours in our video-loop battery test with screen brightness and volume maxed out. What a shame then that these attractive features are overshadowed by the tablet's 1,024 x 768-pixel display, which is the same screen resolution as the first Apple iPad mini released three years ago. The display itself has very good viewing angles, but my eyes, spoilt by sharper displays, found text and Web pages to be pixelated and blurry.
In fact, Samsung also sells a 9.7-inch version of the Galaxy Tab A with the same 1,024 x 768-pixel resolution as the original Apple iPad (2010) that you should avoid at all costs. Samsung probably did so to keep costs in check, but it is a bridge too far for me.
If you do not need LTE or the S Pen stylus, Xiaomi's Mi Pad goes for $299 with a 2,048 x 1,536-pixel display. An older Apple iPad mini 2 with Retina display costs just $408 for the Wi-Fi model.
A decent budget tablet with excellent battery life, but a shockingly low screen resolution.