If you like to doodle, this tablet is for you

The Galaxy Tab A with S Pen 4G has impressive battery life and some of the new S Pen features have made it to this tablet.
The Galaxy Tab A with S Pen 4G has impressive battery life and some of the new S Pen features have made it to this tablet. PHOTO: SAMSUNG

Samsung's S Pen, the stylus paired with the discontinued Galaxy Note7, is back.

Not with a new phablet, but as part of a 10.1-inch, Android 6.0 tablet descriptively called the Galaxy Tab A (2016, 10.1") with S Pen 4G.

The good news: Some of the new S Pen features introduced with the Note7 have made it to this tablet.

They include Screen Off Memo, which lets you take notes with the S Pen the moment you remove the stylus from its dock at the bottom right corner of the tablet, even with the screen turned off.

Another recent S Pen feature that made it here is the Translate option, which translates foreign languages - one word at a time - when you hover the S Pen over the chosen word with this feature enabled.

As with other stylus-equipped Samsung devices, the S Pen features are available from a fan-shaped, radial menu called Air Command that appears when you remove the stylus from its dock.

But not all the latest S Pen features are available. For instance, there is no magnify option, perhaps because the Tab A has a much larger display, compared with the Note7.


  • PRICE: $498

    PROCESSOR: Octa-core 1.6GHz

    RAM: 3GB

    DISPLAY: 10.1-inch, 1,920 x 1,200 pixels

    CAMERA: 8 megapixels (rear), 2 megapixels (front)

    STORAGE: 16GB, microSD expandable up to 256GB

    BATTERY: 7,300mAh


    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 3/5




    OVERALL: 4/5

In fact, this tablet feels very much like an oversized notepad. Despite it having a 10.1-inch display, Samsung seems to think that you should use the Tab A in portrait orientation. This is evident from the placement of the Samsung logo and the physical home button (which does not have an integrated fingerprint sensor like Samsung's Galaxy phones) on the shorter sides of the tablet.

This design also caused me to accidentally tap the home button a few times while holding the device in landscape mode.

I like the Tab's matte body, which feels less slippery than the glossy finish on some of Samsung's other tablets. But at around 558g, the Tab A is relatively hefty and thick for a slate of its size. Apple's 9.7-inch iPad Air 2 weighs 444g.

The likely culprit for the Tab A's weight is its 7,300mAh battery. Unsurprisingly, it lasted an impressive 12.5 hours in our video-loop battery test.

The Tab A comes with a 1,920 x 1,200-pixel LCD screen. It is bright with wide viewing angles, but colours look slightly dull and washed out, compared with the Amoled displays on Samsung's top smartphones.

The screen resolution is also at the lower end of the spectrum for a 10.1-inch display. While I could not quite make out individual pixels, I did find text and icons to be less crisp than on a higher-resolution screen.

As indicated by its name, the Tab A comes with a 4G SIM card slot. It also has a microSD slot that lets you increase the 16GB internal storage by up to 256GB.

Games and apps ran smoothly enough on the Tab A, which comes with Samsung's TouchWiz interface and includes a number of proprietary Samsung apps.

Vincent Chang

•Verdict: Ideal for those who prefer using a stylus, especially with Samsung discontinuing the Galaxy Note7. In addition, this Samsung tablet offers excellent battery life.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2016, with the headline 'If you like to doodle, this tablet is for you'. Print Edition | Subscribe