Samsung Galaxy Tab A review: premium product, budget price

1 Dec 2015

Samsung Galaxy Tab A, all images via Luke Maxwell, mug via kitchen

There are an awful lot of tablets doing the rounds lately. Here we take a look at one of Samsung’s mid-range devices, which offers a bit of everything, all for a decent price.

Currys PC World

Made famous by Moses, it took several millennia for tablets to enjoy their second age, instigated largely by Apple’s 2010 iPad and the subsequent interest in the not-quite-smartphone, not-quite-laptop devices.

I came to the party a bit late, actually, not really seeing the benefit of these devices until I got to see someone working with one. Actually working, that is.

Still, that remains but a fraction of the tablet market, with many people merely liking the look, feel and usability of tablets both at home and on the go.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A

Samsung Galaxy Tab A: first impressions

I am one of those people, using tablets for more whimsical practices like browsing, watching videos etc. Doing that, I got to play around with the Samsung Galaxy Tab A (€279 in Currys PC World) recently and, on the whole, I was pretty impressed.

I’m already on Android, which made things easy to start with but, having used iPads before, too, this really shouldn’t be a concern, as most devices now are incredibly intuitive.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A

So let’s start. The Samsung Galaxy Tab A (9.7in) is very nice looking. I have the black model at the moment. It’s quite light, I guess (470g), and the initial screen brightness is such that I was quite taken by the first impressions.

The screen ratio is 4:3, which is bang on the money for browsing the internet and watching videos. This is different from other, older Samsung tablets, which went 8:5, making this far less, well, long.

The buttons work well. There are power, volume, home, back and recent apps buttons easily accessible but, when you’re holding the tablet in landscape mode your thumb often hits ‘home’ – true of so many tablets.

Screen seems sound

Naturally enough, there are a bunch of apps already installed on the device so, naturally enough, I went straight to YouTube and put on Iggy Azalea’s Fancy.

For a good five seconds, it looked a bit 64bit video quality, which was a worry, but then it jolted into life and the clarity was very good and has been ever since.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A

I’ve seen some reviews of this device criticising the resolution (1024×768) but I have no complaints. It all looks perfectly suitable quality and works well as a mobile device. The sound, too, is good. A fine start all round.

The native browser is fine (you can always download Chrome or Firefox if you want) and the split screen capabilities – a key USP for tablets – works well.

I downloaded a few apps to see how the tablet felt – ASOS, WGT Golf, Viber, StumbleUpon, Imgur and Facebook all looked sleek and, well, mobile.

It operates on Lollipop and Samsung tends to work fast on system updates for mobile devices, in case you are worried.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A

Storage issues, camera quibbles

The news service, which you access by swiping to the left of the home screen, is a surprise. Rather than Google Now, it’s a native news service. It looks and feels better than Google Now (and the HTC one on my Desire smartphone, as an aside).

One thing to note is there is just 16GB of storage space on this device and, to be honest, not even that. Those apps named above take up very little room, yet I only have 7.3GB remaining. That’s because 5GB are taken up by the system memory and another 2GB by other bits and bobs.

But, if you want more storage, there is a MicroSD card slot.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A

The camera isn’t great. Well, I don’t find many cameras on tablets to be great. There is a 5Mp camera and a 2Mp webcam. When you’re moving around looking to take the perfect shot, it’s a bit slow and cumbersome.

I’m not a huge photo taker, so it’s not something to turn me off at all, and the actual images come out well, but it might not appeal to some people.

What a battery, seriously

On the plus side, the battery is absolutely amazing. Taking it out of the box, it had around 60pc battery, I think. That worked for a good while before I thought to check on it. The lowest I got to was 44pc, before charging it for several hours and only reaching 78pc.

I thought that was odd but, when I plugged it into the wall at 44pc, it said it would take something like six hours for a full charge. The battery is a behemoth.

Still today, I haven’t drained it completely (I’m back down to 44pc), so, if battery life is what you’re after, then look no further.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A

Conclusion? Thumbs up

On the whole, there isn’t a whole lot to complain about with this tablet. Where the camera falls down slightly, the battery more than makes up for.

It’s as close to premium as you can get without paying premium prices (the Galaxy Tab S would set you back an additional €140, even with the €140 discount currently available at Currys).

The price, (€279) too, seems about right. As for an arbitrary rating, I’ll give this a four out of five. If you want to just browse the internet, watch some videos and the likes, there is no need to go for anything more expensive than this.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic