Galaxy Tab S3 Packs HDR Screen and S Pen, But Is It Enough?

Tablet sales continue to plummet. Why? People love their big-screen phones, and folks are simply holding onto their slates longer than before.

But Samsung hopes to jump-start the category with the Galaxy Tab S3, which focuses on entertainment and productivity. Samsung hasn't announced pricing or availability for the Android tablet yet, but we expect this slate to be on the premium side when it launches.

The Tab S3 stands out from other Android tablets in two ways. First, it boasts a gorgeous display that supports HDR. And, second, it comes with an enhanced S Pen.

The most striking aspect of the Tab S3 is its 9.7-inch Super AMOLED screen. In addition to quad HD+ resolution, this vibrant panel has high dynamic range, which means you get a wider range of colors and better contrast than a typical tablet's screen.

MORE: Our Favorite Tablets for Work and Play

During our hands-on time at a New York City preview event, I appreciated the difference between standard and HDR content. A cloudy sky that looked gray in a non-HDR version of a trailer had a lot more purple in it in the HDR version, and the sunlight looked more orange in HDR, as opposed to just a blah yellow.

To make the sound as good as the sights, there's a quad speaker setup on the Tab S3 that knows whether you’re holding the slate in portrait or landscape mode, so stereo sound is always aimed right at you. The audio wasn't very loud when I played a Bruno Mars video on YouTube, but it was clear and well-balanced.

The Tab S3 is certainly a looker in other ways, thanks to its glass back and strong-but-sleek metal frame. It’s just 0.2 inches thin. Just beware of fingerprint smudges, as we had to keep wiping the tablet off in order to bring you these pretty pictures.

Samsung has also beefed up its S Pen for the Tab S3. It offers more than 4,000 levels of sensitivity and a very natural feeling rubber tip. It's great for taking notes and drawing, complete with tilting action. As with the ill-fated Note 7, there's a pop-up menu for taking quick actions when you press and hold on the screen.

Too bad there’s nowhere to  store the pen. You'll have to clip this little guy to your shirt or something else.

Samsung will also sell an optional keyboard for the Tab S3, which offers decent key travel despite the somewhat cramped layout. Just don’t expect backlighting or a touchpad.

This should definitely be the fastest Android slate around when it launches. The Tab S3 packs a Snapdragon 820 processor for silky smooth gameplay, thanks to Vulkan API support, as well as 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. And, yes, there’s a microSD card slot for expansion.

There's a 13-MP camera on back that snapped bright photos pretty quickly, and a 5-MP shooter up front. A 6,000 mAh battery should give you plenty of endurance.

Overall, the Tab S3 looks slick, but we’re not convinced that there’s still a market for premium tablets that aren’t true 2-in-1s. (The keyboard is optional with the Tab S3.) Samsung's Chromebook Pro and Chromebook Plus running Chrome OS with Android apps feel more like the future, while the Tab S3 feels like a refined version of yesterday's vision.

Stay tuned for our full review.

Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.