The Galaxy Tab A (2017) is priced at Rs 17,999.
It comes with Bixby Home integration.
The tablet features Wi-Fi + cellular connectivity.
It is no secret that the tablet PC market is slowly and steadily shrinking, and consumer focus is now on large screen smartphones. Despite that, Apple has a range of iPads in different screen sizes and price points. And while most manufacturers have stopped making tablets, Samsung and Lenovo continue to refresh their tablet ranges. Earlier this year, Samsung launched the premium Galaxy Tab S3 in India, and recently, it also launched the affordable Galaxy Tab A (2017) priced at Rs 17,999.
According to a recent IDC report, even as the global tablet market declined in Q3 2016, Apple and Samsung managed to dominate by taking the top two spots. When it comes to the tablet market in India, there are barely any good options available beyond the iPad. However, iPads are expensive. In comparison, the Galaxy Tab A (2017) appears to be a good proposition when it comes to pricing and features. But what about its performance? Well, read my review to find out.
Design, build and specifications
Samsung has gone with a simple design, and there is nothing really great to talk about. The frame is made from thick plastic, whereas the back has a metallic finish to it. Up front, you have the 8-inch WXGA display running at 1280 x 800 pixels resolution. The display is bright and offers good color reproduction.
The display is surrounded with thick bezels on the sides, whereas the bezels on the forehead and chin are thick too. But, honestly, you don’t need an edge-to-edge display on a tablet as it will become difficult to hold it.
Just above the display, you have the earpiece and front facing 5-megapixel camera. Below, the display, you have the home button, flanked by capacitive Android navigation buttons for app switcher and back. Sadly, they are not backlit, and chances are that you might struggle navigating in the dark. Turn to the back and you have the 8-megapixel auto-focus camera and the LED flash sitting in the top half, while rest of the back is clear.
In terms of ports placement, the 3.5mm audio socket sits at the top, whereas the USB Type-C port sits at the bottom, along with the speaker grill. On the left, you have the microSIM and microSD card slot, whereas the power / sleep button and the volume rocker sit on the right. Having the SIM card not only lets you make voice calls, but also helps you connected to the internet when you don’t have Wi-Fi access.
Under the hood, the tablet is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 quad-core SoC clocked at 1.4GHz, coupled with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of inbuilt storage, out of which 9.5GB is user accessible. The microSD card slot lets you expand the storage further by up to 256GB. Connectivity options include 4G LTE, GPS, Wi-Fi 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.2.
Software and UI
In terms of software, the Galaxy Tab A (2017) runs on Android 7.1.1 Nougat, wrapped under Samsung UX 8.5. It runs on a dated August 2017 security patch, although it is due to get Android 8.0 Oreo update in the coming months. The interface is pretty much similar to what we have already seen in the recent Galaxy-series smartphones.
While there is no app drawer button, the tablet does not feature a single-layer UI. Instead, a simple flick from bottom to the top reveals the list of installed apps. Samsung has some of its additions in the form of Samsung Notes, Game Launcher and Secure Folder powered by Knox. The secure folder lets you hide your photos, videos, apps and contacts from prying eyes.
In terms of bloatware, you get Microsoft apps such as Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Skype, OneNote and OneDrive pre-installed, and you can’t uninstall them. Google apps such as Photos, Chrome, Maps, Drive, Duo, YouTube and Gmail are also a part of the package, and there is no option to uninstall them either.
Samsung has also added a Kids Mode where you have learning apps and games for your kids. With Kids Mode, you can control the amount of time your kids spend on the tablet, and also control the apps and content they can access. Entering inside and logging out of the ‘Kids Mode’ needs a 4-digit passcode, thus ensuring that your kids don’t access anything else outside the dedicated mode. What’s more, under settings, you can also define how much time your kids can spend playing / using a particular game or an app.
There is also a kids app store from where you can download games and apps – one such is the musical instruments app where they can play with virtual drums, guitars and more. Tap once on the character and you will have different birds and animals, vehicles, and more. So, for instance, your kids can tap on the cat to hear it meow, or tap on the engine to hear its whistle, or on the car to hear its horn, and much more.
Lastly, Samsung has also included its AI-based personal digital assistant Bixby, but sadly the functionality is limited. Unlike smartphones such as the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 where you get voice functionality, the tab only comes with Bixby home, which features a Google Now-like card-based interface. You can access it by swiping left to right on your home screen. Cards such as top news, Twitter trending topics, Facebook notifications, alarms, upcoming appointments and more are displayed on the Bixby home cards.
Performance and battery life
All said and done, the core aspect of any device is the performance, so let’s jump right in. I’ve been using the Galaxy Tab A (2017) for some time now and I’ve used it for casual surfing, Binge watching, playing games and more. To be honest, the Snapdragon 425 isn’t a powerful enough chipset to handle the heavy lifting. Still, for everyday use, you won’t run in any trouble.
When you’re quickly scrolling through the Facebook timeline or on web page, be it on Chrome or Samsung Internet browser, you will notice some frame issues. Casual games run smoothly, but trouble only starts when you play graphics-intensive games such as Asphalt 8: Airborne. Not that if affects the gameplay, but the minor stuttering and drop in frame rates might distract you a bit.
The 8-megapixel rear camera is able to capture decent photos outdoors under good lighting conditions, but as the sun sets the quality takes the hit too. The front-facing camera is also decent. Let’s not expect smartphone quality photography from a tablet, because the core objective of the camera is to be able to make video calls, and it does the job right.
Lastly, and more importantly, we come to battery life. On a single charge, the 5,000mAh battery on the Galaxy Tab A (2017) easily lasted for over two days. While the company claims to offer 14 hours of video playback time, I managed to get screen-on-time of about 9 and a half hours. During all of that time, I had Wi-Fi / 4G connected, having three email accounts in sync, along with my social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Messenger. Sadly, it does not support fast charging, and it takes about three-and-a-half hours to fully charge the battery.
At Rs 17,999, the Galaxy Tab A (2017) is an interesting option if you’re shopping for an affordable tablet, especially if you don’t want to spend much on Apple’s iPad offering which starts at Rs 28,000 for the Wi-Fi only models. Lenovo has its Tab 4 with slightly inferior specs starting at Rs 12,990. But considering the pricing, software and features, the Galaxy Tab A (2017) appears to be a better deal.
The Galaxy Tab A (2017) offers a decent overall performance and good battery life. The Kids Mode, screen quality, and Knox security features are interesting add-ons. The sturdy design and build quality, 4G for data and calling features are other things that go in favor of the tablet. If you’re looking at buying a good Android tablet on a budget, the Galaxy Tab A (2017) should work for you.