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Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 3 review: Sleek, durable tablet for frontline workers

matthew-miller
Written by Matthew Miller on
galaxy-tab-active3-4.jpg
8.2/10

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 3 - tablet - Android - 64 GB - 8" - 3G, 4G

Excellent
$489.99 at Amazon
Pros
  • Rugged IP68 and MIL-STD ratings
  • Affordable
  • S Pen functionality
  • Hardware buttons
Cons
  • Large bezels
  • Single mono speaker
  • Editors' Review
  • Specs

A couple of years ago I purchased a Galaxy Tab Active2 for my inspection team in Florida and it has served as a useful tool to review and markup drawings, document conditions in the field, capture photos of work completed, and much more. Today, Samsung announced the US availability of the Galaxy Tab Active 3 that brings hardware and software improvements for the mobile workforce.

While the Apple iPad is a wonderful tablet for office work, it's not fit for work in the field where various environmental conditions, workplace hazards, and more make it susceptible to damage and failure. The Galaxy Tab Active 3 has an IP68 dust/water resistant rating, MIL-STD 810H shock/drop resistant rating, a user-replaceable battery, wireless Samsung DeX support, full mouse/trackpad support, and expandable storage.

Also: Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2 review: Rugged Android tablet built for business in the field

Galaxy Tab Active 3 specifications

  • Processor: Samsung Exynos 9810
  • Display: 8 inch, 1920 x 1200 pixels resolution LCD
  • Operating system: Android 10 with One UI 2.5
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 64GB/128GB internal with microSD expansion card slot
  • Cameras: 13 megapixel rear and 5MP front-facing
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4/5GHz), Bluetooth, GPS/Glonass/Beidou/Galileo, NFC, LTE option available
  • Dust/water resistance: IP68 with MIL-STD 810H ruggedness
  • Battery: 5050 mAh user-replaceable
  • Dimensions: 213.8 x 126.8 x 9.9 mm and 426 grams

A large, lightweight S Pen slides into the included rugged case and has the appearance of a large spike. It does not have an included battery and there is no Bluetooth Air Action functionality, but it does also work seamlessly with the new Galaxy S21 Ultra smartphone so this tablet could serve as a great field companion to that new phone.

There is no keyboard option, but there are POGO pins on the bottom for expanding the use of the tablet. A good quality case is included in the package and is essential for holding the S Pen and helping protect the tablet.

Also: Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro review: Rugged, affordable tablet built for work in the field

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Hardware

The Galaxy Tab Active 3 is not going to win any contests for modern aesthetics as it is designed for field work and is not going to compete with the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus for the latest and greatest designs and specifications. It is built to help you get work done and it does well with this specific purpose in mind.

The tablet has an 8-inch display with significant top and bottom bezels. The size is nice to carry out on the job site and fits into large coat pockets and in one hand. It is optimized for portrait orientation with the buttons on the right side, S Pen silo on top, and three physical buttons for task manager, home, and back under the display. These physical buttons are nice additions for working in the field where gloves are often worn.

Power, volume, and a customizable active key (colored red) appear along the right side. A USB-C port and a 3.5mm audio jack are positioned on the bottom with a speaker and microphone. POGO pins are positioned on the left side with plenty of connected accessory options for the enterprise.

There is a single camera centered along the top of the back. Nearly the entire back panel is removable with a seal present around the back of the internals. A very large 5050 mAh battery takes up much of the back. The microSD card and SIM card slots (for the LTE model) are found under this removable back cover.

With the proper setup and accessory pack, the Tab Active 3 can also be used without a battery. This can be valuable for in-vehicle or kiosk use when the tablet will not be used away from a charging source.

A case is included that adds edge and back protection for the tablet. The edges also rise just above the display so that the screen is protected a bit when set face down on a surface. The top of the case includes the S Pen silo so you can enjoy the features of the S Pen while out in the field. The S Pen does not support Bluetooth functions, but it does have a button on it so you can still enjoy screen-off memos and all of the other great S Pen functions.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 review: in pictures

Software

The Galaxy Tab Active 3 runs Android 10 with One UI 2.5. The review unit has the 1 November 2020 Android security patch. The device is Enterprise Edition ready out of the box so it includes one year of Knox Suite, three years of market availability, five years of security updates, and three generations of Android OS upgrades. Thus, businesses can count on the tablet being a valuable tool for the mobile workforce for years to come.

There are a few Samsung and Microsoft apps installed on the Tab Active 3, including Outlook, OneDrive, Office Mobile, Bixby, Samsung Internet, Gallery, SmartThings, Messages, and Calendar. We find many more apps on Samsung phones out of the box so it's nice to see just a minimal number here on this WiFi edition.

Bixby can be setup to launch with a press and hold of the power button or via voice. I've written a few times about the benefits of Bixby and continue to believe this service offers more than people give it credit for. Bixby Routines are supported and can be quite useful when you spend the time setting them up for your optimal workflow.

Also: Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro review: Affordable rugged phone built for field work

Price and availability

The Wi-Fi model Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 3 iis available now for $489.99 with the LTE model available for $589.99. The Tab Active 3 will launch as one of Samsung's Android Enterprise Recommended (AER) devices once it gets the Android 11 upgrade.

Daily usage experiences and conclusions

While I haven't yet had the chance to use the Galaxy Tab Active 3 in the sand at the shipyard, I used it out in the rain to check how well it worked in inclement weather. The three front buttons and two right side buttons are key to using the device outside in various conditions.

The Tab Active 3 is an affordable tablet that is optimized for the mobile workforce. It doesn't have high capacity RAM, but I have yet to see it stumble with any task I've thrown at it. It has external storage capacity and the ability to extend its functionality with POGO pins too.

The S Pen doesn't require charging, works wonderfully on the display, and has great size and weight. I preferred using the S Pen on the Tab Active 3 compared to the thin S Pen found in the Note smartphones.

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