Samsung Tab A (SM-T355Y) is the company’s latest tablet with 4G LTE support and voice calling capabilities that was launched in India for Rs. 20,500 last month. It also has a large 8-inch display. Is this the best 4G tablet for the price ? Let us find out in the complete review.
We unboxed the Galaxy Tab A recently, check out the unboxing video below.
- Samsung Galaxy Tab A in White
- 2-pin charger (5V-1A)
- Micro USB cable
- User manual
Display, Hardware and Design
The tablet has a 8-inch display at a resolution of 1024 by 768 pixels at a pixel density of just 160 ppi. The display is glossy and is prone to fingerprints. Since the display is glossy, the sunlight legibility is not the best, but the viewing angles are decent. Since the display has an aspect ratio of 4:3, instead of 16:9, it is good for reading in portrait mode, but videos in landscape mode have black bars, which looks awkward. The tablet is too wide at 137.9mm and is not easy hold for single-handed usage, especially for voice calls.
Above the display there is an ear piece. Next to it a 2-megapixel camera is present, which is just average for video chats since it is blurry in low-lighting conditions. It can record videos at 640 x 480 (VGA) resolution. It has an ambient light sensor for automatic brightness adjustment but it lacks a proximity sensor, so you have to manually lock the tablet during voice calls. It lacks LED notification light.
It has Samsung’s signature home button below the display along with menu and back buttons on either sides. These are not backlit, neither offer haptic feedback when pressed.
It has a chrome rim running on the sides and the tablet is 7.5mm thick. It weighs 320 grams, which is decent for an 8-inch tablet. The microphone, power/lock button and volume rockers are present on the top part of the right side.
The microSD card slot and a micro SIM slot that are protected by a plastic flap are present on the right bottom of the tablet.
The loudspeaker grill, 3.5mm audio jack, micro USB and a microphone hole is present on the bottom. There is nothing on the top and left side.
On the back there is a 5-megapixel auto-focus camera without flash. The plastic back has a smooth matte finish that doesn’t slip out of the hands easily. It has two small bushes on the back that lets you attach a cover case. The build quality is good, even though the tablet has plastic build.
The 5-megapixel auto-focus rear camera with f/2.2 aperture captures decent images in daylight for a tablet. Since it is just a 5MP camera, it doesn’t have much details. Macro shots came out well, thanks to f/2.2 aperture. It doesn’t have HDR option. Since it doesn’t have an LED flash, low-light images are full of noise. It has different modes (Auto, Beauty face, Sound & shot, Panorama, Continuous shot and Sports) and Effects (Grey-scale, Sepia and Negative).
Check out some camera samples (Click to view the full resolution image).
It can record videos at 720p HD resolution at 30 fps. The video is decent and audio is crisp, thanks to the secondary microphone. Check out the video sample below.
The Galaxy Tab A runs on Android 5.0 (Lollipop) with Samsung’s own UI on top. You can swipe to the left from the homescreen to access Flipboard, which can also be removed if needed.
It has a drop-down notification bar that has quick toggles, S Finder, Quick Connect shortcuts, Brightness adjustment slider and a volume control slider. As usual, you can set lockscreen shortcuts to launch dialpad or camera, enable lockscreen card that displays weather and clock. It has motion and gesture options that includes Smart alert that enables vibration when you pick up the tablet to notify you about missed calls and message, mute a call or alarm by placing the hand on the screen while the screen is on and swipe on the screen to capture a screenshot.
Out of 2GB of RAM, you get 1.88GB of usable RAM, out of which about of 1.2GB RAM is free when the default apps running in the background. Out of 16GB of internal storage, about 10GB of storage is usable. You can also move compatible apps to the SD card when you insert one.
Coming to the apps, it has the usual set of Google apps, S Voice and built-in file manager. It has Microsoft Apps – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Skype and OneDrive. It has Galaxy Apps store to download more apps. The SideSync 3.0 lets you mirror your smartphone to the tablet using WiFi Direct. Smart Manager app lets you manage your device’s battery life, storage, RAM usage, and security all in one place.
Music and Media Player
The music player can play a range of audio formats. It has Sound Alive equalizer and Adapt Sound sound enhancement options. Audio output through the loudspeaker is good. Since the speaker is present on the bottom, audio doesn’t get muffled when you place the tablet on a flat surface. It can also play a range of video formats at full HD 1080p resolution smoothly. It has Pop up video player that lets you play the video in a small dockable player.
Calls and Messaging
It has support for voice calling, native video calling and text messages. Even though it has an earpiece, it will look awkward when you use a large tablet for making calls. You can also use speaker, wired headset or a Bluetooth headset for voice calls. We did not face any issues with voice calls or any call drops. Messages are displayed in conversational view in 2 panes in landscape mode. It also supports MMS. The Samsung keyboard is good and is accurate.
The Tab A supports 4G LTE, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, with Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.1 and GPS + Glonass support. It also has USB on-the-go (OTG) support.
Performance and Benchmarks
Coming to the performance, the quad-core Snapdragon 410 (MSM8916) SoC with four ARM Cortex-A53 CPUs clocked at 1.19 GHz per core offers smooth performance. We did not experience any lags. Thanks to 2GB of RAM, multi-tasking is smooth as well. The tablet gets a bit warm on prolonged usage of 4G, which is common in most devices. Check out some synthetic benchmark scores below.
It scored 14514 points in the Quadrant benchmark and lies behind the HTC Nexus 9.
Vellamo 2.0 Metal
It managed to score 741 points in the Vellamo 2 Metal CPU subsystem performance test.
Basemark X 1.0 HD (Offscreen)
It clocked around 2.69 fps in the Basemark X 1.0 OffScreen benchmark.
Basemark OS II
It managed to score 561 points in the Basemark OS II benchmark. Check out the complete set of Samsung Galaxy Tab A benchmarks here. The Adreno 306 GPU clocked at 400 MHz offers decent gaming performance, but the graphics was not the best in most high-end games. It scored 3.5/5 starts in the gaming review. Check out the gaming review of the tablet to know more.
Coming to the battery life, the 4200mAh battery offers good battery life with average use that includes 4G data, few calls and some video playback. It achieved a One Charge rating of 13 hours and 55 minutes, which is good, mainly due to brilliant talk time. The power saving mode restricts background data and performance to extended the battery life.The Ultra power saving mode lets you use limited the number of apps, in addition to grayscale theme to conserve even more battery. This also shows the approximate standby time of the device.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A is a decent tablet with 4G support running on Android Lollipop for the price of Rs. 20,500. The tablet is slim and light in weight compared to most other 8-inch tablets. The display resolution is too low for the price and the tablet is too wide to hold when making voice calls. If you can manage this large tablet with a wide 4:3 screen and don’t make a lot of voice calls or play high-end games, this is a good choice. To summarize, here is a list of pros and cons of this tablet.
- 4G support with voice calling
- Good performance
- Good build
- Low-resolution display
- Too wide to use for voice calling
- Slightly on the expensive side