By Michael Fisher | July 19, 2013 4:25 PM
Let’s put this out there right away: this is not a review. Our full review of the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 will be coming next week, after we’ve spent the requisite week or so with the device, so watch out for that.
It’s also not a hit piece. For all the limitations I’m about to call out, I have no desire to see it fall victim to a hatchet job. There are things about the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 I quite enjoy.
But I also don’t know where it fits in the lineup, in the landscape – or I guess, in the world. In other words: I don’t know why it exists. And judging from the tone of reader comments thus far, I don’t seem to be alone in that regard.
To review: as its absurdly complex name suggests, the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 is the third iteration of the Galaxy Tab family, a brand that kickstarted the Android tablet uprising (“revolution” is still too generous a word) on the heels of Apple’s first iPad in 2010. It’s also an 8-inch device, one of only a few such tablets to bridge the gulf between the smaller 7-inch units and the full-sized 10.1-inch Tabs. Incidentally, our own Taylor Martin is also reviewing one of the latter devices, the results of which should land on Pocketnow shortly.
Earlier this week, I unboxed the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0. Here’s what that looked like:
Immediately after removing it from its cardboard shackles, I began my usual ritual of customizing the tablet, inputting my logins and taking a machete to whatever bloatware I found. Soon, I’d moved in, and began the process of putting the Tab 3 8.0 against its most visible competitor, the Galaxy Note 8.0. That looked like this:
It was after this video went live that I really started running into some trouble. See, the usual procedure after a comparison video is to continue using the device under review, as much as possible, until the review is complete. That way, you stand the best possible chance of learning all that’s learnable about the device you’re writing about.
Here’s the thing, though: I didn’t want to use the Tab 3 8.0 anymore. Not because it’s a bad tablet, necessarily – but because the Galaxy Note 8 that Samsung helpfully sent us for comparison purposes was, to my eye, a much more compelling product.
The reasons why are encapsulated in the video above, but they’re also reflected in some reader comments across our Tab 3-related content. In keeping with the rules of the internet, these comments are blunt, unsympathetic, and some come just shy of trolling:
The overwhelming sentiment, among these commenters and others, is that no matter how well or poorly it ultimately performs, the Tab 3 8.0 is overpriced, underpowered, and almost totally unremarkable in every sense. There’s a real question whether, as Apple might say, it “deserves to exist.”
Of course, those are tech geeks talking in the comments. And I’m a tech geek writing this editorial. Samsung isn’t targeting spec-heads and UI critics like us with the midrange Tab 3 8.0 – but who is it selling this device to? I turned to its press release to find out.
Now in stores, consumers can get their hands on the newly announced Galaxy Tab 3 portfolio from Samsung Electronics America, Inc., allowing shoppers to choose from three unique devices to find the tablet best suited for their personal lifestyle needs. Whether reading an e-book, engaging on social networks, or allowing the kids to play games, the Galaxy Tab 3 portfolio has something for everyone.
The 7-inch, 8-inch and 10.1-inch Galaxy tablets offer a range of screen sizes and a suite of experiences built for a broader set of individual and family preferences, making this lineup of tablets ideal for both home and on-the-go uses.
In addition, each of the devices in the Galaxy Tab 3 family comes with added value through pre-loaded content and Galaxy Perks available at www.samsung.com/us/galaxyperks
Now, some of those perks are pretty cool, and indeed, you can do a lot with the Galaxy Tab 3.0. But the question, to me, then becomes: what can the Tab 3 8.0 do better than other, similarly specced tablets on the market?
The press release goes on to discuss the “familiar Galaxy experience” and calls out the remote-control capability and vast Google Play store title count, but it never really calls out a grand-slam feature that people of the world have been yearning for. Indeed, Samsung seems much more focused on highlighting the form-factor diversity of their entire Tab 3 portfolio, including an infographic to show just where the various sizes of Galaxy Tab can fit into consumers’ lives.
But here’s the thing: I would never look at the Tab 3 8.0 and say “I like this because it, along with its 7- and 10-inch cousins, delivers a diverse Android tablet experience to many consumers.” No one would. Instead, I’d look at it and ask “what does this tablet, alone, offer me that no other tablet can?” Not that products should be considered in a vacuum, but consumers don’t often go out to buy more than one tablet at a time. Sure, it’s nice to know there’s a tablet for you at every price point and size (which is where Samsung is obviously going with this feel-good infographic), but that doesn’t help you once you get home and unbox your single tablet – a tablet which may indeed be thinner than a pack of Post-It Notes, but which also can’t hold a candle to a similar tablet that’s only $80 more expensive.
So on some level, this is a philosophical issue I have with Samsung’s tactics – and it’s one that everyone’s been talking about for a while now (if I hear one more “throwing-spaghetti-at-the-wall” analogy, I’m done). And regardless of my authentic belief that its many-products-at-every-price-point approach confuses the hell out of consumers, Samsung sure doesn’t seem hurt by it. The company is making money hand over fist, and as any devoted listener of the Pocketnow Weekly will know, I’m not a business analyst. My training lies elsewhere. I write about technology mainly as an advocate for the mythical “average consumer,” the everyman wondering which piece of tech he should buy over all the others.
But that’s the confusing part: for the life of me, I can’t think of a reason, besides price, to recommend the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0. Rest assured, I’m going to spend the next few days continuing to ponder the question, and the device may indeed surprise me in that time. Truthfully, I hope it does. Because the world’s retail floors are already flooded with indistinguishably bland Android tablets, and I don’t want to ask Samsung why it felt it necessary to add another.