Samsung’s got an expansive list of tablets positioned in all price segments, much like the approach it takes with its smartphone line. Last year, the South Korean tech titan came out with perhaps its cheapest 8-inch tablet — the Galaxy Tab A 8 (SM-T290/295) — along with a budget option — the Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with S Pen (SM-P200/205) — for those looking for a tablet with a stylus. We quite liked both machines for different reasons, even with all their various shortcomings.
Just last month, Samsung came out with its revamped 8-inch model called the Galaxy Tab A 8.4 (SM-T307), which carries the DNA of modern, higher-end tablets, both on the outside and inside. Yet, all three tablets belong to the same breed of Galaxy slates, which is the reason behind them sharing a lot of features, and, in turn, making a choice becomes tough.
This is our in-depth look at these three budget tablets to find out how they differ from one another or what similarities they share. It should make it a tad easier fro you to make the final purchase decision. With that out of the way, let’s get started.
Design & Display
All these tablets look so similar that it’s hard to identify them apart just by glancing at them individually. But if you look closely, there are some key differences, particularly with the 2020 Tab A 8.4, that comes with a more modern design, thanks to its thin bezels and rich color on the back. On the two 2019 models, you’ll find relatively thicker bezels, which may start looking dated down the line. Except for the S Pen-clad Galaxy Tab, you’ll get metal backs on the other two, giving a more premium feel.
As their names already give away, all three tablets use an 8-inch panel — the 2020 model is half an inch bigger, but that difference isn’t going to be discernible. They have the same 16:10 aspect ratio, which is great for watching media, while only the T307 and the P200 get a full-HD screen.
The Tab A 8 T290 from last year is an entry-level device; hence it comes with an HD screen. However, all of them use LCDs and not AMOLEDs, which are reserved for more premium tablets. For the most part, their display quality should be identical, with the lower resolution being the only substantial differencing factor on the cheapest option.
This one would be easy since only the Tab A 8.0 (P200) comes bundled with Samsung’s S Pen stylus. The tablet itself has a slot for the stylus like the Note-series phones have. With this, you won’t have to store it separately or leave a chance of losing it. The Samsung stylus is a pretty powerful tool when paired with all the companion software enhancements the company includes in its OS. Be it note-taking or sketching some doodles, this would be a great fit. If you wish to have a stylus, then the P200 is your only bet since the other two do not support any form of stylus input.
Internals & Performance
Speaking of the operating system, Samsung has been pretty consistent with its software approach lately. It has not only upped the ante by delivering newer updates on time but also has been covering more of its mid-range models. All these tablets come running Android Pie-based One UI update, which brought radical software improvements over previous generations of Samsung’s software skins. While it’s likely that the company might update these tablets to Android 10, starting from the newest model, though saying that for sure wouldn’t be possible at this point.
As for the actual processing power of these slates, the latest 8.4-inch model and the P200 take the lead with an Exynos 7904 chip that is noticeably more powerful than what the T290 uses. While we’re yet to get our hands on this particular model, we’ve used other Samsung devices with this exact processor, which gives us a fair bit of idea. Other than that, the T290 uses a basic Snapdragon 429 SoC and should be enough for strictly elementary tasks, nothing more. The 2019 tab with the S Pen performed quite well in our review of the device. Considering their respective price points, which we’ll talk more about later, you can’t complain.
Another aspect that has a significant impact on these handhelds’ performance is RAM. Both the T307 and P200 feature a combination of 3GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage, while the T290 pairs the same storage capacity with slightly lower 2 gigs of RAM. It’s a known fact that more RAM is always better for multitasking and longevity of your purchase. Being Samsung products, all of them can take memory cards, in case you have a ton of photos that you like to store offline.
Cameras aren’t usually the strongest points of entry-level and budget tablets, so you must keep your expectations in check if you’re planning on getting one in these price brackets. This aligns well with these Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8-inch models from 2019 and 2020, which pack an 8MP primary sensor. The resolution is decent enough for taking some casual shots and scanning documents or even making digital copies of your receipts.
I’ll repeat it: Their image quality isn’t going to amaze by; in fact, it’d surprising if they even meet your expectations if you’re comparing them to one of your smartphone’s images. For enabling video calls and taking selfies, the two pricier slates come equipped with a 5MP sensor, while the cheaper model settles for a 2MP sensor. Again, they’re made for basic use and aren’t capable enough to take your Instagram-worthy selfies.
Connectivity & Ports
No matter which tablet you pick, you’re sure to get the basic setup of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for connectivity inside your office or home. Only the T290 uses the older Bluetooth 4.2 standard against 5.0 on the other two, but that shouldn’t matter much on regular use. Apart from this, you can get LTE-enabled variants of all these devices, in case you travel a lot and would like to keep your tablet connected when on the move.
Thankfully, Samsung has decided to keep the 3.5mm audio jack on all these tablets, so you don’t need to dump your wired headphones just yet. You can always use your fancy pair of Bluetooth earbuds, but the wired option has its own benefits, leading many to hold on to their older devices for longer. Well, you can get the newer 8.4-inch machine, and you’d still get the physical connection port.
Besides that, only the 2020 and the 2019 Tab with the S Pen use the more modern USB Type-C port, while the T290 sticks to the conventional micro-USB input. If you’re getting a new tablet, then you must avoid getting the older port technology at this point. It is not worth getting a device for which you’ll have to invest in a particular set of accessories, especially when it’s a matter of time before the port is entirely killed. USB-C embraces the convenience of universal compatibility, which is what you should be looking for.
The battery department might seem a little strange since the lowest-end model of the three houses the biggest battery of 5100mAh capacity. In our review of the T290, the tablet lasted for quite a long time on our standard test — a great thing to have on a cheap product. Second comes its 2020 follow-up, which houses a slightly smaller 5000mAh battery. It’d be interesting to see how its battery performs with a marginally larger screen, though you can expect a decent life out of it.
It’s pretty obvious that the P200 takes the last place with a comparatively skimpier 4200mAh battery. We were left wanting for a little more life out of that slate between charges, which is something you shouldn’t need to do with a modern tablet. Besides this, the latest Galaxy Tab is the only one to support fast charging, if that matters you, while the other two stick to standard solutions.
As you’d expect from budget machines, all these tablets have mono speakers, meaning they have only one speaker, which won’t create stereo separation. If having a pair of stereo speakers is a must for you to have a wholesome media-watching experience, then you’d be better off investing a little more and go for a higher-end variant. However, the audio quality from any of these tablets won’t be bad, it’s, in fact, good enough for regular use, and the 8.4-inch tab should be a step up in that department though we’ll have to review it first to check for ourselves.
The 2019 model with the S Pen and the 2020 one are positioned in a similar price territory, which may make it tough to pick between new hardware and the stylus. The LTE model of the T307 costs $280 in the US, so its Wi-Fi-only option should be even cheaper. And for around $250, you can get the base configuration of the P200 in the country. On the other hand, the budget T290 is priced at $180, but you can grab it for around $150 on a discount. All three costs more or less the same, which shouldn’t bother you much, unless you’re on a strict budget, then you know which one you can go for.
Specifications: A Comparison
|Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.4|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with|
S Pen P200/205 (2019)
|Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8|
|One UI based on Android 9.0 Pie||One UI based on Android 9.0 Pie||One UI based on Android 9.0 Pie|
|8.4-inch (1920 x 1200) IPS LCD, 16:10||8-inch (1920 x 1200) IPS LCD, 16:10||8.4-inch (1280 x 800) IPS LCD, 16:10|
|Octa-core Samsung Exynos 7904||Octa-core Samsung Exynos 7904||Quad-core Snapdragon 429|
|Expandable, microSD card slot||Expandable, microSD card slot||Expandable, microSD card slot|
|Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0, optional LTE||Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0, optional LTE||Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 4.2, optional LTE|
|USB Type-C, headphone jack||USB Type-C, headphone jack||Micro USB, headphone jack|
|No biometrics security||No biometrics security||No biometrics security|
|201.93 x 125.2 x 7.1mm||201.5 x 122.4 x 8.9 mm||241.3 x 171.7 x 8mm|
One thing is for sure that you’ll feel right at home with the recognizable software experience, no matter which one of these three Samsung offerings you end up going for. But that will stand true maybe for a few more months, or at max a year, as the latest Galaxy Tab A 8.4 will eventually take the lead in the software department down the line, which will help extend its longevity. Even if we don’t take into account its software advantage, you should go only for the T307 as it not only brings a refreshed design to the table, but it also has better performing components that will help you in the long run.
That’s given you don’t need the S Pen for your homework or taking notes during meetings and don’t want to spend a lot on the tablet. The Samsung stylus is an excellent little accessory that doesn’t need to be charged and offers top-notch experience even on this budget slate. You should go for the Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with S Pen from 2019 only and only if your work/studies would be affected without a stylus. In some other departments, the P200 does match the latest model, but it still doesn’t feel like a complete package. However, if you’ve come across a deal on the tab that is hard to overlook, you can give it a shot, you won’t be disappointed, considering you’d anyway be saving tens of dollars.
The same goes for the entry-level Galaxy Tab A 8.0 2019; you should pick it up if you’re getting a cheap deal. Or, as I said previously, if you’re in the market with a tight budget and not much wiggle room, to begin with. The T290 makes for an excellent screen to hand to your kids, considering its compact size and long battery life. They could use it for their homework, playing games in their spare time, or you could hand them for keeping them hooked while you take a breather. Plus, giving them a cheap tablet has its perks: If the young ones handle it roughly or drop the tablet accidentally, it wouldn’t be that big a loss.
It finally comes down to what are you’re looking exactly for in your next tablet and what’s the purpose of your purchase. My recommendation would definitely be the 8.4-inch tablet when asked to pick among these three options. Meanwhile, you can select any of the other two taking into consideration your specific requirements.
Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.4 (2020)Picking up the baton from last year's budget Samsung tablet, the new Galaxy Tab A 8.4 (2020) does a lot of things right. It has a new, more modern design and has a higher-red FHD display, which should be great for media consumption. Samsung has designed it for outdoor use with the provision of LTE connectivity and a battery life that is claimed to last for up to 12 hours. Plus, it's a light slate that you can easily carry around.
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