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Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with S Pen Review: Your Digital Notebook

Is the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with S Pen a great choice if you’re looking for an 8-inch Android tablet with pen support? Check out this review 😉

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Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 2019 Test

The new Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with S Pen is a very exciting Android tablet that could be a great choice for many. Starting at around 250 to 350 US Dollars we’re getting an 8-inch full HD screen, a fast octa-core processor, and Android 9.0 Pie. The S Pen stylus is included at no extra charge and the 4G version can double as your phone. Is it worth it? That’s what you’ll find out in my Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 2019 review.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with S Pen on* Amazon

Design & Build Quality

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 2019 Design

To be clear, this review is about the newest Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with S Pen that is called SM-P200 and SM-P205.

Let’s start with its design and build quality. That is one of its few weaker points. Well, it’s not too bad, but we do get a full plastic body here which is relatively thick with 8.9mm. The Galaxy Tab A 8.0 weighs 325g which is not super light but alright. You can get it in black and light grey which looks more like white.

While it is made of plastic, the build quality is not too bad. In fact, you can’t bend it and it does feel solid. I like that we get slim black bezels on the front. And no, there are no physical buttons underneath the screen anymore.

On its right side, we get a power button and volume rockers. There’s a standard headphone jack on the top and a microSD card slot on the left side. That one can house up to 512GB cards and a SIM card if you get the LTE version. You can move data and apps to the microSD card if you need. On the bottom, there’s a standard USB C 2.0 port, a slot for the S Pen stylus, and one single speaker.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 USB C port

Yes, the Galaxy Tab A 8.0 has just one speaker. Actually, it’s a pretty good speaker. But because it’s just one, it can’t really compete with an iPad Mini or most 10-inch tablets. It’s totally fine for YouTube though.

The 8-megapixel camera on the back does not have an LED flash but its picture quality is surprisingly good. Sure, you can’t compare it to mid-range smartphones. But its quality is very good for a tablet. The same goes for its 5-megapixel front-facing camera. Nothing outstanding but certainly usable.

By the way, that 5-megapixel front-camera can be used to unlock the tablet using facial recognition. That works surprisingly well most of the time. But sometimes it does not, and you have to insert your PIN. Just be a bit careful. If you’re storing sensitive data on your device, I wouldn’t use it. It does not have any additional sensor to support the camera and can’t be as secure as Apple’s Face ID, Windows Hello, or Samsung’s Iris Scanner from the Tab S4.

Display

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with S Pen display

The name says it already: With the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 (2019) we’re getting an 8-inch screen. It has an aspect ratio of 16:10 and a full HD resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels. While some premium tablets offer a higher pixel density, I think that full HD on 8 inches is very good. It’s certainly sharp enough to comfortably read with.

Actually, I don’t have anything to complain about here. It is an IPS screen and it has wide viewing angles. Colors look nice, contrast is good, and even the brightness is excellent in this price range. And yes, the screen is fully laminated.

S Pen: Drawing & Handwriting

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with S Pen

Alright, it’s time to take a closer look at the S Pen. That is one of the highlights of this tablet because the only other 8-inch tablet with pen support is the much pricier iPad Mini. While you must pay extra for the Apple Pencil, the S Pen is included at no extra costs. The Galaxy Tab A even has an extra slot, so you won’t lose it as easily.

The S Pen works just like we are used to from Galaxy Note smartphones or tablets like the Galaxy Tab S4. Its tip is pressure sensitive and recognizes if you tilt it. There is a button on the side. If you press it, the pen switches to the eraser in the Samsung Notes app. It does not have a battery and you don’t have to charge it ever.

I like that the S Pen has a soft tip. Because of that, it feels more like writing on real paper. You won’t have this feeling with an Apple Pencil. It’s fantastic for writing down quick notes or to do some quick drawings.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 Air Commands

With that being said, because of its slim size, it can be uncomfortable to write with for a long time. I wouldn’t be comfortable to use it all day at school, for example. However, there is a nice solution. I tried the lager S Pen of the Galaxy Tab S4 in a store. That one works just like any other S Pen. So, if you want, you can just get that stylus if you’re planning long writing or drawing sessions.

The Galaxy Tab A 8.0 ships with a lot of software features to support the S Pen. For example, it supports the so-called Air Commands. With those you can quickly open a new note, take screenshots and annotate them, or cut something out and save it. An especially interesting feature is called Glance. It allows you to quickly glance over to another app and use it while you’re using a second app.

Handwriting recognition is built into Samsung’s keyboard and it’s quite accurate. At least in English. There is a pre-installed app called Penup which can act as a kind of coloring book and can teach you how to draw.

Let’s end with a feature that could be very useful for students or if you’re part of lots of meetings. There is a way to take very fast handwritten notes without having to unlock the tablet. For that, you simply hold down the button of the S Pen and touch the screen. Once you do that, you can immediately start to write down some notes.

Read: The Best Tablets With A Stylus

Hardware & Performance

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 Design

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 2019 is a mid-range tablet with mid-range hardware. That means we’re getting an Exynos 7885 octa-core processor with two 1.8GHz and six 1.6GHz cores. It has 3GB of RAM and a 32GB internal storage. Out of the box, you can still use 21.6GB. There’s a WiFi-only and a WiFi plus 4G LTE version.

Especially when considering its price, I think the performance of the Galaxy Tab A 8.0 is excellent. You can see in my benchmark comparison that it is faster than similarly priced tablets like the Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite 10. Its performance in benchmarks is almost identical to its bigger brother, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 2019. That one is a bit cheaper but does not support an active pen.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 Benchmarks

In real life, it even feels a bit snappier. I think we can thank those 3GB of RAM for that because the 10-inch base version has 2GB of RAM only. But here, with the 8-inch Galaxy Tab A, fast multitasking feels a bit faster. Yes, this is not a premium device. However, the performance certainly is good enough for standard tasks like Chrome, Twitter, Gmail, and YouTube.

The tablet got pretty good results in my gaming test too. For example, you can play PUBG Mobile with HD graphics settings. Most tablets in this price range manage balanced settings only. This is the case for most games like Shadowgun Legends, for example. Usually, you can play games with medium or high settings. Sadly, Fortnite is not supported.

Galaxy Tab A 8.0: A Phone Replacement?

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with S Pen review

If you’re getting the 4G LTE version of the Galaxy Tab A 8.0, you’ll be able to use it as a phone. That means you can send SMS text messages and start and receive phone calls. In fact, it even has an earpiece build-in next to the front-facing camera. It’s not acting as a second loudspeaker, it’s just for phone calls. Headphones are included with the 4G version too.

All of that means that Samsung clearly wants us to use this tablet as a phone. And that’s what I did for this review. So, is it a good phone replacement?

To begin with, let’s talk about something basic first. Does it fit in most pockets? Well, if you’re a guy, it will kind of fit in a lot of front pockets. But it’ll be very tight, and the back pocket of your pants will be a better fit. If it’s cold outside, it will fit in most jacket pockets – even the inside ones. But yes, it’s obviously not as portable as a phone.

Its 4G reception is just as good as I am used to from my phone. The sound quality when using it to make phone calls is alright. I’ve been able to understand everything, and the microphone is good enough too. If you’re holding the tablet to your head a lot, it might get a bit uncomfortable after a while. However, personally, I don’t like to call people. So, it wasn’t an issue for me.

Read: These Are The Best LTE Tablets

Software: Android 9 Pie & One UI

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with Android 9 Pie

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with S Pen is one of few tablets that directly ship with Android 9.0 Pie. In recent years, Samsung has been pretty good with updates for their Galaxy Tab S and Galaxy Tab A series. Most of them have gotten at least two major software updates. So, while I can’t promise anything, it is likely that it’ll at least get Android 10 next year. And probably Android 11 too.

Now, as usual, there’s the so-called One UI running on top of Android 9. That’s what Samsung is calling its user interface right now. If you’ve owned a Samsung device in the last couple of years, you’ll feel at home fast. Not too much has changed.

It does look much different than vanilla Android though. Almost every part looks a bit different and that includes the settings. While vanilla Android is great, I like the look of One UI. I think it looks modern.

Samsung is shipping the Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with tons of features. If you’re planning to get it, you probably should go through all the settings one by one to see what you need and what you don’t.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 2019 keyboard

There are some interesting features. For example, you can turn on the Night Mode which acts as a dark mode. Sadly, it only works with Samsung’s own apps. There’s a blue light filter too. You can also replace those three Android buttons with gestures. If you want, you can also turn-on tap to wake. And if you have kids, you can activate a kid’s mode. Oh, and yes, Bixby is still there.

Out of the box, some Samsung apps are pre-installed, as well as the ones from Google. But it’s not too bad.

By the way, the tablet has a Widevine Level of L1. That means you can watch Netflix and Amazon Video in HD.

Battery Life

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 Battery Life

In my standard battery test, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with S Pen lasted 9 hours and 30 minutes. For this, I’m always looping an HD video at medium brightness.

You can see in my comparison chart, that those 9.5 hours are not great. However, in real life, its battery performance is better than my normal battery test shows. For example, it does not lose much energy while in standby.

When using it as my phone with adaptive brightness turned-on, the battery lasted 11.5 hours and it had a screen-on time of 7 hours. I watched Netflix and YouTube for 2 hours out of those. Yes, it’s battery life is far from excellent, but I’d still call it alright.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 Review: Final Verdict

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 Hands On

Alright, that’s my Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 2019 with S Pen review. You probably guessed it already: Yes, I can recommend this tablet. It offers good performance, a pretty 8-inch screen, and an excellent S Pen with lots of software support. We’re getting up-to-date Android 9 Pie, and if you want, you can use it to replace a smartphone.

It does have some downsides but no huge weaknesses. For example, it would be great to get a slim metal body. But at this price, a solid plastic case is fine. The battery life could be much better, but it’s still usable. A fingerprint scanner would be great, but it’s not a must in this price range. Overall, I think the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 2019 offers a good value for your money.

As usual, let’s check out some possible alternatives at the end.

If you’re looking for an 8-inch tablet with pen support, the only other option is the new Apple iPad Mini 2019. This one offers much better performance, a full metal body, better speakers, and a fingerprint scanner. However, including the Apple Pencil, you’ll have to pay around 500 US Dollars which makes it twice as expensive.

A better Android tablet is the one-year-old Huawei MediaPad M5 8. With this one, we get better performance too, as well as a much higher-resolution screen, a full metal body, better speakers, and a fingerprint scanner. But the M5 8 does not support any kind of active pen. Depending on the market, it can be a very interesting alternative because sometimes prices are quite similar.


Samsung Galaxy Tab A Plus 8.0
Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with S Pen Review:The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with S Pen is a great choice if you're looking for an affordable tablet with active stylus support. It offers a good performance, a bright screen, up-to-date Android 9.0 Pie, and an fantastic S Pen. Among its few downsides are its plastic body. And the battery life could be longer.
Positive
  • Good performance
  • Bright fullHD screen
  • Excellent S Pen stylus
  • Good cameras
  • Android 9.0 Pie
Negative
  • Plastic body
  • Just one speaker
  • Battery could last longer
Buy on*Amazon
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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Mike

    August 23, 2019 at 3:38 am

    Tft screen not ips

  2. Andrzej

    August 24, 2019 at 7:27 pm

    According to Wikipedia an IPS screen is a type of TFT screen. So… it can be both: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thin-film-transistor_liquid-crystal_display
    However, I’m confused with Samsung writing TFT too… But I compared the Galaxy Tab A screens with tons of other tablets and the viewing angles are pretty much identical to an iPad, for example.

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