Like the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A comes in different models. This is a review of the basic 8.0" (2019) version with 32GB. This model is Wi-Fi only. There are more expensive models that can be used with Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T data plans. The intro model is usually priced between $120 and $150. That's quite a bit cheaper than an intro-level iPad, but much more than a Fire tablet (formerly Kindle Fire).
Overview of the Samsung Galaxy Tab A
I was a little nervous buying the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8-inch because some reviewers complained about it being sluggish and slow. Thankfully, that hasn't been my experience. Either those reviewers got defective devices, or more likely, they have higher expectations than they should for a budget $150 device.
Some reviewers complain that certain features aren't as good as on an iPad Mini, but that should be expected when the iPad retails for around $400. So, what can you expect in terms of speed with the Samsung Galaxy Tab A?
I mainly use tablets for reading, video streaming, and for learning apps like Udemy and Lynda. Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A handles video streaming without any issues.
I did a comparison to see how quickly various video streaming apps like Paramount+ and HBO Max launched on the tablet versus my Samsung Galaxy S10e smartphone. Each one took about 2 seconds longer to load on the tablet. When I checked to see how quickly shows loaded on both devices, it was about the same.
Sometimes the tablet took longer. Sometimes the phone took longer. However, when I compared how quickly shows loaded on the Samsung Galaxy Tab A versus my Microsoft Surface laptop (which cost hundreds of dollars more), I was surprised to find that shows loaded faster on the tablet. I
haven't experienced much pausing or buffering when watching shows on video streaming apps. The only place I've experienced significant buffering is on Udemy, but that's on all mobile devices I've tried. Udemy has a download option, which I recommend for use on mobile devices. Outside of Udemy, this tablet handles video streaming very well.
I also use it for reading on Kindle, Nook, Scribd, and Kobo Books, as well as reading and editing long documents (dozens of pages) in Google Docs. Books and documents load within seconds and I don't experience lag very often.
There are occasions when I click on something and there's a delay in getting a response, but it doesn't happen too often. This tablet isn't super-fast, but it's better than I expected. While a faster processor would be nice, it works well for apps like Netflix and Hulu, and for reading books.
The display resolution is 1280 x 800 and it only comes with 32GB of storage. If you want a better display resolution and more storage, for about $100 more, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 has a display resolution of 1920 x 1200 and comes with 32GB / 64GB / 128GB storage options.
The sound quality is very impressive considering the cost of the device. It comes with an option to turn on Dolby Atmos, which wasn't on by default on mine. Go into Settings/Sounds and Vibration/Sound Quality and Effects to turn it on.
It also comes with Bluetooth, Samsung Kids, Dark Mode, Blue Light Filter, and Quick Share to transfer files between Samsung devices.
Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 Inch (2019 Edition) Unboxing & First Look!
Unlike Amazon Fire devices, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A doesn't have the option to install apps on an SD card, which is unfortunate because it comes with 32GB of internal memory and up to 512GB of expandable memory with an external microSD card. Prior Samsung models offered the option to transfer apps to the SD card.
How much this matters, depends on how you plan to use it. I installed about two dozen apps, including YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Paramount+, Peacock, Tubi, PBS, Sling TV, Kindle, Nook, Google Docs, and Firefox, and I still have 16GB of free space. If you plan to download dozens of apps, you may need a tablet with more storage.
For apps that allow downloads, go into Settings on each app, and make sure downloads are going to the SD card rather than internal storage to save space.
Whether this tablet is for you or not depends on expectations. If high-speed performance and plenty of storage for apps are very important to you, look elsewhere. If having lots of features is important, you may have to consider a more expensive tablet. If you want a good camera, steer clear of budget tablets. Know what you want and make sure the device you buy has those features.
If you're looking for a device that performs well for basic functions like using social media, watching shows on streaming services like Netflix and HBO Max, listening to audiobooks and podcasts, and reading books, this is a really nice tablet.
Comparing the Samsung Galaxy Tab A to an iPad is unrealistic because of the big price difference. But how does it compare to an Amazon Fire device, which is closer in cost?
Comparison to Fire Tablets
Prior to purchasing the Samsung Galaxy Tab A, I used a Kindle Fire, now known as a Fire tablet. If you're looking for a budget tablet, it may be better to spend more to get the Tab A.
The Fire tablet is a lot cheaper, but also comes with some annoying limitations. Fire tablets are not Android devices. They come with the Fire OS (operating system), a customized version of the Android OS.
The great thing about Fire tablets is that they often go on sale. Black Friday and Prime Day are especially good times to get big discounts. You can even get a 64GB Fire 8 for less than a 32GB Tab A. So, why might you want to spend a little more to get a Samsung with less storage?
Google Play App Store vs Amazon App Store
The Samsung Galaxy Tab A comes with the Google Play App Store while Fire tablets come with Amazon’s App store. The Amazon App store doesn't have the range of apps the Google Play Store offers. And that includes Google products like YouTube and Docs.
Fire devices are designed to support Amazon products like Kindle books, Prime Music, and Prime Video. There isn't a lot of incentive to provide easy access to competing products. There are apps that provide interfaces to popular services like YouTube, but they aren't as good as the real thing. If you're a big user of Google products, like Gmail, Docs, and YouTube Premium, you're better off getting an Android tablet.
If you prefer to have the Google Play Store, there are workarounds to get it installed on Fire tablets. These workarounds change over time as Kindle Fire OS updates change, so if you are determined to install it, look for recent tutorials. Make sure whatever changes you make don't void the warranty on the device.
Tablets for Educational Purposes
If you're looking for a tablet for educational purposes, especially for kids or college students during the coronavirus pandemic, get either an Android tablet or an iPad because the limited number of apps available for Fire tablets may be a problem.
Many schools use Google Docs and other apps that may not be available in the Amazon App store.
Cheaper Fire models are ad-supported. I never thought the ads were intrusive, but some people find them annoying. For $15 more, you can get an ad-free version.
"You can pay $15 to eliminate these [ads], and you should consider it. They’re more distracting and have more obvious "Buy" buttons than they used to have. It’s a little grating when your tablet starts to try and sell you apps and items this blatantly." —Wired
A really nice feature of Fire tablets is the option to install apps on the MicroSD card. You can save money by buying the 16 GB device and get up to 512 GB of storage. However, not all apps can be moved to the SD card.
I wasn't enthusiastic about replacing my Fire tablet with another Fire tablet because it was "laggy" and the longer I owned it, the worse the lag became. I used it for two years before it became so annoyingly slow that I felt the need to replace it. I don't know yet how long my Samsung Tab A will last, but it's much faster than my Fire device ever was.
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2020 LT Wright