Whenever someone comes up to me and asks for a tablet recommendation, I would almost always suggest one of Apple’s iPad tablets. After all, they offer excellent user experience, and in most usage scenarios, iPads are simply more suited for the job than Android-based tablets.
But when I was offered the chance to review the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 (2019), I was more than happy to accept for one reason: the S Pen. See, this 8-inch model is the only tablet in the series that comes with Samsung’s signature S Pen, and it is the very reason why you would want to pick it up over any other iPad.
At the end of the day, however, the Galaxy Tab A 8.0 is still an Android tablet with a number of shortcomings. Whether or not you can live with it will depend on how much you value the power of the S Pen.
What It Is
As its name suggests, the Galaxy Tab A 8.0 is an Android tablet with an 8-inch 1920 x 1200 IPS display. It also comes with a Samsung Exynos 7904 1.8GHz octa-core processor paired with 3GB of RAM, 32GB of expandable storage, a 4,200mAh battery, and of course, an S Pen.
Surprisingly enough, despite its rather affordable price tag (RM1,099), the Galaxy Tab A 8.0 runs on Samsung’s polished One UI software based on Android 9.0 Pie. Basically, you will get a similar software experience as the Samsung Galaxy S10 series – that’s a really good thing.
The Good Stuff
Let’s start off with the best part: the S Pen. If you’re accustomed to the S Pen found on the newer Samsung Galaxy Note smartphones, you will be right at home with the Galaxy Tab A 8.0. As far as I can tell, you’re getting all of the S Pen’s functionalities here, except for the Galaxy Note 9’s Bluetooth-enabled features.
Those who need the pinpoint accuracy of the S Pen will absolutely love this tablet. It’s very intuitive to use, there’s a dedicated slot at the bottom of the tablet to store the S Pen, and if you need to do written edits on documents on the go, look no further than this tablet.
Yes, the new iPad mini can also do the same – while also providing superior performance – with an Apple Pencil, but it is not as practical as the Galaxy Tab A 8.0. The Apple Pencil is not as compact as the S Pen (it’s also a separate purchase), and you can’t even store it anywhere inside the iPad mini. Practicality will matter a lot to users who are always on the go.
Beside the S Pen, the compact form factor of the Galaxy Tab A 8.0 is a plus point too. It’s easy to bring around, it’s not as tiring to hold while watching videos for long periods of time, and it fits just nicely in my hands. While it’s not quite as nice to hold as the iPad mini, it is a much more affordable tablet.
And then we have the 8-inch 1920 x 1200 IPS display, and it’s of reasonably good quality. The colours are vibrant, it can get really bright, and not surprisingly, viewing angles are great too. For the tablet’s asking price, you definitely won’t be disappointed with the screen’s quality.
In the software side of things, One UI looks good and feels lightweight. After all, it is a very polished version of Android, and it shows on this tablet. However, it does suffer from some stuttering here and there, which brings me to my next point..
The Bad Stuff
Without a doubt the Galaxy Tab A 8.0’s biggest shortcoming is in the performance department. Throughout my time with the tablet, the Exynos 7904 showed its weaknesses in a number of key areas. The Tab A 8.0 would gradually feel more sluggish the more apps I have running in the background, switching between different apps also takes some time, and…apps just don’t feel particularly responsive on this tablet.
That is not to say the Galaxy Tab A 8.0 doesn’t have adequate level of performance; you just have to manage your expectations accordingly. Editing documents with the S Pen is a fuss-free affair, it works just fine when I’m casually browsing the web, and it can even run PUBG Mobile relatively well.
Sure, there is some stuttering here and there in the battle royale game, but I did manage to secure a chicken dinner with the tablet. That’s not too bad now, is it?
Is It Worth It?
Ask yourself this question: do you want the functionality of the S Pen? If the answer is yes, then the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 will serve you very well. It may not be the fastest or most sleek-looking tablet in the market, but the practicality of the S Pen makes it a really good buy for those who need it – the S Pen is one of the biggest reasons the Galaxy Note series is so successful.
On top of that, even though the Galaxy Tab A 8.0 officially retails at RM1,099, some retailers are offering it at a much lower price point. In fact, you can now get it for only RM928.
For that kind of money, the Galaxy Tab A 8.0’s shortcomings are a lot easier to accept, especially in the performance department. It’s not the most impressive tablet out there in the market now, but you won’t be paying top dollar for it either.
And you’re also getting the excellent features of the S Pen – that’s a very important plus point for the Galaxy Tab A 8.0.