Samsung's bag of tricks are mostly absent on the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 -- only Smart Stay and Smart Orientation make the cut. This feature load's a little lighter than we've seen in the past, owing to the fact that most TouchWiz innovations now belong to the Note line. This time around, the company's giving us its typical skinned take on Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, but mercifully the bloat is minor. Somehow, the company managed to avoid homescreen overcrowding on the GTab 3 10.1; it only opted to only fill one primary screen with widgets and select apps, while leaving the remaining two free.
From Samsung, you're getting ChatON, Game Hub, Group Play, Memo, Music Hub, Music Player, Paper Artist, S Planner, S Voice, Samsung Apps, Screen Saver, Story Album and WatchON. Third-party apps comprise a much smaller amount of the pre-installed bloat, among which you'll find helpful additions like Dropbox, Flipboard, Polaris Office and Peel Smart Remote. Everything else is the standard suite of Google apps that come bundled with Android Jelly Bean.
A deeper dive into the UX reveals some subtle tweaks on Samsung's part, like the ability to access the Play store simply by tapping the menu capacitive key within the app drawer. There's also an option in settings to enable what's called Blocking Mode, which allows users to mute notifications and even set specific parameters for when this can occur (for example, disable alerts at nighttime). And for those of you who have a need to handle your tablet while you drive, Samsung's included a Driving Mode to give you robo-voiced alarm and schedule alerts so you can keep both hands on the wheel.
Samsung might want to rethink the chipset inside this Galaxy Tab. As you'll note from the above comparison chart, the GTab 3 10.1 delivers a mixed bag of results when stacked against the competition (both old and new). To be fair, it trounced last year's model in nearly every benchmark, but when we pit it against Lenovo's IdeaTab S2110 (another 10-incher with similar resolution) it just couldn't compete.
Meanwhile, we're not sure whether we should chalk this up to that Intel CPU or the decrease in RAM, but everyday performance on the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 is also inconsistent. There were more than a few occasions when typing proved frustrating; when the flow of text would freeze and then stutter out. The same uneven experience also bleeds into the tablet's poor touch recognition, which had us jabbing at the screen repeatedly until our finger presses registered.
With a 6,800mAh battery sealed beneath its ugly brown shell, the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 is designed to last and last. In all of our time with the tablet, battery life was never a concern. Left to idle with slight to moderate usage, the GTab 3 10.1 can easily last about a week. We still had a charge on our unit that was just below half capacity at four days in and that's without the battery-saving mode turned on. Still, on our more rigorous battery rundown test, the tablet yielded a result of six hours and 55 minutes. That's a big drop from last year's model, which made it almost to the nine-hour-mark -- unsurprising, we suppose, since the GTab 2 had a bigger 7,000mAh battery.
Four hundred dollars is a tough asking price for a tablet that hasn't changed much from its last generation. For about $70 less, you can take home 2012's Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and enjoy the same 1,280 x 800 resolution, dual-core experience, camera setup and 16GB internal storage allotment. If your search for a mid-range Android tablet has you looking outside of Samsung's Galaxy lineup, there's Lenovo's IdeaTab S6000 to consider. It matches up with a similar resolution, storage configuration and adds in a quad-core CPU for nearly $100 less at $319. Or you can go the Toshiba route with the 10-inch Pure. It skimps on overall specs -- there's no rear camera and uses the now-dated Tegra 3 -- but it otherwise matches the GTab 3 10.1 with a lower price of $299. For something more current, you might want to shift attention to Sony's stunner, the Xperia Tablet Z. At $499, it's definitely a higher-end option, but for the money you're getting a water- and dust-proof device, quad-core CPU, 2GB RAM and a full HD 1,920 x 1,200 display.
Nothing ever really changes when it comes to Samsung's 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab. The Tab 3 10.1 is proof positive of that. This 2013 iteration is a parallel move for the line that attempts to mix up the package of mid-range specs with a terrible brown plastic coat. In a pinch, it'll do what you need it to adequately: stream video, serve as a widescreen browser and e-reader and hub for all your social communication needs. It just won't look pretty doing it, nor will it dazzle with brisk performance -- in fact, you should expect some stuttering. The Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 excels in mediocrity, but for the money you can take a step back in time (and dollars) for the same-y GTab 2 10.1 or resign yourself to paying a little more for something better.