The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.4 is the perfect size and price for a color e-reading tablet that can go anywhere. It costs $265 with T-Mobile service, which is significantly less than its main competitor, the iPad mini, which costs $399 with Wi-Fi or $529 with cellular service.
|Android v4.4.2 (Kitkat)
|3264 x 2448 Pixels
Design and display
Samsung has largely nailed the build quality. The Tab is small and light, measuring 7.95 by 4.93 by 0.28 inches (HWD) and 10.93 ounces. The right side has power and volume controls, the left has a microSD/SIM card slot, the top has a standard headphone jack, and the bottom has a USB-C connector and dual speakers. The tablet is made entirely of plastic, with a matte gray back and a black front.
The screen here has a resolution of 1,920 by 1,200 pixels and is 8.4 inches, giving it a pixel density of 270 pixels per inch, which is more than many rival tablets but lower than the 324ppi iPad mini. This is especially useful when reading comic books or magazines, or when viewing movies. Cheaper 8-inch tablets aren’t always capable of displaying a complete 1080p video frame, but this one is. Smaller writing may also be difficult to read on cheaper 8-inch tablets.
This is mostly a media consumption tablet, not a creation tablet. It accepts Bluetooth keyboards and mice, but it’s too small for primary computing, and it doesn’t support a smart pen like Samsung’s S Pen or Apple’s Pencil; for that, you’ll have to upgrade to the $349 Samsung Galaxy Tab S6e.
On a Samsung Exynos 7904 processor with 3GB of RAM, the Galaxy Tab A 8.4 runs Android 9.0. It performs similarly to the LG G Pad 5 10.1, which has a 2016-era Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 CPU, and the Moto G7 Play, which utilizes a more current midrange Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 processor, with a PCMark Work score of 5341 and a Basemark Web score of 142.71.
Samsung has stated that the Tab A 8.4 will receive an Android 10 upgrade in Q2 2020, but I wouldn’t bank on it. In any event, Android 11 seems unlikely to be released.
Although Samsung’s skin is lighter than before, there is still some bloatware. Samsung, of course, includes its own apps, as well as three Microsoft and one T-Mobile app. It’s not a big deal because Microsoft’s programs (Outlook, OneDrive, and Office) are excellent. Marvel Comics and Marvel Unlimited, Kindle, Nook, Netflix, and Hulu, as well as all of my other expected reading and media apps, worked flawlessly.
The tablet doesn’t support Samsung’s new Your Phone/Link to Windows or Dex laptop connectivity, but it does offer Samsung Flow, which allows you to share files and notifications between your laptop and tablet. Samsung needs to figure out a method to unify all of these confusingly contradictory solutions.
The GPU performance isn’t up to par for high-end gaming. This tablet scored 5.2 frames per second on the GFXBench Car Chase offscreen benchmark and 25 frames per second on the T-Rex offscreen benchmark, which is comparable to devices using Qualcomm 600-series processors but far behind, say, the two-year-old Snapdragon 845, which scores 35 frames per second and 152 frames per second.
Connectivity and Battery
I only received 54Mbps down with 5GHz Wi-Fi on this tablet, however I got a full 100Mbps on my laptop, phone, and LG G Pad 5. With this tablet, I only obtained 1Mbps of shaky connectivity at 2.4GHz, whereas the other devices got 30Mbps or more. This is a major issue because you’ll most likely be using this tablet via Wi-Fi the majority of the time, and bad Wi-Fi performance will be unpleasant.
The 5,000mAh battery has an average battery life. At maximum screen brightness, I received 6 hours and 27 minutes of video rundown time, which translates to about 10 hours at medium brightness. At full brightness, this is an hour longer than the iPad mini.
The main camera is 8 megapixels, and the front-facing camera is 5 megapixels. In today’s environment, tablets are frequently used for video chat, and the front-facing camera on the LG G Pad 5 10.1 did a far better job of handling diverse lighting settings. Indoor, low-light images taken with the primary camera also came out better than the blurry G Pad.
The tablet supports HDR to balance harsh lighting and enables video up to 1080p resolution, but shakily due to the lack of optical image stabilization. On the bright, sharp screen, video appears great.
The bottom-ported speakers, on the other hand, are abysmal. They are harsh and tinny, and while they make movie language understandable, they detract greatly from the enjoyment of music. It’s preferable to use wired or Bluetooth headphones because they produce a much richer sound.
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