Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 Review: Full-Size Tablet, Mid-Size Price

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  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 10
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 8
      • Usability
      • 9
      • Design
      • 6
      • Performance
      • 6
      • Features
      • 8
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 10
      • Total Score:
      • 8.14
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Professional look
    • Solidly built
    • Long battery life
  • Cons

    • Performance just adequate
    • Minimal internal storage capacity
    • Fairly low resolution display

Quick Take

Although somewhat hampered by its low-resolution screen, this device's sleek design and immense battery life help make it a decent option for people looking for a full-size Android tablet for general use at an affordable price.

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab A series includes full-size and mid-size offerings for those looking for a mid-range Android tablet. The 9.7-inch model is the larger, and it has a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, 16 GB of built-in storage, and a recommended price of $299.99.

Although Samsung hasn’t said this officially, the Galaxy Tab A 9.7 is almost certainly the successor to last year’s Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1.

Build and Design

With its 9.7-inch screen, this version of the Tab A is a full-size tablet, but not an overly-large one. It comes in at 9.6 x 6.6 x 0.3 inches, and 1.1 lbs., which means it’s thin and light enough to use comfortably for hours. The bezels on either side of the screen are slender, but they are wide enough to leave the user room to hold the device in portrait mode. When held in landscape mode, the bezels are very wide.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 — Front

Samsung switched to using a 4:3 aspect ratio for the display, so this device is closer to being a square than previous Galaxy Tab models, which makes it easier to hold whether it’s in portrait or landscape orientation.

The overall impression of the Tab A 9.7 is of a premium device, maybe even one that cost more than it actually does. Partially this is because build quality is quite good. The device feels solid, and doesn’t flex when twisted. All the joints come together tightly.

It comes in white, black, or blue casings.

Display

Previous Samsung tablet screens have had a 16:10 aspect ratio, but as mentioned earlier, the Tab A 9.7 uses a 4:3 ratio, so it’s not nearly as long as its predecessors. One way to think of it is it’s shaped more like a piece of letter paper than legal paper.

Although this tablet often feels like a premium tablet, not all its features are high-end. Its screen resolution, for example, is only 1024 x 768, so it has a low pixel density of 132 ppi. This means that fonts look a little rough, and pictures aren’t as clear as they appear on devices with higher pixel densities. We found the size of the pixels to be tolerable, but not everyone will.

Aside from the low resolution, the display is generally good. It’s very bright, to the point where it can easily be used when the device is being used outside. Colors are quite vivid, and blacks appear quite black.

That said, this is a standard LED, not a AMOLED like displays in the more expensive Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5.

Buttons and Ports

On the front of the Galaxy Tab A 9.7, below the screen, are a set of controls: the Home button is a physical button, while the Recent Apps and Back buttons are touch-sensitive areas of the casing. On most Android devices these are virtual, on-screen buttons, but Samsung doesn’t like to do it that way. It’s sometimes convenient that these buttons are always immediately available, and they don’t ever take up screen space, but it’s too easy to accidentally hit the Back button, especially when using this tablet in landscape mode.

The speakers are on the bottom edge, so they aren’t front facing; still, they are loud enough to be useful. Next to these is a micro-USB port for charging and wired data transfers, as well as the headset port.

On the right side of this tablet is the Power button, a Volume rocker, and a microSD card slot covered with a door to help prevent the card from being accidentally ejected.

Performance

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 runs Android 5.0.2 Lollipop on a 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm APQ 8016 processor, with 1.5GB of RAM. This gives it decent real-world performance, so that it easily handles day-to-day tasks… the low-resolution display helps here, as there are fewer pixels to manage. But this isn’t a processor for running cutting-edge apps.

Benchmarks bear this out. The tablet scored around 1450 in multiple runs of Benchmark 3. For comparison, the HTC Nexus 9 scored a 3210 on the same test, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 pulled in a 2620.

This model is only offered with 16 GB of built-in storage, which is a fairly minimal amount, even though a microSD slot brings up to 128 GB of additional capacity for holding files and apps. Getting 32GB of built-in storage requires paying $399 for a version of this device that also comes with an S Pen stylus.

Software

At launch, the Galaxy Tab A 9.7 comes running Android 5.0.2 Lollipop, a recent version of Google’s operating system, but not the most recent. Samsung is fairly good about releasing OS upgrades for its popular tablets, so it’s likely this one will eventually get an upgrade to the newly announced Android M, the next major version.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 — Landscape

This isn’t a “stock” version of Android, however; Samsung has made some modifications. Some of these are welcome: instead of the overly complicated dual notification bars that are part of Lollipop, there’s only one. Others are more questionable: sliding to the left from the homescreen opens the Flipboard news aggregation service rather than the preferable Google Now service.

The Tab A 9.7 comes with a wide array of useful software, including the apps that Google bundles with its operating system, such as the Chrome web browser, several email options, an ebook reader, a navigation app, and much more.

Samsung has also made agreements with a number of companies to include their software on this tablet. While many will find at least some of these useful, it all falls into the category of bloatware because these apps can’t be uninstalled, only hidden. For example, even if you’re not a Netflix user, the app for this video service is still going to take up precious storage space on this device.

Camera

Using the rear-facing cameras on tablets to capture pictures is sometimes useful, but the process can be a bit cumbersome on full-size models like this one. Samsung obviously knows this, which is why the 5 MP camera in the Galaxy Tab A 9.7 is a token effort. It’s adequate for taking the occasional shot when no better camera is available, but the pictures are generally a bit fuzzy unless conditions are ideal.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 -- Rear

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 — Rear

This tablet also has a 2 MP front-facing camera, and this is likely to be used quite by fans of video chatting, a task that it’s quite up to.

Battery

This tablet has a 6000 mAh battery, which Samsung says is good for up to 14 hours of watching video or up to 15 hours of web surfing. These are extremely high numbers for battery life, but we can confirm that this tablet’s relatively large battery combined with a undemanding processor enables it to go for very long periods on a single charge.

In our real-world tests, after a full workday of very heavy usage, with continuous WiFi and Bluetooth connections, this device still had a 65% charge. In an alternate usage scenario, with light use the Tab A 9.7 lasted five days before needing to be plugged in.

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 is well designed and built, and has a battery life little short of amazing. On the downside, the screen is definitely low resolution and the performance is just adequate.

It’s a fine device for those who want a tablet for accessing the Web, social networking, and watching video, but isn’t right for advanced gaming, or those who just can’t get over the low-res screen.

We judge it to be a reasonably good successor for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1.

Don’t miss our comparison of the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 vs. Apple iPad Air, nor our Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 vs. HTC Nexus 9.

Value

The Galaxy Tab A 9.7 is a decent value. There aren’t many full size tablets for just $300  — they generally start at $400 — and Samsung had to make some compromises to read that low price.  Fortunately, the  company ended up with a useful tablet.

Those looking for a powerful tablet with a better screen will need to pay a bit more for something like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 or HTC Nexus 9.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 -- Front and Back

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 — Front and Back

Pros:

  • Professional look
  • Solidly built
  • Long battery life

Cons:

  • Low resolution display
  • Performance just adequate
  • Minimal internal storage capacity

Bottom Line:

Although somewhat hampered by its low-resolution screen, this device’s sleek design and immense battery life help make it a decent option for people looking for a full-size Android tablet for general use at an affordable price.



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  1. daviddaill

    I have buy this tablet and it only worked one month, the tablet stopped charging just after 30 days. That happens ed in October and since then I’m fighting with Samsung to get it fix but they didn’t came up with any solution yet. There is two things I have learn from this experience, the tablet isn’t reliable and Samsung are extremely bad when it comes to help people overseas, too bad for the 7th company in the world!!!