- Editor's Rating
- Decent real-world performance
- Ruggedized ports, not port covers
- Removable battery
- Ships with case and stylus
- Screen glare an occasional issue
- Only has one microUSB port
- Camera takes lousy pictures
Quick TakeThe Samsung Galaxy Tab Active is an enterprise device with features many consumers will find appealing. It fits the bill as a top-notch, stylish, and ruggedized Android tablet.
Enterprises devices are boring. They are built for function, not fun. Users would much rather turn to personal tech for their business needs rather than a work-issued clunker.
In the age of consumerization and “bring your own device,” this presents a particular challenge to business device makers. How can they compete with the flash of an iPhone or thin-and-light Android tablet?
If you’re Samsung, you simply blur the line. You borrow the name from you consumer-friendly Galaxy Tab line for your mid-size rugged enterprise tablet, appending “Active” at the end, implying that this Android tablet is built for adventure and excitement rather than field and warehouse work. You base it off the well-reviewed Galaxy Tab 4, and you not only build it tough, you design to look tough … and kind of cool.
Build and Design
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active looks a lot like the first generation Honeycomb tablets from 2011. It measures 4.97 x 8.39 x .38 inches (WHD), and weighs 13 ounces, making it hefty by today’s tablet standards, but not so much compared to other rugged devices.
It sports an attractive industrial aesthetic, with an especially sturdy and textured gray and black plastic build, punctuated by corner flourishes that jut out, slight divots along the edges, and four rivets on the back panel that provide limited stabilization for when the tablet rests face up.
The back also houses the 3.1-megapixel main camera, an LED flash, and small speaker. A 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera rests centered above the display, next to the Samsung branding.
The back panel easily plies off to reveal a removable battery.
The tablet feels especially solid, which is no surprise given its rugged designation. Samsung claims it features shock and drop protection, specifically able to withstand drops of 3 feet.
In testing, Samsung’s claims bare truth. This thing survived multiple, often cringe-inducing, drops, and looked no worse for the wear. In fact, we couldn’t even scuff the plastic.
Samsung also claims the Galaxy Tab Active can function and be safely stored in temperatures ranging from -4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. For comparison, Apple recommends using the the iPad within 32 to 95 degree Fahrenheit, and keeping it stored with -4 to 113 degrees.
Once again in testing, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active worked just fine after an hour in the freezer, and functioned during a 12-degree New England winter morning without any trouble.
Display and Speakers
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active has an 8-inch LCD display, measured corner to corner, with a 1280 x 800 resolution. That equates to about 189 pixels per inch, which is much lower than many top-of-the-line consumer tablets (the iPad mini 3 has a 326 ppi count), but is more than adequate. Samsung tablets and smartphones typically have excellent displays (something to do with the company also being a leading HDTV maker), and the Tab Active display does nothing to dissuade that notion. Given the tradeoff required in price and battery life, we’ll take the lower pixel density.
The display brightness maxes out at 400 nits. In most situations, that’s more than enough brightness, but it’s on the low side for a ruggedized device built for outdoor use. In fact most flagship smartphones exceed that mark. It has an anti-glare display that helps mitigate any ill effects of the bright sun on viewability, but just barely.
The Tab Active has a single speaker, located on the back bottom-left corner. It’s pretty bad, even by the low standards of tablet speakers. But then again, who cares about the speaker? It emits clear enough sound at a level that is fine for personal use. So when someone streams “Gilmore Girls” on his or her lunchbreak, the Tab Active will suffice even without headphones.
Buttons and Ports
This thing has buttons! Specifically, it has physical buttons for “all apps,” home, and back. Most Android devices ditched those a long time ago in favor of softkeys, or more recently, on-display icons. The physical keys are a throwback to the early days of Android, but they serve a very practical purpose. You don’t have to take off your gloves to press them.
It’s actually a very thoughtful inclusion, given the target user. More than that, buttons are simply better. Sure on-screen icons make for slick devices with edge-to-edge displays, but unresponsive software and accidental taps can make for a frustrating experience. With physical buttons, users know when they are pressed.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active also has a power button and volume rocker on the right side, a POGO pin charger on the left, and both a microUSB 2.0 input and 3.5mm audio jack on the bottom.
Given the size of the device, a full-sized USB would have been nice, and a differentiator. A single micro-USB port has unfortunately become standard on mobile devices.
Pry off the back panel to reveal a microSD card slot (up to 64 GB) and the removable battery.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active is IP67 rated for dust and water resistance. Some other rugged tablets help to achieve this through plastic port covers for the USB and audio jack, but not this Tab. Its ports are also ruggedized, which is much better, because what does one do if the plastic coverings snap off?
Now, dust storms are hard to come by in the Boston winter, but we can confirm that the Galaxy Tab Active does function while fully submerged in water. Technically, it can withstand 1 meter of fresh water for up to 30 minutes, meaning rain shouldn’t pose much of an issue. That said, water will mess with the touch display, rendering it at least partially unresponsive to both touch and the C Pen.