Can Samsung's Galaxy Tab3 Lite compete?

17 January 2014

Samsung has announced the Galaxy Tab3 Lite (7”), aimed squarely at the budget end of the market where the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD currently reign supreme. Judging by the specs the Tab3 Lite is going to have to be a fair bit cheaper than the other two, as it’s pretty much a refreshed version of the original Galaxy Tab from 2010.

Under the hood

The Galaxy Tab3 Lite isn’t exactly a powerhouse. It rocks a 1.2GHz dual-core CPU, 1GB of RAM, a 2MP rear camera, no front camera, and Android 4.2. For storage there’s just 8GB onboard with a MicroSD that supports cards up to 32GB (not 64GB).

The 7 inch screen has the same resolution of the original Galaxy Tab, coming in at a meagre 1024 x 600 for which the 3600mAh provides up to 8 hours of video playback. There is a WiFi-only model (b/g/n) and a 2G/3G model with no option for 4G LTE connectivity.

The Tab3 Lite will be available in Black and White for rumoured prices of US$165 and US$265 respectively.

Cheap shots

Admittedly, Samsung is trying to aim at the ultra-low end of the market here, so it would be unfair to expect fantastic hardware. That being said, if Samsung was serious about this device we think we’d see a few changes.

Probably the most confusing feature is the 2MP rear camera. 2MP shooters are notoriously terrible in portable devices and very few people actually use the rear camera on a tablet anyway.

On the other hand, 2MP is quite good for a front-facing camera. Front cameras on tablets are great for video calls, which we can see one of the main reasons you’d buy an ultra-cheap tablet in the first place. It’d be a great way to keep in touch with family over long-distance and cheap enough for you to buy one for your parents or grandparents.

Samsung would have been better served taking the front-facing approach or even leaving it out entirely to bring the price down even further.

We’re also confused over the paltry screen resolution. 1024 x 600 is very low on a 7 inch device. That’s around 170 pixels per inch (ppi), which is 153ppi less than the $249 Nexus 7 from 2013.

The low-res would be acceptable if we were going to see a really, really low price for the Tab3 Lite, but even at the rumoured $165 for WiFi-only we think Samsung would be asking a bit much. The $265 price tag for the 3G model is definitely going overboard.

This isn’t Samsung’s game

Google and Amazon own the budget Android tablet market right now. Google does it by subsidising its tablet prices to get more reliable Android devices out there. This is how Google is able to deliver a solid tablet for a low price: Google takes a hit on the hardware to get more people using its software.

Amazon doesn’t need to make a big profit on each Kindle Fire HD sold because the whole idea is to increase the number of Amazon Prime Video subscribers and Kindle eBook readers. The Fire HD tabs are geared towards screen quality, cross-device syncing and smooth streaming.

This is not a way in which Samsung is used to thinking. Samsung makes big, flashy devices that do everything. It even has a tendency of inventing new (and often not-too-useful) things for its devices to do.

What Samsung doesn’t do is focus on a specific aspect of functionality and let everything else slide by the wayside. A budget device doesn’t have to try to do everything, it can do a few things well and the rest not-at-all.

We like the idea of a big manufacturer like Samsung trying to make an ultra-cheap tablet, but for it to work there’s going to have to be a bit more thought put in to it than has been done with the Galaxy Tab3 Lite.

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