Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 review: the perfect slate for using outside

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 is a practical tablet that withstands dirt, dust and water

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 review
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

Rugged, durable and practical are the three words best used to describe the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3. It may be a little pricey but for anyone who works outside or is constantly on the move, this is the perfect slate.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Water-resistant and drop-proof

  • +

    S Pen included

  • +

    Replaceable 5,050mAh battery

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Thick bezels and small screen

  • -

    Not the fastest tablet

  • -

    Battery life didn’t live up to Samsung’s claims

Sitting within their Rugged Range, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 is 'easy to use and hard to break' so if you are looking to buy the best tablet for working outside of an office, this is literally made for you. 

With an S Pen included in the box, NFC to process payments and Samsung Knox mobile security, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 was built for business. Both the tablet and the S Pen claim to be water-resistant, dust-resistant, drop-proof, sturdy and reliable. 

Samsung covers all bases in the world of tech, whether it's for business or pleasure, and their Rugged Range strives to prove that. In this review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3, I put the tablet to the test to see if it truly delivers on its promises, and to give you an in-depth look at its design, performance and features. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 review: price

At the time of writing, you can pick up a 64GB Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 for $489.99 from CDW. There's also the option for 128GB of storage, starting from $509.99. 

In the UK, you can buy the 64GB version directly from Samsung for £539. Be sure to check out the widgets for the best recent prices.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 review: design and display

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 review

(Image credit: Future)

On opening the box, the first thing you notice is how inoffensive this tablet looks. Going against every perception of what a rugged device should look like, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 isn’t super bulky and looks more like an old-school consumer tablet. Weighing 429g and measuring 12.68 x 21.38 x 0.99cm it’s easy to use with one hand if you need to. 

Comparing it to consumer tablets, there are a few key design differences: the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 has reinforced corners and much thicker bezels than what we are used to seeing, as well as three buttons along the front of the tablet.

Located on the bottom bezel, the buttons let you see your recent apps, go to the Home screen and revert back a step. To unlock the display, the Home button doubles up as a fingerprint sensor. On the right-hand side of the tablet are the volume controls, power button and the Active key which gives you quick access to a designated app. It also has a USB-C port and a 3.5mm aux input. 

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 has an 8-inch 1920 x 1200 (WUXGA) display. The PLS TFT LCD screen may be a little small, but you can comfortably read, work or jot down notes on it. I wasn't blown away by the display quality in the way you might be by a consumer tablet like the Apple iPad 10.2-inch (2020), but considering this is a business tablet that favours practicality over aesthetics, the screen definitely gets the job done. 

Before using it, there is some assembly required. You’ll need to insert the battery first, then put the tablet into the included case. The latter was a bit of a pain and took a few goes before it slotted into the case successfully, but it felt ultra-secure when it was in. On the top of the case is where you’ll find the S Pen slot.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 review: durability

Samsung claims that the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 is drop-resistant, waterproof, dust-proof and will work even if you are wearing gloves. To prove it, they sent a whole kit to test out how durable the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 really is. Here’s how it went.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 review

(Image credit: Future)

First, I filled up a plastic box with sand and gave it a dunk. You could easily continue to use it while it was submerged.. as easily as possible considering there are thousands of grains of sand to deal with. When I took it out, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 was absolutely fine, if a little dirty. 

Then, I donned some heavy-duty workman’s gloves. After turning on the Touch Sensitivity toggle in settings, there were no problems there. You can comfortably continue to go about your business on the tablet wearing even the thickest of gloves. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 review

(Image credit: Future)

After that, it was time to test the waterproofing so I filled up the box with water and sank the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 for about a minute. I couldn’t fault the IP68 rating, the tablet quite happily continued its survival mission, as did the included S Pen which worked fine on the wet tablet. You won’t need to worry about using it outside on a rainy day. 

Finally came the drop test which went against every instinct and was possibly more taxing on my mind than the tablet. After having dropped it from a height of about 1.5m, the tablet still looked as good as new. So all-in-all, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 successfully established itself as the most rugged tablet about town. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 review: performance and features

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 review

(Image credit: Future)

Inside the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 is Samsung’s own Exynos 9810 Octa-Core processor, with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage which can be expanded using a MicroSD card. It runs on Android 10, with Wi-Fi 6 and MIMO support as well as Bluetooth 5.0. 

On Geekbench 5, it scored 694 in single-core and 2036 in multi-core, so matching up to an entry-level device. It runs a lot slower than consumer tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ but having said that, it felt fast enough to use without any issues. Apps and files opened almost instantly and it coped well with light gaming too. 

There's a 5MP camera on the front of the tablet and a 13MP camera on the back. The rear camera, in particular, took some pretty decent shots that picked up a good amount of detail. In a business sense, this will be useful for taking quick shots of documents or scanning barcodes. What’s more, is that you can film in resolutions up to 4K and even supports Google ARCore which builds augmented reality experiences that could be useful for training or for watching a building site come to life. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 review

The  Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 took pretty good shots with plenty of detail and vivid colours. 

(Image credit: Future)

Over a two hour period of video on full brightness, the 5,050mAh battery dropped by 30% suggesting it would last just under seven hours in total. Despite being a fair amount lower than their 11-hour claim, it will last almost the whole workday which is really what matters here. It comes with a 15W fast charger in the box too. The battery is removable and replaceable which is a huge benefit of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 as it means you can carry spares with you just in case. If it’s plugged in, you can continue to use the tablet without having the battery inside it at all. 

Extra features include NFC with EMV Level 1 certification so you can process payments from the tablet, as well as Samsung DeX which converts it into a desktop computer when used with a compatible TV or monitor. Plus, for working outside of an office, the included S Pen will be incredibly useful.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 review: verdict

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 review

(Image credit: Samsung)

At $489.99/£539, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 isn’t cheap but it should have a long lifespan which makes it worth the higher price-tag. Being both sturdy and reliable, it’s unlikely to be broken by a fall or damaged by dust. The battery life may not be the best you can get on a tablet but it does charge up quickly, and being removable, you can carry spares with you. 

Every part of this tablet is designed to take knocks, bumps and raindrops. Both the tablet and S Pen are easy to manoeuvre, even if you are wearing thick gloves. It may not have a dazzling display or super sleek design but it is incredibly practical. You won’t find a better option for using outside than the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3.