The choice we have today when choosing a tablet computer is phenomenal. They come in all manner of shapes and sizes with varying specifications. Samsung are in part responsible for this, even the most seasoned technology enthusiast will struggle to tell you the difference between all of their models.
Thankfully the Galaxy Tab Active is different and stands out thanks to its IP rating. Whilst it could be used in many scenarios, the Tab Active is geared more towards the business user. To set the scene a little, this tablet has been designed to suit, but not limited to engineers, the construction industry, mobile salespersons, technicians and those who may generally find their tablet coming into contact with tougher conditions. The Tab Active is built on a solid set of specifications. Some of the key specs will be visible on screen now. From the moment you clap eyes on the Active, you can see that it is not as sleek or as svelte as other tablets on the market. Remembering the type of users who will likely be opting for this tablet then the design actually works well. The back and sides are textured to offer a good level of grip, even in wet conditions. A slight bezel around the edge of the 8” display helps protect the screen when laid face down, although this would have been better if marginally larger to raise it some more. Flip the tablet over and a plastic rivet looking foot sits in each corner. The only issue is the device is not completely flat due to the protruding camera lens in the centre. Also included is a tough case and stylus. The case offers further protection and grip and a slot for the stylus. Rather frustratingly there is the lack of handle or lanyard attachment on the tablet or the case as well as no attachment for the stylus rather than a silo. The tablet is IP67 rated for water and dust ingress protection and does too meet MIL spec standard 810G having been dropped tested to 1.2 meters. With a resolution of 1280 x 800 the 8” screen on the Tab Active is not touting HD quality results. Whilst advantageous at times, it is not all that often required and the lesser resolution actually means slightly less power draw. The image is fairly crisp and vivid, perhaps a little over saturated but has reasonable viewing angles. The glass is very reflective with both natural and artificial light. I at times found myself having to move out of direct light to get a better view of the screen. Out of the box, Google’s Android operating system is installed, which is one of the most powerful in terms of scope with easy access to many Google apps such as Maps, Drive, YouTube, Gmail and more. Samsung have then customised the software to enhance the capability and performance that bit more. Additional applications and features include a redesigned user interface over the standard Android; which is much bolder in terms of colour and graphics. Whether you like it or not will likely be personal opinion. Jump into the settings menu and compared to the standard Android experience Samsung have added in a lot of extra menus and options. Unless using the device in landscape mode, this looks very cluttered and there is lots of scrolling. The good news is that you can resize some of the menu systems and you do get used to it after a while. At the multiple home screens, you can personalise the backgrounds, decide what apps and widgets you have and how they are laid out. Pull down from the top of the display to be presented with the notification shade that shows you information you may have missed as well as providing quick settings toggles such as the ability to turn on or off, WiFi, Bluetooth and more. What settings are visible and their layout are customisable. Great added functionality comes in the form of the split screen or ‘Multi Window’ functionality that is offered with an array of pre-installed applications. Available in portrait or landscape mode you can be browsing the internet whilst watching a YouTube video or arranging appointments whilst viewing photos and video stored on the device. This is incredibly powerful and saves all that time spent switching between apps. Being geared to business, you can easily add Microsoft Exchange email accounts. With the option of the Samsung KNOX mobile security solution, it is possible to reinforce security by keeping applications and data safe in a professional’s own secure space without the need for a third-party platform and extra cost. Throughout our time with the Tab Active, the quad-core processor and 1.5GB of RAM appeared to hold up pretty well. The variety of connectivity options on the Tab Active include microUSB, 3.5mm audio jack, Bluetooth, WiFi, NFC, GPS, USB hosting, 3G and 4G. It is great to see the phone and internet connectivity as this can be very useful in some circumstances as many tablets do not offer such. The addition of MHL or video out would be beneficial in my eyes for certain scenarios. Having no covers over the microUSB and 3.5mm audio jack is a real bonus and makes the tablets use on a daily basis considerably more practical. The same could be said for the pogo pins on the side of the device, if only official accessories were available. Of course bespoke solutions are possible. The Tab Active can be used as a phone, although the likelihood is that you will use a wired or wireless headset with it to take calls if you use it for such. When listening back to audio, the sound is emitted from the rear facing loudspeaker which is pretty poor. It is loud enough but the quality is just about satisfactory. It lacks the dynamic range and warm tones to make sounds immersive. In fairness to it, the audio is passable but try making a call on the loudspeaker in anything other than a relatively quiet environment and you simply will not be able to. With only a 3.1 megapixel camera on the back of the tablet, I see this camera being used in many instances where the user is on site, needs to send back some information and a photo captures the moment perfectly. A relatively low resolution aside the results are not terrible. There is a lack of sharpness but the results are clear enough and do not have the same oversaturated tone that is found on a lot of images captured on Samsung products. Video recording up to a resolution of 720p HD is available and is again functional. The Tab Active does not have a dedicated camera key, it is done all on screen. The volume buttons can be set as a shutter button though. 4x digital zoom is available if you need it. You can use the volume keys or pinch and zoom on screen for this. You can not use this when recording video. Within the camera app there are a few settings including different shooting modes, but it is far from the most encompassing camera application. With a 4450 mAh battery the Tab Active should last the working day. Samsung quote up to 12 hours of internet usage over WiFi. Truthfully a lot will depend on the scenario this is used in. We were getting a couple of days out of it with mixed usage, but for us it was harder to replicate in testing the different situations users might find themselves in. As an engineers tablet, put in the bag or docked in the van between jobs then taken on site to complete tasks then this will likely suffice and become a great tool. The big deciding factor on battery life will be whether the tablet’s mobile network connections are used. The ease of charging and the power saving technologies built into the device do go some way to reducing the concern of a lack of power. The battery is user replaceable so having a spare charged could be advantageous, but another 1-2000mAh would have gone a long way to making this tablet much better. At the time of recording the Tab Active is £450 when bought SIM free from Clove. For a device aimed at enterprise all be it there is some consumer appeal, with the ‘rugged’ facilities that it offers I think this is actually relatively fair. Consider the Galaxy Tab Active for what it is designed to be and I can certainly say it has met the brief. A mix of features and functionality with well thought out design and software touches make the Tab Active a real consideration for use within many business scenarios. There are many organisations looking to become more efficient and merge technology products to reduce cost and the amount of kit staff use and for some the Tab Active could be a great option to achieve this.