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Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 vs iPad Pro: Hands-on comparison review

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 vs iPad Pro 9.7: We compare Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab S3 Android tablet with another powerful 9.7-inch creative device, the iPad Pro from Apple, to see which is best for you.

At MWC 2017, Samsung launched a powerful new Android tablet for creative and professional users. The Galaxy Tab S3 is sleek, well-specced and packed with great features, including support for Samsung’s new stylus pen and keyboard cover. In other words, it’s an Android alternative to Apple’s rather brilliant iPad Pro.

If you already own an iPhone or Android device, chances are you’ll find your loyalty swaying towards Apple’s iOS ecosystem or Google’s mobile OS. However, if you’re not bothered either way – or perhaps thinking about switching between Android and iOS – then let us run through the specs and features of both the Galaxy Tab S3 and iPad Pro 9.7. Hopefully it’ll make your tablet purchasing decision a little easier.

Samsung also launched two gorgeous Windows 10 tablets out at MWC, the Galaxy Book 10.6 and Galaxy Book 12. Go check out our Galaxy Book 10.6 vs 12 comparison review for more info.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 vs iPad Pro: Specs

Tablet iPad Pro 9.7 Galaxy Tab S3
Screen size 9.7-inch 9.7-inch
Screen resolution 2048×1936 2048×1936
Fingerprint sensor? Yes Yes
OS iOS 10 Android Nougat
Processor A9X Snapdragon 820
Memory 2GB 4GB
Storage 32, 128 or 256GB 32GB
microSD? No Yes
Rear camera 12-megapixel 13-megapixel
Front camera 5-megapixel 5-megapixel

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 vs iPad Pro: Design

Both the Galaxy Tab S3 and the iPad Pro sport a slender and sleek design, although they’re very different in look and feel.

Samsung has stuck with its Galaxy S7-style glossy finish for the Tab S3, blending glass surfacing with metal banding for an eye-pleasing effect. That glassy rear does pick up greasy prints rather easily, which can make you cringe when the light catches it. But once you buff it up, there’s no denying it looks lovely.

At 6.1mm thick, the iPad Pro 9.7 is pretty much just as slim as Samsung’s tablet. Of course, Apple hasn’t altered its usual design language at all, so the Pro sports the same brushed metal finish of previous iPhones and iPads; albeit with a couple of different colour choices on offer.

Both tablets are pleasingly light considering the technology packed inside. In other words, they’re a solid alternative to a laptop if you’re always on the move and looking for something seriously portable. Neither are water resistant, but the Tab S3 and iPad Pro 9.7 are both rugged enough to survive a few knocks and bumps.

Note that you can also pick up the iPad Pro in a larger 12.9-inch model. Check out the differences between the 9.7-inch version and 12.9-inch version in our iPad Pro comparison review.

Read next: iPad Pro 2017 models leaked

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 vs iPad Pro: Screen and media

The iPad Pro 9.7 and Galaxy Tab S3 both rock a 9.7-inch display, with the same crisp resolution (2048×1536). That means supremely sharp visuals, no matter your choice.

However, the actual display tech is considerably different. In the case of the Galaxy Tab S3, you get Samsung’s latest Super AMOLED panel, which produces rather stunning and vibrant images. Colours are artificially boosted to make them stand out, whereas the iPad Pro 9.7’s IPS LCD panel renders more realistic images. Samsung’s screen also supports HDR playback, offering impressive contrast levels and next-level visuals.

Whichever you like the most will come down to personal preference. However, both panels are pleasingly bright and boast wide viewing angles, so do the job nicely when out and about.

You can happily blast through a movie on either device, with stereo speakers that pump out impressively detailed audio. On both the Tab S3 and the iPad Pro, they’re powerful enough to fill a small room with loud, clear sound.

Got a massive media collection that you’d like to lug around? Well, these two tablets come with 32GB of space as standard, but that’ll fill up pretty quick once you start throwing HD movies on. Thankfully the Galaxy Tab S3 can be boosted with a microSD memory card, adding up to 256GB more space. On the iPad Pro, you have to pay up for the 128GB or 256GB model instead as there’s no microSD support.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 vs iPad Pro: Features and accessories

Android and iOS both have their strengths and weaknesses, but in their iOS 10 and Android Nougat forms they both offer strong functionality. You can split-screen with two apps at once, download apps for pretty much every occasion and manage your tablet’s resources, with the likes of battery saver modes and performance analysing to help out when needed.

Both the Galaxy Tab S3 and the iPad Pro 9.7 support a stylus pen of Samsung and Apple’s own creation. In both cases this is a well-designed and comfortable-to-use stylus which offers impressively accurate translation of your flicks, taps and squiggles.

You also have the option of purchasing a keyboard cover for both tablets. This connects magnetically and protects the screen when not in use, before unfurling into a miniature board that sits in front of the display.

They’re both decent enough for typing on the move, although some will prefer the deeper travel of the Tab S3’s keys. However, the Tab S3’s keyboard is also a little squished at the edges, with the likes of the left Shift key suffering quite considerably. And in both cases, you ideally need a flat surface to rest the tablet on for typing. Sitting the iPad Pro or the Galaxy Tab on your lap can be a bit awkward and uncomfortable.

Both tablets support SIM cards for 4G connectivity when you can’t find a decent WiFi network.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 vs iPad Pro: Performance and battery life

The iPad Pro 9.7 is powered by Apple’s own A9X processor, backed by 2GB of RAM. We’ve seen a couple of little stutters here and there during use, but on the whole you get a pleasingly smooth user experience. You can run powerful creative apps and play any game on the App Store with a solid frame rate.

In our hands-on review of the Galaxy Tab S3, we found the Snapdragon 820 processor provided just as smooth running. It’s a shame Qualcomm’s more powerful 821 chipset wasn’t used, but the 820 – backed by 4GB of RAM – does the job nicely for now.

The iPad Pro 9.7 delivers 10-12 hours of video playback on a single charge. Samsung reckons you’ll get the same from the Tab S3, but we’re yet to fully test this out. However, fast charging is also available on both tablets, when those cells finally run dry.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 vs iPad Pro: Cameras

We’re not sure why you’d want to shoot a video with a tablet, but both devices sport a lens on the rear end all the same.

On the Galaxy Tab S3 you get a 13-megapixel snapper, while the iPad Pro has a 12-megapixel lens. Both cameras come with an LED flash and can shoot up to 4K resolution video.

Around the front of both tablets you have a 5-megapixel secondary lens. This is useful for Skype chats and in either case you’ll capture a smooth, detailed image of your mug.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 vs iPad Pro: Verdict

Boasting very similar specs and features but two completely different ecosystems, the Galaxy Tab S3 and iPad Pro are certainly rivals for the best creative or business tablet in 2017.

You get impressive performance, solid battery life, premium screen tech and strong support from Samsung and Apple’s optional accessories. So no matter which tab you choose, chances are you’ll be very happy indeed.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 vs iPad Pro 9.7: Video comparison

Check out our hands-on iPad Pro 9.7 vs Galaxy Tab S3 comparison review in the video below, where you can see the two tablets in action.

Check out our in-depth iPad Pro 9.7 review and come back soon for our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review.