Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) Review: Best Budget Tablet

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) is the much cheaper alternative to the excellent Galaxy Tab S5e and Apple’s iPad range.

In the downgrade you lose a lot of graphics power, the punch of an OLED screen and advanced multi-driver speakers. But when you have to spend £130 less, those feature dips don’t seem quite so bad.

Gaming performance is the only major issue here. The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 has much less graphics grunt than the cheaper Amazon Fire HD 10. You can still play any game you like, but will have to downgrade the visuals to make them smooth. But, the big victory against the Amazon tablet, this Samsung has access to many more great Android games.

Price & Availability

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) was released in late 2019. It’s an update to the last tablet of the same name, from way back in 2016, and costs £199 at launch. That’s not quite half the price of Apple’s cheapest iPad, but it’s not too far off and can be found for a decent chunk lower than that recommended price.

There’s also a 4G LTE version. It costs £249, which seems a fair upgrade cost. Both versions only have 32GB storage. You may want to factor in the cost of a microSD card as this amount of storage does not go too far these days.

Our review sample was provided by Carphone Warehouse and you can find it direct from Samsung as well as Amazon, Currys and John Lewis.

In the US, the tablet costs $229 but you can also pick up 64- and 128GB models if you want more stroage. It’s available at Amazon and Samsung.

Check out the best budget tablets we’ve tested.

Design & Build

We’ve been waiting for the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) for what feels like an eternity. Most cheap 10in Samsung tablets have fairly poor, low-res screens. The predecessor to this one did not, but its design now looks very dated. Samsung has addressed this issue in the new model.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) looks and feels great, particularly considering its sub-£200 price. And that only seems more impressive when you look at the name on the back. Samsung is not known for offering class-leading design in its low-end phones and tablets.

Its back is a low-flex sheet of aluminium, with an anodised texture finish similar to an iPad’s. Switching between the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 and Amazon Fire HD 10 there’s no contest. The Samsung feels a lot fancier.

There is still an inch-plus piece of plastic at the top, on the back. Samsung will tell you this is there for the antennas, as they can’t transmit effectively through metal. However, it also cuts down on the cost of producing the casing.

The front buttons and large borders of older Samsung tablets have also been zapped. You are left with perhaps the best-looking entry-level 10in tablet available. It also has a significantly smaller footprint than the Amazon Fire HD 10.

It’s 7.7mm thick and weighs 460g. Holding it in one hand is fine, but two is still better.

So is the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) a design match for the level-up Galaxy Tab S5e? No. Apply some finger pressure to the screen and you will see minor display ripples, and Samsung’s mid-range and high-end tablets are much thinner and lighter still. But at the price we are more than satisfied.

Features

The low price does mean a few obvious features are left out of the Tab A. There’s no fingerprint scanner or face unlock, for example. You have to make do with no security, or use a traditional pin, password or swipe pattern. If your tablet will stay at home, and away from the fingers of troublemaking kids and adults, this may not be a big issue.

You do not get the best speakers around either. The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) has a single speaker on the bottom.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) design

We tested it out watching a couple of episodes of Netflix’s The Sinner in the bath (only recommended for bathing professionals as there’s no water resistance here). The speaker has solid mid-range and likely enough volume to easily drown entry-level phones, but we did miss the proper stereo effect of the Galaxy S5e’s brilliant quad speakers. And, more pertinently, the Fire HD 10’s stereo speakers.

We were also a little disappointed, if not surprised, to see the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) only has 32GB storage. This simply isn’t much when the Android OS eats a lot of it and games often take up several gigabytes. So it’s a shame to see the larger capacities only in the US.

Screen

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) has a 10.1in 1920 x 1200 pixel LCD screen. This is perhaps the most important element of the tablet, but does show a few little price compromises.

Let’s start with the good parts. This screen is as sharp as you could ask for at the price, and colour does not seem at all undersaturated even though budget LCDs tend to be less punchy than OLEDs. You’ll find these OLED screens in the Galaxy Tab S5e and Galaxy Tab S6, and they provide seriously rich colour and contrast.

The screen size also makes streamed video and games a completely different experience to those of a phone, even a big one – so there’s still a decent recent to have a tablet as well as a smartphone.

Our Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) does not have the most consistent panel, though. The upper-right part looks a little more yellowy than the rest and when displaying a pure white screen you may see a slightly luminance gradient in the last few millimetres of a coupe of the sides.

We can’t really notice any of these issues outside of a near all-white display, though.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) screen

Contrast is the part we miss most from the Galaxy Tab S5e. Blacks are not perfect, which makes dark scenes in movies and TV less bold-looking in a low-lit room.

We still class the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) as an excellent tablet for video streaming, and Netflix in particular. It has full Netflix HD certification, meaning you can stream at 1080p. This is less common than you might assume.

Specs & Performance

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) has a Samsung processor, the Exynos 7904. This has eight cores and scores a reasonable 3986 points in Geekbench 4.

Raw CPU power is not the problem, though. The weaknesses are all to do with RAM and the GPU part of the chipset.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) apps

You can get the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) with either 2GB or 3GB RAM. Ours has 2GB (like all UK models, from what we can see) and it causes some occasional interface lag. This might mean the keyboard takes half a second to a second to appear sometimes, a leap back to the home screen won’t be instant and app switching will feel slightly slow.

Limited RAM also means the tablet can only “park” apps briefly before closing them down. Open up the multi-tasking screen and it’ll look as though all your recent apps are still running. But try to jump back into one and the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) will usually have to reload the app from scratch.

A lack of RAM also tripped-up our testing using GFXBench. The tablet ran out of memory and simply stopped testing a bunch of times. 2GB RAM: it’s less than ideal these days.

Little bits of interface lag tend to bother us much more in phones than tablets like this. It has not got on our nerves. However, we do wish the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) had a more powerful graphics chipset.

It has a dual-core Mali-G71. This thing is piddly for a Full HD 10in tablet that seems born to play games. It’s only around half as powerful as the Mali-G73 MP3 used in the cheaper Amazon Fire HD 10.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) performance

The good news is the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) can still play any game you like. However, performance won’t always be perfect. To get ARK: Survival Evolved to run perfectly you need to downscale its dynamic resolution until if looks a bit like someone’s smeared the graphics with their thumb. And if you do max it out and swallow the imperfect frame rate, the game will still only run at “Low” visuals, resulting in horrible object pop-in.

PUBG runs much better. You can’t use the highest graphics settings, but turn anti-aliasing on and it looks pretty good. There’s still the odd distracting slow-down moment, but the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) can handle the game well. You can’t run Fortnite, though, and may never be able to. It requires 4GB RAM according to Epic’s installer app.

If the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) had the stereo speakers and better processor of the Amazon Fire HD 10 we’d be heading towards the perfect budget tablet. But what life is not brimming with small disappointments?

There’s little to complain about in the software, outside the little RAM-related hiccups. The tablet runs Android 9 Pie and has Samsung’s standard interface. It looks clean and cheerful, and lets you take control of your home screens far more than any Amazon tablet.

Cameras

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) has two cameras, one on each side. Our rear camera has an 8Mp sensor, the Samsung S5K4HA. It’s the same used for the ultra-wide camera of the Samsung Galaxy A70.

For a cheap tablet this is not too bad at all. It flattens the low-res rear camera of the Amazon Fire HD 10, and has autofocus. We take this for granted in phones, but is not always present in low-end tablets. Without autofocus, you can’t take close-up photos. They’ll simply be blurry.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) cameras

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019)’s camera app even lets you zoom into 2x, behaving as if there were an actual telephoto camera. This is perhaps a step too far as the camera quality does not hold up to 2x zooming. But we would not be surprised if some buyers use and appreciate this feature.

Image quality is fairly poor by the standards of mobile tech, but flat-out good in this class. You can take genuinely usable images with the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) in good lighting – if you don’t mind using a 10in tablet to take photos.

The front camera has a lower-end 5Mp sensor that, once more, exceeds expectations for a sub-£200 tablet that otherwise focuses on design and display quality. Again it destroys the Fire HD 10 selfie camera. However, it can’t really capture fine facial detail like many phones at the price, or cheaper.

Video capture is one obvious benefit of using these genuinely OK camera sensors. You can shoot 1080p video with either. At this price we’d grudgingly shrug and accept 720p. We don’t recommend using the rear camera for video too often, though. None of the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019)’s video is stabilised, and will therefore look a mess as soon as you start moving.

Battery Life

The Tab A has a 6150mAh battery, smaller than the 2016 version’s 7300mAh battery. However, Samsung still says it will last 13 hours, which sounds good by any tablet standard.

In our standardised in-house testing it lasted eight hours 34 minutes. This is longer than the iPad 10.2 managed, and a good result as this test is a little more demanding than very light real-world use.

To get a clearer look at the stamina in a more recognisable context we streamed YouTube for just under three and a half hours to see how much the battery would drop. The results were almost exactly in-line with Samsung’s claims. It suggested the Galaxy Tab A 10.1 will last around 12 hours 56 minutes when streaming video.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) battery life

For the most part we used the tablet as we would day-to-day: the odd binge, then it would be left sitting doing nothing for a while. We didn’t see any drastic dips here either, no picking it up to find the battery drained to nothing for no apparent reason.

This is a reminder that while you may have to pay the big bucks for the best cameras and processors, gold-standard battery life can be found cheap.

Verdict

Samsung’s update of its ultra-mainstream 10in budget tablet from 2016 is mostly a success. For under £200 you get a pleasant aluminium rear, a good Full HD screen and great battery life.

We’d take a hit to the respectable (for a tablet) cameras in exchange for better core specs, though. There’s enough raw CPU power to go around, but the GPU and RAM scrape by with the bare minimum. You will see some lag and not all games run perfectly.

However, Samsung’s use of relatively poor graphics hardware in its low-end phones and tablets is nothing new. And while the Fire HD 10 may handle some games better, it can’t play nearly as many of them as its app store is not a patch on the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019)’s Google Play.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019): Specs

  • Android 9.0
  • 10.1in 1920 x 1200 pixel LCD screen
  • Exynos 7904 octa-core CPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 32GB storage
  • 8MP rear camera with f/2 lens
  • 5MP front camera with f/2.2 lens
  • USB-C
  • 6150mAh battery
  • Aluminium casing
  • 245.2 x 149.4 x 7.5mm
  • 469g

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