Review: Samsung Galaxy 9.7 Tab A w/ S Pen

I finally have the solution to my drawing problems. It comes in the form of a 9.7 inch tablet. Using Wacom writing technology, all my art can be made digital, colorful and as wide as my imagination. The age of digital art is here and the Samsung 9.7 tab with S pen will at least bring beginners into the age. Is it worth $300 though?

Tab A

The Look

Samsung is the master of practical-looking rectangles with simple buttons. It’s a skinny pad, lightweight, and feels sturdy. My tablet came in Titanium Gray with a sleek metal design. This is not some piece of chintzy plastic. The pen fits into the tablet’s shoulder. It is skinny, and only slightly bigger than a golf pencil. The pen feels like it could snap if the wrong pressure is applied. Luckily, I have a 2-year guarantee from Best Buy. I also got Samsung Cases from Case Face.

The Specs

The Tab A comes with Android Lollipop 5.0, has 16 gb of storage and 2 gb of Ram. It is on-par with most premium-level tablets that run around $150. The rectangular screen is compact, holding a resolution that is only 1024 X 768. Samsung has toted its glistening OLED screens that pop right off the page with colors and brightness, but that is not the case with this model. The resolution makes some pen strokes blurry and pixelated. This might have been because they wanted to keep the price of the tablet lower than $500, but the last thing a graphic tablet needs is a lower resolution that won’t accentuate your drawings.
The cameras on the front and back are mid-level strength. The only plus side is that Samsung knows how to make cameras that take decent pictures in low-light settings. The front camera is good for Skype.

The Feel

Samsung makes fast and reliable tablets. Skype launches at lightning speeds, Viber messenger feels like a rocket, putting my Windows 8.1 to shame. I can do basically any task my dinosaur of a laptop can do, but with ultimate speed. I was able to add a mouse and keyboard to my tablet and use it like a makeshift laptop. Unfortunately, the screen is too small, and I would eventually go blind from squinting at it. I would love it if Android brought their system to the desktop and laptop world, where you could actually use premium-level software (I am not talking about those simple Chromebooks that are good for internet browsing). The Samsung Tab A is powerful, and I had no problem editing video, painting masterpieces and sending emails.
Also noteworthy is the battery that holds onto its power for at least 48 hours. I have not seen this kind of conservation since the early iPad 2.
To make the user feel very spoiled, Samsung packs in the entire Microsoft Office Suite for free. I had the power of Excel, Word, and Powerpoint at my fingertips. Mainly, this confused me because Google already has Docs, Spreadsheets, and Slides for free, and any Android user has access to them. I guess if there was ever a need to use the industry standard, you get it for free on the Tab A. I also got 100GB of space on Microsoft’s Onedrive. This is also very redundant because Google already gives you that when you use their Drive. The irony is that Android could use the Microsoft apps much faster than a Windows tablet.

Dino Techno

Made on Sketchbook

The Art

This is what makes or breaks the tablet. No one pays $300 for a tablet they could get for $150 unless it has powerful pen technology. Samsung drawing tablets have always had tight calibration, impressive pressure control, and the best palm rejection in the market. They have also been the only feasible option for mid-level artists before they’re forced to spit out $800 for a Surface.
When I use this as a drawing tablet, I get the freedom to draw and write as if I am using a piece of paper. I can control lines, shades, and scribbles to the power of my hand. It doesn’t hurt that Samsung gives you a special version of Sketchbook and ArtRage for free.
Moonsault Mario

Made on Artecture app (3D bump mapping from laptop)

The minute you take out the pen from its holster, the tablet recognizes that you are ready to draw. Your cursor shows up on the screen when you hover your pen over it. You can use the pen to cut out screenshots, make memos, or edit notes. The main drawing program, S Note, is where the user can make detailed notes, adding pictures, typing text, or just plain handwriting. Because the screen is lower in resolution, the handwriting on the note looks fuzzy. It kind of looks like someone drew with a whiteboard marker. I also notice that when my pen nears the edge of the screen, the calibration becomes off. I realized this is because my tablet case uses magnets, and magnets set off the calibration. Once I removed the case, everything was spot on. You might have to play with the pen and magnification to get the drawing at its most accurate. Still, it is a Godsend to have twelve notebooks in my tablet where I can take notes freely.
The tab also comes with a handwriting recognition software. At first, trying to turn my scribbles into words was very laggy and slow. Then I actually turned on an option in the settings and it became lightning fast.
Drawing on Sketchbook, Artecture, and Art Rage was very satisfying. Above any simple touch screen, the Tab A could draw very delicate lines. Shading and etching was a delight. The skinny pen is different than a pen or a pencil and may cause hand cramps. I love how much control I had over the canvas.
Also, you might be wondering if you can get a smart pen to use on a regular tablet. Smart pens use bluetooth technology to emulate a stylus. I have looked into some smart pens (The Dotpen, The Jot Pro…) and they all have the same problem. They feel like pens, but they do not recognize palm resting or interact with the screen as closely as Wacom technology. The Samsung A Tab w/ S Pen is the closest you will get to digital pen and paper without spending more than $500.
Made on Sketchbook

Made on Sketchbook

Based on reviews I have read, the Samsung Tab A with S Pen is not the most calibrated or pressure-sensitive pen on the market, though it far exceeds the simple touch screen. The price drop from $500 to $300 means that sacrifices were made. I am still perplexed that Wacom technology on a tablet is so rare, high-priced, and near-impossible to track down on Amazon, but Samsung has made a product that is easier to afford than most options.
On the plus side, I do not have to tolerate Windows apps, which are slower and less updated. I would love to be able to use Illustrator and Photoshop-type programs with a pen, but that option is not yet available for the Android.
Calling all doodlers and graphic design artists: the Galaxy Tab A is the most effective drawing tool for a budget-minded individual. It won’t elevate you to professionalism, but it is a priceless tool for note-takers and scribblers. 

Michael P M

I am a minister for Campus Ambassadors, a gymnastics customer service rep, a social media enthusiast and a writer. I try to collect obscure video games, I love comics and somewhere on Amazon I have a self published book. I am married to a beautiful and grounded woman. But most importantly, I have been seized by a great affection in the Lord.

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