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Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 3 review

Both my phone and tablet need to be replaced. So I decided to find a single device that can do the job of both a smartphone and an iPad – the so-called “Phablet”. The latest innovation in the market are folding Phablets like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 – a 5G enabled device that opens up to a 7.6 inch screen. However, it’s not really rugged or waterproof and the price is ludicrous.

In the end, it came down to a choice between a couple of devices few people have heard about – the Tripltek 8-inch Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 3. They’re both rugged, waterproof, 4G-enabled 8-inch Android tablets that can make and receive phone calls. But the Tripltek is twice the price, so I went with the Samsung option instead.

Samsung Galazy Z Fold 3:
Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 3:
Samsung Active 3 Case:
Tripltek 8 Pro (Amazon):
Tripltek 8 Pro (Direct):


I’ve had a pretty bad week when it comes to gadgets. I have so much tech that I’ve honestly lost count. However, there are three main gadgets in my life: my phone, my laptop, and my camera. Obviously, I have a MacBook because I used to be a graphic designer, but nowadays, I edit videos. In my opinion, Apple computers are the most reliable devices for doing that. My Apple laptops seem to have twice the working life of the Windows laptops I’ve owned in the past.

I know there will be people shouting at the screen right now and typing furiously in the comments telling me that I’m wrong and that I need to use Microsoft or Linux or whatever your favorite operating system is, which is fair enough. Genuinely, I am open to switching, but at the end of the day, I just prefer MacBooks to the alternatives. I don’t trust Apple for anything else but, when it comes to laptops, I’m an Apple fan. However, when it comes to phones or tablets, I’m definitely on Team Android. I like the versatility of the Google platform, mainly because it lets me sideload apps. Sadly, my Android devices have started to fail. These are the two Android devices I use regularly.

Huawei Mediapad M3 8.4″ LTE

Firstly, we have the Huawei Mediapad. This is the M3 model that I bought for £350 (prices may change) back in January 2017 – so this is literally five years old. At the time, this was considered the best Android tablet on the market. It has an 8.4-inch screen with genuine 2.5K resolution, 128GB of storage with room for a 256GB memory card, 8MP cameras front and back, a fingerprint sensor, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a pair of Harmon Kardon speakers on both sides. Also, if you put a SIM card inside, this could be used as a phone, but it doesn’t have a speaker at the top, so you’d have to listen to you calls on the stereo speakers on either side, which I could never really use.

You couldn’t have a private conversation with these two speakers blaring unless you plugged in a headset or connected one via Bluetooth, and neither of those options appealed to me. The Huawei Mediapad M3 8.4″ LTE was a brilliant device for its time, and the large battery inside meant I could use it for 8 to 10 hours on a single charge. Now, five years later, that battery isn’t performing so well. The best it can do is about 3 hours. I hadn’t even noticed that issue – the depleted battery performance – until this week. The problem for me is that if I take a long train or plane journey, this will run out of battery far too quickly. That’s my first problem.

Ulefone Armor 6

My second problem has to do with this, the Ulefone Armor 6, and I bought this three years ago from Amazon. It cost me about £260 (prices may chage), and there were many reasons why I chose this instead of an iPhone or a branded Android smartphone. Honestly, I’m a bit clumsy, and at the time, I used to travel a lot, so I decided to buy the most rugged and reliable smartphone on the market. Back then, Ulefone was just getting established, but I’d heard good things about them from reviewers, so I took a punt. The specs on this are really impressive: a 6.2-inch screen with full HD resolution, 128GB of internal storage, 6GB of RAM, an Octacore processor, and a fingerprint sensor on the back.

Those things were all pretty much standard at the time, but there were three features that made the Ulefone Armor 6 really appealing to me when I bought it. Firstly, it has NFC, which means I could use it to pay for things in shops. Basically, the phone itself is like a contactless Visa or Mastercard. Instead of tapping your card, you just tap your smartphone. But, in the end, I never really used that feature a lot. It’s just easier to tap a card. Secondly, it has wireless charging. In this case, wireless quick-charging. Nowadays that’s a very common feature, but back when I bought this, it was a little bit niche. Now, I will say, I have used the wireless charging feature a lot in the last three years, and it’s really very convenient.

If I didn’t have it, I’m sure I would miss it. The final killer feature of this phone is that it’s ludicrously rugged. According to the manufacturer, it has an IP69 rating and some kind of military-grade shockproof capabilities as well. It’s waterproof, obviously. It can survive a six-foot drop, and it can keep working down to -20 degrees and up to 60 degrees Celsius. Now, I was never going to put it through that kind of punishment. My main motivation for having a rugged phone was that my kids have often broken my expensive gadgets, and since the smartphone is now the one device none of us can live without, I wanted to make sure it was indestructible, and it’s honestly been a brilliant companion for me over the last three years.

I’ve absolutely loved the large screen, the long battery life, and the fact that it can be used with two SIM cards at once. My only disappointment was that the main speaker is at the back, so it’s not great for watching videos. Sadly, this week, I noticed a problem. My SIM card seemed to be stuck inside. I couldn’t get it out, and the only way I could get it out was with some needle nose pliers. It was quite a pain, and I didn’t understand why that happened until I noticed that the back of the phone has a bulge. Yeah, there’s a bulge on the back. Basically, the battery inside the Ulefone Armor 6 has swollen.

Because the Ulefone Armor 6 is a very rugged device and everything is very solidly built, the swelling hasn’t affected the screen at the front or the metal sides, but the plastic at the back is weaker, so the battery has started to push through as it’s expanded, and that same swelling has somehow trapped the SD card as well. I’m not quite sure why, but I’m pretty sure that’s why the SD card was such a struggle to get out. Swollen batteries are a big problem, by the way, in the sense that they are very dangerous. It means that your battery has started to fail and started outgassing. It’s literally making gas inside the battery case, which is why it started to expand.

If you have a swollen battery, you need to stop using that device immediately. Just let the battery run down and then give it to a specialist. They may be able to replace it. Otherwise, you just have to arrange for your device to be recycled. I cannot stress this enough. If your battery has swollen, refrain from using your device. A swollen battery might catch fire; it might even explode. Don’t try replacing the battery yourself either. That could be deadly. It’s just not worth the risk. Anyway, right now I have a defective tablet and a dangerous smartphone. I need to replace both, and it occurred to me that maybe I could just buy one device that will do the same job as a smartphone and a tablet.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3

The obvious choice is, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3. It’s a phone that unfolds into a tablet whenever you need a bigger screen. 7.6 inches isn’t huge, but it’s not far off an iPad mini. This phone is made of aluminum, is splash-proof, and has 512GB of memory. In addition, it can use 5G SIM cards, and I happen to have one. Luckily, my sister has one of these, so I was able to try it out myself, which made me realize there are two major problems. Firstly, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 is not a sealed device, so it’s not rugged, it’s not dust proof, and I don’t think it can cope with anything more than some light rain.

Secondly, it costs more than about £1,500 (prices may change), so more than $2,000 (prices may change), and that’s an insane price to pay for those specs. You’re basically paying an extra £1000 for the folding screen gimmick. I can’t really justify that, but I was still keen on the idea of getting a small tablet that can also be used as a phone, and ideally, I wanted it to be very rugged too. My research basically narrowed it down to two choices, the Tripltek 8 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3.

Tripltek 8 Pro

Firstly, there’s the Tripltek 8-inch Pro. This isn’t a particularly well-known brand right now, but they do make some really interesting high-spec tablets aimed at the FPV drone market. This particular tablet is very rugged. It has a massive battery, can be used as a phone, and costs about £800 (prices may change) from Amazon UK, or you could buy it for about $800 (prices may change) direct from the American manufacturer. That’s the first device that seemed to meet my wish list of specs, but it’s not the one I actually bought because I found something much cheaper that seemed to have everything I needed.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3

This is the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3. Obviously, everyone has heard of Samsung, but there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of this particular tablet. That’s because it was created for business users and not the mainstream market. It is a rugged Android tablet with an 8-inch screen that’s designed to be used by warehouse workers and cashiers at ticket offices. The touchscreen can even be used while wearing industrial gloves. It does work, trust me. Even though it’s not really aimed at the mainstream consumer, when I started looking at the specs, I realized this could just as easily work as a tablet and smartphone for the average person.

The Specs

This sturdy Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 tablet has a reasonably fast processor inside, so it’s good enough for watching movies, which is probably the most challenging thing I will ever use it for. I’ve also installed a mobile phone SIM in here, so I can now use it as a smartphone. Unlike my old Huawei tablet, this one has a telephone speaker at the top. However, being honest, I very rarely make phone calls anymore. The real benefit of having my SIM card in here is that I can use 4G internet while I’m out and about.

There is a 3.5mm socket for headphones and headsets, but I’m unlikely to use that because I’ve already paired this tablet with a Bluetooth headset. Obviously, I have access to Google Play services, which means all the usual apps are available to me, so YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp, and all the Amazon apps are easy enough to download. In addition, I’ve managed to sideload a few things too like an ad blocker and the DJI Mimo app, which for some reason is not available through Google Play.

The internal memory is only 64GB, which doesn’t sound like a lot. However, you can add a microSD card up to 1TB in size, and then you can download all your movies, podcasts, Kindle books, and offline maps directly onto the SD card. I’m never going to need that much space (1 TB), so I’ve inserted a 400GB card, and it’s working very well. There’s a 13-megapixel camera on the front that can record 4K video. Unfortunately, the selfie camera is only 5 megapixels. However, that’s probably good enough for video calls, and I’m never going to use it for any more than that.

What I love about the tablet

One thing I really love about the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 is that it has physical buttons. I’m one of those people who hates that smartphones and tablets have virtual on-screen buttons, and what I hate even more are on-screen keyboards. This doesn’t give me a real keyboard, but the three physical buttons at the bottom are very much to my liking, and that’s not all. There are two customizable buttons here on the side. I’ve set one of these to launch my email, while the other one opens my camera app or YouTube, depending on whether I push it or hold it.

Something else I really like is that unlike most modern smartphones and tablets, this Samsung device has a removable battery, so if I ever have any battery issues in the future, let’s say my battery swells up or it starts out gassing, I could very easily just swap out my defective battery for a new one. The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 also meets my desire for ruggedness. It’s a sealed device, so it’s water and dust resistant. It can also survive a 5-foot drop. Even my children would struggle to break this tablet. I’m not saying they couldn’t. I’m just saying it wouldn’t be easy for them.

The Issues

As much as I do like the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 tablet, there are a couple of issues worth noting. I’ve used this for a few days now, and I have two concerns, the first and most obvious one being bloatware. If you don’t know what that means, bloatware is when a device manufacturer adds lots and lots of their own apps and programs to your smartphone or tablet. What’s worse is that a lot of the time, they’ve made it impossible for you to delete those things from your device. On this tablet, Samsung have installed dozens of Samsung apps as standard because they want you to use Samsung services. However, I know that there are better options out there.

For example, I don’t want to use the Samsung Calendar app, so I installed a different calendar app instead. However, Samsung has blocked me from deleting their calendar app from this device. Similarly, I don’t want to use the Samsung camera app. It’s complete crap, so I’ve downloaded a decent camera app instead, but the crappy Samsung app is still sitting on my Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 tablet, and I can’t get rid of it. What makes things a lot worse is that a lot of these bloatware apps quietly run in the background and send data about your activity to Samsung. They also have access to your contacts, your email, your calendar, your camera, your microphone, and chances are, most people won’t even realize that.

Whenever I get a new Android device, I spend a whole day going through all the bloatware apps, disabling them, denying them access to my data, and stopping them from running in the background. This isn’t just an issue with Samsung devices, by the way. Unless you are buying a stock Android device direct from Google itself, there’s a good chance the manufacturer has added lots of bloatware apps. They do this partly because they want to know how you’re using the device, but also because they get paid by other tech companies to install their apps onto these devices. They will claim they’re doing you a favor by adding all these extra apps.

Usually they’ll claim they’re enhancing the user experience. That’s complete and utter bullshit. They only do it because there is some financial benefit to them. I honestly think there should be laws against bloatware. Sadly, the tech companies are much, much smarter than the people in government, so my only option is to spend a whole day disabling and blocking all the bloatware apps every time I buy a new tablet or smartphone. That’s my main complaint with the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3, but I do have one other issue with this tablet. The case they’ve included doesn’t seem to have much grip. It’s just a little too smooth, and it easily slips out of your hand.

I’ve had quite a few close calls where I’ve almost dropped it, so what I’ve done is order this rugged military style case for my new Samsung. It’s arrived, and I much prefer it. Overall, I think this is a good purchase especially when you consider that I only paid £300 (prices may change) for it. It’s normally around £400 or $500 (prices may change) on Amazon, but I managed to pick up a display model for a lot less. If you have the money I would still recommend you get the Tripltek 8 Pro as an all-in-one phone/tablet replacement. However, if you have a tighter budget, then get the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 tablet, and stick a high capacity memory card inside.

That’s all for today. I hope that was useful. I’ll be back with another video very soon. Later nerds.

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