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Lifewire / Erika Rawes
Decent sound quality
Has a headphone jack
Doesn’t work with S Pen
Relatively low resolution
Mediocre rear camera
The Galaxy Tab A 2020 is a decent little tablet, but it’s a bit underwhelming compared to Samsung’s other offerings.
Samsung has long been considered a leader in mobile device innovation, so like most people, I was excited to hear about the release of the budget Galaxy Tab 2020. I was eager to see what this affordable little tablet offered in terms of design, features, and specs. After testing the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 2020 for almost a month, it wasn’t exactly what I expected. Here’s my full review of the 8.4-inch Tab A.
The Galaxy Tab A is compact and lightweight, weighing only 10.6 ounces. You can easily hold it in one hand, as it measures only 7.95 inches tall and 4.93 wide. It doesn’t feel as sturdy as other Samsung tablets like the Tab S6 though. The back of the Tab A feels as though it’s made of a plastic-like material, instead of aluminum or glass-like other Samsung mobile devices. The back shows fingerprints too, badly.
On the plus side, the tablet has a headphone jack on top for connecting a pair of headphones or an external speaker. It has a USB-C connector on the bottom and a built-in SIM that you can attach to your preferred wireless provider (it’s compatible with the major providers).
The 8.4-inch display is reasonably clear, but it’s nothing special. It has a 1920 x 1200 WUXGA resolution and 16M color depth. Shows, movies, YouTube videos, and TikTok videos display nicely, but you can see a difference when you play it next to the Galaxy Tab S6 (which displays 2560 x 1600).
Text displays clearly when browsing the web or reading an email, but I did find myself angling the Tab A upward towards my face when out in direct sunlight. Tab A has an outdoor model, which improved the outdoor picture slightly. But, it still lacked some of the depth and contrast I see in other Samsung devices.
The Galaxy Tab 2020 has a 1.8 GHz Octa-Core processor, the Samsung Exynos 7904. It has 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of built-in storage. You can expand the storage to 512 MB though. This is not an ideal tablet for productivity, as it simply doesn’t have the processing speed. It lags sometimes when orientating between landscape and portrait mode, and it tends to be a little lethargic when it comes to managing multiple tasks simultaneously. The touch screen is slightly oversensitive too, and I found the tablet would frequently over-scroll past my desired target.
On PCMark Work 2.0, it scored a 5406, which is around 40% less than the Snapdragon 855 chip. On Geekbench 5, it received a single-core score of 272 and a multi-core score of 913.
The Galaxy Tab A is not compatible with any version of the S Pen. This was a huge disappointment, as a lot of users (myself included) enjoy having the option to use the S Pen, and previous versions of the Tab A were compatible with the stylus.
This is a tablet designed for communication, not productivity. It’s ideal for video calls, messaging, emailing, and social media. It’s also a good option as an on-the-go entertainment device for watching movies and shows or web surfing.
Tab A 2020 has two speakers on the bottom portion of the tablet. It doesn’t appear to have special audio tuning or support for Dolby Atmos, but the audio sounds pretty good, and it’s one of the tablet’s more admirable features. When I’m watching a show, the sound is rich and immersive. Calls also sound clear, and I rarely have trouble hearing the other party.
The Galaxy Tab A works on the 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands. The fact that Tab A is such an affordable LTE tablet appears to be what sets it apart. It works on 3G and 4G networks, and it’ll work with the major carriers (Verizon, Sprint/T-Mobile, and AT&T). I tested the tablet on the Sprint/T-Mobile network in my home, which is about 15 miles outside of Raleigh, NC. In my home, I’m able to get about 10 Mbps (download) and 2 Mbps (upload), but the carrier I have is notoriously slow in my area.
When I hopped on Wi-Fi, speeds increased exponentially, and I was able to clock 123/39 Mbps.
The Tab A 2020 has a 5 MP front camera, and it takes decent selfies. I would not use this as my preferred camera though. The rear camera is 8 MP, and it doesn’t have a flash. It does have autofocus, a pro mode, and a few other features. It doesn’t compare to the camera you’d see on a modern flagship phone though. Video resolution maxes out at FHD on both the front and rear cameras. You can take photos and videos indoors or in the daytime in a pinch, but the nighttime camera quality is not very good.
The 5000 mAh battery lasts for up to 12 hours of video playtime. I went into settings and selected a number of battery-draining options to see how much battery time I could get out of the device. I turned the brightness to its max setting and turned the display timeout to 30 minutes, and I was able to get a full day of on and off to use out of Tab A.
It has a fast-charging USB-C port, and it took three and a half hours to fully charge the battery (from about 10% full).
The Galaxy Tab A runs on Android 9. It doesn’t yet have the software upgrade to Android 10, but that should come in the near future.
Tab A has facial recognition, and you can also set a pattern to unlock your screen. It doesn’t have some of the other biometrics like an iris scanner though.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab A sells for between $240 and $280, depending on which carrier you have. This is an affordable price point for an LTE tablet, and the low price point appears to be the tablet’s biggest benefit.
The Fire HD 8 Plus is another good option as a budget tablet, offering a 2 GHz quad-core processor, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB or 64 GB of storage, and a MicroSD slot that supports up to a TB of storage. It provides Alexa and a game mode for a better, distraction-free gaming experience. The camera on the Fire Tab isn’t great though, as the front and rear cameras are only 2 MP. The Fire Tab also doesn’t allow for a cellular connection. The Samsung Galaxy Tab A has some perks like a better front and rear camera, LTE connectivity, and biometrics, but you pay more for those additions. If you just want a basic tab for gaming, emailing, and watching shows on the couch, you’ll like the Fire Tab. If you want a tablet you can use on the go, you’ll like Tab A.
It’s not a bad tablet, but it just doesn’t wow.
The lack of S Pen support is extremely disappointing, but I can’t be too hard on an under $300 tablet with an octa-core processor, biometrics, decent front and rear cameras, and LTE connectivity.
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