The Lenovo Tab3 8 is a tablet for the family. With an 8-inch screen, dual front-facing speakers, solid battery life, and a sturdy body, it’s good for browsing the web in your armchair or handing off to your children for a long car ride. A built-in Kids mode adds parental controls and supports multiple users. If you’re looking for an affordable Android tablet that everyone can use, the Tab3 8 is worth considering. But if you don’t need access to the Google Play Store, the Amazon Fire HD 8 gets you even better battery life, more RAM, and dual-band Wi-Fi for a lower price.
The Tab3 8 is a sturdy black plastic slab with blue accents along the sides. Measuring 8.3 by 4.9 by 0.4 inches (HWD) and weighing 11.6 ounces, it’s a bit hefty. It isn’t rugged or rated for any official drop or water resistance, but it feels durable enough that I wouldn’t hesitate to hand it to a child (of course, a protective case can’t hurt).
You’ll find a power button and volume rocker on the right, a 3.5mm audio jack and micro USB charging port on top, and a flap on the left that gives you access to a microSD card slot that worked with a 256GB card. A pair of Dolby Atmos-enhanced speakers on the front provide decent audio—they won’t fill the room and sound tinny at higher volumes, but it’s better than what you get from most tablets in this price range.
There’s an 8-inch, 1,280-by-800 IPS display front and center. The resolution works out to a somewhat sparse 189 pixels per inch, which is common for the price. Text and graphics are clear, colors are rich and saturated, and viewing angles are good, but you can notice individual pixels if you look closely. Screen brightness could afford to be a bit higher, since the panel is somewhat reflective and doesn’t get bright enough to be easily visible outdoors.
Connectivity options include Wi-Fi on the 2.4GHz band and Bluetooth 4.0. The Tab3 8 worked fine with the 2.4GHz router in PC Labs, but if you want faster speeds and more reliable connectivity, the Fire HD 8 and Iconia One 8 both support dual-band Wi-Fi.
The Tab3 8 is powered by a 1GHz MediaTek MT8161 processor and 1GB of RAM. It’s roughly on par with the Iconia One 8 in terms of performance, which means it’s perfectly fine for browsing the web, watching videos, and playing simple games. It’s not good for high-end gaming, though, and you’ll quickly run up against the RAM usage limit if you launch more than a handful apps at once.
Battery life is solid. The slate’s 4,290mAh battery clocked 5 hours, 47 minutes in our rundown test, in which we stream full-screen video over Wi-Fi at most screen brightness. Still, it should be enough battery to keep the kids occupied on a long car ride.
The 5-megapixel camera on the back of Tab3 8 will serve in a pinch if your phone isn’t on hand, but don’t expect too much from it. With good lighting, it can take reasonably clear pictures, though there’s little in the way of stabilization so you have to be careful to hold the tablet steady when shooting. Low-light shots are noisy. It also records muddy 720p video at 30fps. The 2-megapixel front camera will do for video chats but takes grainy selfies.
The Tab3 8 runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow with a minimal UI layer. It’s outdated by phone standards, though there are relatively few tablets (especially in this price range) running newer software.
One big advantage the Tab3 8 has over the Fire HD 8 is support for the Google Play store. The Fire HD 8 runs a heavily customized version of Android geared toward Amazon apps and services—it has an app store, but the range of content isn’t as diverse as what you can find in Google Play.
Access to kids
For families, the Tab3 8 has a Kids mode, accessible from the settings panel. It lets you add up to three children as users and create each profile for each of them. You can grant and restrict access to certain apps, enable safe web browsing, and limit usage time. There are no child-specific apps or home screens like you’ll find in many of our favorite tablets for kids—it’s up to you download and curate the experience.
Bloatware is limited. There are a few preinstalled apps, but they can all be removed. Out of 16GB of internal storage, roughly half is used, leaving you with 8.75GB. If you need more space you can always use a microSD card.