Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 (2015) with S-pen and LTE

Discussion in 'Samsung Galaxy Note and Tab' started by Steve B, Nov 6, 2017.

  1. Steve B

    Steve B Moderator Moderator

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    So, I picked this puppy up a few weeks ago, and after setting it up (my first Android device!), I've decided to keep it as my secondary device. Lots of people have wanted something like this device with Windows, and for now, this is as close as I can get. As of October 2017, this is practically the only 8.0 tablet anywhere that actually has a pen silo and LTE. As a mobile note taker, it's perfect IMO. It's literally 1/2 the weight of my 10.1" 16:10 windows device, but because of it's 4:3 aspect ratio, I only loose .5" of screen width. A superb trade off. There was some chunkiness out of the box with Android, but I guess you've gotta just spend the time to set things up just so. Now it's working great. I also had to hunt out new apps, as things seem to work differently in Android, even for the same apps sometimes.

    I'm gonna talk about how I've set it up, what I'm using on Android, and the ins and outs of it as my mobile, hand-held, secondary device. I'm considering getting a lightweight Samsung case that has the wrap around cover to prop the device up in landscape mode, but for now, no cover.

    If you want to buy this device, you have to hunt for the "Samsung Tab A p355" model. I got mine on Amazon from gsmhero as the seller, but I'm sure there are others that are just as good. This model was not released in the US. Only the non LTE, non-spen version was released here, which you can go see at some Best Buys. It looks a lot like an iPad Mini.

    Here's the basics of what it has to offer-
    -EMR spen in a silo
    -LTE (unlocked, I know it alteast works on ATT)
    -8.0", 4:3 ratio, so very good for portrait-mode in-the-hand use
    -superb battery life (12+ hours)
    -light weight (.7 pounds) and thin
    -fast enough for general use
    -only 300$ on ebay, so I'm not fretting about breaking it

    Here's what it's missing-

    -windows programs
    -ios Messages
    -an actually good keyboard dock
    -good speakers- it has one, which is adequate at best for a quick browsing video and such. Definitely not a multi-media device.

    OS-
    It came with Marshmallow, but it updated to Nougat the other day, so it has pretty robust multi-window abilities. This really helps, and I've already started using it to gather info from one app to input it easily to another.

    Important Apps and Settings I'm using across the OS-
    Developer Settings-
    You access these by going into the "About Tablet" tab in your settings, and 3x tapping the model number three times. I know, like Dorothy or something. Then you get a whole new section of settings full of ways to screw your tablet up with. :) After some research, I've turned off "Window animation scale" and "Animator Duration Scale", while turning the "Transition Animation Scale" to 1x. I also activated the "Force GPU Rendering" tab. Does the tablet now seem faster, like an iOS device, with faster, more responsive zooming and transitions? Yes. Debate is open about how much of a difference it makes, but the user experience __feels__ better to me, so I'm a happy camper. At the very least, the touch input experience is way more responsive than any Windows tablet I've used, where there always seem to be hiccups here and there.
    Advanced Features Settings, Spen section-
    This is where a lot of the pen magic happens on this device. I don't care for the Samsung stuff though. I turned off Screen-off Memo, Air Command, the Floating Icon, etc. I made nothing happen when the Spen is pulled out and most important of all- I've turned off the Power Saver setting, which turned off the digitizer when the spen is in the silo. When this is turned off, you can use other pens even when the pen is in the silo. Perfect! On this point- almost all my EMR pens have an off set but write fine, but the pen that came with my Thinkpad Tablet 10 works perfectly. No offset, but bigger barrel, which I like.
    SwiftKey Keyboard-
    This is what I ended up on. The autocorrect word-suggestions are good, and the keyboard has many layout options, including full sized and floating, as well as split thumb. Plus you can decide how big your keys are. You can also move the split thumb keyboard up or down the screen or farther inwards or outwards as well. This is really important IMO when you are trying to type while holding an 8" tablet in your hands. I hate having my keyboard at the bottom of the screen on a device larger (and heavier) than a phone. The Windows touch keyboard sucks for standing tablet use. The iOS keyboard is great on a phone or when typing at a tablet, but I've also not cared much for it when typing on a tablet while standing. This keyboard has been great so far. Happy to have recommendations though.
    All in One Gestures-
    After trying a few apps, this is what I landed on. There are other apps that seem more powerful in terms of fine details you can change, but I've found they don't always respond when used. This app is 100% if you hit the right area on the screen (which I find easy to do). I set it to go Back on the right hand side of the screen (not just in browsing, but also in settings and such), and to go to the App Switcher when I swipe from the left. Combined, these provide OS-wide benefits that seem really essential. I don't care much for the buttons at the bottom, because I find it awkward to shift my hand placement so much. This app allows easy access to the 2 most needed functions all the time without effort.

    Other apps I'm using-
    OneNote-
    The app is good, but I admit- I miss a number of key things that are in the Windows version. Why can't I move ink with Lasso tool (it only moves text)? Why can't I erase with my pen button or eraser? Why can't my pen button actually do anything? Why can't I insert a space? ERGH! Having said that, it's lovely to have all my desktop notes here, and the syncing is perfect. I can ink to my heart's content, and the writing experience is excellent. I hope they develop the app more. If I had a lasso tool and I could use the pen button for something, I'd be set.
    Business Calendar Pro 2-
    I really like this app because of how touch focused it is (you can change the duration of appointments with touch, as well as move them to new times), and because it shows (IMO) the right amount of multi-day scheduling (yet not quite a week) to really use an 8.0 screen well. Tap an appointment and you get a fly out window with all the details, but which doesn't pull you away from the current UI. Worth a few bucks.
    Sketchbook Pro-
    I need good geometric tools for work field sketching, and this app is almost as fully featured as the desktop app.
    Google Voice-
    I receive all my work number texts and calls directly to the device. Works great. Google dictation is very good.
    Dropbox-
    As seamless as ever.

    Apps I'm game for recommendations on-
    Gmail-
    This is a pretty good app, I gotta say. Better touch interface than a lot of stuff on Windows. I can't seem to find much in the way of settings though? Any recommendations for other email apps that are better?
    Opera-
    I don't use this on the desktop, but I found it a very good, light, responsive browser, after trying quite a few. So, I'm sticking with it for now. One important thing for this was to uncheck "wrap around text" in the settings. This let me zoom in dynamically, without it thinking I wanted to reorient all the text at a bigger font. Now, I can zoom in smoothly to click a button, like in iOS. Yeah! I also like Tabs that I can see almost all the time, to more easily switch. I never could find a browser that let me do more gesture based things, like open or close or switch a tab with gestures. Any input on that?
    Sketchup Alternative?
    I'm still on the hunt for a Sketchup alternative so I can make basic models in the field. I need to be able to set distances that relate to each other (this side is 10', that other 25') by inputting the distance, as well as make curves, circles, squares, etc. I need Layers or some sort, and some sort of high res exporting. If it had a 1/8" grid I can lay under it, that would be great too. This currently seems unfindable.
    Lecture Notes-
    I saw this recommended as a good OneNote alternative, and that it offers OneNote compatability. We'll see that means. But if I could have more powerful options in the app, but still sync seamlessly to my Windows desktop onenote folders, I'd be game.
    Good Cheap Mini-SD Card???
    Haven't gotten one yet, but it would be nice


    That's it for now. If others have the device, or the older 8" Note, chime in. When, or if, I pick up a case or try out some new apps, I'll update.
     
    DRTigerlilly, Kumabjorn and hiramkey like this.
  2. kitenski

    kitenski Pen Pal - Newbie

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    I just came onto these forums trying to find a recommendation for a cheap 2nd device to be used for note taking when on the phone etc.

    This looks like what I need, I'm in the UK and can only find a seller in Spain, but it's not clear if the model has a pen or not? The description just says "
    Samsung Galaxy Tab A P355 8.0" 16GB LTE Grey Tablet"

    Will this have a pen as it's a P355 version?
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2017
  3. Steve B

    Steve B Moderator Moderator

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    I would always always always directly ask the seller if it has a pen, but, yes- my understanding is the p355 model is the one that comes with pen and LTE. Amazon sellers also sell them if you look it up with that model number included. That’s how I ended up getting mine.
     
  4. violajack

    violajack Scribbler - Standard Member

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    I have a Note 8.0 and two Tab A 9.7s with spen (one in use by my 5 year old). I use chrome as my browser on Android, but mostly use apps rather than webpages to do things.

    I use Feedly for a news reader and tapatalk for the forums. One Note for note taking and other inking tasks. MobileSheets for my music.

    I also have the keyboard case for the 9.7, and while it's a nice little netbook type set up, I stopped using it due to bulk. I prefer these little tablets be readers and notepads. I've got other things with keyboards if I want to type longer things.
     
  5. kitenski

    kitenski Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Thanks Steve, confirmed it has a pen.

    Last question is around performance, how is it? I currently have the latest Fire HD 8 which is usable, so as long as this isn't any slower it could well work for me!

    cheers,
    Greg
     
  6. Steve B

    Steve B Moderator Moderator

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    IMO, it runs fine. It’s not my primary computer, but I’m browsing, running OneNote, checking mail, using Dropbox, etc. Seems pretty snappy. Note the things I changed in my first post to smooth out performance.

    I’ve been using a BayTrail windows tablet, and this seems faster and smoother. Of course, it’s not as responsive nor as powerful as a new iPad, but it’s also 2 years old and costs 1/2. ;) I do think that the lower resolution helps it be snappy- it doesn’t have to push so many pixels around. On that same note, I don’t mind the lower dpi, but it’s no retina. It’s still higher res than many older laptops I’ve had. Nice, bright, colorful screen too.
     
  7. kitenski

    kitenski Pen Pal - Newbie

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    rats, the one place I've found in the UK/Europe that actually had one for sale has sold it :(
     
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