Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Passes The Drop Test

Samsung's Rugged Tablet

Samsung has gone rugged. The company this week sent the CRN Test Center for review a Galaxy Tab Active, its super-powerful 8-inch tablet that's as waterproof as last year's Galaxy S5 and shockproof too. With an IP67 rating, the Active repels sand, dirt and dust, and will even live past the clumsiest of shift workers. Heralded as its "first B2B tablet," Samsung unveiled the device at IFA in Barcelona in September. Here's a hands-on look at seven of the major features.

Look And Feel

The Galaxy Tab Active can work with or without the included protective shell. It's dustproof and waterproof either way, but it's obviously more resistant to shock with an extra layer of rubber protecting its corners and edges. More on that later. Without the case, this 8-inch tablet looks and feels much like the 8.4-inch Galaxy Tab S, which in August we called Samsung's best tablet yet. It's still got edge-to-edge glass and a physical Home key, but it has dropped the capacitive keys for Back and Recent Apps in favor of physical ones, and they no longer light up. And while at 0.38 of an inch it's noticeably thicker than the Tab S's 0.26, its weight of 13.9 ounces is actually just 2.5 ounces heavier than the Tab S.

Anti-Shock Value

With its anti-shock cover in place, Samsung claims that the Active can resist drops from a height of 4 feet, which is about the height one might hold the device just below eye level for reading. The test device resisted several drops from that height, all of which found a corner or an edge at the point of impact. We didn't drop it on its face, although the case does add about an eighth of an inch of space between its edge and the floor. The one-piece cover goes on more easily than it comes off, and there's zero chance that it might fall off accidentally. The underside of the case is made of dimpled plastic, just like the bare unit's back cover. Beneath that cover is a rubber gasket surrounding the battery compartment that keeps unwanted elements from reaching the circuitry. Power and volume controls work well with or without the cover in place. Openings provide access to the main camera, its flash, the unit's rear-firing speaker, headset jack and data/charging port. For the latter, Samsung has forgone the waterproof cover in favor of a waterproof connector. Bravo.


The Active won't break any pixel-per-inch records, but its intended market of business users doesn't necessarily care about that. Samsung's B2B device faces the world with a 1,280 x 800 LCD panel that delivers 189 ppi resolution. What matters more might be its 400-nit backlight, which makes the Active well suited for easy outdoor viewing, even in bright sunlight. Fortunately there was plenty of bright sunlight on testing day, and we trotted the unit into the cold and read email for a while with no strain whatsoever.


Samsung packs a relatively large 4,450 mAh battery into the Active and rates it at 10 hours of continuous use. And in tests it came pretty darn close. The unit remained powered up for six full hours and still had 49 percent of its battery remaining while we wrote this. It's also noteworthy that Samsung's new tablet includes a three-pin Pogo connector for cradling one or more devices for quick charging. The more durable Pogo connectors also will help prevent damage to the relatively flimsy micro-USB connector.


For operating Active with a gloved hand, Samsung includes C-Pen, a bare-bones stylus that keeps the input flowing but lacks a menu button, pressure sensitivity and other features of the S-Pen included with some of Samsung's other tablets. The C-Pen tucks neatly into a slot in the shell, where it's safe from accidentally sliding out.

Secured With Knox

Appealing to enterprise IT departments, Samsung equips Active with Knox, a security system that employs dual-use personas, trusted boot and integrity measurement based on trusted zones. It also implements Security Enhancements for Android, a derivative of SELinux that's designed to plug the security holes that older versions of Android leave for apps to exploit. Active runs Android 4.4.

The Internals

Listing for $699, the Active is built around a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 1.5 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. There's no SD card slot. It also includes USB 2.0, Wi-Fi and NFC, and supports Samsung's proprietary screen-sharing technology for connecting to an HDMI-equipped monitor. A 3.1-megapixel auto-focusing main camera with LED flash also can work as a barcode scanner.