Gear Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab E SM-T561

The Samsung Galaxy Tablet E 9.6 was launched way back in 2015 but is still being made and distributed by Samsung. The reasons I decided to purchase one was mainly for it to be used as a multimedia device, where I can binge on my series, as well as used it as a secondary monitor to my laptop, to increase my productivity. How does a 2-year-old tablet fare in 2017? Read on to find out.

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What’s in the box


  • Unit
  • USB cable (1 meter)
  • 2A charger
  • Manual

Build Quality

The tablet comes in two colors; black and white. I decided to buy the black variant as I already got tired of white devices. Positioned as a budget tablet, the Tab E 9.6 is primarily made of plastic material, well-built, with no apparent creaking sound produced when pressure is applied. The back panel is made of high-quality plastic with mesh texture for that added grip.


The back panel features a 5-megapixel camera, a single back-firing speaker as well as the Samsung logo.


Flip it over and you’ll find the ginormous 9.6-inch TFT display. Just above it are the Samsung logo and a 2-megapixel snapper. Below, one can find the home button and non-lit capacitive keys.


The top edge houses the Micro USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack. The tactile power button and the volume rocker is located on the right edge while a 3G SIM slot and a micro SD slot can be found on the left edge, both of which are covered with plastic flaps. Meanwhile, the bottom edge houses the mic.

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The device is heavy, make no mistake about it. It weighs 495g; that’s half a kilo. Coming from an iPad mini, the additional weight of the Tab E 9.6 is very noticeable. Having significant weight and plastic build usually is not an ideal couple, and sadly, the Tab E doesn’t give you that confidence it will survive a waist high drop.

(Edit: after months of using, it not only survived drops, it came out unscathed)


The Tab E 9.6 sports a ginormous TFT screen measuring 0.4 short of 10-inches. It has a screen resolution of 800×1280 with 157 points pixel density.


Due to the screen resolution, the screen will not be blowing anyone away. Pixelations are very noticeable on close inspection and jaggedness of edgess can be observed on small icons. Colors are rendered ok. It’s not that bad, just don’t expect much out of this budget device.


Overall, it’s still a very good multimedia device and if you’re someone who loves playing games, surfing the net or watching TV series, the display size is an advantage.

The display has wide viewing angles but can appear flushed out under direct sunlight. The Tab E 9.6 does not have a light sensor so get used to adjusting the screen brightness manually based on the environment you are in.

Since TFT LCD technology was used, and also factoring in the big display size, the Tab E 9.6 suffers from light bleeding. However, it’s only noticeable on dark backgrounds and in low-lit environments.


When I first got the tablet, I did not notice the problem as the store I bought from had very bright lights. I tried returning it to the store the next day after I noticed the light bleeding on some areas of the display while doing a reboot of the device.

Sadly, after opening 4 units, they all had the same problem, light bleeds in some areas. I didn’t bother to return the device or did I ask for a refund because frankly, there isn’t any tablet in the store that has this big screen size with a comparatively low tag price. Also, I had come to enjoy using it, being spoiled by that big real estate.

Doing a quick Google search, apparently, light bleeding is fairly common for big displays like monitors and TVs that still uses this old LCD screen technology. So I had come to terms with the problem. Still, I can’t help but feel cheated by Samsung, supposedly a leader in display technology lol.


I would like to point out that there are currently two three variants of the Galaxy Tab E 9.6 being sold at the time of this writing. There’s a US exclusive version with 1.5GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and a quad-core Snapdragon processor clocked at 1.2ghz. It also has a huge 7300mah battery to boot. That variant also is upgradeable to Android Marshmallow 5.1.

[Edit: The other two, namely SM-T560 and SM-T561Y, have identical internal storage of 8GB and lower end processor. Both are officially stuck with Android KitKat. The only difference is the former (SM-T560) is wifi only while the latter supports 3G (SM-T561Y).]

Since I bought this in Vietnam, I got the international version, which comes with the same amount of RAM, but a smaller 8GB of storage and a slightly higher clocked quad core processor at 1.3ghz. The processor used on the international version is different and has the moniker “Spreadtrum SC8830”.

Basically, it’s an older and cheaper processor and as such this one will be stuck with Android KitKat 4.4. This variant also has a smaller 5000mah battery. I had come to know this information after purchasing the device, as it simply would not upgrade to Marshmallow, contrary to what was specified on the Samsung website. So I had to research and boom. Again, feeling cheated lol.

Now, 8GB of storage is small so better invest in a good high-speed MicroSD card. According to the Samsung website, the Tab E 9. 6 can accommodate up to 256GB of memory. Also, unlike other KitKat devices, it supports moving app data to the MicroSD. That is if the app developers have allowed it.


Day to day usage may vary but I am fairly satisfied with this tablet. I use it to watch series, write blog entries, check out social media feeds and write emails. From time to time I do play games on it and so far I have found some games compatible and playable in this tablet like Asphalt 8 Xtreme, Modern Combat 5, Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Bullet force. Not a bad list for a Kitkat based Tablet.

Just be wary of the storage requirements of the games you will download. The 8GB simply isn’t enough as some games and apps aren’t allowed to be transferred to the microSD. I have had insufficient storage popping up from time to time. I will update the list when I am able to try out more games in the future.

[Edit: Rooting and installing App2SD allowed me to partition my MicroSD card and transfer apps on the partitioned storage]

For everyday use, the tablet is able to handle simple tasks and it works flawlessly. Doing heavy multitasking and app switching is when you will start noticing occasional lags, but not enough to tarnish the experience. I made it a habit to access the app switcher and close apps I no longer need running.


Since this is a Samsung tablet, it supports Samsung’s Multi-Window feature to take advantage of the big real estate. This is something Android Nougat users currently enjoy but has been implemented by Samsung on their Note and Tablet devices since Android KitKat. It’s useful for doing two things at the same time. I used it primarily to watch YouTube videos while at the same time, browsing thru my feeds in Facebook or checking emails. It’s also useful for comparing two documents side by side.


This device has a 2MP f/2.4 front facing camera and a 5MP f/2.2 rear snapper with auto focus. The rear camera is capable of taking 1280×720 HD video recordings. As a tablet, I really didn’t expect much in the camera department. You be the judge. Below are sample photos were taken with this device.

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The tablet supports USB 2.0 OTG function so you can connect USB OTG flash drives as well as other peripherals, like a mouse, wired keyboard or game controllers. It doesn’t have support for MHL so you can’t connect the device to a TV via HDMI. Since this tablet accepts 3G SIMs, you can send SMS as well as make or take calls. However, you would need a headset or use the loud speaker to be able to hear the other person as this doesn’t have an earpiece. Other connectivity options include Bluetooth 4.0 a2dp and A-GPS.

Battery life

The international version of the Tab E 9.6 packs a 5000mah battery. Sounds huge right? Let me remind you that the US version has a bigger, meaner, 7300mah battery. In short, they have the better version of the Tab E 9.6. Anyway, the 5000mah battery lasts me more than a day if I’m not using the tablet to watch movies, series or playing games. The 2A charger that comes with it is rather fast in topping up the battery. I haven’t observed the time charging it from 0 to 100 percent as I usually just leave it plugged in overnight.

The Verdict


Should you buy this two-year-old tablet in 2017. The answer is not that straight forward. Obviously, if you consider the performance, the Android version, and overall specifications, there are better options out there from Apple, Huawei, Lenovo, Asus, and Xiaomi. However, there aren’t many tablets of this size at its current price range (200.00 USD). It won’t run the most high end of games nor is this the fastest tablet. It also doesn’t have the ideal screen resolution for its display size, however, at this price range, ok performance and good looks, it’s enough for me to keep this tablet for now.


  • OK performance and can still run latest games with KitKat support
  • Big screen for a more immersive experience
  • USB OTG support
  • Can run supported apps side by side even if not nougat
  • SIM slot for texting, making calls and data connection


  • The 8GB internal storage limits app installations
  • Small RAM at 1.5GB
  • No more Android upgrade down the road
  • Quite heavy and will probably break on fall
  • 3G connection only
  • Price may not be justified
  • Screen Resolution
  • Sunlight legibility questionable
  • Suffers from light bleed

(Edit: Updating the Tab E SM-T561 is now possible thru custom ROMs. Check the guide I posted)

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