With the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and 10.5, Samsung has pushed limits with the super-sharp display and ultra thin body. Both tablets come with the best hardware we’ve seen on a tablet and, unsurprisingly, are steeply priced. It’s a bold move considering the tablet market is currently dominated by cheaper Android tablets. Even Apple, feeling the heat, has been forced to bring down iPad prices as more people opt for low-end tablets or large-screen smartphones. It’s up to time to tell whether Samsung will turn the game around with its Tab S line, and if the tablets are worth the premium. We have the 8.4-inch version for the review.
Design and build quality
The Tab S may lack the metallic finish of the iPad, though nothing about the device looks or feels cheap. It sports a dimpled rubber back (previously spotted on Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S5 smartphone) which coupled with a metallic rim provides a comfortable grip and feels solid.
At 125.6mm, the Tab S is narrower than the iPad mini in the portrait mode despite the larger screen, so it’s easier to use the tablet one handed. You can easily hold the device with one hand and type with the other as it’s also very thin and lightweight. The Tab S 8.4 is 37g lighter and 0.9mm thinner than the iPad mini.
The Tab S lets you create multiple users for the device. You can also restrict what other users can see, plus a Kids Mode that provides fun, educational content for children. The fingerprint scanner is a handy way to quickly unlock the tablet or make PayPal payments. Each user can save up to three fingerprints. It’s mostly accurate, though you can type in an alternate password if it fails to detect your fingerprints.
The tablet features the Magazine UX, which comes with the latest version of Samsung’s TouchWiz interface to provide content from various online magazines or email accounts in a tile-based format. Each tile gets updated in real-time and is also useful for gaining quick access to your mailbox, Hancom Office for working on office documents and the calendar app.
Multi window is one of the Tab S’s more usable features, which lets you work on two apps at a time. For example you can access the phonebook while writing an email or watch a video while reading the lyrics on the web browser.
The SIM slot on our edition of the Tab S means you can use it as a primary phone. Knowing well that holding a tablet to your face will make you look ridiculous, Samsung has introduced SideSync, which transfers phone calls to your smartphone. However, the feature can currently be used only with the Galaxy S5.
The Tab S comes with 16GB of built-in storage, of which 10GB is available for use. You can boost the storage up to 128GB with an external micro SD card. The tablet is also available in the 32GB storage option.
The Tab S is one responsive device. After spending hours on the tablet, I found my iPhone slow in comparison. It reacts to the slightest touch and switching between apps is extremely smooth.
Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC with four Krait 400 CPU cores and running at 2.3GHz, this slate excelled in all our benchmark tests. It’s a champ at handling everyday tasks such as watching videos and web browsing as well as intensive gaming and handling demanding apps.
To test how well the tablet can multitask, it was used for browsing the web while keeping other processes such as an eBook download and a Dropbox photo upload running in the background, and the Tab S had no problems coping up. However, the speed and responsiveness are not always consistent. The tablet stutters when there are many apps updating in the background and there were instances when the screen would freeze for a few seconds if the battery was running low.
The 8.4-inch Galaxy Tab S is best for on-the-go reading, even though Samsung has positioned it as a tab for professional use. In the landscape mode, the keyboard covers half the screen, while in the portrait mode text appears too small to get work done quickly. For professional use, you might be better off with the 10.5-inch version.
The TouchWiz interface is simple and easy to get used to, whether you’re used to Samsung devices or not. You can add or remove home screens, create folders and disable or uninstall apps directly from the App Drawer.
The 8MP rear camera is underwhelming. It’s slow to capture shots, while pictures appear dim in well-lit conditions. Picture quality of the 2MP front-facing camera, however, came as a pleasant surprise. It works really well for video calls and self-shots. It has a ‘Beauty Face’ option which detects your face to make the skin look smoother and blurs out any spots.
The display is the Tab S’s key strength. The 2560×1600 resolution Super AMOLED screen renders sharp images and text and holds up well in bright outdoors, while optimizing the tablet’s battery use. The Adapt Display adjusts the screen brightness according to how you’re using the tablet. For example, it automatically dims the screen in a dark room or increases the screen sharpness while watching photos and videos.
The screen is a big plus for reading and surfing the web on the Tab S. The screen is very pixel-dense, which means you can’t see the individual pixels even when you’ve zoomed way into the page.
Tablets are known for underwhelming speakers, but the Tab S tries to break this evil spell. It has stereo speakers on the top and bottom edges of the device that provide surprisingly fuller sound in comparison with some of Samsung’s older tabs.
Speech is clear and detailed enough for watching videos and listening to music. Unlike Samsung’s earlier tabs, speakers are on the edges rather than on the back, which keep you from accidentally blocking them with your hands.
The Galaxy Tab S does not supply earphones, which is shame for a tablet this expensive.
The Tab S showed mixed results with its battery performance. When in the Adaptive Display mode, it provided an impressive battery life of nearly nine hours of web browsing. In the basic mode, the battery life drops significantly, providing just a little more than six hours of web browsing. We recommend keeping the Adaptive Display switched on not just for the sharpness, but also for the battery optimization.
Verdict and price in India
After several attempts at dethroning the iPad, looks like Samsung has finally got it right with the Galaxy Tab S. With an excellent display, powerful processing and great speaker quality, there’s little going against the Galaxy Tab S. It might not provide the 10 hour battery life that the iPad does, but it’s pretty close and adequate to get you through a day’s work.
Priced at Rs 43,090, the 8.4-inch Tab S is on the steeper side, which could be a deal-breaker for those on a budget. But if you can afford it, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is well worth the money, and the Android tablet to beat right now.