It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the Apple iPad family continues to be the dominating force in the world of tablets, but the rest of us know that we have plenty of Android options to consider too. Among the most recent contenders in this touchtastic battle arena is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S, the first ever tablet from Samsung that boasts the company's signature Super AMOLED technology. It comes in both 8.4-inch and 10.5-inch variations; aside from the screen and battery size, the two models are otherwise identically-spec'd. Let's have a closer look.
Galaxy Tab S Video Overview
You might recall that we had our hands-on session with the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 and Galaxy Tab S 8.4 last week. In case you missed it, I've embedded that video above and it should give you a good overview of some of the most critical features.
As far as specs, you can expect a 2560 x 1600 WQXGA Super AMOLED display, 16GB of internal memory, microSD slot good for 128GB more, 3GB of RAM, 8MP camera on the back, 2.1MP camera on the front, Android 4.4 KitKat, MIMO Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, IR blaster, a 7900mAh battery on the 10.5 and a 4900mAh battery on the 8.4. Powering it all is the Samsung Exynos 5 OCTA processor (1.9GHz quad-core + 1.3GHz quad core). There are some interesting Samsung add-ons too, like the ability to mirror your compatible smartphone on the tablet as a window.
5 Things I Loved About This Tablet
Although my time with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 was somewhat limited, I was able to glean some of the key features that make me really like this tablet.
- That Super AMOLED Screen: After using Super AMOLED on smartphones for so long, it's about time that the tech made the leap to the bigger screen of tablets. Between the higher than full HD resolution, the incredibly deep blacks and the richly robust colors, using this tablet is a joy. Admittedly, the higher saturation level isn't for everyone. For me, playing games, watching videos (especially with auto-enhancement) and surfing the web were great.
- Thin and Sleek Design: I know. How thin do you really need to get? Truth be told, those mere millimeters really do make a difference. You'll notice that the bezels are also noticeably thinner than what we saw on the Galaxy Tab 3, for instance, and the tablet itself isn't nearly as "bendy" as the Xperia Z2 Tablet from Sony.
- Extended Battery Life: There's no denying that the Galaxy Tab S, particularly the 8.4-inch version as tested, really looks like a blown-up version of the Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone. It even borrows many of its features, like the Ultra Battery Saving Mode. Even without that extreme solution, battery life on this Super AMOLED tablet was very good.
- Fingerprint Scanner: Speaking of borrowed features, the Tab S has the same fingerprint scanner as its S5 cousin. It can certainly be finicky, but coupled with multi-user support, it's a handy little feature to have.
- The Galaxy Gifts: This isn't so much a feature of the tablet itself as much as it is a feature of what Samsung wants to do. With so many seemingly similar tablets, any extra incentive could tip the scales. Getting $1500 worth of free cloud storage, e-magazine subscriptions and movie rentals isn't too shabby.
5 Things That Weren't So Great
Of course, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S is hardly the perfect product either.
- The "Gold" Trim: Some people think it looks classy. I think it's gaudy. Just give me the regular old silver and be done with it. And on that note, materials that feel higher quality than this plastic would probably help to win some people over too.
- Cover Snap Buttons: Introduced on this series of tablets are the two strange little circle "buttons" on the back for attaching Samsung's cases and covers. Unfortunately, they really break up the aesthetic of the tablet in a not-so-attractive way and they don't feel all that elegant either.
- Where's the IP Certification?: If Samsung is doing the waterproof dance with the S5 and bringing Super AMOLED over from the smartphone world, they should consider giving the waterproof and dustproof treatment to their tablets too. Just a thought.
- Not a Cheap Tablet: Competition is incredibly fierce. It's become far easier than ever to get a pretty decent tablet for $200 or less. The Galaxy Tab S is meant to be a premium-kind of product, but it feels like it'll be difficult to convince consumers to spend the extra dough for some ultra high res Super AMOLEDness.
- Model Confusion: Samsung goes through models like infants go through diapers. In addition to the older products like the Galaxy Note 10.1, there are also plenty of newer tablets like the NotePRO and TabPRO too, as well as the Tab 4 series. That is a lot of tablets that are only incrementally different from one another. Maybe it's time to streamline the product line.
MEGATechie Super Tablet 8.4 or MEGATechie Super Tentative Reaction?
In my limited time with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S, I enjoyed the overall experience. Despite the continuing plastic build, the tablet itself felt solid in my hands and the performance (you can check the AnTuTu and 3DMark benchmarks through the screenshots in the image gallery) was certainly up to snuff. The Super AMOLED screen is also among the best we've seen on a tablet, even if we've already been spoiled by what we see on flagship smartphones already.
The Galaxy Tab S, however, suffers from at least two problems. First, it's joining a crowded family of Galaxy tablets and it could very easily get lost in the mix. Second, it doesn't really offer much of a "deal" advantage. The Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is US$399.99 ($419.99 Canadian) and the 10.5-inch model is US$499.99 ($519.99 Canadian), putting it exactly on par with the iPad mini with Retina and the iPad Air. Galaxy Gifts aside, Joe Average consumer will likely lean toward Cupertino without a compelling reason to think otherwise. And for the geekier among us, the hopeful promise of a Nexus 9 right around the corner may be more enticing.
The more budget-conscious among us are likely better off getting more of a standard tablet at half the price. If you do get a Galaxy Tab S, though, you'll likely enjoy the overall package and experience.