When Samsung last sent International business Times a Galaxy tablet, the device didn’t get a particularly warm reception. This time, the South Korean company provided a much better offering: the Galaxy Tab S (8.4 inch version).
The S line of Samsung’s tablets sits at the top of the range, offering the best features and specs. Naturally, they also command the highest prices — this 8.4 inch model is $400, the same price as the Apple iPad Mini (with Retina display), its chief competition.
Model: Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
Size and Weight: 8.37 x 4.94 x 0.26 in., 10.37 oz.
Display: 8.4-inch, 2560×1600, 360 ppi
Camera: 8MP rear, 2.1MP front
Platform: Android KitKat 4.4
performance: Exynos 5 Octa (1.9Ghz Quadcore + 1.3 Ghz Quadcore), 3GB RAM
Memory: 16GB internal storage, expandable via microSD card to another 128GB
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth® 4.0, USB 2.0
The 8.4 inch Galaxy Tab S (decimals count in the tablet world) has one of Samsung’s Super AMOLED screens, with a resolution of 2560 by 1600 pixels and 360 pixels per inch.
The display is gorgeous. Just about everything looks good on this tablet, from music videos to games and weather apps. The colors are bright, punchy and really well saturated, as we’ve come to expect from Super AMOLED displays.
It’s nice to see a Samsung device in a color other than black or white. Our test model’s scheme is officially called “Titanium Bronze,” officially, but it bears a striking semblance to Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana color shades. In a world filled with brushed aluminum backplates and black bezels, it’s good to stand out from the crowd.
The layout is traditional Samsung Galaxy. There’s a center home button with capacitive buttons on either side. The power and volume toggles are placed on the upper right hand side. Samsung has played it safe and smart with this design — anyone familiar with other Galaxy devices will feel at home quickly with the Tab S.
Unlike its cheaper variant, the Tab S is actually rather well put together. Even though the tablet is ridiculously light (10.37 ounces), it doesn’t flex much, and it survived plenty of accidental falls without issue.
Plus it’s fast. The Tab S is equipped with an Exynos 5 Octa setup (two quad core processors, clocked at 1.9 and 1.3 Ghz respectively) and 3 GB of RAM — the Tab S never really struggles to do anything. Couple that with the 4900 mAh battery, and the Tab S clung to life for an average time of 11 hours when used as a media consumption/light gaming device. Use the Tab S as a standby music player, and it’ll last around five times longer (Samsung lists the official capability at 52 hours, but for the sake of keeping neighbors happy, we didn’t attempt to replicate that number)
But for the times you do listen to anything with audio, be it music or otherwise, you’ll notice the Tab S’s stellar speakers, placed at the top and bottom of the body. They’re loud enough to serve as a makeshift sound system for a small gathering when needed.
But the Tab S is not without its flaws. Although it’s so well put together, the Tab S still has that same “turtle shell” problem when laid on its back. It’s doubtful that it would be in that particular position often, but it’s a silly piece of design that’s stuck with the product line.
On the subject of design issues, let’s go back to those speakers. When you’re holding the tablet sideways (as you do while watching a video) you’ll probably use both hands to hold the device in place. The problem with this on the Tab S is that your hands will cover the speakers if you turn the tablet counter-clockwise. The only real way to hear the speakers is to keep it flipped clockwise. It’s not so much a problem (since there’s that obvious workaround), but it is a really strange oversight.
Apart from that, the only other issue is the lack of storage space. There’s 16 GB onboard, with 11 or so of that available for use (the Android OS, as with any operating system, always takes its angel’s share). There’s a microSD slot that will boost your storage capacity 128 gigs, but there are tablets in this price range that come with 32 or 64 GB onboard.
There’s a lot of competition out there for this tablet, especially at its premium $400 price point. That’s a bit more expensive than most Android tablets this size (again, it’s the same price as Apple’s most expensive iPad Mini — also an excellent tablet. That decision comes down to which operating system you prefer), but if you want the best Samsung offers, the Tab S is it.