Galaxy Tab S review: Samsung takes another swipe at the id

BY GreenBot Staff

Published 24 Jun 2014

It’s been Samsung’s long-running strategy to saturate the market with mobile products, making the Galaxy br name a household name. Known for sometimes over-the-top ridiculous ad campaigns, there’s little chance you’re not aware of the company’s smartphone tablet offerings.

en it comes to the tablet space, Samsung already offers the Tab Note lineups, each with its own respective more powerful “o” version. And now the Tab S adds another tablet family to the Samsung mix.

th so many tablet offerings already, it all may seem pretty hazy, but Samsung has just announced its best tablets yet, the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 10.5. They feature Super AMOD displays with incredibly high resolutions, both are extremely thin light with top-notch specs across the board.

th the Tab S line, Samsung reminds us of its end game: Take down the incredibly popular Apple id.

Hardware that goes toe-to-toe with competition

galaxytabs Mike Homnick

There’s a lot going on with the Tab S, after a quick read of the spec sheet, it’s easy to see that Samsung has its sights on perfection. ile you’ll still find some of the company’s stard features unfortunately plastic build materials, the entire package is more well-thought-out than some of its other products.

th the exception of the battery capacity screen size, the 8.4 10.5 inch versions of the Tab S are nearly identical. The -Fi only units I received each share an Exynos 5 Octa processor, though E variants will ship with Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processors. The Tab S also comes with 3GB of RAM, 16 or 32GB of internal storage, a micro SD card slot, IR blaster, 8-megapixel rear camera, a 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera. 

On the face of both tablets are the usual suspects: Above the displays you’ll find front-facing cameras ambient light sensors, below you’ll see the same button layout found on the Galaxy S5. ke the company’s flagship smartphone, the Tab S line also shares a built-in fingerprint scanner in the home button to unlock the tablet. It can be used to log into multiple user accounts.

Because of the size differences between the two models, the power button, volume rocker, speakers, IR blaster, Micro SD card slot are placed on different sides to accommodate the orientation each was designed for. The 8.4 inch Tab S is designed with portrait orientation in mind, where the 10.5 is meant to be used in lscape view, with the navigation button setup reflecting this. th the exception of a few tweaks, the 8.4-inch model essentially performs like larger Galaxy S5, only much prettier.

The back of the tablets also share a similar setup, housing only the 8-megapixel camera with D flash, a feature from Samsung that has yet to grace any of its products before: docking locks for covers.

Overall, it looks as though Samsung left no stone unturned in terms of hardware features.

A beautiful, overly vibrant display

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ile most of Samsung’s smartphones ship with Samsung’s own, home-made AMOD displays, the company has only offered a single tablet with one, the Galaxy Tab 7.7. A solid offering for its time—but ultimately doomed by an expensive price tag the miserable Android 3.0 Honeycomb—the Tab 7.7 was easily forgotten. th the Tab S, however, the great screens that adorn Samsung’s smartphones are available once again in tablet form.

ile the screen on the Tab S looks stunning, it’s something that only enthusiasts will likely seek out. AMOD displays are bright offer deep blacks, though you’ll find that the colors usually look over-saturated throughout. ether you like this approach is up to personal preference, the Tab S display is nothing out of the ordinary compared to previous Samsung products. rsonally, I like a touch of over-saturation, especially when viewing already vivid colors. Samsung says that its displays offer more than 90 percent of the Adobe RGB color space, where D displays cover around 70 percent. The company is clearly proud of its display technology, is quick to knock others.

th display resolutions of 2560×1600, slightly higher than the id Air, text images on the Tab S tablets are ultra crisp. Given that both tablets share the same resolution, this gives the 8.4-inch Tab S a higher I (pixels per inch) spec of 359, as opposed to the 287 I found on the 10.5-inch model.

Still not intrigued by the fantastic screen on Samsung’s latest tablets? DisplayMate has dubbed Tab S to have the best performing tablet display that it’s ever tested. Now Samsung holds the crown for best smartphone display  tablet display on the market right now, according to DisplayMate, which is nothing to scoff at. 

Adaptive Display Screen Modes


st because the display on the Tab S is ultra vibrant bright, that doesn’t mean you’ll always want it to be. ckily, Samsung has a few tricks of its own to help you adjust the brightness tone of the gorgeous screen, I’m not just talking about tapping on Auto-brightness.

No matter what content you’re viewing, the Tab S will have a setting for it. ether you’re reading an e-book from ay Books, watching a movie, or just surfing the Internet, Samsung’s Adaptive Display will adjust itself for the best viewing experience.

ile Adaptive Display is currently limited to only seven applications, Samsung provides three Screen Modes that work for all apps: oto, Cinema, Basic. Each provides “optimal tone brightness” for the type of content you’re viewing. Another small but nice addition is a setting that will auto-adjust screen tone based on the image that’s currently being displayed to save power.

The screen mode options are indeed nice features, but I’m willing to bet that most users will rely on the Adaptive Display option when it’s supported apps, manually adjust brightness in others. You don’t want to change display settings every time you open a different app.

Actually ultra thin light

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The Tab S out-Airs the id Air in thinness weight

The Tab S tablets offer more than just fantastic displays on average tablets. Samsung went out of its way to make sure it takes “thin light” to a whole new level, too.

Both tablets have an incredibly thin profile of 6.6mm, which is thinner than most smartphones today. The AMOD display also helps to achieve this, as it doesn’t need the backlight that D panels do.

To match its thin profile, the new tablets are also very light. th the larger Tab S weighing only 465 grams, it’s hard to believe you’re holding a tablet with a 10.5-inch screen. As for the 8.4-inch Tab S, it’s 294 gram weight is almost the same (only 4 grams off) as two Galaxy S5s. Incidentally, it’s also 4 grams off from the 7-inch Nexus 7.

Both tablets are thinner lighter than the id Air id Mini, though the difference is negligible. Still, Samsung’s use of plastics allow the Tab S to have larger screens while still remaining lighter than the competition.

Classic Samsung design with a premium look

galaxytabs 3 Mike Homnick

Classic Samsung design, for better or for worse

The Tab S design doesn’t deviate much from the aesthetic of the Galaxy S5, but Samsung introduced a few changes to provide a more premium look feel. The same perforated plastic of the S5 adorns the back of the Tab S provides decent grip, but this is still plastic we’re dealing with. Don’t expect it to feel like precious metal when you hold it.

Colors are limited to Titanium Bronze Shimmering ite, on both themes, the edges are lined in a copper metal finish. The end result really does make the tablets look like premium devices not run-of-the-mill, cheap-looking Samsung hardware. The accented edges don’t necessarily make you think that you’re holding a premium product, but visually, it’s a really nice touch.

I’m a pretty big fan of the bronze color, on which the copper accents along the edges are played down don’t have the stark contrast you see on the white model. The dark option also gives off a refined, timeless look. 

More free content than you’ll know what to do with

galaxytabs 6 Mike Homnick

Samsung could create a tablet with the best specs the world has ever seen, but that may not mean a lot to the average consumer. So, instead of trying to woo e Schmo with hardware alone, Samsung has struck deals with content providers for the Tab S. From a free 3-month subscription to Marvel Unlimited to a year’s worth of Bloomberg Businessek, buying a Tab S gives you a wealth of content.

oking for a good magazine to read? Head over to Samsung’s per Garden app you’ll find some of Condé Nast’s best offerings. GQ, Vogue, Vanity Fair, other popular magazines, all of which look great on the high-resolution display. 

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If you just want to curl up with a good e-book, Samsung has you covered here, too. Kindle for Samsung is a customized app for the Tab S, not only brings you the massive e-book store from Amazon, but also one free e-book a month via Samsung Book Deals.

You’d almost think that Samsung would run out of things to give away to its customers, right? ong. ile it’s hardly the last of the many Samsung Gifts, the company is also giving away the movie Gravity for free. Spoiler: l those dark space shots look great on the AMOD display.

Familiar software with welcomed additions

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The software experience on the Tab S line isn’t going to surprise anyone. The custom interface on Samsung’s latest tablets is a tweaked Touchz, focusing on a magazine-like experience designed with larger screens in mind. The software looks very similar to that of the Tab o lineup, which isn’t a bad thing, as it looks nice.

The software is hardly perfect, can lag a bit from time to time, though not often. Given the heavy customization of the user interface, the 3GB RAM will likely be put to good use.

It’s worth noting the Tab S doesn’t support stylus input. This remains exclusive to the Note line. o knows, if we wait a month, maybe Samsung will release a Galaxy Note o S 10.1, or something with a catchy name like that. at’s one more tablet?

Overall, Samsung’s Tab S software is pretty much your stard faire, but comes with a few apps features that could define the experience for you.

SideSync 3.0


Samsung has a nifty bit of software for s Macs called SideSync. It allows you to see an image of your phone on your ‘s display; share your mouse keyboard; drag drop files. th the Tab S, Samsung extends this function to tablets, allowing you to see operate your Galaxy S5 right on your Tab S display.

en in use, an image of a phone with your Galaxy S5’s homescreen is displayed, you can interact with it just as you would if it was in your h. They onscreen keyboard even adjusts for more typing room. ile SideSync seems like an app you wouldn’t use very often, it’s still incredibly cool works quite well. The full features are limited to the Galaxy S5, but call forwarding works with the Note 3 GS4, too. If you’re married to Samsung’s ecosystem of products, it’s definitely a neat feature.


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Multi-ndow has been available on a good number of Samsung’s phones tablets, so it comes as no surprise that it’s now available on the Tab S. As the name implies, Multi-ndow allows you to run two apps at once, side by side.

The feature is limited to only a hful of apps, but it’s easy enough to watch a movie in one window cruise through the ay Store in another. If there’s a combination of apps you like to have open together, they can be saved as a group so you can open them together more quickly.

Battery life

The Exynos 5 Octa processor powering the Tab S provides a snappy fluid experience, though it’s been known to be a bit of a battery hog at times. ckily, even with the insanely bright display on these tablets, the battery sipped power gracefully when I was using them.

After about four hours of heavy use on the 8.4 inch Tab S, the 4,900 mAh battery had only gone down to 84 percent with the screen brightness cranked all the way up—an impressive performance. My usage included watching a hful of YouTube videos, surfing the web, playing far, far too much Dragons: Rise of Berk, which looks amazing on this screen, I might add. 

Streaming HD video had an obvious impact on battery life, but nothing dramatically different from the competition. Our lab is currently putting the batteries of both Tab S versions through their paces, we’ll add official test numbers to this review soon.


galaxytabs 9 Mike Homnick

Samsung is offering two different covers that snap into the two holes on the back of the Tab S. It’s a little difficult to put the covers on; you need to use a fair amount of pressure to secure them. Still, it’s an interesting method for attaching accessories, ensures a solid connection.

One accessory option is the Book Cover, which can be adjusted to three different viewing angles to provide the best option for watching movies, reading, or typing.

The other option is the Simple Cover, which snaps onto the tablet “simply” covers the screen. ile it doesn’t provide a platform for watching movies or typing, it keeps the tablet slim, with little bulk.

I didn’t get a chance to test it out, but Samsung will also offer a snap-on Bluetooth keyboard for the Tab S at a later date.

Samsung didn’t go anywhere, but it’s back

galaxytabs 4 Mike Homnick

If someone told me that Samsung was going to release another tablet this year, that I was actually going to be impressed by it, I’d probably have rolled my eyes. But here I am, incredibly impressed with what the company has produced.

The Tab S line delivers a double threat by offering the first tablets with a high-res Super AMOD display (which is enough to garner some attention if you’re a geek like me), it’s incredibly thin profile makes it even better. Add the fact that both the 8.4- 10.5-inch versions are lighter than the id Mini id Air, Samsung’s latest flagship tablets are bound to turn some heads.

If the screen thinness of the Tab S line aren’t enough to get you excited, how about the million “gifts” that you’ll get with the purchase? The free content Samsung bundles with these tablets is enough to keep you busy for a while.

I personally like the 8.4-inch Tab S best. It’s just a personal preference, given I like the portability of this size category over 10-inch tablets. But either tablet will provide a stellar experience.

Samsung has continued to churn out tablet after smartphone after tablet, but something about the Tab S duo seems more impressive than any of the competition, especially in the Android space. Maybe it’s the fact the company’s latest flagship tablets really are that good. Or maybe it’s just nice to see a tablet genuinely challenge the id.