Samsung Galaxy Tab S

When you think of tablets, you either thinking of the iPad or an Android Tablet. Surface users don’t feel offended, we are talking about the majority. So coming back to the iPad and Android tablets, until we had the Samsung Galaxy Tab S in our hands, it was always the iPad that was used as a benchmark device. And we weren’t wrong in doing that, be it the first gen iPad, that changed the world around the latest Air or Mini with Retina Display. All these devices have set standards that are hard to beat.

But with Samsung launching the Galaxy Tab S, its flagship tablet for 2014 in 8.4- and 10.5-inch sizes. They are set to shake the ground held by cupertino devices with the best possible specs, including a stunning 2,560 x 1,600 Super AMOLED screen, 12-hour battery life and a slim build that measures just 6.6mm thick. In addition, Samsung added a fingerprint reader (a finicky one) and a lot of free goodies like 100 HD movies, popular magazines, Dropbox storage. This review is based on the 8.4 inch model we got from Samsung, but as both 8.4- and 10.5-inch have exactly the same specs apart from the screen size and dimensions, you can refer to this review for both the devices.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab S accessories

After seeing the pictures, you would have realised its a blown-up version of Samsung Galaxy S5. It sports a similar front (oval button with fingerprint sensor) and a plastic dimpled back, only difference being the screen size and two button on the back (we will talk about them later). The 2014 flagship tablets come in 2 colours, Dazzling White and Titanium Bronze. It looks and feel very elegant from the moment you see it or hold it in your hands. There is no doubt that is a well-made piece of hardware.  Though the plastic might not be as premium-feeling as metal, it’s basically immune to both scratches and fingerprints, meaning it continues to look pristine much longer than you’d otherwise expect it to. But the blunt edges, chiseled-flat back and soft-touch finish on the rear make it comfortable to hold.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S camera

If you remember, in the second para we said that Samsung is about to shake things up for Apple. Here is why – At 6.6mm thick (Sony’s Xperia Z2 Tablet still remains the thinnest at 6.35mm thick.) , the 2 Galaxy Tab S tablets are skinnier than both the iPad Air and the iPad mini with Retina display. The Galaxy Tab S is lighter than Apple’s tablets, too: The 10-inch version weighs roughly 450 grams (the same as the 9.7-inch iPad), while the 8-inch model comes in at 280 grams, beating out the Retina display iPad mini. Samsung claims that the tablets are as thick as 5 credit cards kept together, we say if you’ve beaten the iPad Air and Mini in dimensions, you have done it all.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S back

Moving further, both the flagship tablets have a 2-megapixel front camera, and an 8-megapixel camera with LED flash at the back. Standard samsung buttons to navigate around the device, the back and multitasking keys, both built into the lower bezel next to the home button. And the the power/lock button, volume rocker, microSD slot and IR emitter are all on the right, with the speakers and mics spread across the top and bottom. The headphone jack and micro-USB socket are also on the bottom, exactly where they should be. This makes the left side of the device button free, making it easier to use in landscape mode.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S

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That’s pretty much all about the hardware. Except for one thing, the buttons on the back that we said we will discuss later. Well those buttons have been give a name by Samsung – ‘Simple Clickers’ and they are used to attach the covers that Samsung has launched as accessories for the devices. At the moment, Samsung has the Simple Cover and Book Cover Both cases are well-made and come with lot of color options.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S textured back

Display

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As the review is titled ‘Slim, Superb, Stunning‘, we now move on to the superb part of the review. Superb not because Samsung has squeezed a Super AMOLED display in such a thin hardware but because Samsung has killed the competition. The screen that you see in these tablets are like a dream, with 2,560 x 1,600 resolution on both the 10-and 8-inch models. The 8-inch model has amazingly crisp 360 ppi, beating the latest Apple tablets black and blue. Thanks to the Super AMOLED panel, the blacks are black; the whites are white; and the colors are vibrant, a tiny bit oversaturated though. But that’s not all, you can keep on raving about the ppi and the super AMOLED panel but there is a lot more, the RGB sensor inside that adjusts the color balance depending on your surroundings.

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So, if you enter an auditorium or a movie theater while doing something on your Tab S, the display will adjust itself accordingly. To add more, the screen so bright that you could use it in direct sunlight without a twitch, the sensors jump in to make the Galaxy Tab S totally usable in direct sunlight. Is it time for Amazon to pull back those Kindle ads that show eBook readers have an upper hand in terms of screen visibility in the sun?

Camera

We are covering Camera right after the Display, because they go hand in hand. Why are we saying that? Because if the shots captured by the 8MP snapper doesn’t have a brilliant screen to be displayed upon, the captured media won’t look as good as it should be and vice-a-versa. Hence the camera, the color reproduction is brilliant, and the camera is quick to focus as you line up your shot. Not all but a few low-light shots came out grainy, but then, what did you expect from a tablet camera, anyway? Thanks to Samsung’s TouchWiz  you can also choose from one of several specialty modes, including “Beauty face,” panorama, HDR and dual camera. Additionally, you can adjust the ISO, metering modes, flash and face detection from the camera settings menu.

The 1080p video recording leaves you surprised as the end result might not look like that it was captured from a tablet. The audio captured whilst recording a video also picks up all the ambient sounds pretty impressively. Sample below

 

Software

The Flat UI streak in mobile OS was started when Apple decided to skip skeuomorphism for the simplistic Flat UI in the iOS 7. Then we saw, Samsung come up with a refreshed flatter UI in the Galaxy S5’s TouchWiz. The flagship tablet has a similar look and feel throughout. Underneath the bloated TouchWiz, the Galaxy Tab S runs on Android 4.4 KitKat on top of Samsung’s My Magazine. For users like us, who prefer stock Android, might end up being frustrated with the forced ‘My Magazine UX’. The worst is that you can’t remove Magazine UX from the homescreen. Every time you swipe left on the homescreen you have to embrace the Magazine UX, even if you never want it. Sammy please let users decide what they want on their homescreen as we already have a lot of apps, features and tweaks in the form of S Voice; Multi Window Mode; and SideSync 3.0 etc. You’ll also find other Samsung features like Smart stay, Smart rotation and Smart pause that you wouldn’t find on a stock Android device.

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Moving to the new things, as already mentioned, the Tab S comes with a fingerprint sensors built into the home button, and can be used to log into the device, make transactions using your Samsung account and buy stuff on eBay.

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And the reason, we are covering it in the software section is because the fingerprint sensor in the home button would do nothing until configured through the software.

To configure the fingerprint sensor, you’ll find the fingerprint option in the settings menu, at which point you’ll have to go through a setup process that involves swiping your finger across the home button eight times. In all, you can register up to three fingers per user. But trust us, mastering the perfect swipe — not too fast, centered on the home button, finger covering the whole button — is not easy or as slick as you would  find it on your iPhone. In fact, even now that we’ve been playing with the device for nearly a week, it still took two if not three tries to get it right. There have also been multiple occasions when we failed five times in a row, and had to wait 30 seconds to try again. Of course you can go the oldschool way and set up an alphanumeric password, which you can enter anytime you get fed up with the fingerprint scanner.

But when it comes to goodies, Sammy always leads the pack. This time around, you get 50 gigs of Dropbox storage for 2 years, a suite of premium apps ‘Galaxy Gifts’ that includes 100 HD movies; free subscription to premium magazines

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The last bit, the Galaxy Tab S has a new Kids Mode (clicking on the icon downloads the app) that lets you create separate user accounts for the little ones, with restricted access if there are apps you don’t want them to be using.  Additionally, a new Multi User Mode lets you add up to seven user accounts, complete with separate passwords and different sets of fingerprints. Finally, there’s version 3.0 of SideSync, Samsung’s app for transferring files between your tablet and your phone or PC. In this version, users get the ability to forward calls from your SGS5 (Yep, only S5 at the moment) to your Tab S, using either WiFi or 3G.

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Performance and Battery Life

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As we mentioned in the beginning, both the Galaxy Tab S have the same specs except the screen size and dimensions-

  • 3Gb RAM
  • 1.9Ghz Quad-Core + 1.3Ghz Quad-Core Processor
  • 8MP AF + 2.1 MP Camera
  • GPS/GLONASS
  • IR LED
  SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB S SONY XPERIA Z2 TABLET GALAXY NOTE 10.1 2014 IPAD AIR
Quadrant 2.0 18,597 18,877 19,530 N/A
Vellamo 2.0 1,672 1,622 2,735 N/A
SunSpider 1.0.2 (ms) 1,109 N/A 1,069 393
3DMark IS Unlimited 12,431 N/A N/A 15,328
GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan Offscreen (fps) 5.5 N/A N/A 12.7
CF-Bench 31,695 37,902 31,567 N/A

After a using it for a week, we can say that the performance here isn’t bad by any means; it’s just not as snappy as we expected it to be, given the specs under the hood. But if that’s something Samsung can address with a firmware update or TouchWiz tweaks, then here is your tip, Samsung 🙂

Now to most essential part for all the consumers, the battery life (Deti Kitna Hai?)

TABLET BATTERY LIFE
Samsung Galaxy Tab S (10-inch) 12:30
Samsung Galaxy Tab S (8-inch) 12:22
Microsoft Surface 2 14:22
iPad Air 13:45 (3G)
Apple iPad mini 12:43 (WiFi)
Apple iPad mini with Retina display 11:55 (3G)
Apple iPad (late 2012) 11:08 (WiFi)
Apple iPad 2 10:26
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 10:04
Apple iPad (2012) 9:52 (HSPA) / 9:37 (3G)
Acer Iconia W4 9:50
Nexus 7 (2012) 9:49
Microsoft Surface RT 9:36
Toshiba Encore 8:45
Sony Xperia Tablet Z 8:40
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet 7:57
Nexus 10 7:26
Dell Venue 8 Pro 7:19
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 7:18
Nexus 7 (2013) 7:15
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 7:13
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 6:55

If you noticed the chart above, you would be happy to know that Galaxy Tab S breaks it won record of claimed 12hrs of battery life from one charge. Now isn’t that exceptional? This usage includes 12 hours and 22 mins of video playback, gaming and other stuff with brightness on 50% and always on WiFi. It would have varied if we would have used it on 3G or kept the brightness lower than 50%.

If that’s not enough and you are hungry for more, than the ‘Ultra power-saving mode,’ comes to your rescue. It basically turns the screen to black-and-white and only enables certain key apps. Mostly for the paranoid bunch or emergency use only.

The Unbiased Verdict

If you’re an iOS guy, then you probably just read this review to know how does the Galaxy Tab S fares against the demigods, the iPad Air and Retina display iPad mini nearly spec for spec. But even if you are in awe of your Apple table, you need to know that Galaxy Tab S wins out in thinness, lightness and screen resolution. And it being Android, obviously is way ahead in terms of openness and customization options, though things will change a bit (only a bit) when the iOS 8 goes public in a few days. But since we got our hands on the Tab S, we haven’t missed our iPad Air at all. Infact, if you are planning to buy a tablet then the Tab S is no brainer, especially the 8″ version as it’s cheaper, with a crisper screen, identical camera and just as much horsepower as the bigger model. Lastly, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S is Slim, Superb, Stunning and has made it straight to our hall of fame as the favourite Android Tablet, though throwing in the S-Pen would have made it even more versatile.

Price: Rs 37,800

Unbiased Rating: 9.5 / 10

Pros:

  • Super-slim
  • Stunning display
  • Great battery life
  • Loads of freebies
  • Superb camera in a Tablet

Cons:

  • Build quality could have been a tad better
  • Fingerprint scanner is avoidable
  • TouchWiz and Magazine UX are not welcome

By Nikhil Chawla

Social Media Evangelist | Gadget Guru | Model | Photographer | Ex- BlackBerry Boy - Now iOS | WP8 | Droid. Founder and Chief at ‘The Unbiased Blog’. I breathe in WiFi zone, prefer LTE over LIT. Ex MSFT, MCP, A+ and coder. I like news to be served to me on twitter.

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