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Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 Review: The Android Tablet to Beat This Year

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We review Samsung’s gorgeous Galaxy Tab S 8.4!

We’ll be perfectly honest: we weren’t blown away by the Galaxy Tab S when it was leaked a few months ago. The spec sheet was a bit underwhelming, and the design was, well, basically a blown-up Galaxy S5. That quickly changed when we saw it in person when it was officially announced a few weeks ago. While it does kind of look like a blown-up Galaxy S5 (especially with that perforated back) it manages to impress us with its oh so amazing display.

Samsung Tab S 8.4 specs

  • 2.3 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor
  • Adreno 330 GPU
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 8.4-inch Super AMOLED display, 1600 x 2560
  • 16GB of storage, expandable up to 128GB via microSD
  • 8-megapixel rear camera
  • 2.1-megapixel front camera
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
  • 3G, LTE
  • Android 4.4
  • 212.9 x 125.7 x 6.6 mm
  • 4900 mAh Li-ion battery

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Looks like a stretched-out Galaxy S5

We’re not going to lie, the Tab S looks like an upsized version of the Galaxy S5. It has the same perforated back that the S5 sports, although now it’s been supersized. If you weren’t impressed by the design of the S5, you’re not going to like how the Tab S looks like, though it does redeem itself by being one of the thinnest tablets around, at just 6.6mm, which makes it thinner than the iPad Air and the iPad Mini. Personally, we kind of dig the design, and while the choice of material (plastic) isn’t what you’d exactly associate with premium gadgets, the Tab S is pretty well built that you’d really won’t mind. Besides, plastic repels fingerprints and smudges better than metal anyway.

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With the tablet oriented in portrait mode, you’ll see that the controls and the relevant ports are located on the right side of the device. This includes the power button and the volume rocker, as well as the SIM and microSD slot, and the IR blaster.

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The USB and 3.5mm jack are located on the bottom of the device, and is the thickest part of the Tab S. Judging by how thick the part for these two ports look, it’s probably safe to assume that manufacturers have probably reached the limit of how thin they can make gadgets, unless they find a way to make these ports thinner (or do away with cable charging).

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The Tab S has a metal trim running around the side of the body to add flavor to the overall look of the device. When oriented in landscape mode, you’ll see the speaker grilles located on both sides of the device.

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You’ve probably noticed the two circles located on the back of the Tab S which kind of breaks up the perforated back pattern of the tablet. Those are attachment points for the optional back covers and cases for the tablet, which quickly and securely snaps on the back of the Tab S. So securely in fact, that we had a bit of a trouble trying to get them off when Samsung first showed it off to us. You will also have to press those suckers in hard to get them to snap in, which means you’ll be exerting quite a bit of pressure on the display itself.

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Amazeballs display

With the display off, the front of the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 looks identical to Samsung’s other tablets. Putting the Tab Pro 8.4 and the Tab S 8.4 side-by-side, you’ll be hard pressed to notice any similarity in their outward appearance. That all changes when you turn on the Tab S’ display though.

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The Tab S 8.4 and the 10.5 both have the same, Super AMOLED deal that has a display resolution of 2,560 x 1,600, which puts the PPI of around 360 for the 8.4 model. Samsung has returned to the Super AMOLED fold with the Tab S, which it hasn’t used since the Galaxy Tab 7.7, and the device is better for it. Blacks are truly black, colors are very vibrant (if a tad oversaturated). If you’ve ever seen for the first time, this is kind of like that, but in a smaller, more manageable display. Simply put, the Tab S has the most amazing display of any tablets we’ve seen, and any tablets put beside it (this includes their own recently announced Tab Pro 8.4) look terrible in comparison. It’s not their fault though – the Tab S’ display is just so good that it makes everything beside it look meh.

The display is also pretty bright, which allows you to use the Tab S even under direct sunlight. What’s even better is that the Tab S has an RGB sensor inside that adjusts the color balance of the display depending on the available lighting.

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Magazine UX and TouchWiz UI still inside

Since the Tab S comes right after the Galaxy S5, it’s not surprising to see the overhauled TouchWiz UI and Magazine UX make an appearance in the device, operating on top of Android 4.4 Kitkat. If you own a Galaxy S5, you’ll feel right at home with the UI of the Tab S. Samsung’s Magazine UX is still present in the device, which may or may not be a good thing depending how you feel about it.

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Much like the S5, the Tab S has a fingerprint scanner that’s embedded on the home screen that keeps your content away from prying eyes (and fingers). What’s more, you can set-up the tablet in a way that multiple users can use it without infringing on the content and settings of one another. This is great news for households who typically share one big tablet amongst several family members.

Unfortunately, some of the apps promised by Samsung during the launch of the Tab S won’t be available to PH users. Paper Garden, for example, is currently not supported in the PH. Other apps included do work though, mainly most of the apps we’ve seen before on the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 and Note Pro 12.2 – Remote PC, WebEx and Hancom Office Viewer. SideSync 3.0 allows you to control your smartphone from the tablet, though only the Galaxy S5 and the Note 3 support redirecting your calls straight to the Tab S.

Speaking of calls, the Tab S that will be made available to PH customers will be the LTE version, which can make calls and texts on its own. It’ll ship with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor instead of the Exynos one that ships with the Wi-Fi only version.

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Can mix it up with the best of them

Compared to Samsung’s other offerings, the Tab S uses a relatively older Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor running at 2.3GHz, paired with a generous 3GB of RAM and an Adreno 330 GPU. But even though it’s running on (relatively) older hardware, the Tab S is still able to achieve a beastly score of 34510 from AnTuTu.

That score translates into a relatively smooth experience while using the Tab S. We’ve been using it as our primary tablet for a while and we’re happy to report that it hasn’t stuttered, hanged or slowed down during our testing period. Everything is buttery smooth, and all the games we’ve tried on it ran well even on high settings. Speaking of games, playing games on the exceedingly vibrant display is a different experience entirely compared to other tablets of other brands. simply put, if you’re looking for the ultimate tablet to game on, this is probably it.

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Good enough camera for a tablet

While we generally don’t recommend tablets as the gadget of choice for taking photos, you’ll be happy to know that the Tab S can generally get the job done when needed.

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The camera does pretty well in well-lit environments, with good color reproduction and generally good contrast.

Long battery life

We were surprised at just how long the Tab S managed to stay alive, considering it had a small (for a tablet) 4900mAh battery. Apparently the Super AMOLED display is not only vibrant, but it consumes far less power than a typical LCD display. The result? Around 11 and a half hours of video playback on a single charge, which is fantastic for a tablet like this.

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Samsung’s best tablet yet

Release after release, we haven’t really seen anything mind blowing from Samsung when it comes to their tablets. That all ends with the Galaxy Tab S 8.4. Samsung’s managed to hit one out of the park, marrying great performance, battery life and a fantastic screen in a neat little package. Haters of the design will always point out that it looks a bit boring (and it does) but if you can look beyond that, you’ll find that it’s currently one of the best Android tablets to hit the marketplace.

Right now Samsung Philippines still hasn’t released the price for the LTE version of the Tab S. The Wi-Fi version (which will not be sold in the PH) starts at around $400 (around Php 17564)for the 8.4-inch version. You can bet that the LTE version will be a bit more expensive than that, probably retailing around 25-26K.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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