Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 Tablet Review
Behold the glorious Super AMOLED Display!
The powerhouse that is Samsung's tablet division certainly doesn't seem to be slowing down, nor should it.Apple still hold the number 1 position in the worldwide tablet market with a 35% share compared to Samsung's 20% but over the last few years they have been slowly losing their huge lead to Samsung. They provide a wide range of tablets to suit all budgets and offer a very real alternative to the iPad. It could also be argued that with Apple's slow release schedule, those wanting the latest tech can often find it elsewhere and that is especially true with the tablet we have in for review. The Galaxy Tab S is Samsung's newest premium tablet range boasting an impressive Super AMOLED display.
Available in both 8.4" and 10.5" versions with a 2560 x 1600 resolution and a full range of 'Premium' bundled apps and content for free, something you definitely don't get with Apple, it certainly looks good on paper. With an impressive specification, very similar to the TabPRO 12.2 we reviewed back in May, including the Exynos 5 Octa CPU (dual 1.9Ghz and 1.3Ghz Quad Core), 3GB RAM, 16GB internal storage and other tasty features such as multi window, we have high hopes that it will impress us as much as the TabPRO12.2 did. Read on to find out...
Design and ConnectivityThe new 10.5" Galaxy Tab S is very similar in design to other Samsung tablets we have reviewed such as the TabPRO 12.2 but with a few minor updates to bring it in line with their S5 Smartphones. We have the familiar white screen surround, but this time surrounded by a bronze effect bezel and the rear panel now echoes the S5 Smartphone with a soft feel plastic dimpled effect. It's an improvement to the faux leather effect rear panel we saw on the TabPRO 12.2 but given that a cost of £399 puts it identically priced to the iPad Air, it's disappointing that on a side by side comparison the Samsung tablet is still not on par with the iPad as far as look and feel goes. The Tab S still has a few areas that flex, not as many as previous Samsung tablets we have reviewed which is a definite improvement, but it still doesn't have that solid, well built feel of the iPad Air.
To the front we have a physical oval shaped home button with the back and recent apps touch controls either side. As far as the cameras go, these echo the TabPRO 12.2 with a 2.1MP to the front and an 8MP with flash to the rear. The connections are also identical to the TabPRO, we'd hope Samsung would have been a little more generous here with their new tablet, but for lack of out of the box connectivity, they are now on par with Apple which means if you want to connect additional devices or output to your TV you will have to purchase various overpriced adaptors. To the right we find an SD memory card slot (up to 128GB) along with the multi functional Charger/microUSB 3.0 port, the left contains only a headphone jack with the Infrared blaster, power and volume buttons to the top.
Samsung claim their new Tab S range is their thinnest and lightest and that certainly seems to be true here with the 10.5" version. Coming it at just 462g it's 10g lighter than the iPad Air and significantly thinner, measuring just 6.6mm thick compared to the iPad Air at 9.4mm. 2.8mm and 10g may not sound like a huge difference but it's certainly noticeable when you compare the two physically and use them for any length of time. The tablet measures 247mm wide x 177mm high. The speakers are still in the same position as with the TabPRO 12.2 but unlike our issues there, the reduced size and weight and particularly the balance of the Tab S means you aren't covering the speakers when holding it in the most comfortable position. One last item to mention is the two round holes found towards the bottom on the rear panel. Rather than using magnets to secure their accessories, Samsung are using these push clips which will work with their book covers for example.
No 'Note' version of the new S tablet is currently available so we don't have the excellent S-Pen which opens up a whole other level of usability. Some still may argue that a stylus is a backward step in this modern age, but don't judge until you have used one with a Samsung Note tablet and seen just how well it works in conjunction with conventional finger touch control and particularly with photo editing apps and handwriting apps. You really need to see it to believe it.
Specification and PerformanceUsing an almost identical specification as the £549 TabPRO 12.2, you certainly get a lot for your £399. As per the 12.2, we have the dual Exynos 5 Octa CPUs which are a 1.9Ghz ARM Cortex-A15 Quad Core and a 1.3Ghz ARM Cortex-A7 Quad Core, 3GB RAM and an ARM Mali T628 MP6 for the GPU. The internal storage has been trimmed to just 16GB, although via microSD cards you can expand this up to 128GB. A 32GB version of the Tab S is in the works but no release dates have yet been forthcoming for that. We also have the latest Wi-Fi 802.11ac (including a/b/g/n) in both 2.4 and 5Ghz along with Bluetooth 4.0.
As with our TabPRO 12.2 review, thanks to increasing support of the Android platform various benchmarking apps are now available to see how well a tablet performs against the competition. Using Passmark's Performance Test Mobile we have a excellent average System score of 5841, putting it comfortably ahead of the 5600 score currently showing as the best on Passmark's website. With 3D Mark using the Ice Storm Unlimited test we get 13414, which whilst slightly lower than the 13773 we saw with the TabPRO 12.2 is still an excellent score for a tablet such as this, excluding the likes of the mighty Microsoft Surface tablets and Nvidia's new Shield tablet for example which have scores far exceeding the Samsung tablets.
Benchmark scores are fine, but real world performance is where it counts and here, as with the TabPRO 12.2, we had no issues with any of the test games we tried. Titles such as the impressive Dark Meadow, quick action Air Attack HD and others such as Soulcraft, Six Guns, Heroes Call and Real Racing 3 all ran without issue and were very smooth with no stuttering suffered. For fans of Simpsons Tapped Out who have a well developed town, this still appears to have stuttering issues, not quite as severe as we found with the TabPRO but still more than enough to make it distracting during play. The performance shines through on the non gaming side of things too with everything we tried installing quickly, running smoothly and with no stuttering whatsoever. Basic apps such as Twitter and YouTube to the Samsung Remote PC App all worked without issue. The 2 way Multi Window feature that sets the Samsung Tablets apart from the competition works surprisingly well, even with a HD video playing on one side and web browsing on the other. The high specification really tells here.
FeaturesThe similarities to the TabPRO continue here with the Tab S running the latest Android KitKat 4.4.2 OS with Samsung's TouchWiz UI. Samsung have been continuously improving the UI from previous versions when it felt rather messy and unintuitive, but here the layout is excellent and can be configured to suit your requirements within reason, an area Apple are still miles behind in. We also have Samsung's Magazine UX which offers a configurable layout of apps and widgets such as Twitter, Email and the latest News for example. As with the TabPRO the drawback with the whole Magazine UX is that it isn't self updating. You have to manually refresh each app and widget to get the latest information, which really negates the usefulness of it completely. You may as well use the Twitter app itself rather than the Twitter widget in the Magazine UX.
An area Samsung are heavily pushing is the large amount of free 'Premium Content' that is available when you purchase one of their latest tablets and compared to Apple they have a definite lead here. Starting with the pre-installed applications we have Hancom Office which is a Word Processing, Spreadsheet and Powerpoint app offering all the functionality you would expect from Microsoft Office. Another useful app is Samsung Remote PC which allows you to control your desktop on the tablet's screen after installing a small piece of software on the host PC. As we found with the TabPRO the Remote PC app worked very well, far better than we had expected and makes the tablet ideal to use as part of your media centre for example.
Now moving onto the 'Premium Content' and you really do get a significant amount available for free here. There are too many to mention but picking out the highlights we get a three month NOW TV Sky Movies Pass, 6 months of unlimited free music worth £60 from Deezer Music, a free download of the ad free Fruit Ninja along with 10,000 Starfruits, Asphalt 8: Airborne with a free Prime Car Pack, 3 months free subscription to Marvel Comics and premium in game credit for the Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff game. Plus a free book every month for 12 months via Kindle for Samsung, 12 months premium Evernote service, 3 months LinkedIn Premium business subscription, a one year subscription to Bloomberg Businessweek+ and many more including free issues of popular magazines and 50GB free storage with Box. A significant amount of premium content for free there, far exceeding the value of the tablet itself, in fact Samsung say it's over £589 worth of content.
Other features worthy of a mention are the fingerprint scanner. Once setup this can be used for securing private content, logging in to the device and with other applications such as Paypal for example which once registered to your device will allow payments to be made via any of your registered fingerprints. You can add up to three different fingerprints to make it quicker to access along with a backup password should the fingerprints not register, which does happen occasionally. Fingerprint scanners on devices like tablets or phones are hovering in the gimmick area really but once you get used to how to swipe we found it worked probably 70% of the time on the first attempt. If security is your worry, you may find it easier and quicker in the long run to just use a code, particularly as the fingerprint sensor is in just one place on the tablet . Another great feature is the Kids Mode, using its own UX with specialised kids apps, here you can choose specifically which apps are allowed. When in Kids Mode various options and buttons are disabled so that without your pin even the most tech savvy of little ones won't be able to exit out of it.
DisplayThe display here is a 10.5" Super AMOLED with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 and a colour depth of 16M and capable of Full 1080P HD video playback. This gives the screen an excellent PPI (pixels per inch) of 288 which is a decent increase on the iPad Air at 264PPI. The Super AMOLED screen is one of the main selling points of the Tab S, which Samsung claim offers a contrast ratio 100 times higher than that of LCD displays at 100,000:1 along with brighter and more dynamic images, vivid colours and deep blacks. To our eyes the screen is drop dead gorgeous. It's the finest display we have seen on any tablet we have reviewed to date.
The screen has an adaptive display which automatically adjusts the gamma, sharpness and contrast of the screen depending on the content you are viewing. It also has three other modes - AMOLED cinema to make the display tone more vivid, AMOLED photo to make the display tone look like real colours and finally Basic for use in dim surroundings. The various modes certainly make a difference and whilst we were happy with the standard adaptive display setting, photos definitely looked better with the AMOLED photo mode for example. The brightness level is more than enough for normal viewing, we found 60% to be our optimal setting here.
Sadly the lack of HD streaming from the likes of Netflix (or anyone for that matter) rather restricts the available content to test this beautiful screen with but a pre-loaded 2560 x 1600 video 'Wonders of Nature' is available and trying not to over exaggerate, it's the most stunning video we've ever seen on a tablet, truly outstanding and shows just what this display is capable of. Similar to those early adopters with a 4K TV, it's a shame there isn't a lot of content out there to show what the display can do.
AudioA tricky area with tablets, which never seems to get enough attention in our opinion. It has gradually been getting better over the years following some truly awful quality speakers in tablets we've previously reviewed but it still isn't what we would consider on a par with the level of the rest of the technology in today's tablets. Whilst the internal hardware specification appears similar to that of the TabPRO, as far as the speakers go they are not. With our TabPRO 12.2 review we found the pair of stereo speakers to be pretty decent giving a good quality sound even at high volume.
With the Tab S that is sadly not the case and at lower volumes the audio quality is adequate enough for general usage such as listening to music, watching YouTube and gaming for example, but it's nowhere near good enough for any long sessions such as watching movies. At higher volumes the quality starts to break down significantly with a nasty tinny sound coming through which doesn't make for pleasurable listening at all. Whether it is due to keeping the Tab S to a certain size or weight limit, we are puzzled as to why the audio quality has been reduced from the TabPRO. Headphones are highly recommended.
Battery LifeThe battery here is Li-ion Polymer 7900mAh which Samsung claim will offer a video playback time of up to 11 hours when using their new 'ultra power saving mode'. In this mode the tablet desaturates the colour of the screen, restricts access to only a few apps such as the internet browser, Google+, Calculator, Clock and S planner and also turns off Bluetooth. At 70% battery life for example it claims a standby life of 54.2 days. Quite why you would ever want this mode enabled is another matter entirely, watching black and white videos is probably not what you had in mind after paying £399 for a tablet, but if you are down to the last few % of battery life and need urgent access to Google or a calculator, then this mode may be for you!
Using our standard YouTube video test with the screen set to 50% brightness and all the other standard features enabled, we managed to scrape out an excellent 9 hours 10 minutes. As we saw with the TabPRO when the battery reaches 5% the tablet automatically lowers the brightness even further. To recharge from a completely flat battery takes Just under 5 hours and with gaming we managed an impressive 6 hours on a single full charge.
Media IntegrationAlong with the excellent pre-loaded apps and premium content that comes free with the Tab S, another excellent app is called Samsung WatchON. This app uses the integrated Infrared blaster to turn the tablet into a fully functioning remote control and media device. Once you have configured the app to your TV and Sky Box (the likes of Virgin, BT Vision, TalkTalk and others are available to setup) via the integrated TV guide, you find a program you want to watch, select Watch Now and the tablet will automatically turn on equipment where required and change the channel to suit. This worked perfectly every time and even has a multi room function. It is rather limited though and doesn't quite have enough there to rival a fancy Harmony remote, for example, as you can't add any other equipment other than the TV and set top box nor can you send a command to record a future programme.
Should you find the WatchON app to have too many limitations there are many other apps available that can use the IR blaster feature. Smart IR Remote at £4.15 is a popular one currently with many free alternatives ranging from the basic to the fairly advanced. As we mentioned previously out of the box connectivity options are nonexistent with the Tab S, much as they are with Apple. To connect to your TV or Home Cinema setup you will have to buy a HDMI adaptor, thankfully that doesn't need to be an expensive Samsung own brand accessory as there are many aftermarket adaptors available.
- Stunning Super AMOLED Display
- High Specification
- Great features
- Excellent battery life
- Modern and intuitive UI
- Very thin and light
- Awful speakers
- Zero HD streaming content
- Poor out of the box connectivity
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 Tablet ReviewWith an RRP identical to that of the 16GB iPad Air at £399 you certainly get a lot for your money with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5. Even more so with a bit of shopping around which will find deals hovering around the £350 mark. With an impressive specification including the Exynos 5 Octa (dual 1.9Ghz Quad Core and 1.3Ghz Quad Core) CPU and 3GB RAM this tablet can comfortably cope with anything you care to throw at it. The 16GB storage is a tad measly but where Android tablets will always have the edge over Apple is the additional storage available via SD cards which in this case gives you up to another 128GB.
The 10.5" Super AMOLED display with a 2560 x 1600 resolution is stunning. It's probably the best screen we have ever seen on a tablet of this size, comfortably putting the iPad Air to shame. The quality of the display is, with the right material, jaw dropping. The Samsung 'Wonders of Nature' video pre-loaded on the tablet displayed an image quality that would take a whole paragraph of superlatives to do it justice. Strong and vivid colours, deep blacks and an excellent brightness level. Unfortunately whilst the screen puts the iPad Air to shame the lack of support for Android by the major streaming outfits leaves you with a tablet that you will struggle to find a lot of HD content to view on it.
Samsung's TouchWiz user interface certainly adds some polish to the Android KitKat 4.4.2, giving it a very modern and intuitive feel and allowing for a high level of customisability, an area where Apple are still miles behind. The Magazine UX integrated into the TouchWiz interface offers a good number of apps and widgets that can be configured to a high degree, our main gripe here is that none of the apps self update, so you have to click refresh on each one to get the latest news or Tweets for example.
During our tests the tablet showed no areas of weakness at all. From a wide variety of games including fairly demanding graphically intensive titles, the multi-window feature running YouTube on one side with web browsing on the other and the excellent Remote PC app the Tab S performed admirably throughout. Our only real problem came with Simpsons Tapped Out which, as we saw with the TabPRO 12.2, does have a few issues of input lag and bad frame rate, we'd put that more down to an App issue than the tablet.
The 7900mAh battery performed very well giving an excellent 9 hours of life in our YouTube test and almost 6 hours for gaming with the battery barely dropping more than 1 or 2% after 8 hours of standby. Unfortunately the pair of speakers did not perform as well. Unlike the excellent speakers we found in the TabPRO 12.2, Samsung seem to have taken a step back here with the two speakers giving a rather cheap and tinny sound and when you push the volume towards 100% the quality takes a severe nose dive, very disappointing here that in a 'Premium' tablet they clearly aren't bothered with the internal speakers. Have your headphones at the ready! One last area that needs highlighting is the value of the huge amount of Premium Content that you can download for free via Galaxy Gifts. Far too many to mention here but it all adds up to over £589 worth of free stuff. A lot of it very useful and covers all areas from games, magazines and cloud storage.
To sum up whilst the Super AMOLED display is sublime, the specification is top notch and the TouchWiz interface works really well, the tablet lets itself down slightly with decidedly average speakers and a build quality and feel that doesn't quite rival Apple yet. At the same price as Apple's 16GB iPad Air, if Samsung were able to offer a 32GB version for the same price, improve the speakers and their build quality this could truly be a tablet to banish the iPad for good. But even with those minor negatives, we have no issues in awarding this an AVForums Recommended Award.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £399.00
Value For Money10
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