Galaxy Tab S4 hands-on: here to reinvigorate the tablet market
Although Samsung hasn’t presented a new tablet in over a year, the Korean brand is still among the big names on the market. That’s a feat, as many experts sense that the market for tablets is stagnating, and some are even expecting it to disappear completely. But there is still a lot of potential and increasing demand, especially in the luxury class, for 2-in-1 devices and for larger displays. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 has all this and more.
Somewhat expensive for an Android tablet
With the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, customers have a choice: either a tablet with an LTE slot, which is a little more expensive, or the model without a SIM slot, which is somewhat cheaper. There are no other differences between the two variants of the Galaxy Tab S4. We still don't what the prices will be in the US, but the LTE version of the tablet will cost 759 euros (around $890), and the Wi-Fi version will cost 699 euros (around $815).
If you want to buy the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, you can do so from August 24th, when the first devices will be delivered. Samsung provides a book cover (of $60 value) free of charge to the pre-orderers, and the S-Pen is part of the deal as well. Samsung also offers another book cover with keyboard for $130 and a charging dock for $50.If you need to buy a spare S-Pen, that'll cost you another $80.
The Galaxy Tab S4 is a very elegant tablet. It has clear lines, a beautifully flat outline that is 7.1 millimeters thin and slim edges around the display. The tablet only weighs around one pound, despite its quite large 10.5-inch display. We weren’t able to assess the workmanship of the device, but the prototypes we inspected were impeccable. The aluminum frame of the Galaxy Tab S4, which is available in Ebony Black and Fog Grey, transitions smoothly into the glass surfaces.
Oh and by the way: the Galaxy Tab S4 has no fingerprint sensor or home button. Samsung relies exclusively on the combination of face and iris scanners for biometric unlocking.
A treat for the eyes
Samsung and its displays - what a success story! The screen in the Galaxy Tab S4 fits in easily, since the 10.5-inch Super AMOLED panel in 16:10 format and with 2,560 x 1,600 pixels is a feast for the eyes. Bright, brilliant and rich colors to go along with high contrast on the display - Samsung has no problem figuring that part out. Compared to its predecessor, Samsung almost cut the display edges in half and increased the screen-to-body ratio from 73 to 79%. And with almost identical dimensions, Samsung increased the display diagonal from 9.7 to 10.5 inches.
A real jack of all trades
There are more than enough special features. As with the Galaxy Note series, the Galaxy Tab S4 also includes the S-Pen. There’s no more room in the tablet for the pen, but it is thicker and fits better in your hand than the pen does for the Note. All the features are identical: there are 4,096 pressure levels, screen off memos, an integrated translator and live messages.
With the Galaxy Tab S4, in many ways Samsung takes DeX to a new level. Firstly, the Galaxy Tab S4 can now be connected to a large TV without its own dock; an adapter from USB-C to HDMI will be enough. Samsung also offers the option of leaving the tablet active and simultaneously supporting the monitor as a second screen, or alternatively, you can switch the Galaxy S4 to desktop mode when it’s placed in the keyboard cover. This makes the Android tablet an even better replacement for a laptop.
More smart software features
When the Galaxy Tab S4 is in its charging station, it uses what's called the Daily Board. If you want, you can keep the display active while the device is charging and show the time or weather. You can also display photos as a slideshow in the background. In the future it should be possible to put together your own daily board with various widgets and elements.
SmartThings also makes the Galaxy Tab S4 the control center for your smart home and other networked devices, even those that aren’t Samsung products. If you like to control all this with your voice, you can use Bixby 2.0, although the device doesn't have its own Bixby button.
Up to date with the software
Samsung provided the Galaxy Tab S4 with the latest software: Android 8.1 Oreo Oreo and the latest version of its own Samsung Experience interface, which was formerly known as Touchwiz. You have to like the UI , even though there are small issues with its performance that start occurring over time. But at least the aesthetic of the Samsung UI can be adjusted in many ways and can be replaced by a launcher if you want. Samsung hasn’t released information about the schedule for the update to Android P.
Old Snapdragon instead of new Exynos
One of the latest Exynos processors from Samsung’s own production was expected on a top tablet, but instead there’s something else running the Galaxy Tab S4: a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, the fastest chip of 2017. That’s a real surprise! Samsung says this choice was made because of the capacity issues with their own chips. The Snapdragon 835 operates with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal capacity, which can theoretically be extended by up to 512 GB. Compared to the Galaxy Tab S3, Samsung promises 20 percent more processing power and 26 percent more graphics power. And thanks to Cat 16, the LTE modem is now three times faster than its predecessor.
In our short test, there was no reason to criticize the performance of the Galaxy Tab S4. The tablet runs error-free and without jerking. It only starts to have problems when it’s in use with DeX and with many programs running in parallel on two monitors, but this was to be expected and won’t pose a problem for most users.
Rich sound for your listening pleasure
When it comes to sound, Samsung likes to draw on the know-how of AKG, as the brand did with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4. The tablet has 4 speakers inside, and AKG specially adapted them to the Tab S4. They support Dolby Atmos, which can be switched on and off and configured to provide the best sound for movies, music, or calls.
The speakers in the Galaxy Tab S4 live up to their name , as they have one really great characteristic: they’re really loud. The whole tablet also vibrates when you turn up the sound. So you can watch a movie without headphones and you’ll hear it clearly. Even at maximum volume, the sound will remain very good. And unlike Huawei with the MediaPad M5, Samsung kept the mini jack port on the Galaxy Tab S4.
A good camera for a tablet
Cameras are also an integral part of a tablet. However, no manufacturer, not even Samsung, uses elaborate hardware with double lenses or super high-resolution sensors. In the front there’s an 8-megapixel camera for selfies and video calls, and in the back there’s a 13-megapixel camera with LED flash. This makes the Galaxy Tab S4 well-equipped for a tablet, but it probably wouldn’t stand a chance compared to smartphones in this same price range.
Last long and charges quickly
The battery in the Galaxy Tab S4 is quite powerful. The capacity is 7,300 mAh, which should be enough for 15 hours of video playback. The battery is charged via USB-C, and the included quick charge should be able to bring the battery from zero to one hundred percent in three and a half hours. The docking station also supports fast charging, but with the permanently active display from the Daily Board, it will take a little longer.
A confident first impression
There’s no second chance to make a first impression. Samsung knows this well and has trimmed the Galaxy Tab S4 down to a stylish look that impresses at first sight. And the performance is also convincing. It will be exciting to see whether the new, smart software features offer real added value in daily use. So be sure to check back in to see how the Galaxy Tab S4 fares in our full review!