Samsung Galaxy Tab S

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Put simply, it’s the best Android tablet on the market. But there’s one big drawback – its problematic battery life. If you’re a heavy user, you may be better off buying something bigger

Some months it feels like we could fill a whole issue of Mobile News with Samsung products alone. With the amount of devices it releases, the Korean manufacturer could be accused of saturating the market.

Sometimes, however, it comes out with a device so good that you forget about the myriad products it has released. Remember the Galaxy S3? It was such a massive improvement upon its predecessor that every subsequent Samsung flagship has felt underwhelming as a result.

Therefore, when we learnt that Samsung was launching a new tablet, we were cautious. Then we saw the specs and that initial suspicion turned to cautious optimism. Now, having tested the product, you can colour us impressed.

Although Samsung already has a premium range of tablets in the form of the NotePro series, the Tab S range is its bid to launch a slate that offers more usability. And it succeeds on every count. Consequently, if it only released one tablet this year, then the Tab S would be enough.

Design
Samsung has taken its inspiration from Sony by focusing on design innovation in regard to the weight and depth of its product. Not as slender as the Xperia Z2 tablet, this is by far Samsung’s thinnest and lightest tablet ever, weighing in at just 294g.

It does, however, look better than Sony’s counterpart. As is usually the case with Samsung’s premium devices, the Tab S comes in two colours, white and titanium bronze. We tested the latter variant, which initially seemed a bit flamboyant for our minimal preferences but grew on us.

The gold-plated edges and brown bezel combine to give the Tab S a copper look. As most tablets come in either white or black, this is an unorthodox step to take on Samsung’s part but it sets it aside from its rivals.

The Tab S comes in two sizes (8.4 inches and 10.5 inches) and emulates the S5’s dimpled back cover. Here, however, the back is a darker hue of silver – adding to its titanium-aping aesthetic.

The gold-on-gold portholes and control buttons, which are kept to a strict minimum, also look great. There is a rectangular home button on the front, with touch controls on either side that let you access previously used apps and go back respectively. Overall, its design embraces all the best points of an Android tablet while also bringing to the fore Samsung’s own design aesthetic, which was unfairly bashed on its Galaxy S5 flagship but benefits from the larger size of the Tab S.

Performance
As you would expect from a top-of-the-range Samsung tablet, the Tab S handles web and app browsing tasks quickly and efficiently.

The slate’s full HD resolution also displays online images with more detail. Consequently, looking at images on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social networks is enhanced by the device’s display – not to mention the fact that photo albums and images load quickly thanks to its 2.3GHz processor.

In fact, the resolution on the Tab S is so good (better than the Z2 Tablet and equal to the Google Nexus 10) that it would be a shame if you just used it for those general tasks alone. We put it through a comprehensive gaming test to see if its crystal clear display would be backed up by a powerful processor across the board.

We tried out everything from action RPG titles such as Kritika to popular Google Play games including Plants vs Zombies 2.

Additionally, we also revisited our favourite powerful racing sim; Real Racing 3 and space-set shooter Galaxy on Fire 2 HD. The results were impeccable on each title. Not only did the graphics benefit from the brilliant colour saturation and contrast ratio on the Tab S but all the games performed smoothly, with no lag even on powerful, fast-paced titles.

The same applies to video playback. We found that YouTube videos also loaded quickly over WiFi thanks to the slate’s robust processor.
Between watching full HD trailers for colourful animated films such as Disney’s Big Hero 6 or a darker clip for the WW2 epic Fury, the excellent resolution once again proved itself to be the best of most of the Android slates we’ve tested thus far.

Features
The Tab S is a feature-packed Android slate. Aside from retaining the fingerprint scanner that was originally introduced on the Galaxy S5, it also boasts 4G LTE capability on certain models and multi-window functionality.

For those genuinely worried about privacy, the fingerprint scanner is a handy tool. If you’re not accustomed to the function, which is only available on high-end smartphones like the iPhone 5S and Galaxy S5, you simply put your finger or thumb to the home button at different angles for it to recognise your print. Then you can unlock your device using your fingerprint by momentarily placing it on the home button.

If you intend to share the tablet with other users on a frequent basis, make sure you use the multi-use feature to create separate profiles.

The multi-window option is a great addition for all the multi-tasking enthusiasts out there. As you would on a laptop, multi-window allows you to use two different apps or services at once by splitting the screen down the middle. Consequently, you can have your email inbox open alongside the web browser or log-in to Google Hangouts for a chat whilst browsing your image gallery.

You can access the multi-window task bar by swiping in from the right and then dragging the respective app icons that you wish to use into the centre of the screen. You can also customise the task bar to display your most-used apps.There are, however, a limited number of tasks you can access and you can only operate two apps at a time. We were hoping that it would allow us to access games whilst looking at our emails, but that wasn’t the case.

Full article in Mobile News issue 572 (September 8, 2014).

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