Impressions: The Galaxy Tab S2 is a curious “top tier” tablet

by: Matthew BensonAugust 11, 2015
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samsung galaxy tab s2 8 3

A device in hand is worth…

The advent of Super AMOLED into the realm of tablets was a foray Samsung fans across the globe were eagerly awaiting. While the Korean conglomerate had previously tinkered with it back in 2012 when the Galaxy Tab 7.7 released, neither hide-nor-hair had been seen since. 2014 brought with it an incredible pair of products however: the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and 10.5, each of which was equipped with a stunning QHD SAMOLED display. This dynamic duo was positively received by the tech community for the fantastic screen and thin and light build.

You might like: Best Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 cases

The Galaxy Tab S2 has now arrived and, after spending some time with the Hong Kong import model, we have initial impressions to offer, as well as overall thoughts and commentary on the product at-large and the changes it brings with it. Note that our official, formal review will follow in the coming weeks.

Introduction and specs

Before sharing our initial thoughts, let’s first address the specs and therefore set expectations about the tablet itself.

The Galaxy Tab S2 comes in an 8-inch, and 9.7-inch variant, both of which employ a 4:3 aspect ratio 2048×1536 SAMOLED display, and is available in LTE and Wi-Fi-only configurations. For the purposes of this impressions piece, we have tested the 8-inch Wi-Fi only model.

Samsung's 2015 tablets seem to be on a sliding scale of sorts: the Tab A wasn't equivalent to the Galaxy A, nor is the Tab S2 equivalent to the Galaxy S6.

The Tab S2 features an Exynos 5433 Octa-core SoC, 3GB of RAM, 32 or 64GB of on-board storage, and an 8-megapixel rear, 2.1-megapixel front camera set-up (no flash, sorry). It ships with Android 5.0.2 and features the same “touch-based” fingerprint sensor used in the Galaxy S6. MicroSD support is included by way of an eject pin; the tray is built into the frame.

The 9.7-inch variant includes a 5,870mAh battery, and the 8-inch variant a 4,000mAh power-cell. Both devices are available in either black or white, though select Asian markets like Taiwan seem to be getting a Gold variant for good measure.

The tablets are just 5.6mm thick and employ an aluminum frame, but soft-plastic rear panel. The smaller Tab S2 will, in LTE-configuration, include an earpiece for voice calls, however this feature is typically removed from the US carrier-based models.

Touting the tablet

Samsung’s 2015 tablets seem to be on a sliding scale of sorts: the Tab A wasn’t equivalent to the Galaxy A, nor is the Tab S2 equivalent to the Galaxy S6. The Tab E is more like a Galaxy J, the Tab A is more like a Galaxy E, and the Tab S is more like a Galaxy A. This raises the fair question of just if (or perhaps when) a “real” flagship tablet will be announced. Given the mysterious shape that appears along side the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Plus Edge on the Unpacked 2015 promotional advertisement, there is a strong feeling that this week will bring with it the announcement of a Galaxy Tab Edge that will, in a sense, put the Tab S2 in its “proper place” in the pecking order.

Samsung-Galaxy-TabA-Series-13

The Galaxy Tab A series’ plastic parts were anything but similar to the smartphone series’ all-metal-make.

The fact that the product ships with Android 5.0.1 means it’s already out of date. Samsung has never prioritized tablets when it comes to updates, and considering that it will launch the Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, and possibly a Galaxy Tab Edge in the coming days means there are far larger tasks to tackle. Curiously the Tab S2 already includes at least one of the changes implemented in TouchWiz for Android 5.1: the ability to manually deactivate the S-Finder and Quick Search tabs from the notification shade.

Schooling the screen

While we will go into greater detail about the perks (or problems) with a 4:3 aspect ratio, many are inevitably curious about the Tab S2’s display. It is indeed sharp and beautiful, and brings with it all the benefits of an OLED panel, namely the near-infinite contrast and deep, saturated colors. As with all top-end Samsung products, the Tab S2 lets users select from one of four color-saturation modes so that those less interested in the “comical” level of coloring on AMOLED Cinema can scale things back.

Despite the high resolution and beautiful colors. for some reason the display never looked quite as amazing as that of the original Tab S. I am ultimately not sure why; it could be the reduction of pixels from QHD to the hybrid-resolution employed here, it could be a result of the deep black bezel, it could be simply because I’ve acclimated to the high resolution via other products and thus even on a tablet it simply doesn’t seem as magical as the 2014 Tab S which was released at a time when QHD tablets were less common.

Cost cutting corners

Notice the Tab S 8.4 (2014) has a camera flash yet the Tab S2 8.0 (2015) lacks it.

Notice the Tab S 8.4 (2014) has a camera flash yet the Tab S2 8.0 (2015) lacks it.

Just as we saw with the Galaxy A8 last week, Samsung’s decision to cut costs with products seems to be made irrespective of the price tag attached. The Galaxy Tab S2 lacks a notification lamp, a camera flash, an IR-blaster, and at least with the Wi-Fi model we tested, a vibration motor. With respect to the LED this is something that wasn’t present in last year’s models either, but the absence of IR transmission, a camera flash and vibration smacks of trying to squeeze out every last possible part that might justify the premium price tag, let alone a Galaxy S-class product. For reference there is no NFC present either.

I also found TouchWiz to be lacking as well. There is no ability to activate the parallax background effect for those who want it, yet Samsung did include the ability to choose up to 30 different lockscreen wallpapers. There is no Theme Store, something that would be seemingly perfect for a large device like a tablet, and something Samsung has been pushing on even mid-range phones these days. There is no Magazine UI to be found, instead opting for the same Flipboard Briefing panel that is found on the Galaxy S6.

samsung galaxy tab s2 8 6

No IR blaster to be found.

Honestly speaking, many of these missing features or components are things that I don’t personally care about, but some customers will. When the price of a device doesn’t decrease from year-on-year, I would at least expect there to be some things added or at the very least, left the way they were.

Sound situation

Ironically if one were to suggest the Galaxy Tab S2 was not aimed at the media-consumption crowd due to the aspect ratio, the speakers would only work to serve as fodder for your cannon. Last year, Samsung did the seemingly unthinkable and put stereo speakers on the Tab S. And it separated them: one on either side be it the Tab S 8.4 or the Tab S 10.5.

This year, the speakers are both located along the bottom of the device and they couldn’t be worse. Playing a YouTube video on 80% volume was relatively loud, but the sound quality itself was truly nothing to write home about, especially if there was any kind of competing noise in the background (like a fan, for example). When I cupped my hands to the speakers things improved somewhat, but all-in-all even the single rear-firing speaker on the Galaxy A8 produced better, louder, crisper sounds than this tablet does.

The main problem is, at least with the Tab S2 8.0, when you hold it in landscape mode, your finger(s) are always going to naturally be in a position to block one of the stereo speakers. This results in further muffled sound quality and you might not even be aware of the problem. Suffice to say this issue could have been largely avoided with speakers on opposing sides wherein you could hold the tablet in an orientation such that neither hand was blocking the sound.

Build quality blues…or benefits?

samsung galaxy tab s2 8 8

Direct Competition: the Tab S 8.4 (left) vs the Tab S2 8.0 (right)

As had been widely leaked in the months and weeks leading up to the Tab S2’s official unveiling, the device makes use of an aluminum perimeter around the tablet but with a soft-touch, almost rubber-esque plastic on the rear. Much like the Galaxy Alpha, it feels as if the entire heft of the product is generated by the lightweight metal. In the case of the Tab S2, the overall impression I had was quite nice. The rear in particular feels comfortable and even soothing to the touch, and markedly different than the harder, “porous” rear that was seen on last year’s models.

I liked the ergonomics of the device: despite the wider body size, it was still comfortable to hold in the hand and the contours along the underside of the frame are quite reminiscent of what Samsung has used for the Galaxy A8. Even the docking pegs for the Book Cover are smaller and look much nicer than the bland discs from 2014.

samsung galaxy tab s2 8 10

As is typical with Samsung’s questionable quality control, my Galaxy Tab S2 arrived with defects present. Specifically, the metal frame had scratches on several places along the perimeter. Why it is Samsung feels the need to paint 90% of the frame black yet leave the 2014-era Galaxy Note 4 “tracing” of silver along the edge is totally at-war with the design aesthetic employed by not only the Galaxy S6, but the A8 as well. I will unfortunately be direct here and state that the painted frame is nothing short of hideous, though for those who loved the Note 4 or Note Edge it will probably come off as quaint.

“Button”-bashing

One other gripe I have about the build quality is the fact that the capacative buttons that flank the fingerprint-sensing home button are literally painted onto the screen. I’m not quite sure why Samsung felt the need to do this, though in truth the OEM has yet to do otherwise. Something about the metal frame however, coupled with the relatively compact size of the tablet just make the always-visible buttons less bearable. If even the Galaxy A8 can feature “vanishing” ones, why can’t this tablet as well? Is Samsung worried that users might forget where they are?

Beyond this personal gripe, there is once again no default way to alter the backlight on-time of the capacitive keys. They remain lit for roughly 3 seconds, then disappear. This, coupled with the lack of haptic feedback when pressing them (again at least on the Wi-Fi model) really just irked me.

“Begun the Clone Wars have”

Nexus 9 Vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4-14

I have been harping on this picture for months now: the Tab S2 is convergence.

Google’s release of the Nexus 9 last year was arguably the perfect panacea Samsung had been searching for all to aid tablet maladies. In its purported attempts to clone the iPad over the years, Google’s own adoption of a 4:3 aspect ratio for its perennial tablet meant that all lights were green to go with 4:3 Galaxy Tab models in the coming year. Indeed not only does the Galaxy Tab S2 resemble the iPad Mini, but it can literally fit comfortably inside a case for Apple’s product as well, though button placement issues create for problems.

I would at least expect there to be some things added or at the very least, left the way they were.

While using the Tab S2 in public, several of my friends or acquaintances asked if I had purchased an iPad. This, despite the prominent Samsung logo at the top. In truth some probably would have even were this the Tab S 8.4 simply because Apple “invented” the tablet. While there are indeed sizable benefits in opting for full-screen aspect ratio, it seemingly goes without saying that the direct competition with Apple’s iPad is indeed what Samsung had hoped.

At least the camera is a step-above the typical tablet fare. While these samples are not stunning, at least things have improved in the past few years.

Performance anxiety

When news broke that the Tab S2 was to use the same SoC as last year’s Galaxy Note 4 (the Exynos 5433), a sizable number of readers were not happy. Instead of opting for the fast, relatively brand new Exynos variant found in this year’s Galaxy S6, Samsung went with an aging chip. While I didn’t notice anywhere near the amount of lag that occurred with the Galaxy A8 testing, there were some occasional stutters. More often than not however, the problems arose from random app crashes, usually games.

Take a look at the various scores and comparisons that two tests on AnTuTu resulted in:

So yes, despite the fact that the Galaxy Tab S2 has the same SoC present in the Note 4, it actually performs worse in this benchmark test, as it does any number of devices from last year, including the One Plus One.

4:3 is good for me?

gsmarena_001

This sample image offers the stark contrast in size differences.

GSM Arena

For almost half a year now, comments have been coming forth about the idea of Samsung using 4:3 full-screen aspect ratio for its 2015 tablets. When the first affirmation finally arrived, some were quite brutal. Truth be told, the use of a full screen aspect ratio isn’t the end of the world at all. The public opinion that 16:9 is the golden ratio of viewing is really based on the working assumption that all products made before the advent of the DVD were somehow “wrong”. Apple has sold hundreds of millions of iPads however, all of which make use of this controversial proportion. Is it really that bad?

Productivity

One of the benefits of 4:3 is that typing is an absolute breeze. The fatter nature of the screen means that in portrait orientation, basic activities like typing tend to be easier to do. Smaller widescreen tablets are often too “cramped” for those with larger hands, much like widescreen phones. Having the extra space means you may have an easier time typing. I sure did.

The nice wide handling of the Galaxy Tab S2 means that you can get work done on it, and indeed most of this review was actually typed on the Tab S2. It was an overall fantastic experience to say the least, something that I absolutely could not say applied to the Tab S 10.5, and only moderately-well on the Tab S 8.4 – for me at least; others may beg to differ.

Media consumption

This might be mutually exclusive, but I don’t watch movies on my tablet or phone. Were I flying often, or sitting on a train for long periods of time, this might not be the case. The same goes for if I was a child or passenger in a car. Still, at the end of the day, I don’t watch movies on my phone. What then, do I use it for? Typically, browsing the web.

samsung galaxy tab s2 8 screenshots 2

As you might imagine, the ability to view a website in 4:3 aspect ratio therefore allows far more of the printed text to fit comfortably on-screen, and it lends itself perfectly to things like e-books. Everything is less squished, everything tends to fit on the page nicer, there is less scrolling necessary because the text can better fit horizontally, etc. It’s the same exact things you might hear Apple or Google say about their newest tablets.

While I don’t claim to represent the majority of people, I would argue that there are many individuals who also use their phones (or tablets) primarily for internet use or other tasks. For us, the 4:3 aspect ratio just works better. Given that Apple in particular has pushed 4:3 iPads for so long, and they have been so successful, it’s also clear that many are willing to forgo widescreen when push comes to shove. Samsung will likely not get the benefit of the doubt here given that media purists accept nothing less than 16:9-esque ratios.

A problematic reality

With all this said, there’s a major problem with things like YouTube videos. Take a look at the screen capture below to gain an immediate understanding:

tab s2 screenshot

The problem here has less to do with the Galaxy Tab S2 and more to do with the simple fact that almost all media now created is done in 16:9 format, or something similar. I will fully admit that for all the benefits personally gained with respect to reading, typing, browsing, or even game playing, the times when I used the Tab S2 for watching YouTube was met with some displeasure.

If you end up springing for the black-color variant like I used for this piece, the bars will seemingly blend in with the unit itself. With a white (or gold) variant however, things look to be much more potentially problematic. At the same time however, the “seamless” nature of the black model will ironically make the screen bezel look absolutely gigantic, not unlike the old BlackBerry PlayBook or Xperia Tablet Z.

Safe and Sound

I was truly, truly pleased to find that the fingerprint sensor used in the Galaxy Tab S2 works just as perfectly as it does in the S6, S6 Edge, and Galaxy A8. Mind you it is the same senor, but after the experiences I had with the thing included in last year’s Tab S, it was nice to actually use this one. Four different finger readings can be added as per other devices, and you simply need to press the desired digit on the sensor to unlock. It’s effortless and happens in a snap. No swiping, no redoing, no frustration.

Granted for those who typically use a tablet at home exclusively, the idea of locking it to begin with might seem unnecessary, but for people like myslef who take them to work or on travel for business-related use, the effortless security standard is a nice thing to have.

Praising the Power (Cell)

Battery wise the Tab S2 certainly managed to impress. One of the largest flaws that people complained about with last year’s model was the battery, namely how quickly it depleted and subsequently how long it took to recharge. The tablet managed to go an entire day with heavy use, for example, and still had 50% remaining by the end. This include sending emails, typing this piece, playing several games, listening to music, doing benchmark tests, etc.

Tab S2 Battery

One aspect that might be in play here is the lower resolution of the screen as per the aspect ratio; it’s not technically QHD simply because there aren’t enough pixels to be classified as such. Another issue could be some of the cost cutting measures Samsung employed. As mentioned the lack of any vibration feature can factor in (though it’s likely the LTE model will retain it) as does the quick power-off of the capacative key backlighting, and the lack of the parallax-background wallpapers seen on the Galaxy S6.

I had spent a considerable amount of time with the Korean Tab S 10.5 LTE-A model which actually used the same SoC found in this product, and the battery life was awful. Samsung definitely managed to score some major points with this product and longevity, something bolstered by the inclusion of Ultra Power Saving mode.

Wrap Up

samsung galaxy tab s2 9.7 19

In deciding how to evaluate the Galaxy Tab S2, it is an issue of price, priority, and purpose. The specs inside unfortunately do not equate to flagship, not by far, and thus the cost may be quite a high one to swallow. Likewise the decision Samsung made to use 4:3 aspect ratio is also equally troubling for a large number of people, even if some (like yours truly) find it to be that much more endearing because of the form factor.

They device will also appeal to anyone who is truly searching for a high(er) end Android rival to the iPad. Granted Asus has its new 4:3 tablet, but in my own testing it the device was riddled with lag and performance issues, perhaps due in part to the combination of its overbearing OS skin and Intel’s CPU.

So what do you think? Are the benchmarks problematic? Does this make a good purchase for you or your family? Let us know in the comments below, and keep an eye out for our full, detailed review in the near future!

  • Pez Smith

    Samsung shooting itself in the foot with dated techs but with flagship price.

    Anyway, the author praised Apple’s 4:3 virtues & bashed Samsung’s 4:3 implementation. :P

    • Keith Taylor

      Not to defend him but the impression I got is that he didnt care for the overall performance and also materials that it was made of. He also stated that he doesnt watch movies with tablets so theres that too. A current Tab S is a better overall value. IMO I think he is stating that Apple is the best because they have convinced folks that the ratio is ok. For me its not, for others it may be.

      • Indeed. I am not suggesting the iPad is a better product by any means. Just that Apple has been using this aspect ratio since the original iPad and the devices have sold like crazy. When there is no choice, people will clearly buy Full Screen.

  • mark choletti

    Too many tablets/mobile devices and not providing enough bang for your buck sums up Samsung perfectly.

  • Keith Taylor

    Well after reading your review I have decided to go with a Tab S instead. I am in the market for a mid size tab (8 plus) and large tab (10 plus). Why would they not bother to put in their latest and greatest chips and then charge an expected high price. the Tab S is now at a more reasonable price point and even though older by your own admission not that much worse than this. I for one do watch movies and videos on my tablets and the side bars would bother me. For the life of me I dont understand the desire to copy Apple so much with the sizes of both of these and aspect ratios. You have done a decent job reviewing these and I may just wait to see if there is a better alternative from them in a few months. Sorry to hear about the ASUS tablet however the with the Intel SOC I didnt expect any better. Was hoping that they might be the one mid size for me. Guess I may continue to wait for the Transformer Infinity series to be updated. They Intel make great computer chips but not so much with mobile. In the end however its all about what works for the individual. I at this point will wait for a few more weeks and then buy both sized Tab S models.

    • s2weden2000

      you should look what dell has done with the intel soc in their venue 8000..or asus zenfone 2..nothing wrong with it..quite the opposite…

    • Techist

      Great choice! I have both the Tab S 8.4 and the 10.5 and IMO they are both excellent devices. If the S2’s had retained the same aspect ratio and resolution, I would probably be thinking of upgrading but with the switch to the 4:3 aspect ratio I do not find them compelling. Since I am not a gamer, the SoC on the original Tab S’s are more than adequate for everything I do with them (running apps, browsing the internet, watching videos, viewing pictures, Skype, Hangouts, etc.) and performs very well. I also recommend you strongly consider the official Samsung Book covers for those tablets that are the best looking tablet covers I have ever seen on any tablet (in addition to being very functional), a sentiment echoed by almost everyone whose ever seen them on my tab S’s.

    • Totsdy

      Completely agree. I had been waiting for the S2 but now wish I hadn’t bothered and gone with the S. I primarily use tablets for watching videos and I was kind of looking forward to having an IR blaster too. The only problem is with it being now a year old updates might stop soon.

      • Navaneeth Suresh

        There are stable Cyanogenmod builds available now for the Tab S, you can flash straight away. Manufacturers are very slow with their updates even on current devices, and TouchWiz slows down performance anyway, honestly not a fan of manufacturer skins. And even otherwise, last gen devices won’t really benefit beyond Kitkat – the biggest plus with Lollipop is 64-bit support and these chipsets are 32-bit. Even 64-bit chipset based devices won’t make the most of it until there are enough 64-bit apps available, so lack of software updates for a previous-gen device shouldn’t be a deal breaker.

    • hubick

      I’m typing this on my brand new Tab S 8.4. It could be faster, but the S2 just isn’t worth it for the downgrade in screen, battery, etc. I like the 16:9 form factor a lot more, plus I get an extra 0.4″ of screen, and better dpi too. Maybe the S3 will be better.

  • GasPoweredCat

    those photos of akihabara make me want to go back, but the tab S2 does not make me want one! (im sticking with my tab z2)

  • David B

    This all hinges upon if it is supposed to be a mid range product or not. If it is targeting mid range, then it is a pretty decent product…but if this is sammy”s next “high end” line – then talk about 1 step forward, 3 backwards. Yuk.

  • monkey god

    The specs weren’t promising, so I already had low expectations. This review just brought my expectations lower. No NFC, worse sound and picture, no IR blaster, stuttering, older version of Lollipop w/ a gimped version of Touchwiz, painted on buttons? These are not qualities i would equate to a $500+ tablet, especially when it’s predecessor can be had for a much less. From what I can gather, the only meaningful improvements (over the Tab S) is the battery life and camera and no one really cares about the camera on a tablet.

    • Hectoron

      Actually the performance is the biggest improvement (not sure whether the battery life is an improvement at all since all pre-reviews point to equal or worse battery life). The CPU & GPU both are about 50% faster than the Exynos 5420 in S. And since the GPU has to power only 75% pixels compared to S (4.1 vs 3.1 million) the 50% more GPU power results in 100% higher (or double) GPU performance.

      • Freddy Johnson

        But the speed of the s2 on the benchmarks was slower than the note 4? Which means that the ipad air 2 is faster than Samsung s2. What are android users suppose to do if the specs for the older ipad air 2 continually beat android tablets. And then there was the speaker sound in the review. It seems Samsung has given up the fight. Which is upsetting to me. And it seems Apple just does everything perfectly. Like don’t Samsung care about their products any more?

        • Hectoron

          Yes agree with you, the effort Samsung puts in its tablets is even less than half hearted. This August release ‘Flagship’ Samsung tablet has the same amount of RAM as a 2 yr old (22 months to be precise) Galaxy Tab 10.1 (2014-edition released in Oct 2013). It has the same SOC as a 10 months old Note 4 and almost has 2 successors already (7420 & 7422). It is ‘named’ S (2) but looks like Galaxy A series smartphones, Tab A looks like Galaxy E series smartphones & Tab E looks like Galaxy J series. Samsung is doing everything to make some money in tablet department & mostly by hook/crook.

          • Freddy Johnson

            Yeah well I buy a tablet and a phone every year. So basically I have the money to afford the best. I have an Ipad Air 2 at the moment and sure it is good I can’t wait to get back to Android. I want the Sd card, 32 Gb and 64 GB of memory and I would love to transfer all my drop box files on there. I want the best screen, the biggest battery, top performance to do everything on there. I have been waiting for 6 months to upgrade to an android tablet but can’t find anything worthwile to buy. I don’t care about the looks as I put a cover on it anyway. Which means I don’t care about the wireless charging as I put covers on all my stuff. But Samsung give us what we want. You are going backwards not forwards.

          • Hectoron

            Yes, in spite of all android manufacturers churning out trillions of tablet models- not one stands head & shoulders above the rest, to say nothing about standing above an ipad. And when the chance came for Samsung to beat ipad at its own game (they copied the 4:3 ratio so that both products could be compared directly),, they scrwed it big time.
            Wait for the reviews to roll in, I bet this 9.7″ won’t have more than 7 hrs browsing battery life and only around 10 hrs for video playback.

          • Freddy Johnson

            Well we supported Samsung to make sure they have the funds to compete with apple. And what do they do. On the phones get rid of sd card and removeable battery and on the tablets copy apple with the display ratio, and provide a less spec tablet than the new note 5 and s6 and stay charge apple prices. Why does it feel like samsung does not know what i want any more. They are trying to create a mediocre device at a high price and i want the best at a high price. I mean the phones have higher specs than the tablets. More ram, better cameras and quicker

          • Hectoron

            Right said Fred!

          • FlyBri

            I would actually say that the Sony Xperia Z4 tablet stands out among Android tablets (maybe not head and shoulders above the rest, but definitely stands out among others), but of course, it’s still not (and probably will never be) available in the U.S.

  • Ford Warrick Jr

    I’m not sure what to think after reading this review. I had the Tab S and really like it but returned it at the last minute when I heard the Tab S2 was being released. I would prefer the 4:3 screen because I used the Tab S for books, magazines and comics but some of the features of the Tab S2, like the speakers, seem like a downgrade. I’m going to play with the S2 in the store but I may go back to the S.

  • NO IR BLASTER. waw, what a premium feel.

  • immer_sie

    I imported a 9.7 from Singapore for under what it will probably retail for in the US. There were things about the Tab S that bothered me(the styling, the fingerprint sensor, etc…), which led to me waiting for the Tab S2. I am a little irked about the processor, but it has run pretty smooth for what I do with it. I do a mixture of reading and movie/show/YouTube watching. A little bit of Hearthstone here and there. So far it’s been great for my needs and fills the gap between my phone and computer. Surprisingly the black bars on videos don’t bother me. The larger screen makes up for it and I’d rather use my tablet over my properly ratio’d phone.

    Hearing there may be a proper flagship tablet coming out down the line makes a lot of sense in regards to the processor choice. I wondered why they didn’t use the processor from the S6 and S6 edge. However, if they are saving it for an edge tablet, I’ll definitely pass. I have an S6 edge, and it’s a great phone but I literally never use the edges. I’ll be skipping their edge products until those edges have more use.

    • Hectoron

      Kindly let me know how much did it cost you for importing from Singapore to US (ie. S$ or US$)? What was the price in Singapore and how much you paid for shipping, import duties etc? I too am interested in this tablet because of the 4:3 aspect ratio

      • immer_sie

        I paid $477 US and tax free, shipping was free for FedEx international express. I wasn’t charged for any import duty.

        • Hectoron

          Ok. Thanks for the information. I believe you imported from Singapore to the US?

    • Dinsy Jones

      Can you please comment on battery life? That’s what concerns me the most about the Tab S2.

  • this or the Nexus 9?

    • Dr. Manhattan

      It would help if they listed the Nexus 9 in their benchmarks, especially when they have one handy.

  • 16x10FTW

    I actually picked up the Wi-Fi 10.5″ Tab S (for just $399) immediately after reading credible rumors (on AA) about 4 months ago. The S2’s switch to 4:3 was a deal breaker for me. I primarily use my tablet when I travel and the 16:10 screen of the 10.5″ S1 made videos MUCH larger than the Nexus 9 (4:3) I compared it to. Additionally, I use a Bt keyboard case/mouse with Google Remote Desktop to access my PC at home & office… both of which also use 16:10 monitors making the RDP experience truely seamless and laptop’esque. I’ve never experience ANY issues with battery life and especially when watching movies in ‘Airplane mode’. In fact on a recent 10+ hour flight, I was able to watch 3 feature length 1080p mkv movies in MX Player and it still had 60% left when I put it away. Wi-Fi and web browsing will obviously impact that number, but never to the point where I wasn’t able to make it through a full day with heavy usage. To each their own I guess but if your useage scenario is anything like mine, the S1 and it’s huge 10.5″ 16:10 aspect ratio is the clear choice. The camera flash, IR blaster, NFC, and $100+ cheaper price just make it even more appealing. Build quality was also good, but I literally placed it in a Supcase seconds after removing it from the box, so all of that got masked anyways.

    • Navaneeth Suresh

      +1 for keeping the device on Airplane mode to extend battery life. Don’t see a need for keeping tabs connected, they are primarily for media consumption. All apps that need connectivity (and by that I mean almost all of them) run on our phones anyway (who would want to type tweets/ Fb updates/ Whatsapp replies on a tab’s keyboard, or Instagram using a Tab camera?).

  • Cris

    I have the 8.0 LTE model and I can confirm that it has vibration…

    • Yes I expected as much. It is no doubt because of the cellular functionality. The fact that Samsung feels it can get away with removing the feature from the Wi-Fi model is really telling though.

  • Swifty

    Reading this review gave me the impression of cheap and low budget, could your review unit possibly be a fake?

    Surely Samsung can’t this dumb in trying to sell a mediocre product as a premium product?

  • Kamalnath

    Could have opted for 16:10 aspect ratio.
    processor is a big fail (you’re kidding us no sammy?)

  • Alan S

    I recently bought the Nexus 9 and couldn’t be happier. Great tablet.

  • Dinsy Jones

    Amoled and 4:3 = buy.

    • FlyBri

      For at least $100 less than they are charging, and I would agree with you. It’s a lower res AMOLED screen than last year, it’s using an old processor, features have been removed (nfc, vibration motor, etc.) It’s nowhere near worth what they are charging. As much as I’m an Android person, an iPad 2 trumps this in speed an overall usability. Samsung really disappointed on this one.

      • Dinsy Jones

        I think it has vibration motor, but not NFC. I agree it’s overpriced, but prices will surely come down after launch pretty quickly. I’ve waited years for a good 4:3 Android tablet, I can wait a few more weeks :)

        • FlyBri

          The new higher end Asus Zenpad S 8.0 seems damn good for the money, and it’s significantly cheaper than the Samsung Tab S2.

          • Dinsy Jones

            Indeed that new Zenpad looks like really good value, but personally I want a bigger screen and Amoled. Also, I don’t really trust Asus that much, they seem to cut too many corners sometimes when it comes to long-term reliability to get to those prices.

      • camp168

        I have the Tab S2, 9.7. It is incredibly thin and light. The processor in application- not on paper- is much faster than the Tab S.

        • FlyBri

          I agree it’s definitely faster than the Tab S, hands down. However, the processor in the Tab S2 is still outdated — it’s what they used in the Note 4. The S6 has been out for a bit now, and the Note 5 just came out — why not use the chip in those. Samsung should be putting in the latest and greatest — that’s what Apple has done when they release their new tablets. And what’s even crazier is that the Air 2 is still faster than the Tab S2, and it’s just shy of being a year old! Not to mention, Android’s tablet apps are frustratingly still way behind iOS (I’m an Android fan, so this kills me). You can now get a 64GB iPad Air 2 for the same price as a Galaxy Tab S2 32GB, and because of the speed and better tablet ecosystem of iOS, the Air 2 is much better value proposition.

          The fact that the Android tablet ecosystem is still way further behind, and the fact that the Galaxy Tab S2 doesn’t have the latest and greatest tech of what Samsung has available, there is no way this should be selling for anywhere near iPad prices. At the BARE MINIMUM, the Tab S2 should be selling for $100 less than it is. However, in reality, an iPad Air 2 32GB sells for between $400 and $450, which is already $50-100 less than the Tab S2 9.7″ so in my honest opinion for it to be anywhere near an equal value proposition, a Tab S2 9.7″ should be selling new for $350-375.

          I have a Tab S 10.5 that I picked up at a good discount, and use it just for media consumption because of the AMOLED display and stereo speakers on either side of the device. The Tab S2 main selling point is, again, the display. But now they went with a 4:3 aspect ratio, which kills the idea of using it for media consumption. Yes, a 4:3 aspect ratio is fine for all other types of use (internet browsing, reading, etc.), and when used to browse the internet and read, in addition to media consumption, I’d argue you can live with a 4:3 aspect ratio… but only if the device is good enough to be a primary device, which, unfortunately, in my opinion it isn’t, just due to the fact that the Tab S2 runs Android (and thus has a weak tablet ecosystem).

          The problem is that now that Android tablet manufacturers are differentiating themselves even less by matching the iPad and going with a 4:3 aspect ratio, there is an expectation that the user experience will near that of an iPad, which again, just due to the lacking Android tablet ecosystem, it won’t be. Thus, they have to differentiate on price, and they are, just in the wrong direction. The Asus ZenPad S 8.0 is a better value proposition than the Tab S2 due to the inclusion of stylus support, good stereo front facing speakers, etc.
          I have been saying for years that Google needs to subsidize the market to help developers make Android tablet apps on par or close to iOS tablet apps — so far, they haven’t done anything worthy of what I consider helping at all. Until they do, Android tablets need to be cheaper than iPads, period.

  • staying away

  • John

    Where is the FULL review?

  • Lynn Cavender

    I have both the 8″ and the 10.5″ Tab S. I loved the smaller one! I purchased the larger one because I wanted the LTE. The 10.5 battery blows the 8.4 out of the water. It last forever! I don’t think I would be satisfied with the cutbacks that were made with the S2. The shape change doesn’t gaze me but the other cutbacks are deal breakers.

  • Rik R

    I’m on 10 hours of screen time with this tablet and I just got it the other day so it will get better. I’m using the LTE international version 715 that has the 8 inch screen that also makes calls on ATT. I am using a phone SIM as well. This is the best tablet Samsung has made and I’ve owned them all. The comfort of use and speed easily outweighs the idiotic benchmarks and the performance is flawless. There are no lags or stutters and the lightness has provided me hours of use with no fatigue. So yes I don’t use a tablet to take pictures, I don’t bring it to the store to pay for things, I don’t use it to change the channel (I use the Comcast app on wifi) and the 4:3 is much better than the 16:9. This only cost me 399 from expansys so I don’t think this tablet cost a lot and Apple gives you much worse hardware and charges more, so some people need to get a grip on reality here. If you want to pay 200 dollars there are plenty of tablet options out there. Samsung has realized that they have done a lot of unnecessary things in the past that has kept them from profitability and competitiveness so now they are simplifying and refining they’re products. Just like the Note 5 this product is very refined and it shows in everyday usage.

  • Navaneeth Suresh

    Just my two cents – not sure how much a tab buyer should read into ‘performance’, since tabs are almost never our primary mobility/computing device. Most processor intensive apps would run on our phones anyway. Tabs are primarily for media consumption. At best, on your tablet you would run a good video player (like MX player) to watch movies/videos, YouTube/IMDB and other streaming apps for video consumption again, an e-reader for ebooks/comics and perhaps a music player to listen to while you’re reading. A browser of course. Even gaming seems a stretch, that much screen real-estate is overkill for the average games and gamer, and a hardcore gamer wouldn’t buy a tab (unless it’s designed for gamers – like the Shield tab) to play games on.
    Why I say this, is because I’m using a nearly 5-year old Samsung Galaxy tab p1000 (probably the first Samsung tab ever!) running on a Cyanogenmod 11 build. I’ve read the entire ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series books on it, watched two seasons of ‘Avatar’ and the third season of ‘The Newsroom’ on it (and plan to watch Sherlock and House of Cards on it too), occasionally YouTube or watch trailers on IMDB; all whilst running on a single 1 GHz Cortex-A8 chip and less than 512 MB RAM. It sure is not the fastest device, but isn’t torturously slow enough to make me wanna throw it out the window. Sure a better device is long overdue, but it puts things in perspective when considering specs of new-age devices. So don’t break too much sweat over benchmarks and the ‘ocassional lag/stutter’. Figure out what you will be using the tab for and what kinda performance you’d need for it. Five years on from when the first galaxy tab was launched, I’d say pretty much any of today’s chipsets should get the job done for your tab needs.
    Thanks for the review though, Tab S is definitely the better deal.

  • camp168

    A couple of things…I have the Tab S2 in 9.7 size. It shipped with Android 5.1.1 and scores a consistent 53010 in AnTuTu (v5.7.1) so I’d say something was wrong with the test model, or 5.1.1 plugged the memory leak I read about in 5.0.X. By the way, the 4:3 aspect ratio is actually preferred for 95%+ of what a tablet is used for. Just my $.02.

    • Marty

      This review used the older version of Antutu. The latest 3D version produces higher scores. But still, if that 53010 is with the 3D version, that’s pretty good. And if it’s with the older version of Antutu, that’s quite excellent.

      • camp168

        Just tested with the new Antutu 3d and got a 57484. Is that good? I plan to test a few more time for an average…

        • Marty

          Yeah, that’s a great score. But I’m more impressed with the older version score. That’s pretty impressive to me. The new score is impressive, I’m not trying to say it isn’t. It’s just that I’m more familiar with the older version scores and to see that high of a score strikes me.

  • Alex Roque

    I know it’s not really related, but I’m curious as to what the clock widget they used is.

  • Econenthusiast

    I was looking to buy this tablet, but this review has changed my mind. I think I will instead purchase the s6

  • Marty

    Sad. Such a nice looking tablet. Yet crippled by an unacceptable SoC. Can Samsung ever get anything right?

  • Modman

    Note tablet series rises the grave. The best most underappreciated tablet series refuses to bow out to stink pad. Samsung bring the pain. Marty you I-diot More-On does iPad come with a stylus? can it sign legal document PDFs without printing? I think not. How about split screen or note pro 12 splitting into four screens? other android tablets and stink pad fall short. only surface pro comes close and it has a hefty price tag.