After many leaks, Samsung has officially unveiled its Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 and 9.7 tablets yesterday, just over a year after the original Galaxy Tab S series was announced.
The Tab S2 is a new type of tablet from Samsung (despite the naming convention), with several major changes compared to the original Tab S range, but how do they compare? Is the Tab S2 better than the original, at least on paper? Let’s take a quick look at the biggest differences and what a difference a year can make.
Smaller, slimmer and lighter
This is one of the biggest hardware changes: Samsung’s new tablets are slimmer and lighter than their predecessors and at 5.6mm, Samsung claims they are the slimmest tablets on the market.Galaxy Tab S came in 8.4-inch and 10.5-inch variants and the smaller screen sizes mean a reduction in weight; the Tab S2 8-inch weighs in at 265 grams (versus the Tab S 8.4 at 294 grams), while the Tab S2 9.7-inch comes in at 389 grams (versus the Tab S 10.5 at 465 grams).
Both of Samsung’s new tablets also come with a touch-based fingerprint sensor like the Galaxy S6 versus a swipe-based sensor on the original Tab S. The improved fingerprint sensor should make unlocking using your fingerprint a lot more reliable and also rival the Touch ID fingerprint sensor found on the Apple iPad.
The Tab S2 will also be available in more standardised black and white colours while the Galaxy Tab S came in the more daring White and Bronze colours. The back cover has also been smoothened out (versus a textured rear on the Tab S). It’s worth noting however that the rear on the Tab S2 is plastic (versus aluminium on the iPad) and could be perceived as less premium than the original Tab S series.
A sharp display, that’s completely different
It’s rare to see a successor have a display that’s arguably less premium than the original but somehow, Samsung decided this was a fit decision. In fact, the display is the biggest change between the two generations of the Tab S and judging by Samsung’s changes, it may not be one that proves successful.
Both of the new Galaxy Tab S2 tablets sport Super AMOLED displays offering 2048 x 1536 pixels resolution but despite being smaller, they offer slightly less pixels than the original Tab S devices. The biggest change however is that Samsung has opted to use the 4:3 aspect ratio of the iPad rather than the 16:10 standard that’s widely-used as the standard aspect ratio of Android devices. As a result, the tablet may be better for reading e-books and the like but when used in landscape to view movies, it’ll have wider black bars and arguably a poorer media experience.
On the density front, the original Tab S seems to have the measure over its successor. The Tab S2 8-inch offers a pixel density of 320ppi (versus 359ppi on the Tab S 8.4) while the larger Tab S2 has a pixel density of 264ppi (versus 287ppi on the Galaxy Tab S 10.5). The decision to reduce the resolution and switch aspect ratio means the original Tab S will have a much better experience and given that the human eye can distinguish individual pixels when density is less than 350 pixels per inch, you may notice the lower density on the new tablets.
No more camera flash (but do you even need it?)
I personally dislike using a tablet as a portable camera but without doubt, there’s a market for tablet cameras (although I can’t think why) and as such, every tablet needs a relatively good pair of cameras.
The Tab S2 offer the same 8MP rear and 2.1MP front camera setup as the original Tab S but bizarrely, Samsung has dropped the flash rendering the cameras near useless in low light conditions. As such, there’s no doubt that the original Tab S will be better if you (for some reason) need a camera on your tablet.
A familiar Lollipop experience
The Galaxy Tab S2 come running Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the box and offer the same experience as the Tab S does on the latest update. Samsung claims the tablets are the “most immersive Samsung tablet to-date” and while it may be this, we certainly hope it’s a smooth experience that’s been toned down.
Last year’s Galaxy S5 smartphone had, in my opinion, one of the poorest software experiences – due to a lack of optimisation and over-zealous amounts of bloat – on a Samsung device, which then transferred to the Galaxy Tab S and with massive improvements in the Galaxy S6, we’re hoping that Samsung has learnt from last year and optimised the software and hardware on the Tab S2.
Initial signs suggest that this may be the case as the Galaxy Tab S2 will come preloaded with Microsoft Office and two years’ free OneDrive cloud storage, both of which were present on the Galaxy S6. Of course, it’ll be difficult to see exactly how improved the software is until we’ve got our hands on so stay tuned for our full review.
The other changes
The Galaxy Tab S2 also sees Samsung switch from a Qualcomm processor to its own Exynos 5433 processor but surprisingly, the Korean opted to pick the lesser Exynos 5433 chipset (versus the impressive Exynos 7420 used in the Galaxy S6). Both Tab S2 models are powered by octa-core CPUs with four cores clocked at 1.9GHz and four cores at 1.3GHz, which is the same big.LITTLE power configuration as the original tablets.
One big change that’s definitely disappointing is the integrated non-removable battery: the smaller screen size and thinner build has meant that battery capacity has dropped from the original Galaxy Tab S. The Tab S2 8-inch comes with a 4000 mAh battery (versus 4900 mAh on the Tab S 8.4) while the larger Tab S2 has a 5870 mAh battery which is a lot smaller than the 7900 mAh battery on the Galaxy Tab S 10.5-inch.
The reduction in battery size (especially as large as it is on the Tab S2 9.7) means it will definitely need charging more frequently but hopefully Samsung’s software and hardware optimisations will still offer solid battery life.
What a difference a year can make
The Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is probably my favourite Android tablet ever made, mainly for the really impressive specs and despite the poor software experience. As a user of the Tab S 8.4, I was eagerly awaiting the new Tab S2 range but Samsung’s tablets have left me feeling somewhat deflated.
The key reason for this is that Samsung has tried to align the Tab S2 a little too close to the iPad for my liking. The original Tab S had the best that Samsung could offer at the time but with the Tab S2, Samsung has changed from offering its best experience to the closest iPad-like experience it could offer.
The switch in aspect ratio may yet pay off for Samsung as one potential reason for the change in direction is the appeal to iPad developers; one major problem that all Android tablets have is the lack of tablet-specific applications and this was mainly because the number of screen sizes that developers have to support. A switch to 4:3 aspect ratio could make the Tab S2 tablets more appealing to Apple developers looking to offer dedicated apps for Android tablets.
Making comparisons between the two generations of Galaxy Tab S is a lot harder than if Samsung had merely updated last year’s models with tweaked specs and as such, so our final opinion on the tablets will have to wait until our full review is published in the coming weeks. In the meantime, let us know what you think of the new Tab S2 range in the comments below!