Galaxy Tab S2 vs Galaxy Tab S: what’s changed?

by: Nirave GondhiaJuly 20, 2015

samsung galaxy tab s2 9.7 5

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.

Best Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 Cases

Android tablets in video:

The Galaxy Tab S2 is available in 8.0-inch and 9.7-inch models while the original 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.

samsung galaxy tab s2 9.7 13

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.

samsung galaxy tab s2 9.7 2

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.

samsung galaxy tab s2 9.7 15

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.

Original Tab S in video:

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!

  • Allan Gordon

    I’m disappointed by what I just read. This seems similar to HTC disappointing with the One M9 phone, which was a marginal at-best improvement over its predecessor. Perhaps the challenge to up the ante in one year while reducing costs is an unsustainable environment for mobile device manufacturers. Though, the timing for upgrades will only become more challenging with each passing year.

    • Shamoy Rahman

      Xperia Tablet Z4 is your answer.

  • V-Phuc

    Which jarhead (no pun intended to the Marines) is running Sammy nowadays? It just seems to me that Sammy is making blunder after blunder this year. As a consumer, I believe and urge everyone not to buy into their gimmicks, read all the reviews possible and truly weigh in the real-life needs that a device should bring to you, instead of buying into their stupid gimmick and just pray that somehow the device will perform as you wish. I now wish that LG releases some good tablets. Theirs have been mediocre so far. Samsung should be in the red to learn their lesson.

    • Shamoy Rahman

      S4 was a shit phone with marketing gimmicks to win buyers (*** cough cough air gestures cough cough ***). I’m so happy I threw out my S5 (didn’t even sell that piece of trash) for a Z3 and I’m much happier with what I have now. A much better UI and no, I don’t need an AMOLED display until OLED becomes mainstream.

    • uniquename72

      I don’t think you know what a pun is.

  • Gary Astorino

    Yeah. Samsung always keep going backwards on their newer products like with memory, battery, screen resolution. They took over the NOOK reader and even went backwards on that. Why not offer the most memory you can as well as memory card, best screens available, best battery possible. Get rid of the bloatware. I buy your devices to put my own stuff on it. If your apps are good I will download them and use them instead of something else. You can’t ask me to buy books, music, apps, videos, etc. and then take up half the memory of your devices with your crap that I can’t remove or even stop running taking up additional ram. America is going to go all Chinese soon and get a class action with all the bloatware and that won’t be good for anyone.

    Wonder why Apple keeps beating you well they only make 3 or 4 devices and make them premium not 100 or more and then make the 100 or more mediocre.

    • zmann

      Confirmed with Samsung’s history of Tab 1 vs Tab 2 . I’d post the link but somehow it’s not acceptable here so the google search – Samsung galaxy tab 1 vs tab 2 10.1 .

      • Passer By

        I’ll just TELL you. I thought the Tab 2 was sick better than Tab. Until I realized to my horror the Tab 2 was actually a piece of shit compared to the original Tab. I was shocked, I cannot tell you how horriblly upset I was (8 mb RAM!!?? – 8????!!). yes it’s a nice device to watch movies and play games & eventually I really got used to it, but I was shocked to discover how far down the ladder that thing went when compared to the Tab.

        So now I bought a Galaxy Tab S 10.5 in 2016 (surprised to find that it was a two-year old device; hearing nothing but bad things about every Galaxy Tab afterwards) and I’m telling you right now I do not regret it!!

        • zmann

          Yah, I heard that Tab S 10.5 was pretty good as opposed to Tab S2 9.7. Sadly, the original Tab S 10.5 got discontinued to make for for Tab S2 9.7. On the bright side, S2 includes less bloated apps. I’ll see what becomes of Tab S3 and S4 if they come out but if history is any indication, not looking forward to it.

  • badmikiev

    Of all the Blunders Samsung has made recently, and there are many. The Biggest, from my judgement, is the taking away the flash on the camera. I use that for a flashlight, in a tough situation. And it has saved me a couple times now. It’s only a penny extra to put a flashlight on there. And, that is what makes it the, biggest, blunder. It, would be , SO, easy to correct. But, they went and , made the mistake, anyway, Out of pure greed. $0.01 times 2 billion units = $200,000 dollars. That is not much, but it IS a good night out. shame on you Samsung.

  • Sussie

    If I wanted an iPad look alike, I would of bought the iPad!!! I don’t see what they are thinking or what direction they think they are going. People who have and love their iPads, would not get an Android device, they are invested in their apple ecosystem and they looove it. Just because it looks like the iPad does not mean it is. For the rest of us… we are being left with no options. If we wanted iPad (not to be redundant) we would of gotten one. I for one (in case you had not noticed) was really waiting for an s-pen inclusion and the same form factor of the S 8.4… When the A line came out.. I almost lost my hair… Really disappointed, but in the end happy because I won’t spend my hard earned cash on their ecosystem anymore… And you think innovation will be moving forward… it seems every company has agreed to go back 10 years… Arggk..

  • yomammaaho

    Enough already with the “slimmer and lighter” concept… the expense of battery life and resolution.
    The newer apect ratio suggests that movies will not fill the screen. Maybe they should have worked on adjustable aspect ratios.
    No thanks. I’ll keep my 10.5 Tab S. I already have a new battery sitting here on stanby for when the original battery becomes too weak.

  • katanaguy

    I really like my Tab S 10.5 I purchased in Dec 2014. I had tried the Apple ipad for a spell and the original Tab S shamed the ipad- was not even close. I believe almost all Apple products are so overated as it is, especially the young crowd…they buy Apple ipads, phones, etc based almost always by peer pressure ” its just cool, dude” type of attitudes about Apple and their marketing is geared towards the youth. Its funny, but once I get to know someone I can almost predict if they are an android or an apple devotee without knowing what devises they now have. Almost all liberals will buy Apple, period. I have noticed compared with conservatives who lean android. Apple to me is soo overpriced as well…those “smart watches” they offer…people who pay that kind of money are just plain stupid and I guess dont care if they get ripped off.
    I believe all the tech industry leaders tweek their products too damn much from the prior years model. They simply do this to try to justify to the stupid buyers their price increases. Oh well, tech on everybody.

  • M42

    Battery life is terrible in the Tab S8.4 so putting a smaller battery in the new model doesn’t make sense. That with the lower screen resolution looks like a step backward to me.

  • Roger_Morgan

    The author is wrong to criticise the absence of flash with the camera. Modern sensors operate pretty well in low light anyway, and flash makes a scene look artificial. Except for some specialised uses, flash is obsolete for most amateur photographers.

    • Passer By

      Uh, no its not. A flash is always paramount for any type photography. Pro or not. It’s the quality of the flash and how the lense responds to it that matters. In my opinion. I’m would love to be able to put a filter on it. But most people would just say “buy a real camera”… whatever

  • Prestaeus

    Was hoping the Zenpad S 8.0 would be a great replacement for my Nexus 7, but they made the side bezels too thin. I would like to hear more about actual usability. and yes, I also prefer 16:9

  • brown

    The no flash issue, just puts me off. Sadly i had given out my note 3 before acquring the S2 tab, as a gift. Not a good gift for a lady

  • amay

    Thanks for the review. I planned on purchasing the s2 in the morning. Won’t be doing that tomorrow Sammy, I am using tab s right now, a little heavy for watching movies in bed. I guess I’m stuck using my 7 edge for movies in bed. Get it right next time Sammy, you have people counting on you. Remember blackberry fell from grace, your not next are you?