Opinion: Does the Galaxy Tab S2 have things going for it… or against?

by: Matthew BensonJuly 20, 2015
605
9 53 543

samsung galaxy tab s2 9.7 5

Earlier today, Samsung finally announced the Galaxy Tab S2, successor to the premium pair of tablet products it bequeathed onto the world last year. Given the reaction some have in its wake, we felt this to be an ideal time to examine in greater detail just what’s going on with the Galaxy Tab series, and why the one device which consumers might have been looking forward to is suddenly a little less out-of-this-world.

The overview

As we mentioned in the official unveiling post, the Galaxy Tab S2 comes in 8-inch and 9.7-inch variants, both of which use a 4:3 aspect ratio. Included is a 2048×1536 pixel S-AMOLED display. They feature 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 combo, no flash. Android 5.0.2 will be running on top of the updated TouchWiz seen on the Galaxy S6, along with the the same “touch-based” fingerprint sensor. The tablets support microSD up to 128GB and will come in both Wi-Fi-only and LTE variants.

The 9.7-inch variant will include a 5,870mAh battery, and the 8-inch variant a 4,000mAh one. Both devices will be available in either black or white, measure just 5.6mm thick and employ an aluminum frame, but soft-plastic rear panel. SamMobile has listed the following prices for the European model:

  • Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 Wi-Fi: €399  ($432)
  • Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 LTE: €469 ($508)
  • Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 Wi-Fi: €499 ($540)
  • Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 LTE: €569 ($616)

Note that European prices are often significantly higher than the price of the same product in the US.

The potential problems

As we briefly touched upon in the announcement post, there are a few issues with the Tab S2, if not Samsung’s entire 2015 tablet series at-large. None of these points are deal-breakers alone, but when factored as a whole they might serve as a second thought for the more prudent shopper. Let us break them down, point-by-point in an attempt to determine just how relevant they are:

The cost

asus zenpad s 8.0

Asus’ ZenPad S shares a number of similarities to the Galaxy Tab S2, yet costs roughly half the price.

While nothing is set in stone about what kind of money these tablets will cost, the above figures pegged the most expensive variant at roughly $616. This is indeed somewhat concerning as tablet sales are not exactly booming. Samsung’s conscious effort to continue charging a premium price for its products may be commendable, but look no further than its smartphones to see it’s not necessarily a good one. Even the near-universally praised Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge flagships aren’t selling in the vast quantities many anticipated, save for perhaps in North America. Elsewhere in the world keen competition has seen the erosion of Samsung’s unrivaled domination among Android OEMs.

Samsung's continued decision to charge premium prices for lesser products may be commendable, but it's not necessarily a good one.

The high cost of the Galaxy Tab S2 is also unlikely to do it any favors when the original Galaxy Tab S models are now reduced in price, and will probably see further cuts now that their replacement has been announced. Given that last year’s offerings were fantastic products in their own right, and still hold up quite well today – complete with Android Lollipop no less – it becomes all the more difficult to find a reason for more price-conscious customers to actively make a decision to spend more for… not so much more.

The value

One reason the cost of the Tab S2 is likely to be a problem is the perceived value of the product. These days, there are many, many other tablets to chose from, many employing top notch specs and build quality. This includes the original Tab S, but also many other products including the Nexus 9 and others featured here.

samsung galaxy s6 vs note 4 aa 5

Like the Galaxy Note 4 (right)? We hope so, because the Tab S2 is using the same SoC as opposed to the newer one featured in the Galaxy S6 (left).

It is here that Samsung may have dropped the ball. The Galaxy Tab S2 is by no means a dinosaur – far from it – but the decision to go with last year’s Exynos 5433 instead of the new 7420 seen in the Galaxy S6 is a questionable one given the cost of the tablet. Granted, the casual consumer is likely never to notice the difference, but at this price tag one gets into more hard-core users, and ones who will likely compare specs before making a decision. Likewise for a premium tablet, it only makes sense to use premium parts.

It is also worth mentioning that the Korean LTE-Advanced model of the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 already included the Exynos 5433, albeit limited to only 32-bit processing performance, even with the Lollipop update. Still, for the Korean market at least, the value proposition of the Tab S2 becomes even more questionable though at least the “reused” processor will have 64-bit enabled.

The build quality

The construction itself is questionable. Samsung has basically deemed it fit to take the “Galaxy Alpha” approach, if you will, towards the product. The Tab S2 will have a full metal frame, yet once again goes with a soft plastic backside that, while comfortable to hold based on initial reports, is decidedly not metal. How this decision was made is a mystery, but the fact it was shows that Samsung has no intention to compete earnestly with Apple. This is further emphasized by the aspect ratio and this claim by The Wall Street Journal about the early release of the Note 5, in order to avoid competing with Apple’s new generation of iPhones.

Nexus 9 vs iPad

In a very real way, the Nexus 9 (centered) could be easily swapped for the Tab S2 and the picture is still a valid comparison: one uses only a metal frame whereas the iPads have a unibody aluminum construction.

It also showcases just how maligned the naming convention for the tablets has become. The Tab A series, for example, was neither mid-range nor was it made of metal unlike the smartphone series. Likewise, the Tab S2 is neither made (entirely) of premium parts nor is it packing the best specs as per the Galaxy S smartphones. This seemingly is serving no other purpose than to dilute the brand itself by conflating them with more idealistic hardware yet providing less.

Samsung's tablet naming conventions seemingly serve no other purpose than to dilute the brands themselves by suggesting idealistic hardware yet providing less.

Also related to build, though on a slightly more subjective level, Samsung’s decision to go with relatively plain looking, solid colors on the Tab S2 might come as a bit of a disappointment. Last year’s models featured a very distinctive, two-toned color scheme in light of the bronze frame that went around the device’s perimeter. This design choice is rarely seen on Samsung products, usually reserved to special or limited-editions of key smartphones, such as the Galaxy S4 or Galaxy Note 3. The Tab S2 ultimately looks no different than an enlarged Galaxy E or Galaxy A which may -or may not- disappoint some customers.

Cost cutting

While very few people might actually use tablet cameras, their inclusion at all implies that they serve a function to at least some users. While the lesser nature of the Tab S2’s pair of cameras might be easy to overlook, we have said – on more than one occasion now – that the decision to remove the rear flash smacks of cost cutting. Irrespective of if anyone is actually going to use the flash, the fact that Samsung deemed it acceptable to remove it from the Tab S2 after prominently including it on both the original size variants of the Tab S hints at cost-cutting. Since when is it acceptable to remove elements from a premium product that will cost a premium price?

galaxy-note-5-render-main

This user-created render of the Note 5 showcases what it is expected to look like. Hardly an “Old Samsung” product, to be sure.

The decision to use a plastic back, as mentioned above, is yet another element of keeping manufacturing prices down. The same goes for the SoC, and perhaps even the omission of UFS 2.0 storage. All of this was fine-and-dandy in 2014 when the “Old Samsung” was still out to play, yet it seemed like the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge were the products of a new Samsung, the same one that is seemingly going to produce a similar-looking Note 5.

The aspect ratio

While some might be perfectly OK with the 4:3 aspect ratio, the vast majority will not, less there would be far more Android tablets made already of this alternative size situation. Full-screen does have its fair share of uses to be sure: it’s much better for browsing the web or even reading eBooks. But is it mainstream? Perhaps not. While this might have been acceptable on the Tab A, the decision to make both size-variants of its premium offering 4:3 might come back to haunt Samsung. The choice also means this product is directly competing with the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3, along with whatever new devices Apple will release this year. The same is also true of the Nexus 9, and even the much more price-friendly Galaxy Tab A and Asus ZenPad S.

00_SM-T815_Black_black_Standard_Online_S1

Putting aside accusations of “chasing Apple”, it is quite feasible that Samsung chose 4:3 to try and reach out to new potential consumers, ones who aren’t happy with the vast number of widescreen offerings that comprise the near-entirety of Android tablets. It also serves to make the Tab S2 stand out from the previous incarnation and that is, in-and-of-itself, a deciding factor for some.

On the other hand…

Despite the possible misgivings about the Galaxy Tab S2, credit should be given to Samsung for doing something different. It is far, far too easy to release a simple iterative internal update to an existing product and brand it as “new”, not unlike what Apple has done before. Samsung, for all its faults or follies, has consistently redesigned the Galaxy Tab series year-in, year-out. With respect to the Galaxy Tab S in particular, considering last year’s model essentially had excellent specs to begin with (the SoC arguably being a contention depending on the configuration) there was very little Samsung could do to make this a truly different product. Granted the points raised above might have made a difference, but as far as the specs themselves go, these days they are more of a subconscious checklist of sorts for a product than a conscious comparison for the mainstream consumer. Assuming they bothered with comparison shopping to begin with, of course.

samsung-galaxy-tab-s-8.4-review-4-of-27

Had Samsung simply released this product with trivial changes, chances are people would have still been unhappy.

Still, had Samsung released the Galaxy Tab S2 as little more than a metal version of what was delivered last year, there would have been criticism about “reusing the same design” or “charging more for basically the same thing as last year’s now-cheaper product.” By specifically swapping to a 4:3 aspect ratio, Samsung has cunning managed to cater to both types of consumers: those who want a more “iPad” like experience will no doubt be thrilled with the Tab S2, and those who are more interested in widescreen can simply opt for last year’s offerings, still both very nice and for a lower price to boot.

It is also worth praising Samsung for its decision to include microSD card support. Granted this was hardly a risky proposition given the Tab products that have came before, but once upon a time, in the days of the original Galaxy Tab and Tab 10.1, there was no expandable storage. Given the OEM’s predilection this year for removing it on flagship products, it would have been a logical -though perhaps unwelcome- finding had the Tab S2 failed to include it.

Wrap up

The Galaxy Tab S2 is by no means doomed, nor is it a bad product. It’s definitely an improvement over last year’s offerings, on paper. It has a beautiful SAMOLED screen of which no other company can rival and that accounts for a lot. The question, however, is just how competitive the Galaxy Tab S2 is among an ocean of tablets, most of which have long-since decided to forgo premium price points yet still provide killer hardware. Samsung needs to put its best foot forward in light of declining profits, and while the Tab S2 definetly has a nice pedicure, we’re not quite sure all the rough edges were polished.

In the coming weeks, we will be offering detailed reviews and comparisons of the Galaxy Tab S2 line, so let’s reserve final judgement until then. Please be sure to leave us your comments below, along with any suggestions for which products you would be interested in seeing it compared to.

  • Choda Boy

    “Does the Galaxy Tab S2 has things”

    Does has???

  • Poopik Shmill

    No wide screen no buy

    • retrospooty

      It depends on what you use it for. Browsing, apps and email, 4:3 is great. Watching movies/TV/Netflix/whatever – wide is better.

    • James Childress

      4:3 works as long as the resolution is 1440p or greater. That way even a 1080p video leterboxed will be displayed at it’s full resolution. 16:9/16:10 are not as well suited for website, ebook, or digital comic/magazine page rendering and isn’t as well supported by some applications.

      • Poopik Shmill

        I have the 10.5 Tab S
        I use it a lot for watching Tv shows and movies. The wide screen is a must!

  • satsmine2k4

    Worried about the processor inside, reports suggest usage of a 2014 exynos 5433. If that is case it’s definitely a no buy…

    • retrospooty

      Yeah, seems like a lame choice. It’s really not an upgrade at all over last years models. Unless they dramatically lower the price, hell no.

  • retrospooty

    Going Against it: The Asus Zenpad S 8 mentioned above.

    I just picked one up last week. for $199, you get the same res screen (and believe me, its glorious), 32gb storage, SD, and a great CPU. I actually was a bit leery of the Intel Atom chip on Android, this is my first, but it runs great. Battery life is awesome, and doesn’t get hot at all. In fact it runs WAY cooler than any Qualcom Snapdragon 600 or 800 variant I have ever seen. It doesnt even get warm after watching Netflix for hours (and I live in Arizona and its July). Amazing build quality as well. I am sure the Samsung will be decent, but overpriced as always.

    • kellyh.douthitt
    • monkey god

      Yeah, but unfortunately you can’t get a Asus Zenpad S in a larger size. There are very few options for full-sized flagship Android tablets.

      • retrospooty

        I hear ya… There really arent any good high end 0 inchers out that dont have major exceptions. I thought I read that Asus was coming with a Zenpad S 10 inch later, but who knows.

        • V-Phuc

          You seem to forget the Note 10.1 (1st version) and the 2014 edition. I own the latter and absolutely loved it. The S-pen and everything it can do convinced me to later get the Note3 phone. Unfortunately, Samsung doesn’t seem to move forward with this tablet. Another catastrophic blunder by Sammy. They regress instead of progress! At this point, I’d rather buy another Note 10.1 (2014 ed) than this TabS2. I’d probably refuse even it’s given free to me.

          • retrospooty

            You are right, I will give you the note 10 2014 edition. That was pretty good when released. Definitely not the note 10 first edition. Way too low resolution for its time

  • Edge of Surreality

    It does not make sense to upgrade from the original Tab S just for a bit thinner and lighter….it already has an outdated processor upon release, it has less pixel density and resolution than original Tab S. Each size is smaller with smaller, less powerful batteries. It has awful 4:3 resolution which is not great for video streaming, and the back is plastic and not even as nice as last year’s aesthetically and it is going to cost too much…most likely between $400 and $600.
    The original Tab S is a much better deal and has comparable or better features INCLUDING LOLLIPOP upgrade already available. You can get it now at about half the price of the S2 or better and more price drops may be coming once new Tab S2 is released.
    Samsung’s new build choices are questionable in my opinion. They seem to be catering to the AppleNexus-esque leanings of the tech media and not to their diehard customer base. Rumours about the Note 5 also concern me and if they hold true, I will be leaving the Samsung brand to which I have been loyal since detoxing from Apple’s brainwashing techniques several years ago! People choose Samsung because it has been more innovative than other manufacturers, but seems the tech haters have infiltrated them to make them conform to its apple/google religion.

    • Siralf

      In a nutshell, amen

    • sadinpeoria

      As an engineer, I take issue with the statement that aluminum is better than the nonmetallic backs on the Samsung products. pound for pound polycarbonate is much tougher than steel or aluminum. It isn’t slippery or cold feeling either. Steve Jobs was a master salesman and marketer. I don’t want a metal dashboard in my car and I wouldn’t want to wear aluminum body armor.

  • general

    only if it has 64bit enabled exynos 5433

  • Christian

    absolutely disappointed! I like the home button on the short side ! but that’s it! I’ll be buying the tab s

  • Dis

    Overpriced piece of shit. 7420 and £200 sure it would be cool.

    • Dinsy Jones

      Free would be even better.

  • Siralf

    It seems to me that they are giving up trying their own way and they have decided to offer the Android version of Apple products. Also as the article suggests they are doing a terrible job naming the different models, the lineup is confusing (smartphones and tablets alike), and the premium feeling of the top shelf products is dissapearing (note 5 and s6 edge+)

    • retrospooty

      To be fair, Samsung never had high end tablets until just last year. Prior to that, at the time of each models release, the “tab” series was all low to mid range tablets at mid-high prices. Not until the Tab S did they have an actual high end tablet. It was pretty sweet for 2014… Now they are reverting. The Tab S2 are just mid range tablets at high end prices. – meh. megameh.

      • Marc Perrusquia

        It has the same processing package as the international note 4, hardly midrange.

        • Chris Martinelli

          It’s a 1 year old chip, the same used in last years models. That and up until the 7xxx series, Exynos haven’t been keeping up with Snapdragons. It also has lower res than last years models. You cant possibly be impressed with this or call it “high end” in 2015.

          • Dinsy Jones

            CPU-wise, it should be nearly as powerful as the 7420.

            https://browser.primatelabs.com/geekbench3/2976208

            Now, if you compare that with the one on the iPad Air 2 (let alone the one potentially launching later in the year), then sure, it’s going to lose badly… but that’s always been the case. The Amoled screen should be the distinctive feature that the iPad can’t match anyway.

  • Techist

    My only gripe with the original Tab S devices (I own both the 8.4 and the 10.5) was that I wished they had more powerful processors, particularly the the GPU. Not that the perform poorly – they both perform really well in day to day usage, no lag whatsoever – but being the geeky kind I can’t help but be aware that there are other tablets with far more powerful GPUs so I found myself wishing along those lines. The 16:10 aspect ratio was perfect for me, and the 2560 x 1600 Super AMOLED display was absolutely superior to anything else out there. So I was hoping that Samsung would keep the form factor and uprade the processor, especially the GPU. What did they do instead? Go for a different form factor with a lower resolution screen, 4:3 aspect ratio, and a modest CPU/GPU upgrade. The GPU is not even half as powerful as the one in last year’s iPad Air, and will fall even further behind when this year’s iPad Air is released. But Samsung is probably going to price them at the same price as the iPad Air (or perhaps slightly more expensive), then wonder why the iPads are outselling them by such a large margin. They will then conclude (as they have this time), that the iPad’s appeal is form factor, thinness and lightness, and so they will produce another generation that is even thinner and lighter but with even more sub-par internals, and then wonder again why the iPads continue to outsell them. Perhaps they will see the light and realize that beyond a certain point, battery life and processing power matters more than thinness and lightness, and that people do in actual fact pay attention to the internals.

    • Kamalnath Kanthimathinathan

      If it doesn’t have good CPU/GPU then certainly it’s not a good tablet….

  • SethGreen

    TabletBlue . com is one site worth reviewing and has some really nice deals on Android tablets, including the Pipo P8 8-inch model for $159 – which matches most of the specs of the iPad Mini 3, including a Retina display; plus includes GPS and Dual Band WiFi.

    TabletBlue also has two new Dual Boot tablets, which is the newest trend in tablets and makes it easy to use both Windows 8.1 and Android OS Apps on the same device — with tablets that launched this month that include an 8″ model for $164 and a 10″ model for $229 — both which are powered by an Intel processor, offer HD screens and have long battery life–

    Other sale items include an ultra-size 11.6″ Android tablet with an HD display and Intel CPU for $179 (normally $279) and also a premium iPad case with Bluetooth keyboard for $19 (reg $59).

    • James Childress

      I looked at that site. They seem to be light on the specifications for each tablet making them appear to be junk. Usually when the specs are great, the description will have all the details. A good example is failure to provide screen resolution details for the 12″ tablet. HD is meaningless as a descriptor as some define that to be 720p which is far too low for a 12″ screen used as a tablet.

      • William Christopher

        Not sure what you are talking about, this site lists complete Specs for all their products and even have video reviews — they actually have some great deals

  • Karly Johnston

    It’s doomed not to sell.

  • James Childress

    Samsung needs to seriously rethink this one. I have the Tab S and am far from convinced this would be an upgrade expecially at such a high price point, Better processors for example are always a must to capture the sale of one looking for a reason to upgrade. Maybe next year.

    Oh BTW don’t compare this to the Nexus tablets. Nexus is nowhere near the same class as Samsung products.

  • Kamalnath Kanthimathinathan

    The only advantage samsung has is, LED screens….

  • monkey god

    ugh. This is like buying a Mustang with a 4-cylinder ecoboost engine but at Mustang 5.0 prices. It’s just not right. Sadly, the alternatives as far as full-size tablets goes are not any better, such as the nexus 9 or old Tab S. What a sad state this is for high-end Android tablets. All the really good Android tablets are in the 8 inchers.

  • monkey god

    This kinda ticks me off. I’ve been in the market for a really good high-end ~10″ Android tablet for the last year, and haven’t been able to find one.

    1) Galaxy Tab S: so-so processor, touchwiz
    2) Nexus 9: had it for a couple months; almost there, but light-bleed unacceptable. Worst i’ve seen of ANY color LCD screen.
    3) Xperia Z4 tablet: Not available in the US. WTF!?
    3) Tab S 2: older processor, lower resolution than the old tab S. I will have to wait to see the reviews, but it doesn’t look hopeful.

    Am I just too picky? The whole 4:3 vs 16:9 isn’t even a big deal for me, though i slightly prefer 4:3.

  • Dinsy Jones

    Wow, so much negativity. For me, Amoled and 4:3 = buy. Simple because it’s either this, or the iPad. Would I have preferred UFS and Exynos 7420? Hell yes, but in practice, I’d rather keep the microSD slot.

    Oh, and what’s with the retarded metal fetish as synonym of build quality? Plastic feels better to the touch, it’s more resistant to scratches and it provides better grip, which is more important than how it looks. Once more, people have to use these things, they don’t exist simply so that stupid glorified bloggers can take pretty pictures of them for their crappy superficial so-called reviews.

  • Ferdinand Coetzer

    My tablet contract was due for upgrade and I took this tab. One before this was samsung galaxy note 10.1 2014 edition . I love this tab I really thought that I wouldn’t get used to using a tab in portrait but it’s so cleverly designed that it just works . The screen is something to behold it’s bright vibrant absolute eye candy . The only plastic is the centre back of the tablet I don’t know why people say it’s all plastic let me break it down about 50 percent glass 30 percent metal (it wraps around the tab not just the edges ) and about 20 percent plastic. Those complaining about resolution must just take a hike really good luck trying to see pixels on this tab . How is a one year old processor old most people are using processors in theyre desktops that are 4 to 5 years old and they still considerror it to be perfectly fine ….