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Galaxy Tab S9 FE flat with S Pen
Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE review: Should you buy it?

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE has everything it needs to be a great tablet, with fewer bells and whistles.
By
January 16, 2024
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE

The Galaxy Tab S9 FE can do almost everything that Samsung's more expensive tablets can, but it costs hundreds of dollars less.

What we like

Excellent build quality with IP68 rating
Generous software support policy
Loud, clear speakers
Included S Pen

What we don't like

Processor slightly underpowered
Light on RAM
Expensive accessories
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE

The Galaxy Tab S9 FE can do almost everything that Samsung's more expensive tablets can, but it costs hundreds of dollars less.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE review: At a glance

  • What is it? The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE is a 10.9-inch tablet that could easily be confused with the Tab S9, but it drops more expensive features like the OLED screen to keep the price down. It still has the S Pen stylus and Samsung's excellent update policy, though, and is more portable than the larger Tab S9 FE Plus.
  • What is the price? The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE retails for $449.99 with 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM.
  • Where can you buy it? The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE is available directly from Samsung, as well as from retailers like Best Buy and Amazon. Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T sell the 5G version as well.
  • How did we test it? I tested the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE for two weeks. The review unit was purchased by Android Authority.
  • Is it worth it? The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE should be your first stop if you need a capable Android tablet with a stylus. It's more reasonably priced than the flagship Tab S9, and it does almost everything the more expensive tablet does.

Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE?

With its 10.9-inch display, the Galaxy Tab S9 FE is a dead ringer for the flagship Tab S9, which costs $800 at MSRP (almost twice as much as the FE). Only upon closer inspection will you notice the subtle physical differences. It has the exact same footprint as the Tab S9 but is a fraction of a millimeter thicker. The display is a tenth of an inch smaller, though, and that means a bit more bezel around the edges. That wasn’t really a problem for me, as the screen is still a reasonable size for a tablet, and the extra bezel made it easier to hold.

The exception, of course, is when you turn it to portrait orientation. As a wide-screen tablet, I found it to be awkwardly tall when held vertically, but this is the trade-off you get with Samsung’s tablets that appear to be targeted at landscape use, such as watching movies and playing games. You may want to consider grabbing one of the official Tab S9 FE cases if you want an optional keyboard or a stand for easier use, just be prepared to pay a bit of a premium.

While Samsung's flagship tablets all sport OLED screens now, the Tab S9 FE still makes do with an LCD.

One of the most drastic downgrades for this tablet over the regular Tab S9 series is the display itself. While Samsung’s flagship tablets all sport OLED screens now, the Tab S9 FE still makes do with an LCD. The panel supports a 90Hz refresh rate, which falls short of the 120Hz on more expensive Samsung tablets. The colors were passable but skewed slightly warm to my eyes, and I saw a slight backlight bleed in a few places on the unit I tested. The resolution is respectable at 1,440 x 2,304, but the brightness takes a dip compared to Samsung’s OLED tablets, making it harder to use in bright light.

Galaxy Tab S9 FE back with S Pen attached
Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

On the back, you’ll find the Tab S9 FE’s single rear camera, a mediocre 8MP sensor. It’s fine for scanning QR codes or snapping a whiteboard photo, but don’t use it to take the family portrait unless you think your loved ones would look better dim and blurry. Since the screen is LCD instead of OLED, Samsung couldn’t use an in-display fingerprint sensor. Instead, there’s a sensor in the power button, which you’ll find on the top left edge, right next to the volume rocker. I don’t think it’s the most convenient spot, but the sensor performed well enough.

Next to the camera is a magnetic strip where you can attach the included S Pen stylus. This tablet supports all the handwriting and doodling features of the more expensive S Pen devices, but it doesn’t have Bluetooth. That’s no great loss, as the handful of features Bluetooth enables are really for power users that will likely pick the Tab S9 series proper over the FE. Likewise, without the ultra-high refresh rate, the S Pen on the Tab S9 FE won’t have the same low latency we saw on the Galaxy Tab S9 series. The difference is noticeable if you’re writing fast enough, but only if you’re used to the more responsive S Pen.

Galaxy Tab S9 FE writing with S Pen
Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

Picking up the Tab S9 FE, we were pleasantly surprised at how light it was, although it’s not like the Galaxy Tab S9 FE tips the scales — it’s slightly heavier than Samsung’s premium Tab S9, but the difference is just a few grams. You can carry it around without imminent fear of dropping it, and it’ll slip into a bag without weighing you down.

There are only two AKG-tuned speakers on this tablet, compared to four on the flagship Tab S9 devices. They’re on the left and right edges (in landscape) and shifted toward the top corners. That’s actually thoughtful as it makes it less likely you’ll block the speakers with your hands, a common problem for tablets. They sound great for a tablet, too.

Galaxy Tab S9 FE USB and speaker
Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

The Tab S9 FE doesn’t have a Snapdragon chip inside. Instead, it’s Samsung’s own Exynos 1380, just like the Tab S9 FE Plus. That’s the same system-on-a-chip (SoC) from last year’s Galaxy A54 5G, a phone that we described as having “solid everyday performance.” That’s also a fair assessment of the Tab S9 FE. The Exynos 1380 is a standard eight-core CPU with four fast cores (A78) and four slow ones (A55). There’s no prime core to speed up single-threaded operations, so you might notice the Tab S9 FE isn’t quite as fast off the starting line. Sometimes app launches take long enough that you wonder if you mistapped, but it’s smooth once you get where you want to go.

While the Galaxy Tab S9 FE will run Android 13 out of the box, there's an Android 14 update waiting to install.

While the Galaxy Tab S9 FE will run Android 13 out of the box, there’s an Android 14 update with One UI 6 waiting to install. It’s rare to see a budget device get this kind of treatment, and this is just the beginning of Samsung’s excellent support. This tablet is guaranteed four Android updates (three remaining) and five years of security patches. The build of Android 14 on this tablet is typical of Samsung’s other One UI 6 updates. There are some new widgets, redesigned (and quicker to access) quick settings, improved drag and drop between apps, and more.

Galaxy Tab S9 FE multitasking
Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

One of the best reasons to get this tablet is that it’s a serious multitasking machine for not all that much cash. Like the more expensive Tab S9, this device can run three apps side-by-side thanks to Samsung’s robust multi-window feature. The mid-range processor isn’t as bulletproof in multi-window as a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip, but it gets the job done. We’re more concerned with the mere 6GB of RAM in the base model. Samsung is fairly aggressive with memory management, so you may find that apps close in the background faster than they do on other devices. It does, however, support 5G if you opt for the cellular model. That’s an upgrade over the Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus, which, in the US at least, does not have a cellular option.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FESamsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE
AA Recommended
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE
Excellent build quality with IP68 rating • Generous software support policy • Included S Pen
MSRP: $449.00
Essential features in a 10-inch Android tablet
Available in Wi-Fi or 5G variants, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE is an affordable take on the powerful Tab S9 line. An Exynos chipset powers a WUXGA+ 10.9-inch display, which is backed by 6GB or 8GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of storage.

What are the best Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE alternatives?

Galaxy Tab S9 FE and Tab S9 Ultra
Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority
Left: Samsung Galaxy tab S9 FE, Right: Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
  • Google Pixel Tablet ($499 at Amazon): Google’s Pixel Tablet comes with a more elegant version of Android, but it’s not quite as good at multitasking, and Google’s tablet only has a 60Hz screen. However, it comes with a cool charging stand that turns it into a smart display.
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 ($799 at Amazon): The Galaxy Tab S9 is essentially a premium version of the Tab S9 FE, priced $350 higher. It’s almost the same size and weight, but it has a better OLED screen and a faster Snapdragon chip inside.
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus ($599 at Samsung): If the Tab S9 FE doesn’t seem big enough, the Tab S9 FE Plus is the same device with a bigger 12.4-inch LCD and 8GB of RAM instead of 6GB. It costs a little more at $600.
  • Apple iPad (10th gen) ($413 at Amazon): If you’re not tied to Android, Apple’s iPad are generally better tablets thanks to the more robust software ecosystem. The 10th Gen iPad retails for the same $450 as the Tab S9 FE, but it does not come with a stylus—the Apple Pencil is another $79. You could also go a little higher for the iPad Air with its far superior chipset.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE specs

Galaxy Tab S9 FEGalaxy Tab S9 FE Plus
Display
Galaxy Tab S9 FE
10.9-inch WUXGA+
2304 x 1440
90Hz
LCD

Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus
12.4-inch WQXGA
2560 x 1600
90Hz
LCD
Processor
Galaxy Tab S9 FE
Samsung Exynos 1380
Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus
Samsung Exynos 1380
RAM
Galaxy Tab S9 FE
6GB/8GB
Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus
8GB/12GB
Storage
Galaxy Tab S9 FE
128GB/256GB
microSD (up to 1TB)
Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus
128GB/256GB
microSD (up to 1TB)
GPU
Galaxy Tab S9 FE
Arm® Mali™-G68
Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus
Arm® Mali™-G68
Audio
Galaxy Tab S9 FE
AKG Tuned Dual Speakers with Dolby Atmos Support
Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus
AKG Tuned Dual Speakers with Dolby Atmos Support
Cameras
Galaxy Tab S9 FE
Rear:
8MP main

Front:
12MP UW
Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus
Rear:
8MP main
8MP UW

Front:
12MP UW
Power
Galaxy Tab S9 FE
Li-ion 8,000mAh
Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus
Li-ion 10,090mAh
S Pen
Galaxy Tab S9 FE
Included
Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus
Included
Durability
Galaxy Tab S9 FE
IP68 rating
Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus
IP68 rating
Authentication
Galaxy Tab S9 FE
Fingerprint sensor (Power Key)
Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus
Fingerprint sensor (Power Key)
Software
Galaxy Tab S9 FE
Android 13
Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus
Android 13
Dimensions / weight
Galaxy Tab S9 FE
10.01" x 6.53" x 0.26"
521.6g
Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus
11.24" x 7.30" x 0.26"
626g
Colors
Galaxy Tab S9 FE
Gray, Silver, Mint, and Lavender
Galaxy Tab S9 FE Plus
Gray, Silver, Mint, and Lavender

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE review: FAQ

The 5G version of the Tab S9 FE has a SIM card slot, but the base model is Wi-Fi-only.

The Galaxy Tab S9 FE comes with the S Pen stylus.

Yes, the Tab S9 FE’s S Pen supports pressure sensitivity for precise lines.

Yes, there is a fingerprint sensor in the power button.

No, there’s no headphone jack on this tablet.