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Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 series: Any bigger? Any better?

Don't fix what isn't broken.
By

Published onJuly 26, 2023

The Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Z Fold 5 may have grabbed many of the headlines from Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2023, but they were far from the only products unveiled in Seoul today. Samsung also upgraded its large screen experience, launching a trio of flagship tablets as the Galaxy Tab S9 range. It may not look like much has changed, but what about some key upgrades under the hood? Let’s go hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 series to see if the new slates are worth your money.

See price at Amazon
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9
1%off
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9
IP68 rating
Updated S Pen
AMOLED display
See price at Amazon
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
1%off
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
Excellent AMOLED 2X display
Premium, water-resistant build
Extensive update policy
See price at Samsung
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
Massive display
Wi-Fi 6E
IP68 rating

A new coat of paint

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 back
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Samsung’s strategy over the last few generations is pretty well defined — refine, don’t rebuild. That mantra continues with the Galaxy Tab S9 series, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. All three models are back with the same display sizes: 11 inches for the Galaxy Tab S9, 12.4 inches for the Galaxy Tab S9 Plus, and 14.6 inches for the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra. However, there’s one crucial upgrade to Samsung’s latest batch of tablets — the base Galaxy Tab S9 now matches its siblings with a 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED panel instead of the previous TFT LCD. On the bright side (pun intended), all three Galaxy Tab S9 models support Vision Booster for better visibility in bright situations.

As for other aesthetic changes, well, there aren’t many. Samsung’s premium tablets still offer stereo speakers on the two shorter edges, which are now 20% larger and offer Dolby Atmos support. The backs of all three slates are durable Armor Aluminum in either Beige or Graphite. Adding to the durability, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra now sports an IP68 rating against water and dust, marking the first time one of Samsung’s tablets has achieved the rating.

Samsung did, however, make a few changes to its camera setups, most notably dropping the ultrawide sensor from the back of the base Galaxy Tab S9. The 11-inch tablet now carries a single 13MP lens with autofocus, while its larger siblings hang onto the 8MP ultrawide option from the Galaxy Tab S8 series. As for selfie options, the Galaxy Tab S9 and S9 Plus pack single 12MP shooters, with the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra adding a 12MP ultrawide lens to its small notch. The cameras got an aesthetic update, too, shifting from tiny lenses to larger individual cutouts that look more like those you’d find on the Galaxy S23.

The new Galaxy Tabs upgrade a winning formula with larger batteries, IP rating, and an AMOLED panel for all models.

One key benefit to sticking with what works is that the Galaxy Tab S9 series didn’t have to trim its batteries. In fact, the base Galaxy Tab S9 got a 400mAh boost. Samsung’s smallest tablet offers an expanded 8,400mAh cell, while the Galaxy Tab S9 Plus bumps to a 10,090mAh capacity, and the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra packs 11,200mAh. All three tablets offer 45W wired charging — a must-have for those hefty cells.

We should also applaud Samsung for going greener with its Galaxy Unpacked 2023 lineup. The company has shifted to include more recycled materials in its device construction and has begun to use boxes made of 100% recycled paper.

Going for the gamers

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra gaming 2
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

While the Galaxy Tab S9 series may look and feel like its predecessors, its most important upgrade lies under the surface. Gone is Qualcomm’s thermal-hogging Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, with the much-improved Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy in its place. The overclocked chipset boosts both the CPU and GPU and increases efficiency for better battery life. We didn’t get to run through a slate of benchmarks during our short time with the Galaxy Tab S9 series, but it feels like Samsung is after gamers with its latest tablets.

On top of the upgrade to OLED mentioned above, Samsung has loaded its new trio of tablets with the latest connectivity options. You get support for Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 right out of the box, and Samsung offers 5G and LTE-enabled versions of the Galaxy Tab S9 series for gaming on the go. All three tablets offer multiple RAM and storage configurations and microSD slots for up to an extra 1TB of space.

Goodbye, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1; hello, overclocked Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy.

As if we needed any more reason to think about gaming during our hands-on time session with the Galaxy Tab S9 series, Samsung set up a game room in its Galaxy Experience Space. It was packed with demos built into retro-inspired gaming cabinets like the one seen above. Naturally, the massive Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra offers enough gaming real estate to replace your laptop, but I was drawn to the base Galaxy Tab S9’s much more portable footprint.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Specs

Galaxy Tab S9Galaxy Tab S9 PlusGalaxy Tab S9 Ultra
Display
Galaxy Tab S9
11-inch Dynamic
2,560 x 1,600
AMOLED 2K
120Hz refresh rate
Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
12.4-inch Dynamic
2,800 x 1,752
AMOLED 2K
120Hz refresh rate
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
14.6-inch Dynamic
2,960 x 1,848
AMOLED 2K
120Hz refresh rate
Processor
Galaxy Tab S9
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy
Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy
RAM
Galaxy Tab S9
8GB/12GB
Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
12GB
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
12GB/16GB
Storage
Galaxy Tab S9
128GB/256GB
microSD up to 1TB
Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
256GB/512GB
microSD up to 1TB
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
256GB/512GB/1TB
microSD up to 1TB
Connectivity
Galaxy Tab S9
5G/LTE
Wi-Fi 6E
Wi-Fi Direct
Bluetooth 5.3
USB-C
Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
5G/LTE
Wi-Fi 6E
Wi-Fi Direct
Bluetooth 5.3
USB-C
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
5G/LTE
Wi-Fi 6E
Wi-Fi Direct
Bluetooth 5.3
USB-C
Audio
Galaxy Tab S9
Quad Stereo Speakers with Sound by AKG
Dolby Atmos
Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
Quad Stereo Speakers with Sound by AKG
Dolby Atmos
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
Quad Stereo Speakers with Sound by AKG
Dolby Atmos
Cameras
Galaxy Tab S9
Rear:
13MP AF

Front:
12MP UW
Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
Rear:
13MP AF + 8MP UW

Front:
12MP UW
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
Rear:
13MP AF + 8MP UW

Front:
12MP + 12MP UW
Power
Galaxy Tab S9
8,400mAh

Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
10,090mAh
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
11,200mAh
S Pen
Galaxy Tab S9
Included
Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
Included
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
Included
Durability
Galaxy Tab S9
IP68 rating
Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
IP68 rating
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
IP68 rating
Authentication
Galaxy Tab S9
In-display Fingerprint Sensor
Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
In-display Fingerprint Sensor
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
In-display Fingerprint Sensor
Software
Galaxy Tab S9
Android 13
Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
Android 13
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
Android 13
Dimensions / weight
Galaxy Tab S9
165.8 x 254.3 x 5.9mm
498g
Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
185.4 x 285.4 x 5.7mm
581g
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
208.6 x 326.4 x 5.5mm
732g
Colors
Galaxy Tab S9
Beige, Graphite
Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
Beige, Graphite
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
Beige, Graphite
Additional accessories
(Sold separately)
Galaxy Tab S9
S Pen Creator Edition
Book Cover Keyboard
Book Cover Keyboard Slim
Smart Book Cover Outdoor Cover
Notepaper Screen Privacy Screen
Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
S Pen Creator Edition
S Pen Creator Edition
Book Cover Keyboard
Book Cover Keyboard Slim
Smart Book Cover Outdoor Cover
Notepaper Screen Privacy Screen
Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
S Pen Creator Edition
Book Cover Keyboard
Book Cover Keyboard Slim
Smart Book Cover Outdoor Cover
Notepaper Screen Privacy Screen

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 preview: The (re)finer things

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 netflix
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab S9 lineup is excellent — there’s not really any other way to put it. The base tablet’s updated display was much-needed, and the flexible sizes mean that there’s a Galaxy Tab for almost anyone. That said, I’d be interested in a Galaxy Tab Mini that bridges the gap between the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and the full-sized tablets. My time with the gigantic Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra was enough to tell me that maybe bigger isn’t always better.

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra’s hardware. Far from it. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy cruises through everything you could want to do on a tablet, and Samsung’s beefy battery keeps the lights on for hours. Even gaming feels excellent on the 14.6-inch display that’s just begging to replace your laptop at times. However, I can see it being almost impossible to wrangle that massive display during everyday usage. I tried to hold the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra with one hand and use the included S Pen with the other, but I constantly found myself leaning the tablet on any surface I could find for better control.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 series: Hot or not?

545 votes

Of course, if you already know that a nearly 15-inch display is too much real estate, you’ll probably be much happier with the Galaxy Tab S9 or S9 Plus. I think the smallest 11-inch slate is my personal sweet spot. It’s large enough for an immersive Netflix experience yet small enough to slip in and out of a backpack throughout a long day of travel. Factor in the larger speakers, upgraded connectivity options, and improved display, and you can leave your laptop in your carry-on.

At the end of the day, however, the question is whether or not you should spend the money to upgrade to one of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S9 models. As always, it depends on which tablet you’re coming from. You’ll probably get better battery life and more efficient performance than almost any Android competitor, thanks to the overclocked chipset, though there aren’t many revolutionary features to convince you that ditching a recent Galaxy Tab is the right move. If you’ve been waiting to upgrade your 11-inch tablet, the Galaxy Tab S9 is absolutely worth a look.

See price at Amazon
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9
1%off
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9
IP68 rating
Updated S Pen
AMOLED display
See price at Amazon
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
1%off
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Plus
Excellent AMOLED 2X display
Premium, water-resistant build
Extensive update policy
See price at Samsung
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra
Massive display
Wi-Fi 6E
IP68 rating