Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e review

A super-portable, big screen Android tablet

What is a hands on review?
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For

  • Impressively lightweight
  • Bright, colorful display
  • Dex and Bixby included

Against

  • Design a little bland
  • No headphone jack
  • Average cameras

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e is an impressively lightweight, compact Android tablet with a colorful display and premium design.

It slides in below the feature-packed, and pricier, Galaxy Tab S4 with a more affordable price tag and many of the specs of its larger sibling.

The Galaxy Tab S5e boasts a 10.5-inch display, Snapdragon 670 chipset, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage (plus expandable storage), giving it a solid foundation to work from for those that just want a simple Android tablet around the house.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e price and release date

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e price is $399 (around £300, AU$560) placing it firmly next to the Apple iPad 9.7 and Microsoft Surface Go, which carry similar price tags.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e release date is set for Q2 2019 (Apr-Jun) for the US, Germany and more, but no clearer data has been revealed just yet. We'll update this hands on review as soon as we know more.

Design and display

As we've already mentioned, one of the big selling points for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e is its portability.

We were genuinely surprised just how lightweight this tablet is when we first picked it up, and it's something you can easily slip into a bag and forget it's even in there.

It low weight also means the Galaxy Tab S5e is easy to hold for extending periods of time, and is less taxing on the wrist - movie and gaming marathons on the move are very much a possibility here.

The Galaxy Tab S5e tips the scales at 400g, which is comfortably lighter than the 469g iPad 9.7 2018. It also measures 245 x 160 x 5.5mm, making it one of the thinnest slates on the market - however it comes at the expense of losing the headphone jack. 

You do get an adapter in the box however, allowing you to plug in your wired headphones via the USB-C port.

The only ports on the Galaxy Tab S5e are a USB-C opening and a POGO pin connector for attaching a smart keyboard.

The power/lock key is located towards the top of the right side of the tablet (when held in portrait) and it has a fingerprint scanner built into it.

This means there's no need for a button on the front of the tablet, which has allowed Samsung to reduce the size of the bezels on the Galaxy Tab S5e. They're still noticeable, but offer a good space to place your thumb when holding the slate.

Below the fingerprint scanner is the volume rocker, and both keys are relatively easy to hit, although you'll need to employ both hands to use them if the tablet isn't resting on a surface.

While the metal unibody of the Galaxy Tab S5e provides a premium feel, there's no escaping the fact the rear of the tablet looks rather bland. It reminds us a little of budget tablets from a couple of years ago, and fails to command the same pleasing aesthetics as Apple's iPad range.

Rounding off the design are the four stereo speakers tuned by AKG, two located at each end of the tablet. We weren't able to listen to them in the noisy hands on area at Samsung's Unpacked event though, so you'll have to wait for our full review to find out how they sound.

Shifting our attention to the screen, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e has an impressive 10.5-inch QHD Super AMOLED display which delivers excellent clarity and vibrancy.

If you're looking for a tablet to use as a media device, the Tab S5e could well fit the bill.

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Specs and performance

With a Snapdragon 670 chipset and 4GB of RAM at its heart, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e is relatively well-equipped to deliver a solid Android experience.

The Galaxy Tab S5e runs Android 9 Pie with Samsung's interface on top, and from our brief time with the tablet it seemed to run well, although it lacked the zip of the more powerful Galaxy Tab S4 and its iPad rivals.

There's 64GB of storage onboard, but if that's not enough the Tab S5e also comes with a microSD slot which supports cards up to 512GB in size, giving you plenty of flexibility.

Samsung is also making a 6GB of RAM with 128GB of storage variant of the Galaxy Tab S5e, but it's currently unclear which markets this will be available in and how much it will cost.

In terms of productivity, Samsung is primarily touting the Galaxy Tab S5e as its first tablet with the Bixby digital voice assistant installed. The feature will use the tablet's far-field microphones for voice commands aimed at saving time and keeping you organized, like Google Assistant does.

However, the far more important feature as far as productivity is concerned is DeX, which adds features like side-by-side app view. This, and a Samsung Account feature that will allow for remote access to a paired Samsung smartphone, is what will drive the majority of the tablet's appeal against the Surface Go and iPad.

Inside the metal body of the tablet is a huge 7,040mAh battery which should deliver some solid usage from a single charge (Samsung claims 14.5 hours), but you'll have to wait for our full review to find out how it performs.

There are cameras on the front and back of the Galaxy Tab S5e, but as is often the case with snappers on tablets they're average at best.

We managed to take a few shots with both during our hands on time, and found shutter speed to be a little slow and image quality lacking detail (especially when you compare it to mid-range smartphones of a similar price).

There's a 13MP rear camera on the Galaxy Tab S5e along with an 8MP selfie snapper, if you are thinking about buying this for the photography capabilities - for field work, for instance.

Early verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e finds itself in an almost unique position. If you're after a decently powered, but affordable Android tablet there isn't really much competition for the Tab S5e to worry about, and it fits the bill.

However, for the same price you can pick up the iPad 9.7 (2018), which offers up a more impressive design and slicker overall experience.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.