The Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e is a sleek and impressively lightweight mid-range Android Tablet. After around four months of wait, Samsung finally launched it in India last week.
It is not an affordable tablet, but it's still a lot cheaper than Samsung's flagship Galaxy Tab S4. While the Tab S4 is built for pros, the S5e focuses more on content consumers and binge-watchers who might also use it to work on the go. Not to forget it has also got a Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 which makes games like PUBG Mobile playable, where it fits in your hand better at the same time.
The Galaxy Tab S5e boasts a 10.5-inch display, Snapdragon 670 chipset, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage (plus expandable storage). We reviewed the cellular variant, which is slightly costly than the WiFi-only option. So we had an all packed experience of the S5e, but does it have the edginess that makes it better than the two-year-old iPad at this price? We find out.
- Read our Samsung S10 Plus review
Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e price and availability
Samsung offers both the tablets in two variants-- Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi + LTE, along with three colour options-- black, gold and silver. The Tab S5e starts at Rs 35,999 for the Wi-Fi-only version and Rs 39,999 for the Wi-Fi + LTE model. It is already on sale across India and can be purchased from Samsung e-Shop, Opera House along with regional retail shops. The Wi-Fi variant of the Tab S5e is also available on Amazon India and the LTE variant on Flipkart.
Design, display and audio
The moment I held the Galaxy Tab S5e in the hand, I was impressed with how lightweight and sleek it feels in the hand. Even with the keyboard accessory on, which adds significant weight to the body, it seems like a thin notebook.
You can slide it into any small bag or sleeve and if you are using the keyboard cover, it's still sleek enough to be carried around in your hand. It weighs around 400 grams which makes it easy to hold for extending periods of time, and it also becomes much easier to be used on the go.
It 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. But 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 towards the top of the right side of the tablet (when held in portrait), and it has a fingerprint sensor built into it.
Meaning, there's no home button on the front to incorporate the fingerprint sensor, which allows more real estate for the screen. But that doesn't mean that it's bezel-less or anything close to that, the borders are relatively smaller than previous generation tablets but still noticeable.
The volume rocker is right below the power/lock key, and it's easy to reach but of course, not with just one hand.
The metal unibody provides a rigid and premium touch and feels to it, but there's no escaping the fact that the rear looks very bland similar to the budget tablets from a couple of years ago. So the back eventually fails to offer a richness to the aesthetics that you see on the Apple iPad.
There is no place for a stylus as it does not come with an S-Pen neither it supports any external pen.
There's a squarish camera module on the top left, a chrome Samsung logo in the middle and AKG branding at the bottom of the rear panel.
The AKG branding on the back is because the tab has four stereo speakers located on each end of the tablet tuned by AKG. For those who don't know, AKG Acoustics is an acoustics engineering and manufacturing company under Harman, which is owned by Samsung Electronics.
Anyway, what matters is if the audio is good, and it's surprisingly good. The four speakers are loud, crisp and make video/audio consumption on this tab a treat.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e surprised us not once, but twice during our first encounter with the tablet. First with its form factor and second with the 10.5-inch QHD Super AMOLED display. We expected it to be good, but it's better than what it looks like on paper. The aspect ratio and higher screen to body ratio add up to the viewing experience a lot more.
The AMOLED displays are extra vibrant and have deeper blacks compared to the LCDs, so naturally, the Tab S5e delivers excellent clarity and ample vibrancy for video watching. It was our go-to device for the on-going Cricket World Cup streaming during work, and you also get access to HD content on Netflix and other video streaming apps.
Multitasking and gaming
With a Snapdragon 670 chipset and 4GB of RAM at its heart, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e is relatively well-equipped to deliver a stable Android experience. Keeping that in mind, we stressed it out with pushing it with multitasking and gaming.
We had multiple PUBG sessions with the device, and it's a better tab than the Galaxy Tab S4 to play games on. While the performance is matchable, the form factor here plays a crucial role in making it a better tablet for games. It handles PUBG Mobile's fast-paced Team Deathmatch easily while keeping the graphics at medium level. In comparison to iPad 9.7 32GB Cellular? The iPad offers better gaming performance.
Multitasking is pretty fluid on the Tab S5e; it can handle everything that you would practically do on a tablet at a time. But note that the performance degrades after a point of time and switching, opening and closing of apps might show a lag after a few months of usage. It is fast, but it lacks the fluidity of the Tab S4 or its iPad rivals.
It comes with 64GB of internal storage. But Samsung knows consumers are obsessed with external cards (especially in India) so it keeps support for microSD cards for up to 512GB, which makes it even better for movie/series collectors. It comes handy for storing your media or files for times when there's no internet.
Software and features
The Tab S5e runs Android 9.0 with Samsung's One UI on top. It is snappy, responsive, and straightforward to use for all age profiles. What I personally not like is the choice of icons packs, but rest looks good. The transitions and animations make a massive difference in how fast the UI feels compared to Samsung's older UI.
There's a general issue with Android tablets that a handful of apps support the larger layout. Samsung needs Google's support to solve this problem, while Google does something about it, Samsung has made some neat software tweaks in the UI.
The main interface is similar to what we've seen on new Samsung Galaxy phones. The key differentiator in its case is the Dex mode, which allows a desktop-like experience for better productivity. You can switch to the Dex mode from the quick action menu within the notification bar.
Remember that it won't be handling as much stress as the Tab S4 when you use the Dex interface. The benefit is that you can use multiple windows simultaneously, use apps like chrome in Windows mode, but you can't use some apps in full-screen mode. One of the common examples of that is Netflix, but that's not what the Dex mode is for.
It is made for multitasking and working on the go while you can still watch a Netflix show on the adjacent window. But there's a limit to multitasking while in the Dex mode. You can't expect it to match up to a laptop where you have ten tabs open while listening to music and writing an article at the same time.
Apart from Dex, there is a Samsung Account feature that allows remote access to your Samsung smartphone when used with the same account. Also, it is the company's first tablet with Bixby digital voice assistant pre-loaded, where it uses its far-field mics for voice commands to keep you organized. But sadly, Bixby's word recognition is still not at par.
For children, it has child safety features where parents can restrict access to certain apps and data.
Samsung is also selling you a Book Cover keyboard for Rs 7,999, which is available for Rs 3500 during the launch offer. The Tab S5e connects itself to the keyboard via the POGO connect and launches Dex mode as soon as it's snapped.
I used the Keyboard Cover to write a few parts of this review, and it was a real struggle as I am used to speedy typing. No matter how small your laptop keyboard is, the Samsung keyboard feels cramped, and there's a learning curve before you could get fast on it. The keys aren't backlit, and the tactile feedback leaves a lot to be desired, especially for an accessory that costs 8K.
Inside the metal body of the tablet is a massive 7,040mAh battery which delivers reliable usage from a single charge. As per Samsung, it can last up to 14.5 hours, but in real life, the most we can confirm is all-day battery life. This is after multiple gaming sessions, live cricket streaming on Hotstar, YouTube, and browsing over 12 hours.
Watching a 52 minutes Netflix show in HD with full volume on LTE consumed 9% of battery. Playing PUBG Mobile for an hour consumed around the same amount of battery.
Samsung also retains its Adaptive fast charging but not the 25W supercharge that's seen on its premium phones. Still, with its current charging rate, it takes around 120-140 minutes to charge from 0-100%.
Great cameras are the last thing that users look for in a tablet, as it's never been a significant selling point of a tablet. Tablets aren't made to click pictures, but it is used to make video calls quite often.
There's a 13MP rear camera on the Galaxy Tab S5e along with an 8MP selfie snapper. It can come in handy for calls and casual photographs, but it can't shoot Instagram worthy photos. At most, you can click some decent pictures in a good light.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e finds itself in an almost unique position. The Apple iPad at this price range is a two-year-old offering. The only area where the iPad excels is the software and the design. Everything else feels better on the Tab S5e.
The sleek form factor, stunning display, and great audio make it a go-to tablet for those looking for an entertainment device on the go. Additional capabilities like expandable memory and good battery life make it an even more convincing buy.
If you're looking for a tablet to use as a media device, the Tab S5e could well fit the bill. Dex is a useful productivity feature, but we'd like to see more from it in the future.
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